“With an uncanny ability to put action into words, author B.J. Neblett conducts readers on a scenic tour through a decade-long transition period.” Kathie McGuire, director of Brighton Publishing LLC.
A South Philadelphia native, BJ Neblett was always “Billy” growing up. In his 30’s he became DJ Billy James. It was only in 2011 that he became “BJ,” at the behest of his publisher, who thought “BJ” sounded more professional and mature. But “Billy” is who this man really is, the name he is known by everywhere except in the publishing world. At times it still might take him a few seconds to respond when someone calls him “BJ.”
After serving his country during the Vietnam War, Billy came back and fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a radio DJ. He built a career across the U.S. as popular radio DJ Billy James, honing his writing skills on radio scripts and commercial copy.
Billy first moved to the Northwest in 1990, settling in Redmond, where his sister lived. His mother, in poor health, soon joined them. At first he volunteered at Bellevue’s public radio station KBCS, then after a stint at KBSG was hired full-time by KJR. Then he was wooed away from the Northwest to become music director for a Houston oldies rock and roll station. Later, on to Charleston, and then on to…
After 35 years in radio, as DJ and as a music and program director rebuilding stations, Billy grew tired of moving around and “living the good life.” By that time, he owned ten cars, a ranch home on five acres with all the amenities and then one day he simply decided… “It’s time to retire.” So he did. At the ripe old age of 52.
But with little to occupy his time, he found himself “climbing the walls.” And doing some soul-searching as well, so unexpectedly 2002 became a marker year for him. He sold his mansion, all his cars, put a few things in storage, and with no destination in mind, he hit the road. “I had to let all my responsibilities go, in order to clear my mind, so I could hear more clearly what was there. And I just started writing, like I’d always done, all my life.”
It was during this open-ended time that his book began emerging. He wrote every word on a yellow tablet. He carried no computer with him. “Being on the road, and writing everything by hand, is what really got my juices going.”
Elysian Dreams “wrote itself from inside out.” It did not start out as a book, but as a short story, or actually as a writing exercise. One short story after another came pouring forth, in the form of myriad characters. He describes himself “listening” to each character as she or he appeared. “Most of the time, and when I do my best, I feel I’m listening, almost transcribing.” Although he “hates it” when anyone labels his writing “time travel” or “science fiction,” it often does carry many of that genre’s familiar elements.
Billy has been writing since he was a boy, shaped as he was, by growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, immersed in Twilight Zone and sitcoms, “where slices of life are so compressed.” He became a fan of irony, and began seeing it all around him, as “God’s personal joke on us.” O. Henry’s irony and short stories influenced him greatly, as did the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Tim Matheson, Stephen King, and Rod Serling.
BJ prefers writing the short story to the novel, and believes that short story formats are making a comeback, partly because of our short attention spans these days, coupled with the scarcity of reading time. A hallmark of Billy’s short stories: they take real people in real places, and put them into extreme circumstances. “If you want to learn about who I am, read my stories. I write about stuff that people don’t know about me. It’s cleansing, and good medicine.”
He’s written only one piece about his experiences. You can find “Purple Heart” on his May 27th blog posting for Memorial Day weekend. It’s quite a story, with an O. Henry twist. Check it out at bjneblett.blogspot.com.
BJ is currently working on two short story collections, as well as a sequel to Elysian Dreams. He is most proud and excited about his new release, Ice Cream Camelot, a historical memoir about growing up in the Kennedy era, between the ages of eleven and fifteen. In alternating chapters the life of President Kennedy parallels that of a young boy growing up in South Philadelphia and the suburbs. With the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination this year, Ice Cream Camelot will be a most timely release.
Reflecting on his Disc Jockey past and writing present, BJ says, “My voice has been heard all over the world…a lot of people know me that I don’t know.” Through his words spoken and written he believes, “My voice is still traveling through space.”
BJ Neblett is the author of Elysian Dreams, “A book of romantic adventure which examines the costs of exploring your dreams while fulfilling your destiny.”
His Ice Cream Camelot is available now as an Ebook with paperback to follow.
Profile by Rita Bresnahan, Ballard Writers Group