Here I sit with talking with an author I respect and admire for his creativity, wit, and ability to craft amazing stories. I have known Joseph for a good while, but not as long as I will. We met when he interviewed my co-author, Charles Breakfield. The first of his books I reviewed, The Augmented Man, hooked me from page one. His blog, especially with backyard critters as one content source, is fun and insightful. I am delighted to share a bit about my friend, Joseph Carrabis.
Thank you for joining me, Joseph. Let’s get to the fun. Your professional background provides an excellent foundation for your writing. Was there a specific event convinced you writing was a good direction for you?
It’s the only thing that’s continually brought me joy, and it’s independent of my ability at it. I can be a terrible writer who can’t put two words together and if I find joy putting those two words together – regardless of how poorly – then I’m a success.
Also, my joy is independent of anyone else. Yes, it’s wonderful to receive accolades from other writers, to know people enjoy and find meaning in my work, to be paid for my efforts, and if I know I’ve done the best job I could nobody can take that away from me. They may not like it, they may have excellent reasons for not liking it, and if it’s the best I could do, that’s enough for this moment. I can learn to do better if I believe I need to or should, and that’s for later, right now, I can rejoice in the best job I could do, well done.
What is the biggest inspiration to your writing?
You have published several genres. Is there one of these which stands out as your favorite?
People ask me what’s my favorite genre to read. I respond “Well-written.” The same goes for my own work. I don’t think of my work as genre specific. Some regular readers tell me my genre is “Joseph” and I’ve said being sui generis is great for branding, rotten for marketing. I tell stories as they need to be told. Some are ChickLit, some Flash, some Fantasy. It’s more about “what genre best tells this character’s story?”
And if so why?
Again, well-written wins overall. Readers write me (and many reviews do the same) they loved The Augmented Man but it’s not something they would’ve read normally or picked up; it’s not their “genre.” But all of these readers and reviewers tell me the characters and writing kept them reading.
When a reader tells me they couldn’t put the book down, missed their bus stop, fought to keep their eyes open reading into the night, cried over a character or had some strong emotional response, I know I’ve succeeded as an author.
You are not an author I would classify as stuck in a rut. What is the next genre you would like to tackle and bend to your will?
Not genre per se, but subject matter; I have quite a few works in progress dealing with creatures created for specific purposes and the unintended consequences of doing so. But as my editor often says, “The two things you’ll always find in Joseph’s work are a deep understanding of human psychology and love,” so no matter what I write, it’ll be around those two subjects.
From reading some of your books and blog, you like to surprise readers in one way or another. How did you develop this skill?
I like to surprise readers? I had to ask Susan (wife/partner/Princess) about this. According to her (and I agree), I like to surprise readers with all the connections I make between events and characters. My surprises are not the “Ha! Gotcha!” kind so much as they are the “How is he going to put all this together?” kind.
The example she gives is the “Wild Bill” character in Empty Sky. He’s a minorish character yet he got enough screen time she knew he had to show up again in the story. When he did, she got a pleasant “aHA!” moment.
That’s also how a reader rewards a writer (to me), by the way. When the reader thinks the author’s done a good job, that’s gold (to me).
Is there a writing project you want to take on in the next few years when you feel ready?
Yes. I’m currently practicing for a story that makes a lot of use of music to set scenes, reveal character, develop plot, et cetera. This practice takes the form of including lyrics now and again in sections of a current work in progress, a novel entitled The Shaman. One chapter in particular made extensive use of Maria Muldaur’s Midnight at the Oasis. I wrote that chapter three, maybe four times before I could move on, developing tone, language, character, atmosphere. I probably won’t look at that novel again for another year, once I finish it.
I know some of your writing requires extensive research. How do you conduct your research?
I love to read in many fields, and I enjoy learning, so research comes easy to me. I always assume I know less than other people, which makes me pay attention to them. And I have no problem asking questions.
From your books, do you have a favorite character that you have created? Which one?
That’s a tough one. Can’t say I have a favorite child. Sorry.
Are your characters created from people you know?
I tell people I write autobiography. Yes, all my characters are created from people I know and people I’ve been.
What steps do you take to make your writing the very best it can be?
Oy. I study writing, read books on technique, read books across all genre to learn how authors do things (https://josephcarrabis.com/2019/02/06/what-do-you-mean-exactly-when-you-tell-me-to-read-and-write-to-be-an-author/), practice technique, form, method, … I also work with a critique group which meets once a month to review each other’s work to help each other write better.
Tell me a little about your writing process and how it has evolved over time?
Odd question. I sit and write. Except when I’m not sitting and I’m still writing. I can’t think of a time when I’m not engaged in writing in some form; thinking about it, editing something, developing a story idea, making notes on something.
But basically, it’s always been “sit and write.”
How do you use beta readers to make your writing so amazing?
Each beta reader brings some unique skill among the community skills. One reader is an amazing logician. He finds plot holes – gaps in a story’s internal logic – that escape others including me. Brilliant. Susan is the best continuity editor – amazing attention to details within a story to make sure it’s internally consistent – I’ve ever encountered. Amazing.
One thing I find over-the-top powerful is having people unfamiliar with my writing/genre/style read my work-in-progress. They catch all sorts of stuff people within my genre/style would let slip because they’re familiar with the tropes.
How many hours a day do you put into your writing?
Not nearly enough. Clapton practices 8-10 hours/day. Perlman ditto. Michael Jordon rarely left the court. If you want to be the best, you have to put in the hours. Yes, you’re going to make mistakes. In fact, you better make mistakes. Without mistakes, there’s no improvement. Embrace them. Learn from them.
What formats are your books available in?
Hopefully readable. Print, ebook, some are audiobooks.
Are your books published in multiple languages?
Not that I know of, at least not my fiction. Much of my non-fiction is available in non-English languages. Some non-English speaking readers have offered to translate my books for me. Quite the honor, that; someone so enjoying your work they want to make it available in their native language.
Can you tell me a little bit about your next book and when it will be available?
My next book is actually one of my previous books, Empty Sky. I self-published it because I couldn’t get a publisher or agent interested. Several responded they liked the story and loved my writing, but agents felt it wasn’t something they could successfully represent. Publishers liked my style but couldn’t figure out how to place in their publishing schedule.
Great albeit frustrating responses: They rejected the book for marketing reasons, not craft reasons. I can accept being rejected for marketing reasons. I don’t like it and I understand it.
Being rejected for craft reasons? That’s fixable: write better.
Anyway, the book had been out for a year or so and I studied craftsmanship and practiced writing during that time (still do). I realized I could write a better novel, and I have; the same story told differently (hopefully better). I’m sending it out now. This time I’m getting positive responses. Nothing solid yet, and I’ll take the positive responses.
I think the book after that will be a current work-in-progress, The Inheritors, about gifted children who are taken to the future to solve an environmental crisis. It’s completely written and waiting editing at this point.
Do you read your book reviews? What do you do with the information provided in a review?
I read reviews to determine if the reviewer is describing something fixable or that requires fixing. Other than that, I quote reviews in my social marketing efforts.
What are you passionate about?
My honest to god first response was “My wife.”
Beyond that…hmm…and aside from writing? Probably music, both playing and listening. Cooking. Taking walks with our dog, Boo, and playing with him. He taught us how to spoil him and did a great job.
Most authors I come across are readers. Does this apply to you? If yes, do you have a favorite genre to read?
Ha. “Well-written” is my favorite genre. Unfortunately, it seems to be quite scarce these days.
You and your bride are hosting a dinner. You have invited two authors to join you (Doesn’t matter if they are living or not). What questions would you pose to each of them and why?
Who are the two authors…hmm…that’s a tough one. Living or dead. One
is definitely AJ Budrys because he was an amazing author, an excellent
editor, a good friend, and my mentor in a variety of fields. The second
one…I’m going to go with Charles Frazier because he’s an amazing
author whose writing has yet to disappoint.
1) White or Red?
2) Chicken or Fish?
Because choice is better than no choice.
What interests you outside of writing?
ROFL. Again, my first gut level response is “My wife.”
I love flying monster kites. Not monster-shaped kites but enormous kites. My largest kite is a third of a parachute, my smallest is about 18” across. I have about 100 different kites for all types of wind. I don’t fly enough, though.
I enjoy talking with people, exchanging ideas, learning from them.
I enjoy helping people be happy. Or finding their happiness, their bliss. It’s wonderful to see someone unfold, discover themselves, become who they truly are.
Do you have any advice for up and coming authors?
Remember my mentioning Read, read, read, and Write, write, write? https://josephcarrabis.com/2019/02/06/what-do-you-mean-exactly-when-you-tell-me-to-read-and-write-to-be-an-author/
The only other thing I’d offer is be honest with yourself. Don’t believe your own hype. Don’t believe others’ hype about you. Believe yourself and in yourself.
And don’t give up.
Find and Follow the Unique Joseph Carrabis