Inside the Book:
Title: The Junior Officer Bunkroom
Author: J.J. Zerr
The Junior Officer Bunkroom is available for order at
The Interview:What is your favorite quality about yourself?
As a writer, it’s my ability to handle criticism. One of the best pieces of writing advice I have received was from Lou in my critique group. This was five years ago. I was working on a short story, which became a chapter in The Junior Officer Bunkroom. The story was set in a bar in an officer’s club in Japan. It was about the newest pilot in the squadron. He’d been the newest pilot for a long time, and finally word came down, a new pilot was ordered in to take the Newbie designation. When the new pilot shows up to meet the rest of the squadron at the club, it turns out he is not a junior pilot fresh from flight training. Rather he is senior and has a lot of combat experience. So the story was supposed to be about that. In our critique group, we bring five double spaced pages and have enough copies, generally ten to twelve members. We read our story, the the critique-rs mark your paper and give you verbal feedback. When it got to be Lou’s turn for the verbal, she said, “I gotta tell you. This is just another stupid men-drinking-in-a-bar story, and I’m not interested.” I had already decided I wanted to write for both men and women readers, so I am very grateful to have gotten that wonderful input. It was something I needed to hear. What I did then was write a piece I intended for no other purpose than to make some of the women in the critique group cry. I succeeded, but Lou’s eyes remained dry.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
I cannot make myself get into marketing and promoting my books.
When did you first know you could be a writer?
After I published my second book. I did the first one and could not think of myself as other than a Wannabe Writer. But after Sundown Town Duty Station I thought I not only could be but was one in a very modest sense. But enough of one to drop the Wannabe.
Who or what influenced your writing over the years?
First, Sister Mathews, high school Lit Teacher. She gave me a F at mid term. I complained I should have gotten a C. She told me I should have gotten an A. She was right and gave me life course correction when I needed one. She also had us read “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” That is still my all time favorite short story. In college I read all of Hemingway’s and Steinbeck’s works. Lately, I have read Robert Crais’s books. I think he fashions scenes in a masterly way. And of course my critique group. I owe a lot to them.
How did you come up with the title of the book?
I have been fascinated by how little pockets of society form mini-societies and develop their own rules and define for themselves what is “normal.” The Junior Officer Bunkroom is home to such a mini-society, which, when the door to the bunkroom closes, operates to a morality of its own manufacture. I used the same concept for my first book, The Ensign Locker. A writer I met at a seminar wrote a book titled Lucien and I, by Danny Wynn. Danny’s book, in my mind, deals with the same idea.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part was quitting writing when I finished. I loved researching it, writing, rewriting it, fixing things when readers told me, “No, no. It wasn’t that way. It was this way.” But then I was finished, and I had to face the Marketing Monster.