Today, I am happy to be bringing you an interview with author Joel Spriggs. Joel describes himself as an author of Satire and Urban Fantasy, which I am happy to admit before interviewing Joel, I didn't know much about. I do love a good dose of humour, and Joel's sense of humour shines through in his interview. So, lets get to it.
Tell me a bit about yourself
Hi, I’m Joel, and I’m a writer. Well, I’m a writer, a dad, a husband, a software engineer, an American (yes, we’re a dumpster fire atm), and a bunch of other random things. After over 15 years working in corporate software development, I’ve also developed a very dark sense of humor because that’s about the only way I can deal with some work meetings/projects without finding a soundproof closet to schedule a half hour screaming session.
How long have you been writing?
Quite a while now, I started doing more journalism and reporting style writing in high school, and actually went to college for Broadcast Journalism and Computer Science. I started a career and a family, but kept doing some private writing in that time. Around 2016, my career and the kids started to stabilize enough that I could focus on more fun side projects to hit with my insomnia, so I started writing my first novel. After reading some guides and using my brother Seth as a sounding board, I got moving on 'Over a God’s Dead Body', and that took me about 18 months for a first draft.
Do you have a favourite book?
I have a lot of favourites, but if I had to point to one that I always enjoy picking up, I’d go with 'Mort' by Terry Pratchett. It was a fun, dark and interesting take on Death and fantasy, growing up and just trying to figure it out as you go.
Fantasy is not something I usually read, or know much about, however I love dark humour. Can you tell us how you inject humour into your fantasy stories?
I honestly am not a big reader of high fantasy either. I have a hard time with things like Tolkien or Robert Jordan. Terry Pratchett though, was always fun for me and the way he injected humor was to just look at something, and kind of shift the viewpoint on it. So, I like to work with modern day and realist settings. For example, a small private midwestern college in a small Indiana town. A lot of stories do similar, talking about vampires in Louisiana or schools of magic. But what kind of random things are just funny that you don’t think about? Like vampires just running around and draining people is one thing, but a human’s diet has changed a lot since the gothic novels about vampires in the 1800s. Given how much sugar goes into American diets, are vampires more selective of a diet now because grabbing a random person just tastes like a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and Coca Cola?
Or just magic in general? Yeah, you could do a lot of interesting things with magic, but what about the ridiculous stuff? Pick up any random newspaper in the US and you’ll see a story about “Florida Man does X”, for example, “Florida Man tries to flee deputies until his pants fall down”. Now add some magic, “Local Wizard tries to flee capture until he turns self into purple platypus”.
Or in the case of a transportation? Your modern new witch may say, “I need a car to blend in around here, but the gas mileage and ecology is horrible, what else to use?” Add in a trickster god and what would they suggest? Something horrible, but funny, like “orphan hearts”.
Your book titled ‘Over a God’s Dead Body’, sounds like an interesting premise. Can you tell me more about it?
It started with a small idea, “real witches don’t ride Rubbermaid.” It’s a line in the book too, but it came from the idea of a pair of 20 somethings, Esmy and Jake Hansen, working together at the same small college in different departments. In one week they randomly find out that the college they’ve been working for has a secret department for magical/supernatural training called Preternatural Sciences, they discover that many pantheons of gods all really do exist and it all crashes, literally on their couch, when Loki shows up and proves he’s their great-grandfather. Loki is in town to hunt for a corpse at the behest of a different god, Seth. Seth is actively hunting the body of Horus to make sure he can claim a throne in his own pantheon because he’s a power hungry nut job. Other factors on and off campus in the small town start to percolate and it all boils out to a massive fight in the end, some of those involved know it’s all over a god’s dead body and some don’t, but it becomes a massive mess for everyone. Kind of like if you dropped Harry Potter in National Lampoon’s Animal House.
Can you describe your writing process?
I think about the characters first, then have an idea for how I want the main arc. I like to think of what kind of motivation they’ll need to get to that primary arc goal, and then what their personalities and individual motivations will do for creating side arcs. Once I have the arcs and characters, make a loose outline for the chapters and just start working through them.
What does literary success look like to you?
To me it looks like continuing to write books that people will read and enjoy. If I can turn it into enough of a career to retire on in about 20 years. It’ll be nice to think that something would be there, since I’m betting the Social Security system in the US won’t pan out for my generation.
Who are your favourite authors, and how have they influenced your work?
I’ve enjoyed a lot of authors over the years. I always enjoyed anything by Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Their kind of humor really helped form my own sense of humor and approach to comedy. In the last few years, I’ve been really into Jim Butcher’s 'Dresden Files', Richard Kadrey’s 'Sandman Slim series', and a bunch of random satire works from Christopher Moore. I’ve also really enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s works, and I think some of the darker and wry elements of his writing influenced my style too.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
I have the general plot arcs for 2 more Wrong Gods books (Over a God’s Dead Body sequels) and at least a couple more books in a series for the Hemlock Connal Preternatural Investigation Series (Another Dead Intern is the start for them). I have the whole outline put down for that next book, it will be called Dead Ringer and pick up right at the end of Over a God’s Dead Body.
I’m at a pause on writing at the moment though to work on a side project as a co-founder of a startup called HitPitch. Our goal is to build an app that will provide tools for authors, helping them get their works/projects to market. Part of that is an effort to bring Agents and Authors together to make the querying process easier and more like a social network experience. Our beta is focusing first on making connections for authors and beta readers. We’re working hard to get that experience ready and launched. We are eager to get it onto the screens of writers and readers as soon as possible!
What advice would you give a new author?
Don’t sweat the time or the small stuff. Just keep writing. Especially if you have a big idea and it is a long term project. Break it down into a series and do it in chunks. The only way to get better and get more readers is to keep writing.
Lastly, what interests do you have outside of writing?
I’m a programmer by trade, so I do a lot of that. I have a day career as a developer, so between that and HitPitch, I do a lot of coding work. Enough that one of my books was a short nonfiction guidebook to get into a coding career with little or no education. I also have a wife and 3 kids, so I do love spending time with them, travelling, hiking and just having fun with them. It would appear the primary thing I’m not interested in is sleep.
Thanks to Joel for sharing these insights into his writing. If you like a bit of dark humour, check out Joel's work by clicking on the links below.