Thursday, December 11, 2014

Searching for je ne sais quoi with Joseph Nassise

Joseph Nassise has a certain
je ne sais quoi
Today at the Blog Mansion we have Joseph Nassise steampunk alternative history horror zombie war novelist. Yeah, I know, another one of those. But what can I do? I owed his publicist a favor. I was going to send him to clean the garage when I pulled up his Amazon page and shit a little lizard named Ralph.

Johnny: I can’t promise this isn’t going to hurt. Actually, I’m pretty sure it will. Scratch that. I’ll make sure it does.

Joe: What, why?

Johnny: First we’ll take an X-ray. A typical does would be from 4-8 krads, that’s kilorads. The Wood River Junction critical accident had 10. We’ll start you with 250.

Joe: Let me out of these straps.

Johnny: Your reaction to this is important. Are you really upset?

Joe: I show up at your mansion and get dragged down here by injured Star Trek cosplayers and strapped to a gurney. You’re damn right I’m upset.

Johnny: This will help.

Joe: What a shot?

Johnny: No a slap. Get ahold of yourself man. This is for science!

Joe: You’re going to have to explain.

Johnny: You are were where I want to be. Big publishers, many titles. I need to know how you did it. I’m looking for that je ne sais quoi that got you there.

Joe: Je ne sais quoi? I don’t know what that is?

Johnny: Ah - I get it! Good one. We’ll do a blood test now. While we’re sharpening this drainpipe tell me where you come from.

Joe:  I was born and raised in Boston.  I spent my college years and a few thereafter in New York City and then I moved west in the mid-nineties.  I make my home in Phoenix now.

Johnny: We’re going to need a mallet for this needle here.

Joe: Maybe you should just take a sample from my bloody nose.

Johnny: Contaminated. We’ll use the sewage pipe regulator pipe as I devised.

Joe: Could you wash it first?

Johnny: Shhhh, your distracting my aim. This mallet is heavy.

Joe: Ouch!

Johnny: That’s more than I expected. Must have hit a vein.

Joe: Or an artery.

Johnny: And the the gurney.

Joe: I’m feeling light headed.

Johnny: Okay, I’ll ask the question. How did you get where you are? I’m envious and since it’s my patented question, walk me through the steps that took you from scribbler to best-seller.

Joe:  It’s been a bit of a long strange trip, actually.  I wrote my first novel – my first anything, really – in college over a bet for a case of beer.  400 pages scribbled out long-hand on legal pads.  After winning the bet (and drinking the beer!) the book went into a box for the next eleven years, until my wife found it one day while we were moving.  She convinced me to type it out and submit it.

A small press publisher bought it, the resulting trade paperback edition was nominated for both the International Horror Guild Award and the Bram Stoker Award (horror fiction’s two highest honors at the time) and shortly thereafter Pocket Books came calling, looking to buy the mass market rights. That was my first professionally published work.

Fourteen years and 26 novels later, here I am.

Johnny: Tell me about your German connection while we prep you for a body scan.

Joe: My second novel for Pocket was The Heretic, the first book in what would become my bestselling series to date, the Templar Chronicles.  A major German publisher, Droemer Knaur, bought German language rights to that and two more books (A Scream of Angels and A Tear in the Sky.)  The Heretic was published in Germany in 2007 as Der Ketzer and debuted on the Der Spiegel bestseller list.  Books two and three followed in 2008 and 2009.

That same publisher went on to buy several other books from me, including the first book in my Jeremiah Hunt series, Eyes to See.

Johnny: Templar Chronicles. I see you have a boxed set of those. This is really going to hurt. Talk about those. It’ll keep your mind off the duct tape.

Joe: The Templar Chronicles are an urban fantasy series in which the Templar knights have been resurrected in the modern era as a secret combat arm of the Vatican, tasked with defending mankind from supernatural threats and enemies.  There are currently five full-length novels and two novellas in the series, with more to come.

Johnny: Jeremiah Hunt Chronicles now. And don’t move. Keep perfectly still.

Joe: Jeremiah Hunt is a man who makes a Faustian bargain to give up his eyesight in order to see “that which is unseen.”  He’s trying to find the daughter that vanished from his house several years before but gets far more than he bargained for when the bargain results in him being able to see the supernatural entities that surround us on a daily basis.  He has two ghostly companions, Whisper and Scream, who has had picked up along the way.

Book one, Eyes to See, is set in Boston and focuses on the search for his missing daughter.  Book two, King of the Dead, takes the action to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, where he helps his friend, Denise Clearwater, a hedge witch, deal with a mystical threat to the city.  Book three, Watcher of the Dark, puts Jeremiah in Los Angeles, where he falls into trouble with a certain high-powered sorcerer.

All three books were published in hardcover by Tor Books and audio and ebook editions followed.  I hope to write a fourth Jeremiah Hunt book in 2015.

Johnny: Chronicles everywhere. Some people write trilogies, others series. You, you write Chronicles. Is that your secret? Wait don’t tell me the scans are here.

Joe: You can see Chronicles in a CT scan?

Johnny: Never know if you don’t look. Looks like you got a lot of blobbly chunks inside you. You might want to have them removed.

Joe: I think I need those.

Johnny: Really? Very interesting.

Joe: Can I get out off the gurney now.

Johnny: yes. We must shave you now. Head to toe. All we have are straightrazors and axel grease, so again I’ll caution you. My cosplayer servants are a little jumpy. We had an incident.

Joe: Let’s talk about Steam punk.

Johnny: Sure, go ahead. Tell me the attraction. Why do you think it’s popular? Is it popular?

Joe: I don’t honestly know.  There is a certain subset of readers out there who highly enjoy it and I happen to be one, which is why I decided to play in that kind of setting for the Great Undead War series.

Johnny: I can see one possible reason for your success. Blatant genre crossover. 2012 you released By the Blood of Heroes: The Great Undead War: Book I. You’re taking fans of a different genres and melding them into a venn diagram of potential audience. War, World War 1, to be precise, Zombies, steampunk, alternate history. You have any young adult erotica in there too? What? couldn’t fit any furry fan fiction in there?

Joe: I wanted to write a book that I would like to read and my tastes tend to be a mish-mash of genres, so voila!

Johnny: Now you have On Her Majesty's Behalf: The Great Undead War: Book II. Talk about that.

Joe: On Her Majesty’s Behalf picks up almost directly at the end of By the Blood of Heroes, which is the first book in the Great Undead War.  London and New York have been bombed by German forces carrying a new strain of corpse gas.  Rather than resurrecting the dead, which was the purpose of the original strain, this one turned the living into super fast flesh eating creatures known as shredders.  When the story opens, Major Michael “Madman” Burke and his team of Marauders have just been ordered into the devastated city of London to try and determine what happened to the royal family.

Johnny: How do you find an audience? What’s your marketing like?

Joe: How do I find an audience?  How does an elephant fit through the eye of a needle?  If I could answer that one succinctly I think I’d be a very rich man.

Johnny: Oh, right. You’ve got an agent, you bastard, sorry about the nipple. It’ll grow back. How has that been, having an agent? Tell me about your adventures in agentland. Are you still with Bob Diforio at D4EO or is Eddie Schneider at JABberwocky Literary now your guy?

Joe:  Actually, I don’t have an agent.  I’ve been with a couple over the years but I prefer to handle my work myself now.  I like the level of control it affords me.

Johnny: Now I feel bad about the nipple. Oh, wait. No. You have a boxed set out.

Joe: It was deliberate?

Johnny: No no. But you did have an agent once. How. How do I get into them? Can you put in a good word? I’ll remind you I have a bloody straight razor near your lower extremities.

Joe: Want to know how to get an agent?  I’ll tell you the same thing I tell all of my writing students. First, write a damn good book. (That part should go without saying, but anyway...) Get yourself a subscription to and read their weekly newsletter that lists all of the reported sales that went down in publishingville that week.  Find books that are of a similar genre to your own – note who bought the books and who repped the book.  Make a list.  Then start contacting the people on your list.  That’s it.  No secret passwords, no magic rituals.  Just write a good book and put it into the hands of those who read that genre.  Keep doing that over and over again until some shows an interest. Oh, and in the meantime, keep writing.

Johnny: Easier said than done. It’s time for the invasive brain scan.

Joe: What was with all the shaving?

Johnny: I don’t know.

Joe: I sense a theme.

Johnny: Lie still again. I’ll get a the drill and silly putty.

Joe: Have you discovered anything useful yet?

Johnny: Actually I have. I’ve learned that successful writers have a very high threshold for pain. It’s a theory I’ve been working on for years. Your bloody chest supports it.

Joe: Of course we have a high threshold for pain.  You don’t think we could bear all those rejection letters without one, do you?

Johnny: Before I search the inner recesses of your medulla oblongata for that je ne sais quoi, you better tell my fans where they can find you on the net. You might not remember later.


Johnny: What’s your typical day like?

Joe: Inventing creatures and scenes like this here.

Johnny: Hold, on. A couple more brain scans and we can begin with the fire ants. What’s that noise?

Joe: You don’t think I came alone do you? A big successful author like me?

Johnny: You don’t mean?

Joe: But I do. Captain Michael "Madman" Burke to the rescue. He sent a crack squad of World War One Steampunk Zombie Dough Boys!

Johnny: Ha! A little late. I’ve finished my tests. Besides, your zombie storm troopers will never get past my door.

Joe: Why?

Johnny: It’s a little trick I learned from Sergeant Moore. Its shut.

Joe: Balls.

Johnny: If that doesn’t work, we have phasers.

Joe: Aren’t cosplayers great?

Johnny: Gotta love em. But, wait! The test results are back. We've founds something!

Joe: My je ne sais quo?

Johnny: Yes.

Joe: So what is it?

Johnny: I don't know what.

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