January 13, 2015

Looking Ahead to Some Alternate History: an interview with Joseph Nassise, author of "On Her Majesty's Behalf"

Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Jeremiah Hunt series, and several books in the Rogue Angel action/adventure series from Gold Eagle. He’s a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.

Joe's latest novel is On Her Majesty's Behalf, a follow up to By the Blood of Heroes and part of his Great Undead War series, hit store shelves recently. I had the chance to ask him a few questions about the book and writing in general. Enjoy!

Gef: Where did you get the inspiration for On Her Majesty's Behalf?

Joe: I’m a big fan of World War Two movies like Where Eagles Dare and Guns of Navarone and so I knew when I began putting the series together I knew I wanted to do an action/adventure story with a twist.  Richthofen’s mad plan from book one, By the Blood of Heroes, provided the setting for book two and from there it was simply a matter of coming up with a good enough reason to send a squad of men into the shredder-infested ruins of the British capital.  Rescuing a real, live princess seemed like the perfect choice!

Gef: What is the biggest difference for you in writing in a shared universe such as Rogue Angel as opposed to your self-created worlds (i.e. Templar Chronicles, Great Undead War, etc.)

Joe: When writing in a shared universe there are certain rules you have to follow, particularly in a long running series like Rogue Angel - Don’t kill of these certain characters.  Don’t use characters that have appeared in other volumes except for the main recurring characters, so that readers can enter the series at any point.  Be sure to explain how certain artifacts work in each and every book, in case the reader is new to the series. – things like that.

When writing my own series, I don’t have those kinds of restrictions.  If I want to kill off a major character (which I’ve done once or twice before) then I can do so.  If I want to bomb the city of London into oblivion, I can do so.  There is a certain sense of freedom provided by writing in your own self-created worlds that is particularly refreshing.

Gef: How intensive was the research process for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

Joe: Research has been a major part of my writing, particularly for the Great Undead War series but also for my other series like the Templar Chronicles or Jeremiah Hunt.  The Great Undead War is billed as an alternate history series and because of that I think it is important to be as accurate as I can on the parts of the history that haven’t changed, which in turn ends credibility and realism to the parts that I have.

I generally set aside a certain amount of time at the start of any project to do the research and then, once I’ve hit my limit, put it aside and get to the work of writing.  You can get lost in research – there are so many cool little tidbits to uncover! – and so you want to be sure to set limits on how much you are going to do beforehand.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of sci-fi?

Joe: For me, the greatest benefit of science fiction has always been the capacity to examine the “what could be” rather than the “what if.”  As a genre it looks to the future, which in and of itself is an optimistic approach – given that it posits that there is a future to look to – and allows us a place to examine our dreams of a bigger world, bigger universe, etc.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Joe: Write what you know.  I hate this approach.  Too many less experienced writers seem to think that this means they have to stay within certain boundaries or confine the experiences of their characters to the kinds of events they, themselves, have lived through.  I think it’s total hogwash.  Writers should use their work to examine the entirety of the human condition and you can’t do that if you are focusing solely on writing what you know.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Joe: I’m very fortunate that I read at a very quick pace, so even when I’m working on a project I still typically read anywhere from 4-6 books a week.  That means I can enjoy the fruits of others’ labors while still pounding away at the keyboard on my own and not feel guilty about the time I spend reading.

Gef: 2014 is in the rear-view, which means everyone and their mama has written a year-end list. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites from last year?

Joe: Newsroom.  It is, hands down, the best written show on television right now.  Though when House of Cards comes back in February I’m sure it will give it a run for its money. 

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future?

Joe: I have a lot of things in store for 2015 and I’m quite excited about them! 
In the spring we’ll have the sixth book in the Templar Chronicles – Fall of Night – and a new Rogue Angel novel, Bathed in Blood.

Summer will see the release of Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed, an anthology I co-edited for Tor with Del Howison and Clive himself.  This is a project I’ve dreamed about doing for years and was especially thrilled to be able to make it a reality.  There will also be a final Rogue Angel book in July, Beneath Still Waters.

Fall will see another Jeremiah Hunt book, a Templar novella, and possibly the start of an entire new series.

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