Born and raised in Florida, M.J. Joseph maintains membership in the English Goethe Society, the Siegfried Sassoon Society and other literary associations. He is a supporter-member of the Society for the Study of Southern Literature, as well as an Associate of Lincoln Cathedral. Prior to retiring, Joseph enjoyed a lengthy and rewarding career with an industrial firm where he served as CEO and managed the company’s merger with a larger international corporation. He divides his time between Europe and his home on Florida’s northern coast. M.J. Joseph and his wife Ann have two children and reside in Florida.

Book description: The Lübecker is layered with themes of emerging social and intellectual independence of women, religious diversity and assimilation, as well as philosophical and political currents developed from the Classical period through nineteenth-century Europe. The virtue of friendship and unconventional relationships are portrayed and the influence of self-knowledge upon identity is presented in interlacing narratives of a merchant’s son from the Hanseatic German city of Lübeck and a doctor’s daughter from the American South and their families. The book is set primarily in Western Europe and the Middle East between the years 1882 through 1915. But, while the interval of these years has long-passed, and the book utilizes historical events in the trajectories of the narratives and their ultimate resolution, the mythos and imagistic quiddity constructed for the reader, I hope, shines through the label of “Historical Fiction”.

Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about your writing background?

I began writing in my youth and found that my facility in its practice served me very well in college, especially in the fields I had chosen to study and, later, in business life, where I found very precise and organized written communication to be an indispensable skill. My interest and commitment to fiction-writing grew after an intense, post-college, study of the work of several important Twentieth-Century novelists and their critics, such as Edmund Wilson, particularly his great disquisition of the Symbolist Movement, Axel’s Castle, but, the impulse to allow my imagination and my love of language to find expression has always preoccupied me.

When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

I’ve wanted to be an author since childhood, but the desire to publish was never particularly strong. If I confine your question to the genesis of writing The Lübecker, since this work has been the only writing I’ve been motivated to publish, I can say that I decided to write the book during the early summer of 2014. Obviously, I’ve been in no hurry.

Do you have another job besides writing?

I had the good fortune of retiring relatively early in life and have occasionally taken part-time, interesting jobs, but, during several years preceding my wife’s retirement, I was only employed in the pursuit of sailing and, later, writing The Lübecker. Since my wife’s retirement, I have been working a few hours a week to maintain matrimonial harmony and to excuse luncheon visits to my favorite Italian restaurant.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

I was not an avid reader, usually preferring the pursuit of outdoor activities, especially those involving water, but I was interested enough in books to read Aesop’s Fables, several graphic anthologies of Classical myths and Biblical stories, the Uncle Remus stories, The Travels of Marco Polo, Air Service Boys Flying For France (a favorite), and biographies of Clara Barton, George Washington Carver and the autobiography of the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, The Seven Story Mountain.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

The life and work of Lou Andreas-Salome has interested me for many years and, after writing several character sketches based upon elements of Lou’s personality, intellectual life and relationship to her admirers, I began to contextualize them within a broad historical outline, which led to the development of other characters to capture some of her ideas and the milieu in which she lived.  The resulting work became, substantially, a distribution of my knowledge of Lou through the novel’s primary characters, mythos and historical sweep of the narratives.  From a purely pedestrian perspective, with my son away at law school and my wife and daughter spending time in Europe that summer, I found myself with substantial time available to devote to the book.  I couldn’t be tempted away to sailing as easily either, as a recent hurricane had destroyed my boat!

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

I prefer developing an outline and inserting character vignettes in medias res or later within the plot scheme to stimulate character development and dominance. The character most closely representing my vision of Lou Andreas-Salome, encountered early in the book, for instance, was introduced after my ideas about Lou had been diffused throughout other characters introduced in the middle of the book and later.

Did your book require a lot of research?

Some research was required to tie the narratives around a historical and geographical perspective.

What was your goal when writing this book?

I wanted to present a multi-layered, engaging story that would hold the interest of a diverse group of readers.

Who is your target audience?

Readers who enjoy historical fiction and those preferring imagistic, intellectually engaging stories.

What will the reader learn after reading your book?

That the primary characters deserve their own books.

What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?

Elements of a particular type of human experience are often easy to extrapolate to another type of human experience, even becoming more extraordinary, enriching and stimulating to the writer’s imagination. Writers such as D. H. Lawrence and Robert Graves didn’t really seek to test themselves as Hemingway did, but, in the tests that befell them, they used their results well. Fiction is an exercise of imagination and writers find stimulation where they can.

Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?

Usually when I’m outdoors or driving relatively long distances.

Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?

I have a great relationship with my muse and am happy to let her give of herself when she’s so disposed.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

About three and a half years. The book was not originally conceived for publication and my interest in sharing The Lübecker with the public had to be encouraged and insisted-upon by friends who had seen the manuscript.  My movement toward publication was halting and until early 2017, I had only made half-hearted efforts.

Describe your working environment.

I wrote The Lübecker on the porch of a very old, white-painted, lap-sided house, overlooking Pensacola Bay.

What types of scenes give you the most trouble to write?

I trouble mostly with scenes involving sexual intimacy and violence, fearing the reader will overlook their relevance to the narrative.  I have no trouble conceptualizing these scenes, but, because of this, I worry that readers will not appreciate them as I’ve conceived them.

Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?

I always review the previous day’s work before proceeding further. I do, at times, write uncritically, but plan to revisit the writing at the beginning of the next session.

They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?

Negative criticism proffered by people particularly close to me is really wounding, and I can think only one instance, but, after considering the merits, if any, of negative reviews written by people little or entirely unknown to me, I disregard them.

As a writer, what scares you the most?

Lazy editors. 

When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?

I really don’t wish to make that known to anyone.

Are you a disciplined writer?

I insist upon a routine.

How do you divide your time between taking care of a home and children, and writing? Do you plan your writing sessions in advance?

I regard my writing is an extremely self-indulgent activity and owe the successful use of every word I tap-out, to the understanding and support of my family. I carefully plan writing sessions.

When it comes to writing, are you an early bird, or a night owl?

I am an early bird writer, but a night owl personality.

Do you have an agent?  How was your experience in searching for one?

No, and I do not plan to seek an agent.  Agents are free to seek me, however.

Do you have any unusual writing quirks?

I prefer writing in the open air.

What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?

I can’t imagine any benefit I could derive from a critique group, as I write as a confident, trained writer and very carefully edit my work. I listen to professional writers, however, and would encourage fledgling writers to do the same.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

I am not always stimulated to write. I do not write on demand, under any circumstances, and have the patience to wait until I feel creative before beginning a new session.

Technically speaking, what do you have to struggle the most when writing? How do you tackle it?

I am disposed to allowing characters to wander a bit and, because of this, sometimes debate whether to alter my original planning for the character and implications for the plot.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

I would urge any aspiring author to begin by hiring an attorney to review any publishing contract presented for their consideration, have the attorney meet either face-to-face or teleconference with the publisher or the publisher’s representative who would be executing the terms of the contract, and if the contract is acceptable, have the attorney oversee every action a publisher undertakes thereafter to bring their book to print.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

I am very comfortable utilizing digital resources to promote books, as well as, personal appearances. I would always encourage securing the guidance of a reputable publicist, however.

What is(are) your favorite book/author(s)? Why?

I read everything, frankly, but I particularly appreciate the work of François Rabelais, William Faulkner, Thomas Mann, James Joyce, Evelyn Waugh, Joseph Roth and Aldous Huxley.  I have an affinity for comic fiction, also, and count P. G. Wodehouse, Tom Sharpe, John Mortimer and François Rabelais, again, as favorites.  Then, there’s crime fiction and espionage and intrigue, and biography and history and…

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Be disciplined.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Yes, my Lübecker Facebook page.

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Yes, there are four books planned for the series initiated by The Lübecker. The next novel utilizes the voice of a character introduced in The Lübecker and through their perspective, aggressively reimagines the story.

As an author, what is your greatest reward?

Having the opportunities, such as this, to speak to my readers!

Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?

Only that I am enormously gratified by the attention given to The Lübecker and look forward to launching the next novel in this series.





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