Our final interview of the month is with an author who hold one of the longest bibliographies you will ever see. With 13 novels, over a hundred short stories and even some non-fiction under his belt, not many can claim to have accomplished what Josh Reynolds has done. And that list is only going to get longer. But first, he has a few words for us.
He2etic: What is the writing process like for you? If you were to describe the process in one word, what would it be?
Josh: I treat it like a job. I set a word count goal for a particular project, I reach it, I move on to something different. Sometimes that’s research, sometimes it’s working on another project, sometimes its promotional stuff.
If I were to describe it in one word, it’d be ‘mechanical’. I get up, I write, I have some coffee, I write some more, I have some coffee, etcetera ad nauseum. It’s all very boring, unless you’re me, and then it’s awesome.
He2etic: How do you approach character development? Do you prefer to see how the character evolves as you go, or do you put more planning into it beforehand?
Josh: It depends on the character, and the type of story it is. Some characters have evolved, some I’ve had to plan. I generally err on the side of having a basic personality-type in mind, and then letting the character work out his or her own voice as the plot unspools. It’s easier than it sounds.
“When in doubt, have a man with a gun come through the door. If that doesn’t work, try a monkey with a switchblade.”
He2etic: You’ve written work primarily set in the Warhammer fantasy universe. In ideas as to what you’d do in the Warhammer 40,000 setting?
Josh: Lots. Mostly involving big dudes in power armour hitting each other or other, smaller dudes. At the moment, I’d really love to write a Space Marine Battles book, just for the experience.
Or something with a Necron as a protagonist, because why the heck not, right? I bet I could get a series out of Trazyn the Infinite just wandering around the galaxy, stealing stuff and leaving sarcastic notes. Eight, nine books easy.
He2etic: If you could cast anyone to play the roles of main characters in your work, who would you pick?
Josh: Honestly? I’d pick the person(s) who could guarantee the biggest ratings/box office draw. I want that sh*t to do well opening weekend, you know?
He2etic: Do you have any long term projects for writing? For example, do you intend to someday spin your own franchise or complete a long novel series?
Josh: Oh several. I always have a number of long term projects on the go. Franchise-wise, I’ve already got the makings of a good one in the Royal Occultist series, I think.
“Don’t argue with the editor, unless you know you’re right, and not even then, unless you absolutely have to.”
The Royal Occultist is the man or woman who stands between the United Kingdom and dangers of an occult, otherworldly, infernal or divine nature. Whether it’s werewolves in Wolverhampton or satyrs in Somerset, the Royal Occultist will be there to confront, cajole or conquer the menace in question.
There have been many Royal Occultists, and there will be many more, thanks to the strong British sense of tradition, bloody-minded necessity and the ridiculously short life expectancy for those who assume the post.
The current Royal Occultist, Charles St. Cyprian, is basically Bertie Wooster by way of Rudolph Valentino. His assistant, Ebe Gallowglass, is Louise Brooks by way of Emma Peel. He’s the brains, she’s the brawn. He likes to talk things out, preferably over something alcoholic, and she likes to shoot things until they die.
I suppose the stories could be called ‘urban fantasy’, or even ‘historical fantasy’, what with them taking place in the London of PG Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh. That’d be the 1920s to you or me. The ‘Inter-War Period’ as historians call it. If that sounds interesting, you can find out more.
The first novel-length Royal Occultist adventure, The Whitechapel Demon, will be released sometime in the next two months by Emby Press and I’ve sold close to thirty short stories about St. Cyprian and Gallowglass since I wrote their first adventure, Krampusnacht, in December of 2010.
Several of these stories are available for free at the website above. There are also several audio versions of some of the stories available, which can be found here with more to come in the near future, and there’ll be graphic (i.e. comic) versions of one or two of the short stories coming some time in 2014.
He2etic: Who are your favourite characters amongst both those you’ve written, and by other authors?
Josh: Okay, lessee…
Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki the Ghost-Finder, John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport, Caitlin Kiernan’s Dancy Flammarion, Manly Wade Wellman’s John Thunstone, Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise, Derrick Ferguson’s Dillon, Chester Himes’ Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson, Richard Stark’s Parker, more, lots.
“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you enjoy it, own up to it, unless it could get you arrested, in which case we shouldn’t be talking about it.”
I really dig series characters, so I’ve got a lot of favorites. More than I could comfortably list here.
As to those I’ve written? I think my top three are Mr. Brass, the American Automaton, John Bass, the Ghost-Breaker and St. Cyprian and Gallowglass, from the Royal Occultist stories. Mr. Brass is, in essence, ‘steampunk Robocop’ set in a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen world. That’s the high concept pitch.
John Bass is a darker character—a crotchety old farmer who fights ghosts and evil spirits in the Depression-Era southern United States. And Charles St. Cyprian and Ebe Gallowglass, as I mentioned above, are occult adventurers who fight monsters, magicians and madness-inducing entities in Jazz-Age England.
He2etic: Are there any books, movies, television series or even games that you think are mandatory viewing for struggling writers?
Josh: All of them? If you’re writing in a particular genre, it behooves you to read widely in said genre—old stuff, new stuff, indy stuff, popular stuff. Read all of it.
Television is good for helping you with dialogue and condensed plotting, especially sitcoms or family dramas—they’re not to everybody’s taste, but think about how little time the average sitcom has to tell a story, and how they go about doing it. That’s a lesson worth learning.
Movies are good for helping you understand how to plot longer form stories (or how NOT to, depending) and how to set mood and scene, if you’re attentive.
Basically, if you think you can learn from it, go with it.
He2etic: Is there anything you consider to be a guilty pleasure? Something that is trash, but you love reading it anyway?
Josh: I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you enjoy it, own up to it, unless it could get you arrested, in which case we shouldn’t be talking about it.
Also, don’t try and rationalize the problematic aspects of said pleasure in order to make yourself feel less guilty about enjoying it. That never works out. But to answer the question, I love me some sitcoms. I will devour whole DVD box sets of everything from Leave it to Beaver to Amen, the latter starring the irrepressible Sherman Hemsley and lasting five glorious seasons.
He2etic: Any advice for new authors?
Josh: Write everything. Try your hand at every genre, especially ones you don’t like. Don’t argue with the editor, unless you know you’re right, and not even then, unless you absolutely have to.
Embrace formula, cliché and stock characters. They’ll make your job easier, when you start out. When in doubt, have a man with a gun come through the door. If that doesn’t work, try a monkey with a switchblade. Everybody writes something a bit crap on occasion. It happens. Move on, do better next time. Last but not least, always get paid.