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Hi Joel! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m turning into a Mountain Man, and liking it. I live a thousand feet above Durango, Colorado, with my wife and two boys. We love it here; it’s one of the most beautiful places we’ve lived. The kids can snow ski in the front yard. We are travel freaks, and love weeklong road trips. This is a great starting point for a lot of spectacular trips.
What do you do when you are not writing? Do you have a day job as well?
When I’m not writing, I make maps for a living – maps for pipeline construction. It’s tedious, but never boring. You would think I’d want some activity away from my keyboards, but I get the urge to write and it’s usually powerful. I’ve been mapping for over twenty- five years, actually before computers took over the graphics. Before they came along, I was one of the mapping artists at a drafting board, with thirty different types of pens and triangles.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I’ve been quiet about that, because nearly all my new author friends have been at this for years. I should have been. But, suddenly, at the end of 2009, I was facing a lot of leisure time, so I began my first novel. It was purely a lark. I finished it in two months, and got back to mapping. Every moment I was idle this last year, I was into my text. My fourth novel was published Sept. 2010. It was just something that exploded, completely unplanned.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
My first was a Science Fiction. I just wanted a good story, which I would enjoy reading. My younger brother and I had played years ago with the idea of writing something together, one of our discussions had stuck in my mind, about a black hole. So, I just wrote from that seed. My second novel is a ghost story, because a beautiful ghost spoke her name to me late one evening. (We live in a haunted house.) I fill everything with a lot of emotion, so I must really be writing Romances, mixed with other flavours.
Well, Harmony materialized, because my brother wanted to remove the entire atmosphere from the earth, suddenly. We laughed ourselves out of that whole idea, but I knew a black hole could do it, and kept thinking about it –for twenty years. My ghost, ‘Caraliza’, actually told me her name, and the story came from that. My third novel happened, because I wanted to know if I could write entirely from a woman’s perspective. (I’m not sure I achieved that, it is my longest novel, and it gets few reads yet.) But, my fourth novel was really born in a discussion with my wife about religion. I was raised in a very emotional, spiritual environment, and we began to talk about how difficult it can be, to change spiritual beliefs. ‘Shared’ is about a little girl, who is different from every other living person, but it is also about people seeing something they have never, and cannot believe. Because of this child, they must confront proof of something they do not want to embrace. Personally, I find that very, very frightening. I do a lot of damage to the faith of several people, and it was an enlightening experience.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
No. I write like my ass is on fire. My problem is finding the time to get to the keyboards. Some of it happens very late at night, when the house is asleep. (I only need four hours sleep, cause I’m half a century old.) I think I’ve mystified a few of my writer friends, because I’m just not able to relate with them about getting ideas to flow. I have to keep mine bottled until other things quiet down around me. I currently have two dozen story ideas, fleshed out to about ten pages each…
My third novel was written in thirty-six days, and hit 196,000 words. I did NANO three times that month. (But, I’d never heard of NANO. I’m that new at this.)
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I begin typing within a day of having a thought. If it really gets my interest, and ten pages fall out easily, then I keep going. I never outline, until back stories and plot need to be accurately tracked. Then I make something up for notes, to keep my ‘facts’ straight. Even writing about the black hole, I wrote with my research up on a separate monitor, and star charts all over my desk, and wrote while I looked things up. The story goes its own direction, and I try to keep up. Someday, I should really do it properly, and chart the whole thing. I might not really be writing, yet. It might teach me something about writer’s block!
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
That is the ‘large’ question. God, yes, I have authors I adore to read. The one, who just threw me to the floor with his prose, is Gary Jennings. ‘Journeyer’and‘Aztec’are both flawless. With a single sentence, Mr. Jennings could make me close my eyes, and close the book, because of something he told me in his text. I’ve never read anyone else who could do that. But from there, I love Umberto Echo, Bruce Chatwin, Barry Lopez…I’m a Mary Shelley fan and Tolkien freak, too. It’s not really fair though, to limit me. I grew up in a house with five sets of encyclopaedias. I was reading those in the fifth grade. Edward Lear was one of my favourites, before I was twelve.
You found my soapbox! I could begin this answer with swear words. Gently said, I encountered the brick wall of “we’re so busy – we can’t be bothered!” I wasted queries. But, I thought that was necessary. I self-published, almost by accident. People were complaining about my home printed copies of my novels. I went to Lulu.com and put things into physical form that burst every illusion I had about traditional publishing. See, I was holding my books, while begging agencies to even notice them. Talk about a moment of catharsis! ‘Breathing into Stone’ had been sent to 160 agencies. Twenty of them responded, asking for text. I spent hours on the phone with agents and editors, arguing about the length of the work. They did not have the energy for it, they wanted it cut down, and at the same time, I was signing copies and giving away the prints. I just laughed and stopped answering query replies. I just delete them now when they show up.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I would not send a single query. That group of people haven’t the time to find anything, except by accident. They sell by accident too. I can do that.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I market by the seat of my pants. Facebook was my beginning, until I wore out all my family and friends. But, I investigate with a passion. I’ve been a member on thirty plus forums, joining to test them out, cancelling when I encountered snobbery or a resistance to self-promotion. I’ve worked hard for every connection and every friend. Surprisingly, my excitement came with me, into marketing. Most Indie authors bemoan the whole effort, which arrives the nano-second one of your books is complete. I don’t feel that frustration, or weariness. It is as much joy to me as writing. I’m barely read, but I’m very widely known. That seems to be at odds with what most authors desire, but, remember, I’m only getting started at this, as most would describe. I can wait to be widely read. I Tweet, I blog other authors, I am furious on the forums that I love. Talking about others and their books, will someday come back to me. I’m certain of that.
Oh, and when you read one of my novels, you can’t resist talking about it.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Loved them all, published them all. Does that make me conceited? I’ve not been told yet that I’m lousy and should stop this nonsense. Well, those stupid queries don’t count as any indicator. We are well beyond the point in our history when it was even true to say, “have not been able to get published”.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Goody. It has nothing to do with me! That is a marvellous thing. I am polishing a three volume Anthology of first chapter samples for sixty-one authors. We are going to give it away free, as a marketing tool. I just invited them to be included, and sat back while the submission came rolling in. I’m quite proud of it, and it might even be uploaded to several places by the time this interview posts. It is called the BestsellerBound.com Sample Anthology. I promise, it will cause a stir, because I’ve not seen anything like it yet. Perhaps I will learn differently in a few weeks, and suddenly find a hundred others, but…
Personally, I have a story idea which will become my fifth novel, and it will be an alternative history. I take one well known person from history, and at a moment they could have turned vile, I let them. 250 years will unravel with a single bullet. I expect people to gasp at the first hundred and three words. It will find life, this year.
Yes, one event is from my personal experiences, but I can’t say exactly what; the person who inspired it is still living. It involves a fanatical obsession with demonic possession. That is a strange madness; which haunts me when I open those memories. The rest is purely wicked imagination. I love the bizarre, and the unlikely.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I have an idea to revisit a few of my characters in a compilation. Really? There is at least one in each novel. I adore my characters, because they didn’t always agree with me, and went along their own way. One of my characters danced with Albert Einstein. She is an entire novel, waiting for me to begin it. Only one character did precisely as I had planned, and strangely, I’ve written him out completely. He’s a finished element. But a few, who resisted me, are definitely tempting me back. I have been intrigued by alternative histories, and will run with my idea for that, as my next genre and next novel.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Don’t take any of my advice! Seriously, write for yourself. Pour into your heart with your fingertips, not the other way around. When you have pleased yourself, then share what you have written. If you wait for better advice, you won’t write. One of my new friends, Ryne Douglas Pearson, said it best, “write like you’re gonna burn it.” There is no better advice out there.
Yes. I am very sorry, but I love my china doll pic on Twitter. That she freaks you all out is just too damned bad.
Joel Blaine Kirkpatrick lives with his lovely wife, and two boys in Southwest Colorado. Having written four books, almost without effort, he is struggling to learn what he has been doing wrong. Fascinated with situations which cause people to questions themselves, Joel plays with characters to see what might change them, and whether they will even allow it. The results are romantic, spiritual, even unsettling at times.
Find out more about Joel and his work here:
Central website: http://www.brownbrushbooks.com