I spoke with Joshua about writing, publsihing, fantasy, his busy schedule, and of course, his recently released novel.
Joshua Palmatier: Joshua Palmatier is a fantasy writer with a PhD in mathematics (talk about functional nerds). That’s actually my real name and I teach math at SUNY Oneonta in upstate New York, my field of interest being algebraic structures and the boundaries of fuzzy logic. In my spare time (HA!), I write epic fantasy novels, which currently include the Throne of Amenkor trilogy and Shattering The Ley, the start of a new series. I wrote two other novels under the pseudonym Benjamin Tate. Because my life wasn’t complicated enough, I decided to write a few short stories for various anthologies AND become an editor of themed anthologies as well with co-conspirat . . . err . . . co-editor Patricia Bray. We have two anthologies out at the moment (After Hours: Tales From The Ur-Bar and The Modern Fae’s Guide To Surviving Humanity) and are about a month or so away from releasing the third from the new small press Zombies Need Brains that I founded last year with a Kickstarter.
PW: Your beat is fantasy in a lot of forms and variations. Why fantasy?
JP: I’ve been intrigued with fantasy since my mom accidentally brought home an Andre Norton book from the library (instead of the mysteries I was reading at the time). The genre is so unlimited, letting the imagination roam so free, that I haven’t written much of anything else except fantasy (although there are a few exceptions). Everything I write has some sort of fantasy element, even the more mainstream pieces I’ve done, which end up more along the lines of a Stephen King novel. I like the idea that I can do whatever I want . . . yet at the same time you have to balance the unbelievable with a realistic feel. The world and people have to feel as real as our own world, so the fantastic elements can’t be over the top, or the reader just won’t buy it. That balance of reality and fantasy is what intrigues me about the genre.
PW: What’s the elevator pitch for Shattering The Ley?
JP: Erenthrall—a city powered by the energy of the ley lines manipulated by the Wielders and controlled by the Baron and his Dogs. Can one woman and one man who’ve never met bring the ley network to its knees and break the Baron’s control . . . or will it take a rebel group labeled as terrorists?
JP: I think the Joshua Palmatier novels are fantasy novels that focus in on a few key characters, so that the entire story is seen mostly through only one or two points of view. So you get a fairly tight focus and perspective. The Throne of Amenkor books had one main character and were written in first person, so that’s the ONLY point of view you get. Shattering The Ley isn’t quite that focused, but it does stick to two characters—Kara Tremain, a Wielder of the ley, and Allan Garrett, one of the Baron’s Dogs. You get a few other points of view, but mostly just to flesh out story lines that these two wouldn’t be aware of. The Benjamin Tate books are much more epic, with multiple story lines to follow, which means multiple points of view to keep track of.
PW: You edit, write stories AND write novels. How do you juggle it all?
JP: Ugh. It requires lots of organization, with some strict rules about writing time versus editing time versus day job time. I have to set aside certain hours where all I’m allowed to do is write. Then other times, I work on promotion and editing and production. And of course both of those have to be worked around the day job of teaching. Thankfully, the teaching allows me a rather flexible schedule, with nice chunks of time off, like during the summer. A significant portion of the writing gets done during the summer, although I do try to write at least an hour a day during the fall and spring semesters. So yeah, juggling is a good word for it, but it’s definitely feasible. I even manage to work in some social time as well. *grin*
JP: Well, as I stated before, the fantasy worlds still have to ring true to the reader as believable, so I think the mathematics brings in a certain amount of logic to the fantasy worlds and the plotlines that I develop there, making them more real. At the same time, in order to do anything new in mathematics, you have to be rather creative, so the fantasy side helps me discover new techniques and approaches in math.
But I think your question was more focused on the writing side of things, right? Well, the editing of anthologies has taught me a greater respect for what my own editor is going through when I hand in a novel. Because of this, I try to decrease the amount of work my editor may have to do with my novel, so she can focus on more important issues, rather than trivial things that I’m just ignoring. Similarly, writing the short stories has taught me that “epic” doesn’t mean “lots of words.” So when I’m writing the epic novels, I try to use the short story skills to cut back on the extra wordage as much as possible. Maybe not during the first draft, when I’m exploring plotlines, characters, and possibilities, but definitely during my first revision. So both the editing and short story writing have forced me to look at my novels in a different light. I’m not sure it’s feeding back in the other direction as much.
PW: Where can readers learn more about you and your work?
JP: You can find me on Facebook and Twitter (@bentateauthor) for the social media outlets. I also have a few webpages at www.joshuapalmatier.com, www.benjamintate.com, and www.zombiesneedbrains.com. I also keep a blog at jpsorrow.livejournal.com. The newest news is usually posted first at the social media sites, with more detailed posts at the blog later on. Feel free to friend or follow me. You can also purchase signed copies of my books at my online store: https://squareup.com/market/zombies-need-brains-llc. And I think that’s it for where to find out more info about me and my books!