- GUEST AUTHOR -
Today I interview an author with a wicked humour. Welcome, Joseph ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I started writing because my sister fell in love with a book. She shared her love of the story with me and I (less than 10 years old at the time) was awestruck that something could claim my sister the way that book did. I wanted to give others that incredible joy, that breathless experience of wonder, my sister shared with me. I've written about this in Mission of the Heart and How My Sister Got Me Started Writing (Note: this one requires subscription for full content).
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I don’t know if someone hit a switch and poof! I became a writer. I remember making up stories as a child. Some were survival lies (“No, I didn’t take that last cookie. It was...”), some were stories to get my teachers’ attention. I performed little one-person plays in grade school. Magnificent failures, some of those. Magnificent successes, also. Great learnings, in all cases.
I remember writing short comedies in Ms. McCarty’s 6th grade class. One that still tands out; “Batman and Robin” was on TV at the time so I wrote a parody (didn’t know the word back then) entitled “Flatman and Ribbon”. Villians included The Rattler (The Riddler) who shook his butt before he struck and The Jacker (The Joker) who lifted cars off the ground with a carjack he carried around. Flatman and Ribbon had to save Flatgirl at some point because her Living Bra (that was a product advertised on TV at the time. No idea if they still exist) attacked her. Fortunately, her Living Girdle (a similar product) came to her rescue.
I remember getting to that line about the Living Bra and Girdle and Ms. McCarty, who’d been laughing her head off as I read the story, had to sit down. She couldn’t catch her breath. The whole class was laughing. It was glorious.
In 7th grade I had a crush on a student teacher (don’t remember her name) and wrote a book of poetry for her. No idea where those poems are now (thank goodness). Other than that I wrote lots of book reports in 7th and 8th grade. I don’t remember writing much, unless it was a direct ripoff of some book I’d read. Good practice, though, copying from something you like.
This brings us to high school. I wrote one story in my sophomore year. Mrs. Baraniak loved it and told me to submit it to the school yearbook. I told her they’d reject it. She argued with me until I gave in. They rejected it. I told her they rejected it and she yelled at me. Great encouragement, that. I knew they’d reject it because I’d taken a poetry class with the teacher sponsoring the yearbook and she hated my poetry. Openly loathed it. So did many of the students in the class. It didn’t matter that I was experimenting with structure as suggested in our textbook, I wasn’t writing about unrequited love, about coming of age, about hairs sprouting from strange places. I was writing poetry about the Viet Nam war, Woodstock, the US v USSR space programs, such completely imbecilic stuff (I was told).
It’s amazing I stuck with writing, come to think of it. Anyway, I did.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I discuss this in It’s Autobiography...I swear! In a nutshell, I do both. My creative process seems to work such that complete stories - even novels - come to me whole cloth. Sometimes I’ll get major scenes, finales, openings/endings with nothing in the middle, ... yet there’ll always be enough for me to build a complete story.
Once I have this whole cloth documented, planning begins. Even stories that come to me complete require some editing, some cohesive sections to bind everything together.
I’d love to write that some things never require any work. Everything (that I write, anyway) can use a little cosmetics.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Also covered in It’s Autobiography...I swear!
I consider myself boring and dull...except when I’m writing. The act of creation, of using my imagination, is magic to me. I’m always amazed at what my non-conscious produces.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I’d probably go with over-analyzing (over editing) your own work. There’s a quote I love that applies to this; Stop watering dead plants.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
My past in this life? See my LinkedIn profile. My past life before this life? Susan and I have wondered about this. For a while we thought she was a witch who was burned to death and I was her guardian and speared to death protecting her. Then one night we realized it was completely the other way around. I was speared to death and she was burned to death trying to protect me. My past long before this life? Star dust. You?
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Something yet to come, me thinks. I have so many stories waiting to come out.
The greatest of what I’ve already published? That depends. Which of your children do you love more? I wrote Dancers in the Eye of Chronos for Susan and it is a gem, me thinks. I love The Boy Who Loved Horses because of its overtones and use of inferred dialect. Ditto Them Doore Girls. Cymodoce is a favorite because of the humanity. The Goatmen of Aguirra because of the incredible ride it provides the reader. And this hasn’t touched on my children’s stories or poetry, examples of which are on my website.
Better yet...how about readers of this interview get a copy of my anthology, Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, and let me know which story is greatest (and why. You could win an autorgraphed book!).
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
Oy. I’ve got some contracts on my desk for some of my work. I’m doing a final read of The Augmented Man, rewriting Empty Sky (because I’ve learned so much since I published it. So far I’ve only received excellent comments on it and still, I know it can be better so I’m having at it), Ritchie and Phyl - A Celebration of Life, A Raccoon’s Tale, a novel that doesn’t have a name yet and we’re not counting the short stories and poetry that keep popping up.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Ha. I got into the habit of paying my bills when I was young. Far younger than that, I got a real Jones for food and shelter.
Seriously, what doesn’t inspire me? Are there days, are there hours or minutes or seconds where you’re not being deluged by wonder and joy? My god, then change your life, man, you’re missing out on more than you (or even I) can imagine!
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Ha again. I write autobiography. It gets published as fiction, fantasy, magic realism, poetry, childrens’ stories, science fiction, speculative fiction, conclusive non-fiction, ...
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Sirloin. Next would be read, Read, READ but there’s a caveat. First learn how to read. Read as an author, not as a reader. If you like something, figure out why you like it. If something moves you, figure out why it moves you. If you get bored by something, figure out why it bores you.
Next comes write, Write, WRITE and here’s the caveat; practice what you learn above, both good and bad. Practice until you can do the good as well as the authors you admire and practice the bad until it’s good.
So I guess my tip for new writers is the same I’d give old writers; practice, Practice, PRACTICE!
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
No, although I’ve had to duke it out with my characters every once in a while, something I call Labor Relations.
I do occasionally get stopped and it’s rarely for more than the time it takes me to walk the dog to clear my head. Should you get blocked, go back to the last point in your story where it “worked”, where it flowed, where the words just came out like a firehose and you could barely keep up. Forget everything you wrote after that point. Clear your mind, relax yourself, breath slowly and deeply.
Imagine that last scene/phrase/paragraph where it worked (close your eyes if you have to). Document everything that’s there on a separate page or screen.
Now start writing one line sentences of what happens “next”. Then “next” after that. And “next” after that.
Just let it happen. Remember to stay relaxed.
In other words, let the story happen.
Now go back to where your story last worked and add the new material you just documented. You’ll be fine.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
No, it’s one of those “when the iron’s hot” things and the iron always seems hot.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Where ever paper, pen or keyboard are handy. Or recorder.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Aside from that not being boring and dull thing? Knowing someone has been moved by something I’ve written. When someone is changed by the writing, they’ve taken a piece of you with them. What’s better than that? Again, I talk about this in It’s Autobiography...I swear!
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
There are so many. Pick one. Hmm... My favorite author is any author who makes the world go away when I’m reading their material. Depending on time, place and topic, those would include Micheal Crichton (“The Andromeda Strain” and “The Terminal Man”), Isaac Asimov (“I, Robot” and the original Foundation Trilogy, not much else), HG Wells (his major works), Ray Bradbury (earlier works), Jules Verne (everything, so far), any mythologies and folktales, Craig Johnson’s Longmire books (it’s impressive to follow his development as a writer through those books), Dashiell Hammett (although not everything), ... and these are just a sample, far from complete. AJ Budrys goes without mention so it’s best I remember to mention him.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
“Awesome!” as they laughed while crying.
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
Worst as in useless? Hurtful? Ignorant? I’ve given up considering any comment as “worst”. If nothing else they reveal something about the reader, not the story, and that tells you who is/isn’t in your audience.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Don’t suppose that’s why I entitled my inteview It’s Autobiography...I swear!
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
My wife/partner/Princess, Susan, my pets, The Old Ones, cooking, music (both playing and listening), flying kites, reading, how long a list would you like? the ocean, the mountains, the Moon, ...
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
A blend of writing, talking/spending time with Susan, walking the dog, playing with the cat, listening to music (and maybe playing some), a good cigar and a good Scotch, learning, a “safe” adventure, ...
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
Susan - so I could be guaranteed good conversation and help should I need it.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Grow the fuck up, will you!
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Growing the fuck up, if I can.
26. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
I’m not sure what a “book trailer” is, which obviates any answer. Some people have sent me "book trailers". Those I tend to view with both eyes, facing forward. It helps.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
We’re getting back to that It’s Autobiography...I swear! thing.
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Let’s say you see some people playing a game and want to join in. They’ve already established the rules of the game. If you want to play their game, you have to obey the established rules. You can create a new game with new rules and then you have to figure out ways to get the people already playing the original game with the original rules to give up their game - that they’re vested in - and play your game. You can destroy their game but it was their game your new game is based on so destroying it only serves to destroy the basis for any game you want to play.
Do you want the type of success the publishing industry affords? Then play their game. Do you want the type of success the publishing industry affords but don’t want to play their game? Better make sure lots of good players will join your game because good players draw good players. It does your new game no good if everybody who plays it is a hack who gives up the first time they bruise their knee.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Yes, long ago and far away.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
The next one. Because it’s brand new and I can learn from it!
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
As a writer? Enjoying what I do and having people enjoy the results of what I do. Again, see It’s Autobiography...I swear!
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
ROFL, they should walk away knowing they’ll get the next book I publish. How should they feel? Lighter in the wallet for having done so.
Hmm...these are tough ones.
Knowing they were in the hands of a craftsperson? NO, WAIT, I HAVE IT! - Knowing themselves better. I’m repeatedly told I don’t write fluff and good for me because I don’t want to. Even my published humor pieces (Winter Winds and Power Unlimited are examples) are meant to make people think, emote, feel, ... I don’t write quick snacks, I write sit down and savor meals. At least that’s my intention.
33. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
I'd enjoy watching and taking part in the process, as a student. Screenwriting and moviemaking are entirely different disciplines from authoring. I have no idea how much carry over there is.
Yes, I wrote a ST:TNG episode based on an unpublished short story. It was agented the year ST:TNG went off the air. Great timing, huh?
34. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
Ask a bookcover artist. I may make suggestions and so far I’m more impressed by what the bookcover artists come up with than anything I suggest.
35. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
I'm not sufficiently advanced as an author to describe my ultimate dream in the space allotted.
36. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
This is another subject that requires its own expertise. I will offer that it’s tough to self-market when you self-define as “boring and dull”.
37. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
The most recent and not all.
38. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
6 feet tall, 225 pounds
39. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
Self-imposed Ignorance. People who don’t want to learn, to know. Close on Ignorance’s heels is self-imposed Incompetence; people who won’t do, won’t attempt, will say they can’t because they’re too afraid of failing to chance success.
40. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
I tend to read several books simultaneously. Janet Burroway’s “Writing Fiction” was a gem. Dashiell Hammett’s “The Glass Key” wasn’t. His “The Thin Man” is wonderful. Paul Darcy Bowles “Storycrafting” is magnificent.
41. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
I buried the gold behind the...
42. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
Ah, more time. Not in the sense of a longer life, my people are fairly long lived as it is. More time in the sense of learning, understanding. Compassion. Time to love more, love better. To give to others. To hold what is dear and let go what is not. Hey! Did I just write that ultimate dream thing? Hmm...
43. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
(infinity) + (infinity + 1)
Clancy's comment: Thanks, Joseph. Good luck, and I wish you great book sales. By the way, I wouldn't worry about growing up.