Welcome to the three hundred and seventy-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with thriller / suspense novelist Joshua Graham aka fantasy author Ian Alexander. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Joshua. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Joshua : I’m a full-time writer that has gone through a remarkable journey to get where I am today. With three degrees in music (Bachelor’s and Masters from Juilliard, and a Doctorate from Johns Hopkins), and over a decade of work in IT, I have finally come into my calling as a writer. I never dreamed that I would become a professional writer, but when I look back upon life, I’ve always loved creating stories and creating experiences since I was in grade school. This has come out in the form of stories, scripts, home-made movies, and plays. When switched careers from music to IT, I found the need for another creative outlet during my down time.
I started with writing short stories, and my friends urged me to enter a writing contest. After getting two of those published, the editor invited me to a professional writer’s workshop, and it was then that I decided I wanted to become a full-time professional writer.
Morgen: How lovely. I went through years of being a secretary before I stumbled (evening classes to meet people as I was new to the area) upon creative writing. I’ve been hooked ever since. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Joshua : In general, I write thrillers and suspense. But I write fantasy (epic and contemporary) under the pen name of Ian Alexander.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first book on the shelves?
Joshua: BEYOND JUSTICE, ONCE WE WERE KINGS, DARKROOM, and a series of short fiction. Finding my books on the shelves is always exciting. Sometimes I have to wear the same writer’s jacket in my author photo to prove to the bookstore people that I really am the author.
Morgen: That’s funny. Have you ever seen a member of the public (whom you don’t know!) reading your book… in any unusual locations?
Joshua: A fan of mine posted a picture of someone reading Beyond Justice on the subway in NYC. That was a blast!
Morgen: If you’re going to have it anywhere, have it in New York. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Joshua: I try to keep my priorities straight. That said, there are seasons where I do more marketing and seasons where I focus only on writing. It really depends on what is happening at a given moment—a book launch, a deadline, an interview, etc.
Morgen: You mentioned being encouraged to enter your short stories in competitions, have you had any other formats do well and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Joshua: Yes, my books have won The International Book Award, The Forward National Literature Award, the USA Best Book award, Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2010, and a HarperCollins Authonomy short story contest. I think contests and awards can enhance a writer’s career, but continually writing and publishing books readers enjoy is the most important thing.
Morgen: They’re definitely good for the CV, aren’t they? You use the pseudonym Ian Alexander, do you think they make a difference to an author’s profile?
Joshua: This helps me stay organized, as well as to keep my readers from brand confusion. They’ll always know what to expect from a Joshua Graham book and what to expect from an Ian Alexander Book.
Morgen: Exactly. That’s why Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell), Caroline Harvey (Joanna Trollope) et al do it. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Joshua: I do work with an agent, but not exclusively. Mostly I work on my own, but I have a couple of people who keep an eye out for opportunities in publishing and film rights.
Morgen: Very useful, and of course it gives you more time to write. You mentioned working on your own, are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Joshua: Yes, in fact just about all of my titles are available on eBook. I love working with both formats. There’s nothing quite like the feel and the smell of a brand new book in your hands. But at the same time, it’s really cool to be able to carry a whole library in your pocket and choose anything you like to read instantly. I read ebooks, paperbacks, hardcovers, audiobooks, etc. The format is not important, the story is.
Morgen: True. I love them both; paper for home (usually although my new Kindle is reading out a novel to me which is great) and e for away. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Joshua: The offer letter from Simon & Schuster / Howard Books was my first significant sale, and yes, any time a book gets accepted for publication it’s a thrill. But the biggest thrill is when I hear from readers and fans telling me that they couldn’t put my book down.
Morgen: I’ve only had feedback for my short stories (as my novels aren’t out yet) but I love it when people have taken the trouble (and especially if they’re so enthusiastic). It certainly makes an author’s day. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Joshua: Plenty of rejections. Most authors have more than they can remember. It’s just part of the business. If you can’t handle rejection, then this is definitely the wrong field for you. How I deal with them: read, file away if there is any helpful feedback, or toss in the trash if not, then continue querying the book, and writing the next.
Morgen: I’m a filer: red file for rejections, blue for acceptances. The blue are catching up. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Joshua: I have a couple of sequels to write as myself and Ian Alexander.
Morgen: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Joshua: Everyone can “feel” it, but the only way to “cure” it is to plant your butt in the chair, put your fingers on the keyboard, and start typing. Seriously, that’s the only way to overcome it. And it works.
Morgen: It does for me and I guess writing two different genres for you helps (I flit all over the shop with my short stories so can’t get bored ). Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Joshua: My wife and a handful of trusted colleagues.
Morgen: Lucky them. Thank you, Joshua.
Winner of the International Book Award and Forward National Literature Award, #1 Bestselling author on Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, Joshua Graham wrote DARKROOM and BEYOND JUSTICE, as well as ONCE WE WERE KINGS (writing epic fantasy as Ian Alexander). His works have been characterized as thought-provoking page-turners. Joshua’s website is http://ianalex.com.
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