Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Interview: Joseph Malik

Tell me a little bit about your book.

Dragon’s Trail is the first in a series. Initial reviews on GoodReads are classifying it as “hard fantasy.” It’s an epic fantasy espionage thriller aimed at an adult audience. It takes a fairly standard fantasy trope – people from Earth going to a fantasy world – and puts a few spins on it. It’s told using adult characters, for starters, and the story revolves around a redemption arc of a badly broken man instead of the YA, coming-of-age thing that we see so often with a portal fantasy / crossworlds fantasy. It also has a modern spy-thriller feel, very dark and intense and fast-moving.

I’ve been working on the idea for about 25 years; the story has gone through many iterations and extensive research and worldbuilding. Most of my life in one degree or another has been either devoted to researching this series or doing something that has lent insight into the writing of it in some fashion.

IIf you had to write this one all over again, go through the whole editing and publishing process from the beginning again, is there anything you’d do differently?

I would have organized my notes better if I’d known I’d be working on it this long. My Boxes O’Worldbuilding are now one entire corner of my office.

Are you a plotter and know what’s going to happen or are you a pantser that lets your characters lead you by the balls?

Definitely a plotter. See above. I have boxes full of journals and notepads; flow charts, maps, beat sheets for subplots. However, I’ve been working on this series long enough now that I can just put the characters into situations and then write down what they do.

What’s something that you are really good at that most people don’t know about?

I play the piano very well. I had lessons for most of my youth and played music professionally for a few years. I still go out and hit jam sessions every few weeks.

Do you think being a writer is a gift or is it a curse? Why?

Definitely a curse. It forces you to pay attention to everything around you, and your inner monologue becomes that of someone else most of the time. I spend a lot of time wondering what everybody’s secret problem is. I mean, we all have one. It must be wonderful to just wander around taking everything at face value. I like to think that if this series ever became a huge hit, then when I was done I’d take a few years off and join a monastery in Tibet; sit on a mountain and just be.

Parents like to say they don’t have a favorite child, but we all know that’s not true. I could say the same for writers. So who’s your favorite child... erm, I mean character?

It varies from day to day. Definitely my MC of this series, Jarrod Torrealday. He’s outrageous and he consistently surprises me. I have found some fascinating things inside a secondary character in the second book, though, Daorah (Day-OR-ah), who’s a commander of the pegasus guard, has really stood up and shown me something.

Do you usually root for the heroes or the villains?

Heroes, always. Although my current hero was originally my villain and vice versa. After a few revisions, the whole story flipped and the real story came out. Then I ended up with this twisted, broken hero trying to win his soul back, and the Lost Prince™ from Earth who won back his father’s throne in a fantasy world ended up being the evil genius that has every other country scrambling to take military action.

Who are your favorite authors?

William Goldman. He wrote both The Princess Bride and The Marathon Man. How the hell do you do that? What a gift. Douglas Adams, the greatest narrator of our generation. Narrative storytelling in fantasy has all but died, and it breaks my heart. Stephen Hunter, a thriller author and creator of the wonderful Bob Lee Swagger, who was in large part an inspiration for this final iteration of Jarrod, my main character. Thomas Pynchon; I keep a copy of Gravity’s Rainbow by my bed just to remind me that nothing is impossible. Tad Williams, Patrick Rothfuss, and Sanderson; the world-building geniuses.

What about up and coming authors? Anyone caught your fancy?

Michael Tinker Pearce and Linda Pearce have a series called Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman that’s funny as hell, full of amazing characters, and has fantastic technical worldbuilding. I also really like Jeff Wheeler. I don’t know if he’s necessarily new, but The Queen’s Poisoner is wonderful and it bodes well for the rest of the series.

Back to your characters for a minute, who would you like to have a beer with? Who do you wish you hadn’t created?

I’d like to have a beer with my villain, Ulo Sabbaghian. I’d love to really pick his brain and listen to him talk. The character I wished I hadn’t created got cut out from this last version, a wandering cosmologist named Caleb Quinn who midi-chlorianed the whole crossworlds trope and had the ability to travel back and forth between the worlds.

Tell me one thing that’s on your bucket list.

Writing fantasy full-time.

If you were asked to write a book in a different genre than your current works, what genre would you choose and why?

I would write military action thrillers. My personal experience in strategic intelligence and Special Operations would give me an angle on it that a lot of writers don’t have. Not just how things work, but why.

What are you working on right now?

Book II of my series, a book called The New Magic.

Care to give us the first sentence of the last chapter you were working on?

“There is nothing deadlier than a life lived halfway.”

So, say you just got arrested. What’s the most likely reason the cops are carting you off to jail?

Assault with a deadly metaphor.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever researched for one of your books?

I took a weekend class on horsemanship at a stunt school and learned to do a backflip into a saddle.

What’s the one book you wish you had written?

Gravity’s Rainbow. I think it would have made one hell of a first novel.

Tell us about your most embarrassing bookish experience.

My first kiss was in a library, back in middle school. A girl walked up and laid one on me, hands on my face, the whole thing, and then ran away. I had no clue what to do – I just stood there in shock – and my friends never let me live it down. I’ve been turned on by books ever since.

When you were little, what did you dream of being when you grew up?

I went through a phase when I didn’t understand that dragons weren’t dinosaurs. I really wanted to be a paleontologist specializing in dragons.

What’s your writing quirk? Every author’s got one ;)

I count the time that I spend staring at the wall and concepting as “writing time.” Scotch in one hand, spinning a pen in the other, listening to Clannad and going over old notes. I still do most of my plotting and planning on yellow legal pads.

In your most recent work, would you tell us about some of the material that didn’t make it past the cutting room floor?

I had a sweltering, embarrassingly graphic sex scene between my main character and the elf woman, Karra Talviel. It was searingly hot; it just didn’t fit with the rest of the book. It seemed sensationalized and out of place. Similarly, there’s a torture sequence that I cut out because it also didn’t fit, and I put it in as backstory even though I think that particular passage is info-dumpy. The scene itself is pure nightmare fuel and the story doesn’t need it. I just don’t want to go down that road. My series is written for adults, but it’s because of the allegory and the characters and their arcs. Plus, “gritty fantasy” is the new sparkly vampires. It’s been done. Let’s move on.

What’s your favorite Disney movie? Seriously, this one is super important. Your life depends on your answer here.

Invincible. I still tear up at the end when they roll the real footage. Although I will admit that I saw The Little Mermaid in the theater three times. Drunk.

Where can our readers find your work?

Dragon’s Trail is available on Kindle Unlimited right now. bit.ly/dragonstrail

What/When is your next release coming out?

Summer of 2017. Book II in the series will be called “The New Magic.”

How do you want readers to keep in touch with you?

My Facebook page: facebook.com/jmalikauthor. Also my mailing list, which you can reach through my website at www.josephmalik.com

About the Author:

Joseph Malik writes and lectures on advanced intelligence theory and asymmetric warfare for
the Defense Intelligence Agency. He has worked as a stuntman, a highrise window washer, a freelance writer, a computational linguist, a touring rock musician, and a soldier in the United States Special Operations Command. His hobbies include boxing, fencing, Historic European Martial Arts (HEMA), traditional archery, and linguistics.
A veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he lives in the Pacific Northwest along with his wife and their two dogs, and currently serves in the Army Reserve.
Dragon’s Trail is his first novel, slated for release on September 30th, 2016. A sequel, The New Magic, is scheduled for summer 2017.

The author is giving away 10 ebook copies of Dragon’s Trail!

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