Monday, June 27, 2016

Interview with J.J. Zerr, author of The Junior Officer Bunkroom


Inside the Book:

The Junior Officer Bunkroom
Title: The Junior Officer Bunkroom 
Author: J.J. Zerr 
Publisher: iUniverse 
Pages: 282 
Genre: Military 
Format: Ebook

It is 1970, and Jon Zachery is a young United States Navy pilot who wants nothing more than to gain combat experience during the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, his patriotic sacrifice is of no value to the navy or the nation. His squadron has been slated to decommission with most of its pilots destined for dead-end jobs. As the pro-war lieutenant awaits his orders and drowns his sorrows in whiskey, his wife, Teresa, prays and hopes for a better tomorrow. Navy Lieutenant Amos Kane is a natural stick-and-throttle jockey who is known as Cool Hand Duke in the air and a prankster on the ground. As his dreams of being an attack pilot in ’Nam are taken away, he begins dating Charlotte Wilkins, who convinces him to adopt an antiwar philosophy. When orders cause Zachery and Kane’s paths to converge in a bunkroom aboard an aircraft carrier in the Tonkin Gulf, it quickly becomes evident that the two lieutenants have vastly different viewpoints. As tragedy strikes and antagonism escalates, everyone discovers just how quickly life can change. In this military thriller, the paths of two navy pilots come together in a JO bunkroom during the Vietnam War where their perspectives clash, instigating life-changing consequences.

The Junior Officer Bunkroom is available for order at

The Interview

How did I come up with the title for the book?

I have been fascinated with how little pockets of society set up their little societies, with their own rules and sets of behaviors, which by mutual consent, become normal. I pictured the Junior Officer Bunkroom as one of those mini-societies.
What is my writing environment like?

My principal place to write is a converted bedroom in our house. I have a desktop computer, reference books, dictionaries in five languages, a white board I use for plotting, time lining, listing characters. But I also have a Macbook Air. I write with it on airplanes, in the car when my wife is shopping. But neither of those is my writing environment. That is in my head, and I can pretty much write anywhere, and I can pretty much tune out the environment. I can’t say that I can write at any time. My brain gets tired in the evening. It is work to hold up props and the past.

What are some of the best tools available today for writers?

The internet, obviously. A gazillion tons of info out there, if you can just phrase your query properly. One of the things I lean on it for is determining if my terminology is appropriate to the timeframe of a story. I also like the extensive microfilm libraries of newspapers. But the best resource is getting critical readers to look at your work. You can have a great story, but a historical inaccuracy can let a lot of air out of the balloon.

What inspires you to write?

I think it started with a love of stories. I liked to read them in funny papers and books, hear them on the radio and when my family gathered, watch them in movies and on TV. And this next one was a biggee. When I was a junior in high school, I became enamored with the guys who had cars, rolled cigarette packs in their shirtsleeves, and always had girls around them. They didn’t sweat school much, either. Sister Matthews gave me an F in literature that year at mid semester. I told her I should have gotten a C. She told me I should have gotten an A. And for the semester I would get either that A or an F. I did not want an F. Actually, I got a B. I was inordinately pleased.

Did you learn anything while writing this book?

The Junior Officer Bunkroom is my fifth book. While I was writing it, I submitted my fourth, The Happy Life of Preston Katt, to two “Best Self-published Book of the Year” contests. One judge gave me 34 out 35 points but dinged me for the way I handled a female character. The other judge said, “Frankly, I don’t care for this kind of story.” What I learned is that every piece of criticism you are privileged to receive is valuable. The latter one included. I believe you cannot get too much criticism. You may not agree with all, or even much of what you get, but if take it in with an open mind, try to understand that reader’s viewpoint, look at your words and see if you can address the critic’s comments without destroying your story, it is a worthwhile exercise, even if you reject the comment entirely. What I find quite often, is then when I am considering a particular criticism, I come up with a new and better way to deliver a sentence or a paragraph than either my critic or myself had come up with. Criticism is food for thought.

What is your favorite quality about yourself?

I have not one quality, which I would characterize as satisfactory, much less one I would call my favorite. The one closest to satisfactory is that I know that I don’t know how much I ought to know.

Meet the Author:

J. J. Zerr is a United States Navy and Vietnam veteran who holds bachelor and master’s degrees in engineering. He has published poetry, short stories, and other novels. J. J. and his wife reside in the St. Louis, Missouri, area. Visit the author’s website at

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