Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hey Joe, What d'ya know: an Interview with Joseph Nassise

Two weeks ago Joseph Nassise wrote me to announce the upcoming podcast of his book Heretic (which launched today—the podcast, not the book), and I, the opportunistic chick that I am, took that as an invitation to hound him about doing an author interview. Despite the fact that I have never interviewed anyone in my life, with the exception of those seeking employment with my company, I wrote up a couple of questions for my victim—er, patient author and sent them out. What I expected was a “Please don’t email me again” in response, what I got instead were several thoughtful answers to my rather scattered questions. Whether it’s his book or his podcast that interests you, take a moment to read this over.

I know I feel smarter for it.

Bookseller Chick: Okay, I haven't had a chance to pick up your book, Heretic , and give it a thorough read—which pains my little research obsessed heart—but I did get a chance to read the first couple of pages on Amazon. Did you know that the excerpt cut off after page ten? I think I screamed a little. Here I was getting an intriguing combination of death, destruction, mystery and the introduction of a (possibly) bad ass character (Cade Williams), and then nothing. It ended in the middle of a sentence! I mean, I've heard to always leave them wanting more, but that was ridiculous. Still, I got enough to know that you've created a world where the Templars are not only still active, but still working for the Vatican. My question (and I do have one) is why did you choose the Templars as the organization for your book?

Joseph Nassise: The Templars have always been fascinating to me. You've got this small, militant order that grows exponentially over time, building enormous wealth and power from practically nothing. What started out as ten guys who'd vowed to guard the route from the Holy Land to Europe balloons into this immensely powerful Order, so powerful that the King of France and the Pope conspire to destroy it. But the Order is too smart for them. They scatter, taking their treasure fleet with them, and disappear into the pages of history, leaving behind myth, legend, and rumor.

It was on that framework that I decided to play the What If? Game. What if the Order had survived intact? What if they still played a role in today's world? What would they look like? Who would they answer to? You get the idea. From there, the concept of reconciling the Order with the Vatican in the wake of WWII was born.

BSC: I found out about your book when you emailed me about the Podcasts you are doing in conjunction with the Horror Network, and when I looked up your title, I found that it was commonly listed under horror. Do you consider your book to be strictly horror?

JN: Not at all. While it certainly has horrific elements – necromancers, revenants, what may or may not be an demon – it is also much more. It's part religious suspense, part police procedural, part romance, part techno-thriller. Bram Stoker award winner Gary Braunbeck said it quite well, I think…"HERETIC is cross-genre fiction at its very best."

BSC: Most large chain bookstores (I cannot speak for the independents) have sections specifically for horror fiction. Personally I tend to stay away from horror books because I tend to equate them with horror movies (long on the slashing, short on the plot) and I'm a big ol' wimp with a very active imagination who can't read scary things and then be alone by myself. Am I selling short the horror fiction genre? What would you say to someone like me to get me to buy your book? (That would be after you slapped me for the horrific grammar of that last sentence, of course.)

JN: I would say an emphatic YES, you are selling the horror genre short. To me, horror is anything that evokes a feeling of dread or fear. This means that many books that are not marketed as horror certainly have some horrific elements to them. Conversely, it also means that horror novels have a tremendous amount of room to live and breathe in and equating them with the dull and many times plotless slasher films of the last two decades doesn't give them the credit they deserve.

Certainly horror has its share of gore and guts, but it also has the lyrical symphony that is the writings of people like Peter Straub and Caitlin Kiernan, the evocative descriptions of Glen Hirschberg and Thomas Liggotti, the action and adventure of Tim Lebbon and Chris Golden. And I could go on in this vein for hours. A few years ago Alice Seibold won the Bram Stoker Award, one of horror fictions two highest literary honors, for her novel THE LOVELY BONES, in which a dead girl narrates the disintegration of her family following her rape and murder. Aside from the fact that the book is narrated by a ghost, there isn't a single element of the supernatural in the entire work, yet it was clearly seen as horror for the feelings it evokes.

Horror is much broader than most people realize and I think it behooves horror writers everywhere to help get that message across. I usually ask people to put aside their preconceived notions and talk a walk with me down the road for a bit, just past that last stoplight, where the light dims and the shadows start to gather, to see what we might discover there for ourselves

BSC: The phenomenon of Podcasting is relatively new to me (and a lot of others), how did you come up with the idea? What made you hook up with the Horror Network to do this Podcast? What will each podcast entail and how can people access it?

JN: I had been listening to a number of technology related podcasts in my spare time and thought it might be interesting to listen to some fiction in the same format. Much to my surprise, there was very little to be had. I saw that as a window of opportunity, not only to fill that gap but also to reach a much wider potential audience than I could through the usual publicity methods.

Once I decided to do the podcast, I thought the impact would be much more significant if I had a corporate sponsor or two. I approached The Podcast Network as I knew they were the first commercial network for podcast content and had been listening to several of their shows on a regular basis. I knew their quality was excellent and that they would have the technical know-how I would need to bring my show to the public. I then needed a sponsor associated with the horror genre and the Horror Channel simply made perfect sense in that regard. Of course none of this would have been possible without the help of my publisher, Pocket Books.

Each podcast will consist of a fifteen to twenty minute show. We'll be doing a chapter a week from HERETIC, book one of the Templar Chronicles, so thirty weeks in all. Each and every show will also be archived on the official site (http://www.thetemplarchronicles.com/) so if you start listening to us partway through the project you can get caught up without any difficult. The site will also feature interactive message boards, contests, behind-the-scenes features and the like.

In order to listen to the show, you can either simply download each episode onto your computer, iPod, or portable media device manually or you can sign up for the podcast feed, which will automatically download each episode as it becomes available.

BSC: In a way, podcasting your book seems like a revival of the radio shows of old albeit in this new medium. Did you ever listen to radio shows? (If you did) Did that influence your reading of your book for the Podcast?

JN: I've listened to a number of old radio programs over the years, from The Shadow to others I think it's a tremendous shame that radio programs of this type have gone the way of the Dodo and I truly hope that podcasting will help revive this terrific medium.

BSC: In the comments you left on my post about your Podcast, you mentioned that you will be doing the reading. That takes some serious guts. How does it feel to hear your own voice reading something you put so much time and effort into creating?

JN: I've been involved in public speaking for years so recording my voice was no more difficult for me in that regard than getting up in front of a room full of people and giving a presentation. And thanks to editing software, I didn't really have to worry too much about any mistakes I made, as it was simple to go back through the recording afterward and clean up the errors. I've tried to make each show lively and interesting, and hope that I've succeeded. If not, I hope listeners will tell me about it so that I can make any necessary changes as we go along.

BSC: The Templar Chronicles are an ongoing series with Heretic as the first book. If your podcast is successful do you plan to do them for the rest of the books?

JN: Yes, I'd certainly like to do so. Books two and three, A SCREAM OF ANGELS and THE OTHER SIDE OF DARKNESS, will both be completed this year and I'd like to start podcasting them a few months after we finish up with HERETIC.

BSC: As a bookseller I'm always getting recommendations from people, besides your book (obviously) what are two books I should give a try, or at least recommend to my customers?

JN: There are literally hundreds of books I could recommend. I'll simply mention two that are being released this week - DUSK by Tim Lebbon and THE MYTH HUNTERS by Christopher Golden. Both are the start of new dark fantasy series, but very different from each other, and both authors are among my favorites.

That's it for my first author interview. If there is anyone else out there with some interesting marketing technique or just looking for some free publicity, let me know at bookseller.chick@gmail.com. I'd like to get a cross section of the genres if that's possible, and I love hearing about what's new and interesting in the book world.


lady t said...

Nice interview! I've done a couple myself and I can safely say that after
the first one,it gets to be easier to do.

Bookseller Chick said...

Thanks Lady T. I'm surprised I even got one, so any that come along after have to be easy (or at least I tell myself, who knows if there will be any more).

Michele said...

I enjoyed reading this a lot.
And you know what? I just may give the genre a try. I feel the same way you described.
You opened my eyes with your questions and his responses.
You did a great service to readers everywhere!!!

Bookseller Chick said...

Thanks, Michele. I'm always interested to see what I'm missing, and a long, long time ago I did read Dean Koontz to I've ventured into the "horror" genre before, but I figured he was just different (and not representative of the genre). I too think I might pick up the book. I've already ordered them in for the store.

Ron Franscell said...

You should be a reporter! It pays a lot worse, and the hours suck, and you read far less than you ever have in your life ... but, hey, you're good at it!

Call me!

Bookseller Chick said...

Hey Ron, thanks! I'm not sure that the money could suck any less than it does in bookseller. Maybe I could supplement. I don't think my interest extends any farther than books, though, and this whole anonymity thing does have its drawbacks (no face to face meetings and such), but if you know some place who'll let me work anonymous and cut checks to a third party while I interview authors, I'm game.