Today, I'd like to welcome Paul J. Joseph, author of “Homesick” to The Thursday Interview. Before we get started, a quick intro!
Paul J. Joseph is an independent film maker as well as a story teller through writing. One of his recent films has been featured in the 2010 Ava Gardner Independent Film Festival. He has been teaching mass communication courses at a college level for 20 years, and currently works at a small private university in North Carolina. He lives with his wife Tyreese, his son Ian, a mother in law, and three cats. Paul Joseph's first love has been and always will be science fiction. He looks for ideas that are based on plausible trends in technology, both good and bad. He is particularly interested in space travel and time travel, which can include alternate realities and paradoxes. He tends to avoid fantasy and magic. So, if you are looking for elves and fairies, this is not your guy. On the other hand, ESP and other observable phenomena may well be fair game.
OK - HERE WE GO !!
No.1 Would you break the law to save a loved one? .. why?
The answer to that is simple. Some laws are unjust and immoral. If somebody I loved was in danger from a tyrannical government it would actually be my duty to defy such a government. This is actually what the founding principles of America are based on. Any just law could not harm an innocent person. If my loved one was a criminal, however, and needed to be delivered from justice, that would be the only situation I can think of in which I couldn't help them. There is a difference between right and wrong, which are moral concepts, legal and illegal, which can change depending on who is in charge, and, of course, regulations, which are meaningless, but are often used by tyrants to control the common folk. People who helped slaves escape from southern states were actually breaking state laws and even some federal laws, but they rightly felt no moral problem with this. Walking across the street against the traffic light at 2:AM is neither right nor wrong morally, but could be the basis for strict punishment, depending on who is in charge.
No.2 What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
I would say that most people go through life without really experiencing it, for good or bad. We become used to routines and rituals that have no other purpose than to absorb time and insulate ourselves from experiencing life. We don't like boredom so we fill time with things that fill in the spaces between one routine and another. This would now include social media, television, and all manner of other things. In that sense, many people can go days or even weeks at a time without noticing the passage of time. It is only when these routines are disturbed that we begin to actually notice life. Vacations do this sometimes, as do, oddly enough, disasters. Life doesn't have to be pleasant or comfortable to be true. In fact, we may be most alive when we are struggling and miserable, especially if we are accomplishing something. Accomplishment and achievement often make us feel alive, as does adventure, which often involves danger. That is not to say that we can't experience life without danger or suffering, but it may take some effort. Relationships can make us feel alive, as can creative works. Writing makes me feel alive because the act of creating something makes us truly matter. If I didn't exist neither would my stories. Why do so many people go through life without living? Because it's easier not to. Especially in affluent societies we surround ourselves with distractions that insulate us, and we replace true experiences with fantasies and routines. Living takes work, but it's worth it.
No.3 What motivates you to write?
I believe it was Vonnegut who said that an artist can't change the world or make any real difference (I'm paraphrasing here) But an artist can make that canvas or that clay, or that page exactly what it is supposed to be. Writing creates a new world. A novel is a window into someplace else where things can happen that can't or don't happen in this one. The hero can win, the poor guy can become rich, justice can be done. More importantly, as a writer, I need the escape more than the reader does. Not every writer writes the way I do, but I need to finish my novels because I need to know how they end. When Scott Anderson was captured by the aliens on New Ontario I had to know how Sally and Ian would ultimately rescue him and how he would recover from the experience. I had come to know the crew and I felt the fear and helplessness they did. I also surprise myself with my writing all the time.
Characters do things I don't expect them to do, and sometimes things happen that I could never have planned. I just create the conditions and watch what develops. Again, different writers approach writing differently, but I find it to be a kind of playground where I have some influence, but not too much control. I write because it's fun. I also write because it is fulfilling, but mostly because I want to share the experience with my readers. Once I learned to do this I became addicted to the experience. I will never NOT do it even if I never make a dime. It's a way of life, not a job.
No.4 Why do humans want children?
Well, some humans obviously don't want children, but some do more than anything else. I suppose the basic reason is because we don't want to be lonely. We also want to feel that we have some stake in the next generation. But, of course, those are platitudes. The real reason is more basic and cannot really be described easily in words. Having a child is a one-way door. When you are on the outside, you cannot know what it is like or what it is in essence. When you are on the other side, you can never again see the world the way you did before. I never wanted to have a child because I was selfish and self-absorbed. I wanted life to be about me. Fortunately, my wife didn't share that point of view. When I first heard that heartbeat I was transformed into something better, and it only grew from then. I never understood what love really meant until I met my son. Not only would I take a bullet for him, but I'd consider it an honor to do so. People who don't have children couldn't really understand that, but those who do either can or they are very different people than I am.
No.5 What was the biggest challenge in creating your book "Homesick" ?
I will be boring and predictable and say that the greatest challenge in creating my books is in marketing them. Rod Serling once said that writers are notoriously bad verbal tellers of stories. This is particularly true in my case in regard to selling my works to others and, of course, convincing agents, publishers or anybody else for that matter, to read my work. Why should they? I can offer them an experience, but it may not be the one they desire. Can I guarantee that the book will turn a profit? Of course not! That would depend on a huge number of factors, mostly way beyond my control. Also, I can think of many creative works that I consider wonderful that never made money, or at least not much. Talking up my work was never my best skill. Honestly, I just don't think it's appropriate for me to do so in the first place. I'm the writer, of course I like it! If I didn't like it I wouldn't have written it. Even if it's crap I'll probably like it, or at least I'll like what I learned in writing it or how I perceive it to be. But each of my books also has a marketing journey as well as a writing journey.
No.6 What is the most important thing you have learned in life so far?
God is in control. I'm sorry if I'm offending you atheists, but I am convinced that life has order, if nothing else, and that that order is controlled by some highly creative force. In my case, I am a Christian, but I won't even bother to elaborate on that here. Let's just stick to the power of coincidence. Look up the similarities between Lincoln and Kennedy if you want a brief introduction to this idea. History has a flow and a purpose, but that's boring. What's interesting is that our lives do too. When I was in college I had the opportunity to view a controversial film. It was a documentary about a mental hospital. It was so controversial, in fact, that I had to sign a waiver promising that I was either a medical or film student in order to be allowed in. Here's where it gets interesting. While I was watching this film, my girlfriend at the time was being committed to a mental hospital and the very next day I was actually visiting her there. I mean, what are the odds? Life is a long story with plot developments, characters who learn, and highly unexpected changes. Not everything is important, but everything is connected somewhere. I believe writing mirrors this to some degree, and we as writers are also characters under the control of a much better Writer than I will ever be.
No.7 How did you come up with the title "Homesick" ?
Actually, that is a good question. Books have titles like people have names. My books title themselves, or at least they have so far, but I don't always know the title up front. One thing I do know, however, is that I cannot re-title a book. I've tried, it doesn't work. My titles are generally based on the essence of the story, or some significant piece of it. Homesick was named based on the struggle of Scott Anderson, the American astronaut to get home. The essence of the journey, however, is where that home is and what home really means.
No.8 How do you handle personal criticism?
First of all, I would hope that criticism is not personal. Writing is art, and art is subjective. I hate some examples of modern sculpture, for example, but I certainly have nothing against people who make them. I write science fiction. Not everyone likes science fiction, and those who do may not like my particular style. If somebody doesn't like my work because it is not their genre, that would be like not finding a person attractive because they are not their type. No offense. On the other hand, my wife does not like science fiction writing in particular, but she did like Splashdown. Now THAT is a complement! Believe me, she'd tell me if she didn’t like it. Aside from this general like or dislike of my work, if somebody suggests something that I can do to improve it, I have one of three possible responses. First, they may be changes I can't make. I can't not write science fiction, for example. I may not be able to change significant aspects of a character either, if in fact that character "wants" to be that way. This kind of criticism may be more political than artistic. For example, I can't insert a sex scene to make a story more marketable if the scene doesn't belong there. Sorry. Secondly, I may encounter criticism I don't agree with. I reserve the right not to take advice. Finally, I may well be inspired by criticism. That happens, too. In short, I'm not perfect and I don't know everything, but I am in the best position possible to know how my story should work. I do listen at least.
No.9 Why should people read your book?
I don't know that people should read Homesick or any other book I have written. On the other hand, I can guarantee that each of my works is an experience. But a reader's time is a precious thing, something that I can never give back to them. I would hope that a potential reader would at least read the first chapter and make up their own mind. But a reader should read my work for the same reason they read any book. They want to laugh, cry, become angry, and perhaps learn something about themselves and think in ways they hadn't before. In short, like any experience, my books will change the reader in some subtle way and become a part of how they perceive the world from then on. If they don't want that experience, I would suggest that they stop at the first sign of dissatisfaction. No, my work is not for everyone.
No.10 Why is there something rather than nothing?
Really? The Greeks couldn't figure this one out, and neither has the entire output of human intellectualism for thousands of years, so I doubt I have much new to add here. That said, I once again go back to God. If there is no God there is nothing. Thermodynamics is all about entropy, which is the flow of energy from complexity to randomness. Like a wound-up clock, the universe is unraveling. That provides the energy for everything we are and everything we do. Eventually, however, it will all wind down. Stars will burn out, galaxies will stretch out into massive, evenly disbursed, clouds of lifeless dust, and there will be nothing. If that is true, then why wait? If I will spend endless centuries and millennia as a handful of cosmic dust and I just happen to be alive in this form for a pathetically few years, then what is the point of anything I do? I might as well die now, what's the difference? Either that or why write? Why do anything but gratify whatever pleasures I can while I'm waiting to die? The answer is that I know there is more to it than that. As a human being with a brain and a personality, I am more than just instinct. The fact that I need to create means that I have the desire to take nothing and make something out of it. Maybe that something won't last forever, but neither will I. And, excuse me, but a good story can last a long time! And if I feel that way, God, who I know must exist, must have created me for some purpose, and I don't believe that purpose is trivial or limited only to my short lifespan. I also firmly believe that we are more than just three-dimensional. Our minds are universes of possibilities going way beyond our simple experiences.
Thank you Paul :)
For taking the time to answer my questions
& the best of luck with your new book!
Check out “Homesick” on
The mission to New Ontario, isn't going as planned.
Scott Anderson walked ten paces onto the new world and disappeared from radio contact. Not knowing Scott’s fate but fearing the worst, Captain Sally Buds embarks on a rescue mission that risks her life and that of her pilot, Ian Merryfield. There Sally and Ian uncover a chilling reality. Something terrible has happened on New Ontario. The evil regime of the Masters have consumed an entire civilization and established an empire of unspeakable barbarism. And now, so far away from home and help, it becomes clear that the Masters’ rapacious attentions have been drawn to Earth. Sally and Ian must now defend themselves and their planet from a tyranny that goes beyond slavery.