Featured Friday! Joshua Sanofsky
Joshua Sanofsky is a life-long native of Western Massachusetts. He spends his daylight hours disguised as a mild-mannered IT specialist, trying to get inanimate objects to talk to him and work the way he tells them to. He spends his nights trying to keep all of the animated characters in his imagination from saying too much…and work the way he tells them to.
For the past couple of decades, Josh has been creating worlds for his characters to inhabit, and dreaming up ways to push at the practical implications of a wide variety of Science Fiction and Fantasy tropes. He loves telling stories, entertaining his readers, and sparking fun debates about how to make the implausible plausible. He has a degree in Folklore & Mythology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and lives with his feline overlord, Elwood, who graciously allows Josh to stay in his lair.
What’s your favourite part of the lifestyle of an Author?
I really love the weird looks I get when I tell people I’m an author. I still work full-time (gotta pay those bills!), so I really haven’t had much of a taste of what it means to be an author exclusively. Unfortunately, that means I also don’t have as much time to spend on the marketing side of things, which has limited my visibility and sales.
What made you start writing?
One of my early teachers – I think it was in third grade – did a creative writing lesson in class, and I was hooked. Now when I go without writing for a couple of days, I start feeling guilty and antsy.
Is there an Author that you consider your inspiration?
My mother started me reading Science Fiction and Fantasy when I was very young, with authors like Andre Norton and J.R.R. Tolkien. I graduated to the classical Sci-Fi authors (Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury and Heinlein) before I was twelve, and started reading Horror fiction (Poe, Lovecraft, King) around the same time. All of them have had an influence on my writing, but it was Jim Butcher who really introduced me to Urban Fantasy, and who inspired me to try my hand at that genre and at writing in the first person perspective.
What’s your number one tip for an aspiring Author?
I’m shamelessly stealing this tip from Stephen King, who probably got it from someone else: Never, ever throw out an idea, no matter how small or weird it might be. I have notebooks, a bulletin board, and a Scrivener file in which I keep every random story idea that pops into my head…I even keep a pad and a pen by my bed at night to write down particularly vivid dreams when I wake up. You never know which weird or incomplete thought will be the spark that builds the flame of an entire novel.
What type of book do you like to read and does this differ from the genre that you prefer to write?
I’m a pretty omnivorous reader…I’ll read just about anything, as long as it catches my attention. My favourites are Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. I especially love it when an author finds a way to successfully blend all three together (which is probably why I love Jim Butcher’s books so much). For a while, I was afraid that reading books in the genres I prefer to write in might influence my writing, but I finally came to the conclusion that doing so was a good thing, and could only improve the quality of my work.
Which one of your characters would you most like to spend time with?
Alys Kinnear, whose stories I’m telling, is very dear to my heart. I would love to be able to spend an hour with her over tea, or even longer if she had the time to spare.
Which book do you consider a must-read?
For writers, Stephen King’s On Writing is a must-read. I took away more top-notch advice about how to craft and tell a good story from that book than any other book about writing I’ve checked out. It’s also an entertaining mini-biography.
For readers – and I know I’ve already mentioned his name twice in this interview – don’t miss out on Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files novels. If I had to pick one of them to recommend, I’d go with Dead Beat, the seventh book in the series. His writing gives enough backstory that you can pick up pretty much anywhere without being lost, but Dead Beat was a turning point in the series, and is just a lot of fun to read. Also, it has a zombie T-Rex in it.
What’s been the hardest edit that you’ve had to make? Why did you want to keep the material in?
While writing the third book of The Kinnear Chronicles, which is actually still being edited, I found myself working with four interconnected short stories. In an effort to tie them together more tightly, I inserted interludes between the stories made up of correspondence between Alys and one of the other characters. Everyone who read the letters loved them…but also agreed that they didn’t really add anything to the book that wasn’t already there.
I hated cutting out those letters. They were hard to write, and filled with interesting backstory. But none of it was particularly important to the plot, and it was very distracting. So the letters were consigned to the ‘unused ideas’ folder. Maybe someday I’ll find the right use for them.
If you could live in a book, which one would it be?
At the risk of sounding like an advert for my own writing, I’d love to live in the world I crafted for The Kinnear Chronicles.
If I’m not allowed to pick my own books, I think I’d want to live in the world of Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga. It’s not a perfect world, but having multiple lifetimes in which to get your act together and figure out who you really want to be and what you really want to do appeals to me greatly. I especially appreciate that the Humans of Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga explicitly don’t expect “first lifers” (people who haven’t undergone their first regeneration) to get it right on the first go-round and make allowances for that fact. That feels very right to me.
If you could pick an Author to write your biography, who would it be?
Mark Twain. We should be known by our failures and problems as much as our successes, and I have no doubt that Twain would dissect my life with just the right amount of dry wit to make me more entertaining than I actually am.
Is there any conflict between what you want to write and what you think your readers will like?
I live in mortal terror of that conflict. So far, I don’t think I’ve stepped on any toes, but I figure it’s only a matter of time. In the end, I can only write what I enjoy writing. If that isn’t what people want to read, or is something people find offensive, I don’t think I know how to approach the problem. I guess I’ll find out when I get there.
What effect can a review have on you, if you read them at all? Both the good and the bad.
I actually think there are three types of reviews: Good, bad, and useful. Good reviews can make you feel like you’re walking on air. Bad reviews can make you want to crawl under your bed and hide forever. Useful reviews are often the most difficult to take, because they can have both effects on you…but if you’re strong enough to listen, they can provide you with feedback that will help improve your writing.
Can you sum up your life story in ten words or less?
I’ll figure it out sooner or later.
What’s exciting you about your next project?
That it’s not my last project. The third Kinnear Chronicles novel was a difficult book for me to write, because I’d put Alys in a vulnerable, damaged position, and had to work just as hard as she did to bring her back from that place. It was not a “fun” story to write in any way, and it’s quite a relief to have her back to normal (so to speak).
And finally, you have one quote to be remembered by, what is it?
“Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.”
(With thanks to Robert Heinlein.)
Our Thanks to Josh for those insights into his life and work.
If you want to know more about him and The Kinnear Chronicles then check him out on the links below.