1. Please tell readers about your current book.Persistent Illusions is the sequel to Probability Angels and is the second book of a planned trilogy. This all grew out of an urge to write a Twilight Zone sort of story where a guy makes a deal with the devil. Only, that immediately seemed boring to me and I started wondering if I could write a story where the "devil" character was the good guy. Out of that idea grew this entire world of beings known as testers.
Basically they're a group of people who died in specific ways (that's sounds vague because I'm avoiding spoilers) so that they became trapped in this world after their deaths, unable to move on to whatever comes next. While here they're tasked with the job of pushing humans to become the best that they can be, often by bringing hurt or pain into a human's life. It's a complicated notion, but it is one I believe in: that my biggest strengths have come about because of my worst moments.
Anyway, this all sounds very heavy but the pushers comprise a unexpected bunch of characters and the way they interact with our world is a lot of fun, they kind of have a super-hero quality. Plus, since they're immortal, you have a two-thousand year old Roman slave, a guy from Brooklyn and a ronin from Feudal Japan crossing paths with Isaac Newton while the modern theory of gravity is being discovered. And then things really get rolling when a civil war breaks out amongst their kind.
The first book, Probability Angels, is an introduction to this world that exists all around ours and the onset of the civil war. The second book, Persistent Illusions follows the ramifications of this upheaval amongst their kind to...well let's just say that Einstein and an underground ice cavern play a part in book two and leave it at that.
2. Who or what inspires your writing?Not to sound cliche, but everything. That's when I'm in my best mood, when I find everything in the world fascinating and worth writing about. How do I get in that mood? I have no idea. And what do I do when I'm not in that mood? I go sit somewhere and watch people. Especially people I don't quite understand. I study them and try to figure out what makes them tick. Way back when I started writing I think I wanted to tell my own story, and that certainly still remains. But more and more I've become curious about what I can create that doesn't necessarily stem from me, whether I can craft a character the complete opposite of me and not make them two-dimensional. So I guess challenging myself inspires me. That and, frankly, sometimes I'll be walking along and I'll just get an image in my head, very clear and vivid. More often than not if I start playing around with that image during a subway ride I'll dig a story out of it.
3. When did you know you would be a writer?Ha, I'm still not sure I'm a writer. I'm just a guy who types a lot of words and tries to make people read who those words see and feel things. Writers, though? Writers have black and white photos of them in fantastic places and get quoted everywhere and stuff like that. Maybe that's a silly distinction, but it's hard not carry my view of writers from when I was in high-school into the present.
At any rate, I had to write a speech for a communications class. We were supposed to pick an argument from a list and choose one side and argue it. I can't remember what I was arguing anymore but it had something to do with sharks. And for the opening of my speech I basically wrote out the first scene of Jaws. I hadn't read the book back then, I had only seen the movie, but there was this serious rush in taking something so vivid from my head and putting it into words. I remember thinking, "Wow. That was amazing. I should try that more often."
4. How long did it take you to write your first novel?Let's see...I started The Letter in sophomore year of college and I don't think I really finished it until I was about 22. So we can call that four, maybe five years.
5. What is the hardest part of writing for you?The grunt work. The times when I know where I have to go, where there isn't much left to discover, so it's just a matter of chaining myself to my desk and grinding out the scenes. Writing drawn you in with the most wonderful endorphin rushes ever, but if I sat around waiting for those rushes in order to finish my books I'd never get them done. You have to learn to write without it being fun and that's the hardest part. Suddenly this dream job looks an awful lot like plain old desk work...only twice as painful.
6. Do you have any writing rituals?Actually I think I have the opposite of writing rituals. The times I run into trouble the most are when I get too locked into a ritual. "Write X number of words a day," or something like that. Don't get me wrong, daily goals like that are great...until they're not. Sometimes I'll be slogging along, really not understanding my work, and I'll realize that I've become too predictable and that I could use some more angles and perspective. So I'll go out and maybe sit at the local coffee shop and free-write on a legal pad for a certain number of pages straight, or go sit and watch people's faces for an hour or photograph a certain object a set number of times. I try not to go off and just wander...though I do that occasionally too, but I find it important to shake up my work routine with more work. So I attach rigid guidelines to it, like a certain number of photographs must be taken or free writing pages must be produced. It keeps me focused and thinking about the creative process. Ha...though maybe that's just so I don't feel guilty about blowing off my word count.
7. Have you written any thing else?I've written about five books and a ton of short stories. I say "about" five books because two of them are still in rewrites and I'm not comfortable releasing them yet. The other book, my first book, is available and all my short stories are up on my website in numerous forms. I'll put links below in question 12 where they belong.
8. Any advice to aspiring writers?Keep in mind that what you're doing is honing a craft. I always try and think of the part of me that writes as a muscle, just like a bicep or a calf. All the work you've done, all the writing and rewriting and research and thinking about words and reading, all of that has been strengthening this writing muscle of yours. And that doesn't just go away when you have writer's block or a panicked loss of confidence. It's important to realize that even though you, yourself, might not love what you happen to be typing at any given moment, this muscle, this craft that you've been building all these years is still there at work in the background. Just because you don't feel an endorphin rush doesn't mean your craft and skill aren't showing through. Have faith in that. You might not be feeling it, but your muscles are still there. I can't tell you how many passages I've sweated through, positive that they'd be complete tear-downs when rewriting came, only to find that they only needed minor tweaking.
9. Who are your favorite Authors?
F. Scott Fitzgerald is currently number one on my list, and that's entirely because of The Great Gatsby. I make a habit of going back to books I read years ago, especially works I was forced to read in high-school and maybe didn't quite grasp back then (or hated just because I was being force fed them). I figure I owe a lot of those books a second chance and The Great Gatsby was quite a surprise. I love that book now and am amazed that it took me so long to be able to appreciate it. Other than that there's Salinger, though only his short stories hold me anymore, and Joyce...but mainly for The Dead. However I'll read anything. I love Rowling, King, Gaiman, Hemingway, Frank Miller, Dickens, Agatha Christie...there's not much rhyme or reason to my author list as far as I can tell.
10. What are your favorite books, or which book has impacted you the most?The Aenead has to be the book with the largest impact on my writing life. I kind of liked English class in high-school, but it was only okay. However, I also took Latin, and in Latin class we translated the Aenead and a lot of Ovid as well as some of Cicero's speeches. I can't say I learned a ton of Latin (though I can still recite the opening lines of the Aenead) but it was in that class that I really started to look at writing as a tool. The way the old Romans composed things was so beautiful but so rigid as well. They weren't poets so much as master sculptors who worked with words. Every verb placement, every meter change, all of it, every single word mattered and it all combined to be so much greater than just lines on a page. It's funny because a lot of readers find my writing a little strange at first and I have to imagine that's because I tend to forgo English grammar if I can use a Latin literary device or slip a word in, seemingly out of place, that I know will have a huge impact on how something is perceived three sentences later.
11. What are you currently reading?Crime and Punishment. I'm finding it a lot more enjoyable than when I read it in high-school. Though I still maintain that Russian authors should be kept to ONE name per character. They start talking about someone using their nickname, which has never been mentioned before, and I get totally lost.
12. How do readers find out more about you?Visit my website http://josephdevon.com. You can find tons of short stories, all of my published works, a running blog, current contests, a little biography...all that stuff. I'm also on twitter @josephdevon and there's Facebook for updates.
Paperback: 282 pages
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Joseph Devon was born in New Jersey and has been a pioneer in the field of self-publishing since his first book, The Letter. He is known for his world-building literary style, instantly accessible characters and poetic dialogue as well as the "26 Stories in 52 Weeks" writing project from his website at josephdevon.com.