Aug 16 2011
This week, my very special guest is Joel Blaine Fitzpatrick. He is a hermit. A very busy hermit. Shall we get to know him a bit?
Greetings, Joel. It’s a pleasure to have you as my guest this week. Tell the cool peeps about yourself.
Thank you, Molly dear! I’m an old coot; living with my wonderful family in Colorado, surrounded by forest, with a nice little trout stream in my backyard. I have all the time in the world to read and write, and too few hours in each day to get it all done.
Please, tell us about the different books you have written.
I’ve played author in four novels. They wander a bit in subject, because I’ve not found a favorite genre yet. I like spooky things, so two of them are Paranormal, one is a Sci-Fi, and the longest is just a story about a beautiful woman who can carve marble. You might say I write Historical novels, because all but the Sci-Fi take readers back in time.
My next novel is in progress, and will be an Alternative History. I’m going to destroy a very important moment in history. It will only be available in hardbound. My website explains that a little.
Do your novels have common elements? If so, what are they?
Angels. For some reason, you will find reference to them in every story. I’m very romantic, at least in prose – my wife will tell you I’m a buffoon – romance plays an important role in my books. That may happen only because I tend to fall in love with the ladies I write. I’ve also noticed that I enjoy putting characters into situations which will change them, change their beliefs or personality; or at least open their heart in ways they never expected. (For example, Lisette Brodey’s characters in Crooked Moon were superb; she created them with perfect realism.) Now that I think about that, change is one of the autobiographical influences that have wandered in subliminally through my fingers.
Are you a meticulous plotter or do you let your story surprise you as you write? Have any of your characters ever thrown you for a loop when you thought you had them all figured out?
I never outline. My first chapters are written, completely, before I actually begin in earnest. Nothing goes onto the page unless I want it there. Every element is worked out in my head before I type it, including a lot of the dialogue. Characters tell me which direction to take. (Even in my fifth novel, where they are all real people whom we think we know.) Each of my main characters usually conforms to the direction I’ve imagined for the book. But one of my supporting characters takes his own life, so unexpectedly, that I almost couldn’t write the sentence.
Some of my readers will understand: Caraliza did not end as I intended. It’s too much of a spoiler to explain that, but the conclusion changed half-way there, and required an additional chapter to solve my dilemma.
I do begin to make notes, and a timeline, when the story becomes ponderous enough to require it. Even with a completely free narrative like mine, it is important that all the elements fit. That does become a lot of work. I research as I write, so sometimes there are elements to add backward – but, I’ve never rewritten a chapter in anything.
Absolute privacy or silence. My kids drive me bananas when I’m writing. I love music, but only instrumental. I have no ability to tune voices out, and voices are terrible distractions to me. My family is close to rebellion, because I’m such a bear when I write. My favorite time to write is late into the night.
You’re a self-published author working for a traditional publishing company as Director of Acquisitions. You happened upon this position in an unusual way. Can you tell us about it?
I reviewed a book without knowing the author was a publisher. We discussed my opinion, and he apparently began to look around at my online presence. Half a year later he invited me to join his company, JournalStone Publishing.
A typical day is about 3 hours of social media, and 6 – 8 hours of reading. More if an MS is viable. (I read the entire novel if it has potential for publication.) We have just concluded a major contest, and that flooded JournalStone with excellent material, almost filling up our schedule for books in 2011. Things are slowing down, but I will get three or four submissions each week. I tweet a lot, asking for them.
The number of good submissions varies, but oddly, I’ve seen only one book that was poorly written. One of the most common mistakes made by authors, is to submit before they have really proofread the text. Writers need to realize that MS Word is showing me all the things they could have corrected, so I have to wonder why they are still in the text. I have to consider how much editing is going to be needed to move a book forward. Authors can remove that problem themselves.
Another common oversight – emotional continuity. The majority of my comments back to authors have been about keeping emotions real and stable. If your character is going to switch emotions on us, make sure they trade what they have been feeling for something equally strong. I’ve read quite a few characters that seem to forget they just had their wits frightened out of them.
You must be a true Sci-Fi fan to work for a company that publishes it. Have you always been a sci-fi fan? What are some of your favorite books or films?
I came into Sci-Fi as a fan of Omni magazine. I’d read classics from Verne and Wells, but Omni opened my mind to excellent fiction. The space-age captivated me, so I devour anything about the stars. Not being Earth-centrist, I can easily imagine and embrace other beings out there.
I attended the opening day of Star Wars with my younger brother, and saw the film twice, because the theater was too empty for the managers to care if we stayed. Two days later we went back to see it again, and the ticket line went around the block. We saw the first trailer for Star Wars while watching one of my all time favorite films, the animated Wizards, so we were very eager for that new Sci-Fi experience. It was fun to watch what happened.
The wonderful thing about Sci-Fi is that it can happily make fun of itself, and keep going. There is nothing too outrageous. Because of that, we have the joy of Godzilla movies, and fiction like Hitchhiker’s Guide-. It’s all about imagination. My favorite movies are the old drive-in era groaners like Plan Nine from Outer Space, Beast from 20,000 fathoms, Angry Red Planet, Mars Needs Women. Those campy films lived right alongside stuff like Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds, The Thing…that were exploring something much darker. That’s where I grew up, within those influences.
JournalStone embraces a bit more that just Sci-Fi, Molly. We also publish Horror, Paranormal and YA books.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever seen on TV, in a film, or read in a book?
The movie Aliens terrified me!…and I wasn’t a kid when it was released. House on the Haunted Hill gave me nightmares as a child. I tied laundry baskets together in my bed for protection when I was five – because of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. I adore ghosts, but I’m terrified of the dark. I simply cannot watch gore; I can’t get the images out of my head.
The most frightening thing I’ve ever read in a book was from Journeyer by Gary Jennings. He took me into a Chinese torture chamber, and I’ve never read anything as well done. It was horrifying and beautiful. (I’ve some favorite Indie authors who come damned close to that magic for me.)
You’re a big advocate of self-publishing and a well-respected member of the independent community. Please, tell us a bit about your fierce championship of independent authors.
Traditional publishing needs to shut the Hell up and simply admit this – they just can’t print all the books that are available. Why they stupidly insist on the other arguments: like quality – it drives me insane.
My primary rant against traditional publishing is the idea that it owns the right to decide who can write, and who cannot. There are people in the industry who are telling Indies to stop writing because they are not good enough. My belief is simple. Everyone can write, and everyone has a right to see their book in print. Go away if you can’t believe that with me. I have no time for another opinion. (Because they don’t allow me my own.)
Traditional publishing is tainted now by the same inhumanity as politics. If you do not conform, you are worthless.
Quality is not the problem. If it were, the Big 6 would not be struggling. They are perfect after all, right? Pure B.S., and you can spell that out, Molly, if you so desire. Readers are embracing self-publishing because it is offering diversity. Readers are proving that the market is not shrinking; it still massive for good stories.
Readers are abandoning the traditional model, because the industry has failed them. Marketing is the cause. Marketing killed diversity by enforcing templates; and marketing tried to kill imagination. Marketing closed all the doors on people who wanted to be read. Self-publishing went around those doors, and not through the cellar. You are purely a snob if you think you can’t find a well-authored independent novel. There is skill and a universe of imagination in the human mind the world over. Authors have decided to break down the barriers set before them.
I’ve said before, self-publishing is the only thing that modern technology has gotten right. (Well, that and cartoons. Those are completely cool now.) Authors have inexpensive means to hold their book in their hands, and small publishing houses can economically offer new talent the larger houses won’t touch.
How can I maintain that stance, and still be involved in traditional publishing? Easily. I give every author a chance to tell me their story. I would be stupid to think this was about anything else. We will be able to publish some of those books, and I love being able to tell an author that is about to happen. I cannot, and will never tell an author they aren’t good enough to make a book somehow. Books are not hatched from eggs in bookstores – they are written by people. It is their dream: they deserve it.
You’re an avid reader. What do you read when not reading for work?
Since joining JournalStone, I’ve read 26 full novels, and more than 60 first few chapters.
I read Indie work exclusively right now. I’m meeting authors who are teaching, and entertaining me in wonderful ways. I’m a bit like a kid in a candy shop. And, yes, I do read, to clear my mind from reading. Ha! That is exactly how I opened Lisette Brodey’s book. I shoved everything else aside one day and finally read Crooked Moon.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on social media. I think many of us have a love/hate relationship with it. How do you feel about it?
Social media is so much fun, Molly – as long as you open up and expose yourself. Hide behind your books (read: over-promote) and you will not be embraced. Authors are exciting, funny, wonderful people, who happen to create some nice stories. In fact, most of my own favorite Indies had attracted me as humans, long before their books thrilled me.
To do the FB-Twitter-Goodreads-Amazon-Google+ thing properly, you need to stop making it hard work. If we only see your book cover, and never hear your voice…we are going to talk to someone else. People don’t spend their whole day on Amazon, clicking through pretty book covers. They also spend time looking for funny cat videos.
Because self-pub marketing can be so overwhelming, I like to lead people to the wonderful forum www.Bestsellerbound.com . Darcia, Stacy and Maria built a fabulous website where self-published authors can get advice, help, and encouragement. Their forum can help take the mystery – and sting – out of social media because many of the members are powerful and experienced in that arena.
I’ve been forever called picky, but I maintain that we’re all picky creatures. What are you picky about?
Radio station in my car.
Folded underwear. (It must be.)
Unflushed toilets. (AAAuuugghhh!)
My chair. No one is allowed in it.
Pet hair. (I loathe it!)
Where can peeps find you in cyberspace?
Just type my full name into Google. I’m well exposed. Click an Images search, and dozens of my favorite authors will suddenly appear with me in the results…
Any parting words for the masses? Any shameless plugs?
Molly, I am having the time of my life, because of books and self-publishing. I’d rather talk about another author’s book than my own. For that reason, I’m known by thousands, but read by dozens. In all honesty, I would love to hear another opinion about one of my own books. I do like them, you know. However, I will continue to write anyway. I do that for myself. It is the best feeling in the world, to be creating a story. Everyone should try it. (and then send me a copy to brag.)
Thank you Molly! Tell Lisette to go back-up all her files. She probably doesn’t do it often enough. ☺Ω