Today we conclude our interview series with reflections from our most senior writer, Joseph M. Click here to view the full series of interviews.
For all the aspiring artists and writers in room, this one is for y’all.
What artists or writers inspired you the most growing up?
There are quite a few, but a couple of my favorites would have to be Hergé and Jeff Smith. Both are in the unique position of being both visual artists and storytellers, and I recall spending many hours reading and enjoying the sleuth/adventure series Tintin at a reasonably young age, and the fantasy epic Bone by Jeff Smith once slightly older. Both men are some of my favorites to this day.
Which artists inspire you the most today?
This really depends on the week, but below are some different artists I have been looking at/reading over the past year or two. Once again, just as with Hergé and Smith, these artists primarily contribute to comic books:
- Watercolors: nothing beats a detective noir story cast with anthropomorphized animals -and Juanjo Guarnido does an impeccable job using watercolor to portray the many adventures of the main feline protagonist in Blacksad. Another artist I particularly like for their watercolors would be Jean Pierre Gibrat -who uses the medium to tell a variety of period pieces set during the first and second world wars.
- Inked Linework: My two latest favorites for visual storytellers who use pen and ink would be Francois Schuiten and Sergei Toppi. Both bring masterful draftsmanship to bear in their comic book stories while maintaining distinct styles.
- Fantasy: while not contributing to comic books, Frank Frazetta’s unique take on fantasy settings is one I have found interesting. Another artist, Mark Schultz, who produced the comic Xenozoic, is another fantasy artist I have enjoyed a lot.
What is your writing process? Has it changed at all over the years?
My writing process is normally an afternoon or evening of adrenaline-fueled panic to meet a deadline (for example, to get something posted on this blog every fourth Tuesday). I would say my approach to writing has become less structured as the years have progressed and life has gotten busier with other activities -not a recipe for success, but reality, nonetheless.
When you write, do you have any tips for minimizing distraction?
Setting aside dedicated time to write is important for being able to settle into a focused groove without other distractions, even if for just a short period of time (remember: multitasking is a myth). Also, minimizing internet access can be useful. If writing involves a lot of research, I find it better to do that research in advance if possible -given the nature of modern web business models, trying to productively write AND surf the internet for information is all too prone to end up on a three hour binge of random YouTube videos.
If you were to give an aspiring writer one piece of advice in pursuing the craft, what would it be?
Whatever you do, write regularly. A regular, repeated, approach to any subject you want to progress in -even if for just a short period per day -will reap long-term rewards. It is just like compound interest except for life skills -the sooner you start making those small daily investments the bigger the long-term gains will be.
What is the worst book you have ever read, and why?
That prize would probably have to go to the textbook for my Management class in college because other than learning that “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” is a thing, I remember nothing and got nothing out of it.
If you were trapped on a desert island with 3 works of literature: The Scarlett Letter, Plato’s Republic, and Shakespeare’s Sonnets, which work would you burn first as kindling for a signal fire, and why?
Definitely the Scarlett Letter. I have nothing against Nathaniel Hawthorne, but given my time on this island may be quite extensive, Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Plato’s Republic strike me as offering more varied and deep food for thought as my brain slowly descends into the madness of isolation.
Have you noticed any changes in the literary landscape since you were in high school?
I do not feel that the landscape has altered so much as my perception has changed. I now realize more fully how much good literature existed prior to my birth and how little now being created will likely be remembered after we all die. I do not think this is unique to our day and age (after all, who remembers most of the penny dreadfuls?), but nonetheless I appreciate time’s ability to cull the less rewarding works from the common cultural consciousness.
Who are some modern authors whom you admire? Do you think people will be reading them in 50 years?
Brandon Sanderson comes immediately to mind, and for more regional flavor Tim Geautreax. Whether people will be reading them in 50 years is quite uncertain -I think that the way Tim Geautreax is able to capture a time/place/people in his short stories is quite natural and relatable -but who knows once those places and people are gone how appealing his stories will still be. Sanderson is certainly talented, but it’s been a while since I’ve read any of his books and he is competing in a pretty active genre (young-adult/adult fantasy series).
What factors do you think elevate a work to the level of classic? What factors can limit a book’s generational impact?
I think that there are a variety of factors. If a work captures something ‘true’ about the human condition, relationships, etc -that story can transcend any single culture, race, or time period. If we look at the many timeless classics though: Les Miserables, Hamlet, The Divine Comedy, etc, etc -they all contain truths about human beings that are universally applicable -and thereby relatable regardless of people group or generation. As far as generational impact goes, that both depends on the culture of the author and the reader. I think that stories that are heavily colored by aberrant generational views inherently will wane as time progresses, but insofar as those views reflect reality they stand a chance of continuing.
I know you are a fan of graphic novels…favorite graphic novel?
Well, it is more of a mini-series, but Bone by Jeff Smith is what I would want if I could only have a single comic book to read for the rest of my life.
What motivates you as a writer?
Epinephrine released in response to the harsh driving our dear editor (jk). In all seriousness though, writing has been a great way to systematically study and seek to process new ideas or subjects.
Are you working on any larger projects you can share about?
There are always a few ideas banging around in the attic. Lately I have been considering trying to write a short story in the cyberpunk genre. However, more realistically, some essays or possibly longer pieces related to recent/ongoing studies through the Gospel (Sonship study), Law (Bahnsen), and demon possession (Kraft) will be more likely to happen in the near future.