Welcome everyone. Today, we’ll be visiting with Joshua Tyler Calkins-Treworgy, though if you’ve been out perusing Amazon or some of the other retailers, you may know him by Joshua T. Calkins-Treworgy or Joshua Calkins-Treworgy. Joshua, will you get us started by telling us a little about yourself and where you are from?
- My mother’s womb, if we want to be entirely literal. If you mean what city I was birthed in, that would be Buffalo, New York.
- I’m the youngest of three boys born to Irish immigrants, raised until the age of 6 as a Catholic, and thereafter raised as a good old-fashioned ‘meh, believe whatever you want to, kid, that church stuff’s for the birds’. I’m divorced, with two daughters with my ex-wife, and one daughter with my current lady love. Their names are Cassandra, Celina, and Avery. I’ve worked janitorial jobs pretty much since graduation from high school, never attending post-secondary education. That, my friends, is why I work as a shredder truck driver/operator during the day.
Do you remember when and what started you on your writing career?
- I began, I believe, shortly after reading ‘Lord Foul’s Bane’ by Stephen R. Donaldson. It was life-altering, reading that book, and though I was only 8 or 9, it ignited in me a passion for the genre of fantasy. Mind you, I never wrote anything at that point in my life longer than a five page short piece, and much of it was silliness incarnate, but that’s what started it all.
- A combination of love and frustration [inspired me to write my first book]. I’ve been a Dungeons and Dragons game-runner, or Dungeon Master as they’re called, since I was 12. One year, when I was 20, I had a group of players locked into an original campaign I had built for them. I mean, I created an original world, with races and classes not out of the source books, but from my own head. We played only six or seven sessions, and they began hemming and hawing over inability to play due to work and school schedules. Frustrated, I decided to take the campaign concept I’d developed, and turn it into a full-length novel, complete with a new protagonist. That became Freedom or the Fire.
Oh, wow! I’m also a Dungeon Master, though my Dungeons and Dragons games haven’t made it into the story field… yet. Must get your opinion on a couple of posts later, if you’ve time. Was your gaming the point you look back to and say, “There! That’s when I became a writer.”?
- [No. That happened] in my junior year of high school, when my short story ‘Mr Big Bad’ was selected for the annual creative writing anthology the school put out. That year’s theme was to modernize a classic children’s tale, and I wrote an urbanized 3 Little Pigs.
I’ll bet it was a fun story. Are you at a point in your current project that you can share some of your recent news, and/or maybe a teaser?
- Well, I’m presently working on three projects concurrently. One is just a final round of edits on ‘In Bob We Trust’, the third and final of my Bob the Zombie tales, a series of journals written by a thinking zombie. Another is a 4th Age Tamalarian Tale, a fantasy work set one era prior to the events of my very first commercially published novel, ‘Damnation of the Realm: Freedom or the Fire Volume One.’ And the third current project is another zombie story, not told from first-person perspective, and not set in a world doomed to an undead apocalypse, but rather, a lone undead man’s trials and tribulations.
- Certainly.Excerpt from ‘This Won’t End Well’ (working title)He remained locked away in meditative thought for some time before he opened his eyes, looked outside, and realized he was now close enough to his apartment building to walk to it in short order, even at his hindered pace. He pulled the rider alert cord, and the bus pulled over at a clearly marked stop, allowing the undead Irish-American to clamber off.Upon taking the last step down off of the bus, Connor learnedLesson # 1 of Being Undead: The undead experience greater than average stiffness after extended sedentary periods. Any and all extended movements should be avoided until such time as the joints limber up again.
He received this lesson by way of his left knee being locked up when he took the extra space between the bottom step and the curb, which in turn overbalanced him into a nosedive onto the concrete. He heard derisive laughter from the bus and a few onlookers, one of whom said, “Dude is drunk as shit!” He grumbled, fantasized about biting into the face of said unseen commenter, and wrenched himself to his feet with an Olympian effort.
- I did [almost] forget to mention my struggling podcast, The Storyteller’s Corner (iTunes)
Do you have a favorite author or book that has influenced you beyond ‘Lord Foul’s Bane’?
- This might seem a dodgy answer, but I have a tie. Donaldson will always be a hero of mine for getting me involved in the fantasy genre, and his characters are all, even when heroic, perfectly flawed people one can empathize with. And then, of course, there is the great Sir Terry Pratchett, whose wit and wordplay are masterful beyond measure. We are a poorer world now he’s gone.
- [Also] Donaldson’s Covenant series, King’s Dark Tower, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. If there were any books that I could honestly say I’d read any given day, it’s those.
Are any of the authors someone you’d consider a mentor, even if you haven’t met them in person?
- While I’m an enormous fan of Donaldson, I’d have to profess that my own writing style is probably more closely influenced by the works of Terry Brooks. His narrative style has often crept into my mind when I’m drafting or taking notes.
Since you’ve mentioned the books influenced your life, have they also influenced the way you write, or do you have a style that’s all your own?
- I try to switch between three basic styles, depending upon which genre I’m writing in. For my horror works, I tend to focus more on building dread with atmospheric tension, accented with moments of madness or violence. For my fantasy works, I tend to be more purple prose, taking great pains to measure out heaping helpings of detail, to better engross my audience in the narrative of the world I’ve built for them. The third style isn’t so much a style all its own, as it is a technique I’ve been trying to work on, incorporating a bit more humor into my writings than I have in times past.
Makes sense to me. Do your styles have any realism included when you’re writing?
- Oh goodness, there’s not much realism in any of my offerings.
How about personal experience?
- Like any storyteller, I try to work a little of myself into any dream I weave, but not too much. After all, I’m not that exciting a man.
I think the jury’s still out on that one. I’ve discovered its more fun to learn about the author than read their work. (Though, reading is a wonderful past time, too and comes in at an almost even tie.)
Have any new authors captured your attention, even with the schedule you’ve been dealing with?
- Three come to mind: Scott Burtness, Terry M. West (not new, per se, but he’s an indie guy coming back to prominence) and DS Ullery.
Are you reading any of their work now?
- I’m reading ‘American Psycho’ by Bret Easton Ellis, and ‘Midwestern Vamp’ by Scott Burtness.
Hmm… may have to investigate that Burtness book. Sounds intriguing.
Going back to your own work, do you ever hide messages in your writing for readers to find?
- That really depends upon which of my titles you’re asking about. The clearest one is in my Bob the Zombie novellas, ‘Motor City Shambler’ and ‘Forward, Shamble!’, and the message is simply this: people can be both awful, and exceptional, depending on how they each react to times of crisis.
I’ve been told (and experienced) every book has it’s own challenges to over come, and lessons to be learned. Do you mind sharing some of your challenges and lessons with us?
- Mostly, finding the time to work on anything. Between a full-time day job that had no set end time, raising my daughter Avery, and spending time with my lady Katie, I often find it challenging to make time to write anything. But I take advantage of things like Google Docs, which I have loaded on my phone, so that I can hammer out a scene if I’ve got five to ten minutes somewhere.
- I have learned this each and every time I’ve completed and published a new work- I have more growing to do, always, and more stories to tell.
Hypothetical question – if you were able to start the journey over again with everything you know now, would you change anything you’ve done?
- Yes I would; I’d print up about a thousand of those ‘Oprah’s Book of the Month Selection’ stickers and leave copies all over town.
::Chuckles:: Careful there, you may be giving me some evil ideas. While I let them percolate, I did want to ask, do you have any support outside of the family to help you through the tough times?
- I have a handful of friends in the indie writing community who have always been supportive. There’s also friends who aren’t in that realm who have cheered me on, particularly Jake Winberry, a talented computer science wiz who set up my website for me.
Sounds like you’re in it for the long haul. Do you see writing as a viable career choice?
- I see storytelling as many things- career, hobby, burning passion. Take your pick!
Now that you’ve a few books under your belt, do you have any advice to pass along to others who haven’t come as far yet?
- Just this- commercial success is not the only measure of a storyteller’s worth.
Very true. And, just what I needed to hear today.
As we wrap up for today, do you have any words you’d like to pass onto your readers?
- You can always reach out to me at Byronofsidius@gmail.com.
- Thank you for your time, and your attention.
Joshua, thank you so much for coming out. It has been quite a bit of fun talking with you today.
For the readers, if you enjoyed the interview and would like to connect with Joshua, you can find him over on his website Here, FaceBook Here, Twitter Here, YouTube Here, and his podcast “The Storyteller’s Corner” on iTunes Here. Go ahead and stalk him, I’m sure he’d enjoy the company.
If you enjoyed the interview, and wish for me to host one for you, please stop by my Offered Services page, and
Don’t forget, Joshua will be back in a couple of days to introduce us to Quoth from Kingdom No More. If you’d like to get a head start on reading, the link will take you to Amazon where you can get your copy.