Saturday, June 22, 2013

Curiouser & Curiouser: Twentyish Questions with the Executive Editor — Part Three

Hello again, Beardies!

As you may recall, I've been attempting to interview our esteemed Executive Editor for several posts now, and my last attempt ended with a bit of a dust-up wherein he accused me of drinking his coffee (the scoundrel!) and nearly wised up to my use of truth serum.  Maybe that long-winded confession about how he ended up at the same college as me was needed, though, because after that, he became much more relaxed and more concise with his answers, and I wasn't forced to use the serum again.  (Thank heavens.  Interrogating my best friend felt a bit invasive, but I kept at it.  I am, I admit, quite shameless.)  This interview still isn't complete, but here's another part.

Elizabeth: How, if at all, does your rural New England background influence your writing?

Joshua: You could say that it had—still has—a lot to do with my writing. New England is saturated in Native American folklore and, of course, famous for its witch trials. The landscape, too, lends itself to great stories, whether they be set in the mountains, forests, swamps, or around the water—even deserts—Maine has it all. The ocean alone has its own mysticism, Maine's coastline dotted with spooky lighthouses and fog-drenched outcroppings of treacherous rock and cliff. And shipwrecks galore. The rivers and lakes even have stories of their own, swimming with life and curses both.

Elizabeth: Do you find that your background as a former school newspaper editor influences your writing and/or blogging now?

Joshua: Most definitely. Though I really can't stomach journalism (I deeply admire those who can do it), being the Executive Editor of The Bearded Scribe feels very similar to my days spent as Editor-in-Chief of my high school's newspaper. A lot of layout formatting, planning, story assignments, and, of course, editing, definitely makes for feelings of nostalgia.

The major difference with The Bearded Scribe is that the staff is of my own choosing, and are all talented writers in their own right. My current staff is passionate about the subject of their writing, which usually can't be said of the staff of my high school newspaper. Though they were great writers, and did a great job with their assignments, you could definitely tell the passion wasn't there.

Elizabeth: Your bio states that you began writing “stories” at the age of seven. Do you remember the first thing you wrote? If so, what was it?

Joshua: I do. I actually still have a copy of it. It's horrendous. It was called The Call of the Wild, and revolved around an orphaned bear cub. That's about as much as I will say about it, as the rest of the details are poorly written. Awful plot. Yeah. Of course, I was only 7, but I am still a bit ashamed of it.
In seventh grade, however, I wrote a novella called The Haunting Truth, which tells the story behind the old, haunted farmhouse in which I was raised for four years of my youth.  I still have a handwritten copy of that one actually, and will eventually turn it into a full-length novel.

Elizabeth: Do you only write fantasy? If so, have you ever wanted to try writing anything else?

Joshua: I absolutely love fiction of any kind. My imagination has always been overactive, so I enjoy being swallowed up by someone else's world, which is why I LOVE world-building. Fantasy comes naturally. That, and poetry, though I haven't written much poetry as of late. I like the paranormal, and I am inspired by religion and spirituality. I actually have outlined the first book in a urban, paranormal, religious fantasy. Alas, though, it is still fantasy. I'm a bit of a romantic, too, but I could still never commit to writing a full-fledged romance novel—at least not one without some fantastical elements.

Elizabeth: Please tell the readers a little more about your novel, The Assassin of Aldarhaij. How was it inspired?

Joshua: The Rings of Eritraia, as it was called originally, was about a twelve-year old boy who had moved across the country with his mother after the death of his father.  They moved into a house willed to his mother by his estranged grandparents, a house which he discovers sits on a portal to another land.  The land, called Eritraia, is majickal land populated with majickal beings.  He discovers his grandparents weren't who they originally claimed to be—nor was his father.  There's a battle waging in Eritraia—one that revolves around him and his oblivious mother.

I actually lost the bulk of the text in my move to Alma, and frustrated, I re-outlined the story.  I still plan to revisit the original premise, though—I've debated on whether or not it was worthy of a series or just a stand-alone story.

When I re-outlined the story, it involved a young, Japanese boy who discovers a cave to another land, one populated with a pantheon of gods and goddesses.  He discovers that no matter how much time he spends in Eritraia, time never progresses on Earth while he is there.  The mythos of Eritraia began to overtake the story, so I scratched that, too, and soon the story became altogether different.  (Did I mention that I'm my own worst critic?)

The text that is in existence now is far different than even the original; it truly isn't the same story at all. I started writing the beginnings of the plot of what will be a future novel—though even that is a stretch to say its even remotely the same. When I first started writing what would become The Assassin of Aldarhaij, it was mostly just characterization and world-building. The world, even, has changed drastically. I re-drew the map after I left Alma College, and from that, a new story began to develop, forever departing from the original. And though I've re-drawn the map once, another rendering of the landscape is in order. My artistic abilities, however, are quite limited. I curse them, actually, as being able to draw out the physicality of the landscape and characters would only enhance my writing. If anyone knows of a great artist who'd be willing to collaborate, let me know! ;)

So the premise for The Assassin of Aldarhaij...

When a prophesy comes to the attention of a simple farmer’s son during a twilight stroll in the forest, he not only discovers that the world around him is full of majick, but that he is also the subject of said prophesy. The events that follow will catapult him out of his rural existence and into a world of darkness.

Elizabeth: What was the hardest part of the writing process?

Joshua: The hardest part of the writing process (for me) is keeping myself from editing what I've already written. I'm very critical of my own writing, constantly judging it and wanting to perfect it. The truth is that, even though I've poured my heart and soul into Aesiranyn, it will never be good enough—it will never be perfect. That's the hardest part of writing. But you have to keep writing, imperfections or otherwise. Being able to share the stories that swim through my consciousness—that's the ultimate prize.

Elizabeth: How much of an influence did your writing coach, Joseph Nassise, have on your novel?

Joshua: In all honesty, Joe didn't have much influence on the actual novel at all. I already had the characters, setting, language, and several plotlines haunting me. Joe helped me by offering me structure and goals—assignments every week for which I was accountable. That alone helped me to get the bare bones of my outline onto paper—well, index cards—and seeing it all physically before me was worth its weight in gold. Being fired from my job in July of 2011 and the constant encouragement from Jeremiah were the true catalysts—not Mr. Nassise—for me finishing my manuscript. And though, as you well know, the manuscript has changed a bit since finishing it, finishing it was the ultimate mental relief.

Elizabeth: Please describe your writing process. What does your typical writing day look like?

Joshua: My writing process is scattered. I usually think of the basic plot of the book and start writing it onto paper so I don't forget any of the details. Strangely enough, most of my stories come to me while in the shower. Mental clarity, I suppose. I'll quickly jot down the details of the story, and then from there, I'll start writing the first scene—the first scene at the time, that it, as it usually changes. I'll write as long as the muse is there, and when it decides to leave, I work on the research, structure, characters, and world-building. After that is done, I usually plot the scenes with index cards, and once the scenes are clearly before me, I'll write. Sometimes I'll choose a random scene from the bunch, and sometimes I'll write them in sequence. I have to say, however, when written out of order, I am usually inspired to make changes to previous scenes—not always for the better, unfortunately.

Elizabeth: What made you decide to start a blog, and in particular a writing blog?

Joshua: As I said, I got let go from my job (of almost 8 years), so I had a lot of time on my hands. I finished my manuscript in September 2011, within two months of losing my job. After September I focused on editing what I had written, and then I sent it out to agents. By the time December had rolled around, I had received a response from most of the agencies. Not the response for which I had hoped, but a response nonetheless. It depressed me a bit. I knew that, without some tie to the writing world and publishing community, I'd probably never be taken seriously as a writer. That was the biggest motivation for the blog. The other, of course, being a source of income, as I was still jobless. Although I've not made any money from the blog as of now, I've gained riches in other ways. I've reconnected with friends with which I had lost contact, I've become a part of the publishing community in some aspect (which was the original intention), and I've met a plethora of great people—be it authors, publishers, agents, or fellow passionate readers.

Elizabeth: What is your favorite thing about blogging? Your least favorite? What has surprised you the most? Any truly spectacular, unexpected moments?

Joshua: My favorite thing about blogging is working with my team. When I blogged by myself, it was rather lonely; it even seemed pointless, at times. Now that I have a (constantly-growing) team, I feel connected to other passionate readers. Every day I'm learning more about the world of Speculative Fiction and, in turn, about myself.

What has surprised me the most... How fickle the blogging audience can be. I didn't realize how difficult it'd be to gain a following, or even how interconnected the blogging community truly was. The Bearded Scribe wouldn't still be alive today if it weren't for its contributors—that includes my great staff and the wonderful guest authors I've been lucky to seduce, as well as the several blogs and sites that are part of truly building a community.

I think the most unexpected moment, so far, has come from author, Michael Scott. Through the other blogs I follow, I discovered that the last book of his The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series was about to be released. I tagged him in a tweet, and I jokingly said that I would love an interview with him. I was astonished when I got an instant reply. He also helped me set up a giveaway of his book! 

Thanks, Joshua!  We still have a few more questions to go, but you've been quite cooperative today, so I'll let you off for now.  We'll talk again later...

...See, writers?  I'm shameless, but not merciless.

Happy Scribing!

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