WHO ARE THE KINDLE ALL-STARS?
A series of 20+ short interviews with the team behind the Kindle All-Stars short story anthology ‘Resistance Front’ posted daily in the run up to its publication.
Please be sure to check any relevant images and links for each individual at the end of their interview.
Today I chat with Joseph S Walker
FS: How did you come to hear about the Kindle All-Stars project?
Joseph: Bernard made a post about his idea for the project on a Harlan Ellison message board I frequent, and I was immediately interested. I got in touch with him immediately, and he was very encouraging in asking me to submit a story.
FS: What’s your contribution called?
FS: And without giving too much away, what’s it about?
Joseph: My story is about a woman who’s been keeping a terrible secret for decades. On what initially appears to be just another day at work, her secret comes out and she must finally pay a price.
FS: What was the main inspiration behind it?
Joseph: It’s based on an idea I’ve been playing with for some time. Although other themes emerged in the writing, the initial idea had a lot to do with isolation. We live in this very wired world where we’re all connected to each other and everybody has hundreds of online “friends,” but so many of us spend days and weeks at a time really being alone, just staring at a little screen as we type. I was interested in this notion of being cut off from the world at the same time that you’re deeply connected to it.
FS: Did you write it specifically for the Kindle All-Stars, or was it written prior?
Joseph: I’d been batting the idea around in my head for a while, but I didn’t write the actual story until the KAS opportunity came along. Something about the story and the project seemed to be a good fit.
FS: Obviously the primary goal behind this anthology is to make some money for disadvantaged and abused children. But secondary to that, it is to promote fresh, new writing talent – the punk rock of literature – and show that Indie writers are out there, dedicated and working hard to produce Class-A work.
If people take notice of what you’ve written for this anthology, what do you hope the outcome is of that attention?
Joseph: Well, obviously if people like the story I’d love for them to seek out more of my work. I have a story, “The Penthouse View,” in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, which should be on the stands in November. There are also a couple more upcoming anthology stories I’m really proud of, and I’ve got about a dozen other stories out for submission. I’m taking a kind of dual course in my career. I’m seeking to publish my short work in magazines and anthologies, while my novels will be self-published for e-readers. I really think this is the way more and more writers will be going in the future, reaching out for readers directly instead of going through traditional publishers and agents. So if you like “Peripheral,” please consider looking for my crime novel Five Million Dollars and the Green-Eyed Girl, which is available for Kindle (at Amazon), Nook (bn.com) and all other major e-readers (Smashwords). I’m well into my second novel, A Death at Haven, and I expect to have that posted for sale in the first couple of months of 2012.
FS: How do you write? Are you a plotter? Do you fly by the seat of your pants? When do you write, and where? I write at night, at the dining table, when the kids are in bed and the place is finally peaceful and quiet. And I work everything out on paper before I sit down to write. What have you found works best for you?
Joseph: I do most of my writing at night; I like the isolation and the lack of distractions. I don’t really do formal outlines. My initial planning takes the form of brainstorming and maybe a few notes, but I don’t do formal outlines. I sit down with a sense of the characters, the initial situation, and where I want to see them end up, and I go from there. The biggest challenge for me is that I work online (I teach courses for a couple of online colleges), so getting myself to sit back down at the computer at the end of the day is sometimes the last thing I want to do. The more you establish that rhythm of writing every day, though, the easier it comes and the more productive it is.
FS: How did you find the editing process with Bernard? I found it to be like a smack in the mouth and a pat on the head at the same time, saying “I like this” at one point, to a specific sentence, and then “You need to stay in Active Voice!” the next. I learned a lot, and I think I have a much stronger piece of writing now than I did when I submitted it. What was your personal experience?
Joseph: Bernard was very positive about my story, which was terrific. His suggestions almost all had to do with taking things out to streamline the story more and get to the central turning point more efficiently. It was tough because I had to take out some character beats and dialogue I liked very much, but I have to agree that the story is stronger because of those changes. As for the pieces I took out, I can already see how a couple of them might form the seeds of new stories going in different directions. Everything gets used!
FS: Is there anyone in particular who’s contributed to the anthology that you’re excited to be included alongside?
Joseph: Hands down, Harlan Ellison. Harlan has been my writing idol since I was a teenager and first discovered his fierce, honest, spectacular voice. The idea that I’m going to be on the same Table of Contents with him, let alone that he might get a copy and actually read my work, is thrilling.
FS: We know that there will be a KAS 2 at some point. Plans are already afoot. Is there a dream name you’d like to see involved in it the next time around? Me personally, getting published in a book that includes a story by Alan Dean Foster is one of those “Wouldn’t it be great if one day…” things that I can now tick off of the list.
Joseph: Aside from Ellison, my favorite contemporary short story writer is probably Steven Millhauser. His work is endlessly inventive, and his writing is clean, precise and tight, just beautiful stuff to read. In a completely different style, it would be great to get one of Joe Lansdale’s wild, violent, sexy tales.
FS: So when you’re not helping to fight evil, what do you get up to in real life?
Joseph: As I mentioned, I teach online courses in literature and composition. It can be exhausting work, but also very rewarding, since I work with a lot of nontraditional students who are very grateful for what higher education can do for them. I’m also an avid book collector and a big fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, so I’m having a pretty good year there!
FS: Are you working on anything now? Anything you’d like everyone to know about?
Joseph: I’m actually in the middle of working on an academic paper right now—sometimes the demands of the real job do intrude, and I find it very difficult to work on two different things at once. As soon as that’s done, though, it’s right back to A Death at Haven, which I’m very excited about. It’s another crime novel, and I think it’s going to turn out to be the best thing I’ve done so far.
FS: And to your readers – both potential and existing – is there anything you would like to say? They might be reading this months after Resistance Front has landed, wanting to know more about you. What would you like to say to them?
Joseph: First and foremost, the KAS Project is for a great cause; if you haven’t done so already, please buy the book! Beyond that, I hope you enjoy my story, and I hope you’ll look for more of my work. Even if it’s not me, take some time this week to support a writer by buying their work. As all the Resistance Front All-Stars could tell you, writing is a tough, lonely thing to do, and yours might be the sale that keeps us going!
FS: Thats it! Time’s up! Hopefully we’ll the chance for a much more in-depth chat at some point in the near future when KAS is out on sale!