I met Jubal “JB” Biggs a year ago now. Currently, I am reading this book which showcases the incredibly challenging childhood he and his siblings endured. He hails from Vallejo, California.
While growing up, he won a scholarship to the California State Summer School for the Arts for creative writing.
This autobiographical memoir spans 30 years about his wanting a real home where he can be a normal kid. Yet his erratic and abusive father leads the family on an endless nomadic quest for the next great thing (i.e., the family went from one cult-like compound after another).
You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Indiebound in paperback and e-book versions, and it is available on Ingram. Meet him at his author book signing event at 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 8 at Main Street Reads.
Regan: Did you write this in a fictional style?
B: I changed the names. Pat Conroy called this style autobiographical fiction — a memoir overlaid with novel like style and fictional names which Pat did something like that with most of his books.
R: What did you enjoy most and least about writing?
B: I enjoy everything about writing but hate the business of it. Writing helped me keep my sanity through what I’ve been through. If you ever spent time locked up on a prison like cult compound for an extended period of time or living out of a school-bus in the woods, you would probably develop an escape mechanism like writing, too.
Regan: You tried several times to get this published, so how did Beacon Publishing Group find you?
B: After a lot of rejection letters, I decided to go ahead and publish it myself, and I got a reply from Beacon Publishing Group (one of the publishers I’d submitted to) at the last minute. The book had just gone out, so I shut it down, and the publisher said it was OK. If it had been up for a week longer, they would have rejected it.
R: What is the takeaway? Advice on overcoming adversities? Are you closer to your parents now?
B: I have the same relationship to my father as I always have — I don’t. At some point, my dad decided we were enemies. By the time I was in school, the war was ancient. My sisters and I knew where “enemy territory” was as children, but we just didn’t know why the war we had been born into existed.
When the demon would take him and dad would rant and chase his offspring around the house, the lines would be redrawn, and we would note how not to set him off the next time.
As a 40-year-old man, I met my parents in North Charleston. They had been visiting for my son’s second birthday. The visit almost did not happen, and it had taken a lot of diplomacy to pull off. Now, they would board a plane in an hour. I called them at the last minute and told them I had something to give them.
Like the culmination of my entire life, the book said things I had never had the time to say about the moments which formed me like a fiery inferno in the terrifying boot camp, minefield, and fun house that was my childhood. I had survived an elimination from 800 soldiers down to 11 to get into the Israeli paratroopers and been shot at in Ramallah, but when I sat, dry mouthed, across from an innocuous looking white haired couple, my hand literally shook as I handed over a copy of my book.
It was all I could do to force my body to stay still as I told them that it was important, and they should wait to read it until they were home. The truest thing I had ever written was in the hands of the people who had formed me to be their subject and hated enemy from before my first word.
My mom’s reaction was a four-word email: “Have a nice life.” I want people to know that sometimes you have to confront things — if you don’t speak the truth, it will consume you, and you will never grow, heal, and become a real person until you say what everybody pretends doesn’t exist.
R: Do you plan to write other books?
B: Absolutely. I can’t help but write. It may take some time to put together a sequel. Yet, I may have enough in those reels of footage I carry with me everywhere — the burden of memories that haunt and shape me that require a moment’s concentration to become the color, life, smell, and taste — to write another one. I am reworking a YA fantasy novel I wrote a while back.