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The TNB Self-Interview: Jobie Hughes

The Nervous Breakdown Self-Interview—October 26, 2012

Jobie Hughes was raised in Spencer, Ohio. He was a high school state champion in wrestling, attended Ohio University on an athletic scholarship, and earned a business degree in 2002. After drudging through five years of banal work earning minimal pay, he left capitalism behind and moved to New York City to attend Columbia University’s School of the Arts. He graduated in May 2009 with an MFA in Creative Writing. He is the coauthor of two previous novels, both of which were #1 New York Times best sellers and have sold over three million copies worldwide. His books have been translated into twenty-six languages and published in forty-eight countries. A perpetual wanderer, Hughes currently lives in Michigan. For more information, visit:

So tell me, how many novels have you written?

I’ve finished five, and am currently writing my sixth.

How many novels have you published?

At Dawn is my third.


Thank you.

Five novels written, three published. What happened to the other two?

They’re buried deeply within my computer’s hard drive where they belong. I taught myself how to write by writing. They’re both good stories but poorly executed. They were a jumping off point for me.

So they were your first two novels?


At Dawn is the fifth novel you wrote?

No, it was my third.

I’m confused, which of your five novels was the first to be published?

Coincidentally enough, my fourth novel.

And your fifth novel was the second to be published?

Now you have the hang of it.

When I received my copy of At Dawn, I couldn’t help but notice that the book’s back cover claims that it’s a “debut” novel. Are you really calling At Dawn your “debut” novel?

No, I’m not. I’m calling it my debut literary novel.

Isn’t that just a semantic argument?

No, it’s a valid argument.

Kind of disingenuous, don’t you think?

Which part of it do you believe is disingenuous?

Well, on the very same back cover, your author bio reads, “[Jobie Hughes] is the coauthor of two pervious novels, both of which were #1 New York Times best sellers and have sold over two million copies worldwide.”

Didn’t we just cover this?

But At Dawn is a debut novel?

It’s a literary debut novel, as I’ve already said. Is this really what you want the interview to be about?

Fine, fine. Stratton Brown and Jobie Hughes. Is there a difference?


Okay. What is it?

Stratton Brown is a character in a novel. I’m a living, breathing person.

Well yes, of course. But I couldn’t help but be struck by the parallels you seem to share with Stratton.

I’m sorry, was that a question?

Are you denying there are parallels between your life and Stratton’s?

No, I’m not denying that at all. In writing about the life of Stratton Brown, I borrowed heavily from my own past.

But he’s not you?

I already answered that.

Even your name, same syllable construct as Stratton Brown—two-syllable first name, single syllable last name. And then there’s the uniqueness factor. Rare first name, common last name.

Again, is that a question?

Both state champions in wrestling; both raised in Spencer, Ohio; both lived in New York City and Chicago; both attended college on athletic scholarships. I found there to be a certain emotional truth to the story, as though I was reading a memoir.

Thank you.

I didn’t mean it as a compliment.

Okay, then go fuck yourself.

That’s very much a response I’d expect from Stratton Brown.

Then we finally agree on something. Stratton Brown and I both know an asshole when we see one.

That’s cute.

I wasn’t going for cute, but rather something with a certain emotional truth to it.

Why do you hate women?

I don’t hate women. And if that’s the conclusion you’ve drawn from the novel, then I question your credibility as both a reader and reviewer.

Why so tense.

I’m not tense. Your questions are vapid and inane. Do you have anything cogitative or even credible to ask?

Cogitative or credible?


Okay. Boxers or briefs?

That’s what you want to know?

Of course. Is that not cogitative enough for you?

Boxer briefs.

Prove it.

No. And I’m through here. Have a good day.

But we aren’t finished.

Fuck off.

“At Dawn is the brave, rare sort of novel that finds extraordinary meaning in ordinary lives. The characters are beautifully complex, honorable and compassionate, and yet, like so many of us, deeply flawed and emotionally scarred. The writing is clean and sharp and vivid, and in reading Jobie Hughes I’m reminded of the tremendous power of simple honesty in storytelling. This is a fine book by a fine writer.”

James Brown
Author of The Los Angeles Diaries and This River

“Hughes' debut novel, At Dawn, follows a former All-American wrestler, and is there any better metaphor for contemporary American life? We're all wrestling, tussling with the economy, no jobs, doing the best we can. Hughes doesn't flinch from the tough existential questions. He embraces them.”

Joshua Mohr
Author of Damascus

“Hughes combines coming-of-age tale, portrait of the artist as a young man, and father-son saga in a well-crafted novel...[with] pathos, wit, and insight into the relationships that define our lives.”

Publishers Weekly