When I first came across Joseph, it was in a writer's group that we are both members of. I was intrigued with this bearded guy, he said little I thought, yet, what he did share always kept me interested. So when he announced the release of his latest title, BRIGHT LIGHT DARK HEART, I saw it as an opportunity to bribe him to come along here and answer a few questions. Turns out he is a real gem and I hope you go check out his books.
Joseph Y Roberts: I'm afraid not. I have a congenital defect that won't allow me to use personal pronouns. But I could tell you a lot. I was born and raised in a suburb of Los Angeles in the late fifties. It had a small town feel despite being a part of the L.A. metropolis. Because of that, I like to call myself a “small town boy from a big city.” I spent many years working as a newspaper graphic artist building display ads. When you work at a newspaper, you learn the ins and outs of human behavior. My hobby of tabletop role-playing games honed my understanding and drafting of character backstory and portrayal. I feel all my experiences and interests have paved the way to my being a writer, a feeling I suspect may be common among wirters. In short, I have arrived where I need to be.
MB: What genres do you like to write in?
JYR: Historic and military fiction, which combine well together. Though I have been told by writer colleagues that my stories always have a literary flavor, no matter what genre is intended.
MB:What is the title of your latest book, (tell us a bit about it)?
JYR: Bright Light, Dark Heart is my current release. It's the first story of the Jacob Vanderhoek cycle of tales that will ultimately be compiled into the mosaic novel “Echo Four.” It tells of Jacob's first major mission to guard a farmer's family from Communist insurgents seeking to kill them as collaborators. His life and prejudices are on the line.
MB: What are you currently working on?
JYR:Well, mostly on my first novel of historic fiction about the Second Boer War at the turn of the 20th century. I also work on short stories my muse insists be written.
MB: When and where do you like to write? Have you a favourite place?
JYR: Oh yes. It's at a TV table at my living room couch during the day. At night, I shift to my desk in my room, the first bedroom I've had in five years (long story). Of those two, the second is my favorite, because of the joy of having my own private space once more.
MB: Has there been a defining moment in your career that made you think, ‘Yes, I am a writer’?
JYR: What a great question. Let's see if I have a great answer. Okay, for me it was the moment I almost gave up writing altogether. I had received harsh, but ultimately honest, feedback on a story rejected by an anthology. It was a hard rejection. I was devastated. I thought the story good ((I was wrong by the way) and felt if my best was so wretched, I had no business calling myself a writer. After sulking a few days, I got angry and took it out on the story, ripping it down to its bare bones. I resubmitted the quivering remains. It was rejected, but the feedback was more positive, the bare skeleton now seen as a good staring point. Encouraged, I rewrote, giving it useful meat. That version was accepted. I had been baptized by fire and emerged stronger and war-hardened. When I looked back on that experience, I did think, “What do you know? I AM a writer.”
Since then, when anyone asks me what I do, I say with a smile, “I'm a writer.”
MB: What is next for you?
JYR: Release the next stories in Jacob's saga, build a readership for them, finish the first draft of the Boer War novel (or BWN as I call it). The next Jacob Vanderhoek story is a novelette called “Scars.” I also have several short stories I plan to submit to magazines. I haven't entirely abandoned traditional publishing.
MB: Many thanks for taking part in this interview.
JYR: You're welcome. It was my pleasure.
Book blurb to whet your appetite:
Rhodesia 1977. A grassfire war rages as Communist insurgents fight to overthrow the white minority government. Into this fray stalks the Selous Scouts, a shadowy Special Ops regiment of the Rhodesian military, waging counter-insurgency tactics bent on terrorizing the terrorists. Pvt. Jacob, their newest member, is assigned a Bright Light duty protecting an isolated farming family from terrorist assault. Facing the enemies without, Jacob must fight his prejudices and flaws within.
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