Thursday 24 January 2013
Author Interview: Joseph Spencer
As a boy, Joseph Spencer immersed himself in the deductive logic of Sherlock Holmes, the heroic crime fighting of Batman and Spider-Man, and a taste for the tragic with dramas from poets like Shakespeare and Homer.
Before Joseph took to spinning his own tales, he pursued a career in print sports journalism, graduating with honors from Clinton (IL) High School in 1996 and summa cum laude from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in 2000. He covered such events as NASCAR’s Subway 500 race in Martinsville, the NBA Draft Camp in Chicago, the Junior College World Series, and Minor League Baseball’s Midwest League All-Star Game during a ten-year career throughout the Midwest. Now, he works as an emergency telecommunications specialist with an Illinois police department. The combination of years of writing experience with a background working with law enforcement professionals gave rise to his writing aspirations.
Joseph was married Dr. Amy (Waggoner) Spencer, an accomplished veterinary doctor, on March 14, 2012. He received word his debut novel was accepted by his publisher, Damnation Books, the next day. Joseph and Amy look forward to their honeymoon in Paris in September 2012. Murphy, a 15-year-old orange tabby, is perhaps the most vocal member of the family. The Spencer family enjoys reading Charlaine Harris, George R.R. Martin, Mary Janice Davidson, and most paranormal stories. The Spencers also enjoy quoting movie lines from The Princess Bride, Rain Man, Bridesmaids, and Office Space.
Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?
Honestly, I didn’t do a lot of prep work in the form of outlines and character sketches for the first two books in my Sons of Darkness series. Grim and Wrage, which will come out later this year, started with a few small concepts and I grew them from there. However, I recently began a project where I asked my wife, Amy, who is an avid reader, to join with me in planning a book. We are developing a novel using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method at www.advancedfictionwriting.com. I’m toying with working on our idea as a brief break from my series. For those who liked Grim, I’m planning for seven Sons of Darkness. I hope there’s interest enough from readers to make it quite a series.
Do your characters ever want to take over the story?
I love to write storylines which are character driven. I think it’s more important to stay true to a character rather than giving readers what they expect. I’d say a lot of people who’ve read my work said they didn’t see my ending coming, but they were satisfied with how it concluded the story even though it’s a little unconventional. My favorite part of writing is exploring a character, and telling that character’s story. In Grim, there’s a lot of characters with elaborate back stories, so in a way I think they do take over the story part of the time.
What is your favorite food?
Everyone in central Illinois loves a local Italian restaurant called Avantis. They make subs with sweet bread called Gondolas, and have great sauces and salad dressings. For the service and the quality and quantity of food you get, it’s a great place. They’ve got all sorts of sandwiches, pizzas and pastas.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
For years, I worked late hours at newspapers and third shift on my job now at the 9-1-1 emergency communications center. Ten years ago, this is an easy call because I was a night owl hands down. However, my wife has earlier hours for her job, so I’m becoming more of a morning person to mesh with her schedule. Although, it’s definitely nice to shop in 24-hour places for groceries and stuff like that if you can because it’s empty. I hate the stupid driving and congestion inside the stores that you encounter during the day.
Where do you dream of travelling to and why?
My wife and I have checked New York and Paris off our list. We’d like to explore a great deal of Italy next. From TV and movies, Venice looks so beautiful. We’d also like to visit Rome. I went to Europe for the first time last September when my wife and I went to Paris for our honeymoon. For people who dream to travel, don’t wait until you’re old to see what you want to see. Paris was breathtaking, and it’s fun to visit museums there and see history and heritage from a different perspective. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere other than the United States, but there are several parts of Europe I’d like to see.
Do distant places feature in your books?
I created a fictional town in the Midwest based off places I’ve lived. I didn’t want to make a mistake trying to recreate a real place in my work. However, I’m planning to place a new idea for a novel that my wife and I are planning in St. Louis.
Do you listen to music while writing?
I’ve learned that I write best in complete silence. I’ve tried listening to music, but I just can’t focus. As crazy as it sounds, my characters don’t speak to me with a lot of background noise drowning them out. I know lots of writers who’ve got an iPod going while they write, but I can’t do it.
Grim is a tragedy. There’s a man who has no idea who his family is, who grew up with no sense of identity and no parental figures, and who loses everyone who truly mattered to him in his life. He’s felt like he’s had to prove himself his entire life, and the only way he knows how is to make a deal with a supernatural being. His deal forces him to hunt down killers and fiends to avenge the souls of victims who can’t move on in the afterlife. The being convinces this desperate man that what he’s doing is just, even though he’s becoming as despicable as the men he hunts. To justify his own actions, he seeks out a virtuous heroic figure, and attempts to engineer his fall from grace in that man’s time of need. His thinking is if this man, who has symbolized justice for so long, becomes a man like him then maybe he’s a heroic figure, too, rather than a monster.
What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started?
I used to think that to get published that you had to have an agent, and I’ve found that’s not the case. There are a lot of options for writers these days. There are a lot of great independent publishers, and the self-publishing business aspect of the industry is taking off. You get a lot of rejection, and I think it’s important if you believe in your work to keep going. Never quit on yourself or your work.
Is there anything you would do differently?
Being unfamiliar to some of the marketing aspects, I think I would’ve started sooner with scheduling blog tours like the one I am on now. It’s all a learning process, so you’ve got to evaluate the costs of doing something against the potential impact of doing it. Right now, I’m just trying to introduce myself to as many new readers as I can in the hopes that they’ll like my work and continue to read it as I write more.
Who has influenced your writing?
I think I’ve learned something from every book I’ve ever read whether I liked it or not. I do want to credit my editors of Grim, Avril Dannenbaum and Michael Garrett, for teaching me about aspects of fiction writing. I also want to thank Kim Richards, owner of my publisher Damnation Books (www.damnationbooks.com), for giving me a chance as a brand new writer.
What are three words that describe you?
Sarcastic, relentless and driven are probably the words I’d use. I think it’s important to laugh, and I’d compare my sense of humor to a style similar to Seth MacFarlane. I’m also relentless and driven when I lock in on what I want. I won’t stop until I reach my goal or I go as far as I can go.
What is your favorite book?
As far as a classic, I’d have to say The Count of Monte Cristo because it’s the first time I read an anti-hero like Dantes. Society said you really shouldn’t root for him because of the nasty, vindictive things he does, but you do end up rooting for him. I love Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series. He’s created an icon out of a character that is usually considered a social pariah.
Blurb of upcoming release
Wrage, Book 2 of my Sons of Darkness series, is complete at 119,997 words and continues in the occult crime thriller vein I introduced with my debut novel, Grim, published by Damnation Books on Sept. 1, 2012. Here's a brief description:
As more dark secrets come to light, the battle for souls will push Prairieville to the brink of war in the living and supernatural realms.
Jeff Wrage swears a blood oath to Abaddon, the mysterious supernatural avenger of murder victims, to hunt the crooked cop who butchered his wife. But Jeff privately wonders whether he can be the executioner Abaddon requires to hold up his end of the bargain. Their pact throws the supernatual realm in chaos and threatens to trigger an apocalyptic fight for control of the afterlife between the Sons of Darkness and Sons of Light foretold in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
To make matters worse, Orlando Marino sees the death of Cyrus Black as his opportunity to restore the Marino family's stronghold in the Prairieville organized crime scene and to become a mob kingpin. He unleashes a plague which turns its victims into mindless followers, and Cyrus' heir, Grevis Black, is too busy rooting out a traitor in his midst to stop the coming turf war in the realm of man.
The fate of men and supernaturals alike rests with freshly promoted Homicide Detective Anna Duke, who reluctantly steps into the shoes of her mentor while struggling to come to terms with her unrequited love. As she tries to clear the fallen hero's name, she takes on a case where corpses go missing and her new partner is believed to be dead. When she starts learning the truth about her true identity, she'll uncover a trail of secrets which leaves her questioning her tragic past and begins her journey to avert the destruction of all creation.
Links to find me on the web:
(Barnes & Noble Nook & paperback)
Books and Tales will be closing in January 2018.