Author Interview: Joseph John Lee — SPFBO 9

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Hey there, I am back with another author interview, these are going slower than I thought! I will definitely get through my group and probably half of the ones from other groups.

This author’s book, The Bleeding Stone, has been marked SAFE in my batch at the time of this interview and is in consideration for semifinalist status. I reviewed it HERE

How did you hear of SPFBO?

I first heard about SPFBO in around 2019/2020 or so. One of the first self-published books I had read was Never Die by Rob J. Hayes, and in reading up more on Rob, I noticed he put in his Twitter bio that he was a previous SPFBO winner, and I looked up what it was from there. I only loosely followed the competition over the next couple years, but it was last year’s edition that I started paying closer attention to it, partly due to my own debut coming out last December, and partly because the Discord server I primarily frequent has two of last year’s finalists in it (Trudie Skies and Thiago Abdalla).

Have you read any past or present entries? Any favorites? 

Quite a few, yes! As far as this year’s entries, I’ve read:

Of this batch, my favorites are The Last Ranger and The Crew. As far as past entries go, I’ve read The Sword of Kaigen (which stands as one of the best books I’ve ever read), Voice of War, Never Die, Spirits of Vengeance, The Assassin of Grins and Secrets, The Trials of Ashmount, Of Blood and Fire…probably some others I’m forgetting!

I see you’re a Red Sox fan and baseball fan in general, anything in particular that sparked that? 

I grew up about an hour south of Boston and my dad has always been a big New England sports fan, so I picked it up from him, though baseball was the only one I stuck with. It now means that I am either happy or miserable in the summer, depending upon how the Sox are doing over any given season. It’s a very toxic relationship.

I see you’re maybe a Nintendo fan? Who do you play when you’re Mario karting?

Funnily enough, I usually go with the non-Mario characters and race as either Link or the Animal Crossing villager. It’s nice to know Tom Nook forgoes kneecapping you when you haven’t paid off your mortgage yet just to let you race go-karts for a little while.

I see you follow Abercrombie and Sanderson – those are pretty different authors, which of their books would you say is your favorite? A scene that sticks out? 

Yeah they’re both pretty big influences on me as a writer for very different reasons. For Sanderson, I’m big on Stormlight and era one of Mistborn, and I feel like there are too many impactful scenes to talk about without venturing into spoiler territory, though in the first Mistborn book, there’s a scene toward the end with a pretty significant death that ends up having larger ramifications for all of Sanderson’s books down the line, and that’s always stuck with me.

For Abercrombie, it’s tough to pick a favorite overall, though I might give it to one of the books in the Age of Madness trilogy. My favorite scene of his though has to be that one chapter in The Heroes where there’s a phenomenal battle scene where the POV shifts between one-off characters, switching from one character as they die to the perspective of the character who killed them. It really stands as one of the best battle scenes I’ve ever read, and it wound up being something I really wanted to try for myself (and I did in my new book!).

Who are two of some of your most read authors? 

I’ve read all of Sanderson’s cosmere novels + short fiction, and that probably numbers in the 20s now, so definitely him. If we’re counting manga, I’ve read the first twenty-something volumes of Berserk so Kentaro Miura is up there too. Without manga, I’ve read all of The Wheel of Time so I guess it would be Robert Jordan next.

Are you a structured writer with a set amount of time or a specific time of day/s where you write or does it ebb and flow? 

Yes and no. I try to sit down and write at least one chapter per week, though there’s not specifically a structure or method to the madness. Most of my writing is done in the evenings after work and eating dinner but some days the brain just doesn’t wanna do more work, so I’ll end up scrolling through Reddit instead or something. On the days when the writing juices are flowing, I try to get 2000 words down. I outline everything so I don’t need to think too hard about where I’m going once I start writing, but some scenes are more of an effort than others.

New book just came out, aye? 

Aye! The Children of the Black Moon, the second book in The Spellbinders and the Gunslingers, came out on May 30! I’m really happy with how it turned out. My philosophy is “be better than your last book” and I definitely learned a lot from writing The Bleeding Stone and the response to it that helped inform the writing of book 2. I definitely took some more risks and tried new things that I wasn’t confident enough to try the first time around and I think it worked out well.

Favorite Weird Al Yankovich song? 

So I have way too much Weird Al knocking around the ol’ noggin from when I was obsessed with him when I was like 14, so I think there’s too many to pick from. But I’ll default to the Hamilton Polka, which was the last Weird Al song I had on repeat.

Favorite Simpsons quote? 

This scene lives in my head rent-free for some reason and I can’t explain why: 

If someone came to your neck of the woods where would you recommend they visit? 

I’m a brewery-hopper so I would probably default to one of the million breweries here in the Boston area (meet me at Harpoon, y’all). But as a history buff there’s a ton of great historical sites here so you can easily spend a day in downtown Boston and come away with a ton of great experiences.

I see you went to university in Edinburgh, how was that? 

It was an absolutely phenomenal experience. Edinburgh became my favorite city in the world and it was two years I wouldn’t trade for anything (except maybe to trade away all my student loan debt, but hey-o). The actual “studying” and “academia” things were something I eventually learned were not something made for me, though I did enjoy my first master’s degree program overall (because for some insane reason, I decided to do two degrees). But the actual experience of living in a place like Edinburgh, where it feels like traveling through time depending on where in the city you go, was unforgettable and I can’t stress enough that it’s a fantastic place to study in.

I see you described yourself as a “lapsed academic” in your bio – watcha do now? 

So I work in tech transfer now, which involves assisting university researchers protect the patent rights of their technologies and inventions and bring them to market. It’s not exactly what I expected to be doing with my history degrees and I kind of fell into the field by accident, but it’s somehow turned into my career for the last five years or so and I get paid well for it so I can’t complain too much!

Seem to travel a lot, favorite places you’ve been? 

Already mentioned Edinburgh, but Florence is a close second. I saw Michelangelo’s David in person in 2016 or so and nearly cried. Fifteenth-century Florence was my primary field of study in grad school so naturally I had to go to every single museum I could while I was there. 

A hidden gem I’d recommend people check out is Giethoorn, which is about two hours north of Amsterdam. It’s a small village with no roads and all canals, so everyone gets around by boat. It was an absolutely stunning sight all around, and, for good reason, it’s been called the Venice of the North. I also had the best pizza of my life there for whatever reason.

I see hiking is listed as a hobby, ever been to one of the big trails like the PCT or APT?

The longest trail I’ve done is when I hiked up Mt. Washington back when I was 18, though I’ve not really been in the physical shape since then to do a big trail like the PCT or APT. I mainly do a lot of smaller trails now since my knees are in rough shape nowadays, but I’ve done some trails in recent years in national parks like Shenandoah and Cuyahoga.

Steam account on your linktree – game you’ve spent the most amount of time on? Game you’re waiting on? 

Specifically on Steam, my most played would be the Trails in the Sky games which wound up collectively being about 140-ish hours played. I didn’t have a computer that could actually run games until I bought a Steam Deck last year so most of my gaming has been on the PS5 and Switch (the most time played there probably from the Xenoblade games, easily 400+ hours). The game I’m waiting for the most at the moment is Final Fantasy XVI, and that comes out this month so not much longer to wait!

What’s a history book you’d recommend to a beginner, an intermediate, and advanced reader? 

Coming from the perspective of someone who mainly focused on Italian history, a few I’d recommend for each level would be: for a beginner, The Tigress of Forli by Elizabeth Lev, which was a biography on Caterina Sforza (one of my favorite historical figures) and at times read more like a novel; for an intermediate, Christopher Hibbert’s books on the Medici and the Borgias, which are a bit denser but still fascinating subjects; and for an advanced reader, Francesco Guicciardini’s History of Italy, which is an immensely influential historical work, focusing on Italian politics in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, and was one of the first historiographical works to use governmental sources to support its arguments. It’s dense as hell (unsurprising given it was written in the 1530s) but a must-read if you’re into Italian history.

What’s your favorite breed of dog? 

Saint Bernards, Samoyeds, and Alaskan Malamutes. If I had the space for a giant breed in my apartment I would absolutely adopt one but alas it is not to be for now (also I can’t have a dog per my lease, but that’s beside the point).

Do you want to show me a picture of your pet, Crumb? 

He’s my dear son. He constantly gets stuck on a table leg and keeps crashing into my desk.

If you could talk to any species of animal which one would you pick? 

I’ll just be boring and say dog because I wanna know what goes on in my parents’ dog’s head, and also see if the voice I give her would be anything like how she’d actually sound. She’s not exactly a bright dog and it took her about two years to understand the concept of shade on a hot summer day, so even just to know her internal monologue at times would be pretty illuminating.

Thanks for taking the time!!!