Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Joseph Xand and I am 43 years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I grew up in Beaumont, TX, then moved to Tyler, TX for college. Other than a few years spent on the East Coast (primarily in New York), I’ve been around Tyler ever since.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I have a Bachelor’s in English from the University of Texas at Tyler. I married my college sweetheart nearly ten years ago and we have three kids together, two boys and a girl. We also have three cats and three dogs. Here, everything comes in threes, it seems.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My first novel, Dead Fall, has been released recently in Digital Form and should be available in paperback soon.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I can remember writing short stories as early as second or third grade. I’ve always had a good feel for how stories should unfold, and a mind that thinks on that storytelling level at all times. I have a long list of ideas waiting to be written.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’m not sure I do. I mean, I write books, but I’m not sure you can call yourself a writer until you make a living doing it, and my writing, right now, is hardly paying the bills. For example, I grew up playing pool, and I even made my share of money as a hustler. But I never made a living at it, so I never called myself a pool player. I was just a guy who played pool. Make sense?
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I used to travel for work a lot in Upstate New York, and every day I would see a mountain with a house way up on the cliff. This was back when The Walking Dead was a just a budding graphic novel . I remember looking up at that house and thinking, “If the zombie apocalypse ever happened, that would be a great place to hold up.” My story grew from that.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I wanted to experiment with the idea of create a title that hints at what the reader can expect to see in the climax. In short, the title itself gives away the ending. I like that somehow.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I guess the hardest thing about writing horror is trying to scare the reader without the tools that filmmakers have at their disposal; creepy music, sudden jump cuts, etc. In writing, the scares are more subtle and has to build. That’s not always easy to pull off.
As far as a writing style, I have taught writing classes before and I preach what I call the “three pillars of story,” which are strong character development, conflict throughout, and structure. I spend a good bit of time in those areas when I write.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
It is a zombie novel, so there isn’t a lot of realism, for the most part. But I always preach that the story has to be realistic to the world you create, so I spent a lot of time trying to be sure the story is believable in the context of my zombie world.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I didn’t travel for this book, but I wrote largely about places I’ve been and places I’ve lived. My next book I’m working on now takes place in a fictitious town that resembles the place I live now. But I do put a lot of work into researching the story elements and places I don’t know about to make sure I get as much right as possible.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I designed the cover of Deadfall myself using Photoshop.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are multiple character perspectives in my book, and each deals with a different theme—guilt, bullying, and sexual and emotional abuse to name a few—but I’d say the overall message or theme deals with fate and how each character is being drawn towards an end that is beyond their control.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I’ve read Nick Cutter recently. The Troop was fantastic, and he is fairly new. I grew up reading Stephen King and he holds a special place in my heart. Right now I’m all about Dan Simmons, who writes horror, but also writes sci-fi and historical fiction. He is such a brilliant writer. For Simmons, I recommend The Terror and The Abominable.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
When I was in high school, I had a particular English teacher who took notice of my writing and told me I should be doing this for a living. When he assigned typical class projects such as five-paragraph essays or descriptive essays, he would come to me separately and tell me quietly, “Just write whatever you like.” That always felt good.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Someday, yes. The problem is, I’m going the self-publishing route and I know absolutely nothing about marketing books. If people read what I write, I think I can gain a following, because I know my work is good and worthy of traditional publishing. But how to get people to read it without giving it away is a mystery to me.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Probably. I’m one of those who believes no book is ever completely finished. I’m a perfectionist and I could rewrite and rewrite and never actually put out anything. But eventually I just have to bite the bullet and call something good enough.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I didn’t realize how many times I’d have to read my own book when it came time to rewrite it. I’ve read very few books more than once and those that I have were authored by people with names like Faulkner or Vonnegut or Conrad. Well, I’m none of those people. I underestimated how sick I’d be of reading and re-reading my own writing.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I don’t know. No A-Listers, that’s for sure. I’d prefer people to see the film for the story, not for who’s in it. Plus I like the idea of my story turning a relatively unknown actor into an A-Lister. That would be cool.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Spend time with your characters and develop them, but don’t kill yourself trying to create a biography about them from birth with a ton of information you’ll never use. Figure out their flaws, then think about what in their past might have created such flaws. That’s all you really need to know.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
The zombies in Dead Fall move both fast and slow. They start out fast, but slow down once rigor mortis sets in.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Not what you’d expect. My oldest son is nine and a huge Harry Potter fan, so I’m trying to read all of those books. I feel it is my obligation as a father. I’m halfway through the Half-Blood Prince.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first full novel I vividly remember was Stephen King’s It when it first came out. There were probably others before it, but that was the first I can recall.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
My kids, thinking about them and all that they mean to me, have the capacity to make me do both.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Past, Vonnegut, perhaps. Maybe Hitchock or Kubrick. Present, Stephen King, Spielberg. I’d just love to pick any of their brains and see what makes them tick. Maybe get some advice.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
For now, writing is just a hobby. It used to be playing pool, but I rarely do that anymore. I’d probably be into woodworking if I had all the tools I needed and a workshop to do it in.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m always in search of horror films with good, unique stories. It Follows was good. It kept me up thinking about it a few nights, which is the sign of a good movie. Train to Busan was good, too, if you don’t mind subtitles. TV-wise, I like Stranger Things and I’m working my way through all the various Marvel Netflix shows; Jennifer Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. My wife and I just finished watching 13 Reasons Why. Brilliant.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Food: I’m a Texan, so BBQ is at the top of my list. I do love American food. I like good burgers and pizza and chicken wings. Music: I grew up listening to 60’s and 70’s classic rock; the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Joplin, Hendrix, the Rolling Stones. Also love the 80’s music I grew up on, not just the hair bands, but the alternative stuff and even more mainstream. Not a lot of modern music I like. I think music changed for the worse when Cobain died, but it is starting to turn around. A lot of good Indie music starting to come out now that technology has advanced so that people can create and promote their own stuff.
Never really had a favorite color.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I don’t know. Writing is my biggest creative outlet, but I have a creative mind for things beyond writing. I could produce movies, or video games, or create products or businesses. My friends have always called me a visionary. I have ideas for the writing world that, if people were to give me a chance, I think could change the entertainment industry in many ways. But that’s a long ways into the future.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Nothing. My wife plans to have me cremated, which suits me fine.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I have two websites: http://josephxand.com/ is my personal author site and http://xandland.com/ is the business-side of things, which I hope to grow into something someday. People can also reach me on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MrXand