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Of Terrors and Translations: An Interview With Joe Nassise

By, Derek Clendening

Joe Nassise might be more familiar to German readers than to his North American faithful, thanks to his versatility and vision. The Arizona native is a Bram Stoker award nominee and was the longest-sitting president of the Horror Writers Association. Since his 2001 debut novel, Riverwatch, he has sold nine novels, two novellas, and has branches off into comics. His novel Eyes to See, due out in fall 2008, promises to chill readers, but also to reach them on an emotional level.

Recently, Joe took time out from his hectic writing schedule to sit down for an early morning interview. As the phone rang, I meant to satisfy my curiosity about how his writing delves into the human condition, and how his stories have crafted a literary landscape.

JoeNAuthorpic.jpgWhen I put Joe on speakerphone, and started my recorder, he told me that he’d never intended to become a writer. In fact, he’d never had much interest in writing at all. He cites having read a novel by Margaret Truman, of Murder in the Whitehouse fame, and being so appalled by the formula plot that he whipped it at the wall. He says, “I kept complaining to my college roommate about how bad it was. He finally got sick of hearing me complain about it and bet me a case of Bass Ale that I couldn’t write a better novel.”

Given a college students’ stock in a case of beer, Joe decided to take his roomie up on it. While moonlighting in a security booth on the opposite side of campus, he scribbled longhand into a legal pad, until he’d finished Riverwatch. Suffice to say, he won the case of beer, but he stowed the manuscript away in a shoe box for a decade.

He continues, “Eleven or twelve years later, my wife found it while we were moving from one house to another. She suggested I clean it up, type it into a computer, and send it off to a publisher.”

For Joe, that publisher was Pocket Books, and the rest was history. Now, seven years after its release, Droemer Knaur will thRiverwatch.jpgrelease his new novel, Eyes to See. In this tale, Jeremiah Hunt gives up his sight to see through the eyes of surrounding ghosts so he can rescue his abducted daughter. Given the deep, personal undercurrent, I was curious to know how being a parent influenced the book’s direction. He says that being a parent not only influenced this book, but several previous works as well. He says, “I did a novella for Telos publishing in the UK, called More Than Life Itself, about a man who goes to the ends of the earth to save his daughter’s life.” He adds that the book was influenced by his daughter Presley, who was born with a hole in her lung, and all of the anxiety and fear that accompanied it. Then he adds, “It was a very scary and uncomfortable time in my own life, and it comes out very heavily in my writing.”

But being a parent isn’t essential to feel the full impact of Eyes to See, as Joe considers emotions to be universal. “People understand pain, they understand grief, they understand fear, regardless of what’s generating it. Whether they’ve experienced that particular angle in their own life, they can certainly understand what the character goes through and generate the needed empathy to deal with that and enjoy the book on an emotional level.”

Joe didn’t write the novel without undertaking some unorthodox research first. In fact, he wandered around blind for three days, to grasp Jeremiah’s limitations. He says, “It was a very interesting experience, and it showed me how much you rely on your other senses. You hear about how blind folks rely on their sense of hearing and smell, but experiencing it is a very different thing.” But he was determined to identify with Jeremiah, so he asked his wife to blindfold him.

Then he says, “I couldn’t write for three days. I couldn’t drive. It certainly gave me a sense of what Jeremiah would go through. And then, working with that, I tried to develop the rest of what goes on.”

thDieSchatten.jpgSwitching gears, I asked Joe about the German market. Eyes to See will first be published in German by Droem Knaur, but his first editions haven’t always been published overseas. He says, “My first foreign rights sale was to the Italian market when I sold Riverwatch. Around the same time, we received an e-mail from Droemer Knaur, who was interested in the German rights to Heretic, so we really didn’t have to do much work to secure that because he’d happened to have picked up the book in English and really enjoyed it.”

From there, Joe established a relationship with Droemer Knaur, has built on it, and the first editions of his novels are being published in Germany.

Like many horror authors, Joe’s work takes more forms than just the mass market novel. He writes numerous other works, large and small, to cater to the niche market. Right now, he’s promoting his novella, Babylon Dreams, to be published by Bad Moon Books, which is a prequel to the Templar Chronicles. In this story, Cade Williams of the Templar Chronicles meets Denise Clearwater, a central character from Eyes to See, to deal with a supernatural threat on Long Island.

He says, “In Eyes to See, I was thinking of the same landscape as the Templar Chronicles occur in, but I’d never thought of combining them until I re-read A Tear in the Sky. That one little throw-away line was a perfect plot point and I decided that I really wanted to continue it.”

Such a move places him in the company of such authors as Stephen King, and Gary Braunbeck, who have established a broad literary landscape.

Unlike the Templar Chronicles, and Eyes to See, Babylon Dreams will first be published in English. My first instinct was to ask how much a move would be received by his German fans that are used to getting the first crack at his newest novel. According to Joe, there’s plenty of hope for Babylon Dreams to find its way overseas. He says, “This is tailor-made for the specialty market, but I wouldn’t mind having my German fans enjoy it, too. If a foreign publisher wants it, there’ll be no objections from me.”

Also part of Joe’s specialty ventures is the comic field, as his six issue miniseries, Candace Crowe will be published by Arcana Comics. My first impression was that comics are moving rapidly in the direction of graphic novels, and that Joe is riding a profitable wave. But, he says, “I don’t think comics as a whole is moving in that direction, but they’re very popular and I have seen exponential growth in that area.”

Figuring that writing for comics must be far removed from writing a prose novel, I asked him how he approached a different medium. Because he considers his prose novels visual and cinematic, the script-writing has not been difficult, and his stories have adapted well in comic form. For Joe, the challenge has been in condensing his tales, as he says that graphic novels have little room for back story or characterization. Then he adds, “Comics and graphic novels are a visual medium by nature and artwork becomes a definitive part of the story.”

Before we wrapped up our chat, Joe told me that writing is far from his only passion in life, and I couldn’t hang up without asking what else makes him tick. He says that, having realized many of his goals, helping others reach theirs is also very important to him. To that end, he founded Xtreme Life Coaching, which helps people overcome the obstacles standing in their path, and has a focus on creativity.

He says, “You’ve always got people saying, ‘I’ve always wanted to write a book’ or ‘I’ve always wanted to sail around the DerKetzer.jpgworld.’ What so many people fail to realize is that those things are attainable if they simply organize themselves and go after them.”

Trained as a life coach, he realized that his greatest joy has come from helping those with creative goals. In doing so, he knew he could help people through their difficulties in attaining their goals, whether they’re writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece. Then he says, “So, I took my life coaching business, and gave it a slight spin to focus on creativity. So, since that time, I’ve done periodic web seminars, and I work with individuals on a one on one coaching basis.” He adds, “It’s like being a personal trainer at a gym.”

Joe also explains that he teaches creative writing workshops on-line, such as his ‘Jumpstart Your Novel’ program, in which he teaches his pupils a new form of novel crafting. He does this because he has found success in writing novels in a manner that his different from the norm. This approach involves a roadmap of his novel, which enables him to bounce around the plot at his leisure. He says, “I don’t write in sequential order. I don’t write chapter one, chapter two, chapter three. With Riverwatch, I probably started on chapter forty two. Writing this way allows me to write something fresh, and to write whatever appeals to me that day. Sure, it’s a little harder to blend those scenes together, but that’s why I teach people how to create a roadmap for their novel.”

He says that he hasn’t stopped learning himself, as he has attended Borderlands Boot Camp to further hone his craft. Horror veteran Tom Monteleone’s honesty and wit have helped him reach a new level. “There’s no question I know how to write a novel,” he says, “but I can’t pass up the chance to learn more.”

The dedication to his craft certainly shows in his release schedule. For his European fans, he has at least two more books coming from Droemer Knaur after the release of Eyes to See. The Witch’s Hammer will be published in mid 2009 and The Books of Coming Sorrows should see the light of day in early 2010. He has a few new surprises for his American fans, too. Joe is the latest writer to lend his talent to Gold Eagle’s Rogue Angel series, with The Lost Tomb having just been turned in to the publisher and Yin and Yang due later this year.

thEngelslide.jpgPerhaps the most anticipated news concerns his celebrated Templar Chronicles series, however. Not only have all three books in the original trilogy been optioned for Hollywood production, with a screenwriter already attached to adapt Heretic, but by the time this interview goes live, contracts should also be signed to bring books two and three in the series A Scream of Angels and A Tear in the Sky, out in English-language limited edition hard covers.

That might seem like a lot of writing for the next couple of years, but if you ask Joe, he’ll tell you he’s just getting started.

You can learn more about the Templar Chronicles by visiting the series’ official website. Information about the rest of Joe’s work can be found at his author website

Posted on Monday, June 23, 2008 at 08:47AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | CommentsPost a Comment

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