As a way of giving back and promoting new authors, I decided to highlight an author now and then. I met Joseph Carrabis through my current publishing company, Black Rose Writing. We crossed paths here and there and I found him to be funny, thought-provoking, and did I say, funny? Yes, I think I did. Joseph is a character. One never knows what will come out of his mouth, or when, and I picture him as “everyone’s favorite uncle.” The kind of guy who can hold an audience as he tells a story- any story. And always, the story will have a nugget to be thought about, gnawed on, and persistent. I hope you enjoy my interview with him. Even more, I hope you give his writing a look-see.
How did you become an author?
I sat down and wrote. I honestly don’t know any other way to do it. Or, if you’re asking “What caused you to want to write?”, that’s a different question. I share the story of my sister, Sandra, and I doing dishes when we were kids. She (seven years my senior) told me about a book she was reading for a book report. She was captivated, enthralled, by what marketers call “engaged,” and I’d never seen her like that before. That book – James Blish’s Mission to the Heart Stars – gave her so much joy in its reading I, still in grade school, realized I wanted to give that same joy to people as my sister got from Blish’s book. I’ve written about this in https://josephcarrabis.com/2018/04/18/mission-of-the-heart/
What genre do you write, and why that genre?
I write autobiography. It keeps getting sold as science fiction, fantasy, horror, children’s stories, poetry, creative non-fiction, magic realism, and so on. Sandra, mentioned above, often asks if we grew up in the same house.
Why do you write what you write?
So, people will know they are not alone.
If you were to name one or two books that you deem unforgettable and that had a major impact on you, what would they be, and How did they impact you?
Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation.
The Andromeda Strain is the first book I remember reading, which so completely absorbed me my mother had to shake me to get me out of its spell. I don’t remember how I got Foundation and do remember it having much the same effect on me. There are lots of others since then; John Wyndham’s Chocky, Dan Thomas’ The Seed, Blish’s The Seedling Stars, Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight, Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall, Kirsten Bakis’ Lives of the Monster Dogs, …
What authors do you read regularly, and why?
I read anything and everything. I still love the classics, golden-age SF, the ancients (from all cultures), myths and legends, … Modern writers who “own” me are Truman Capote, Charles Frazier, Barry Lopez, (the earlier) William Least Heat-Moon, Farley Mowat, Brian Fagan, Pat Conroy, Bradbury (although his later works don’t make the grade with me), Brautigan, Simak, Steinbeck, Piper, Craig Johnson (except for Longmire #13. No idea what happened there), Grey, Eiseley, Toomer, Dickey, … The list is pretty extensive if I include authors no longer producing. Because their books, regardless of subject or genre, fall into the “well-written” category.
What would be a reason you don’t finish reading a book?
A book has to be a catastrophic failure for me not to finish it. I’ll read abysmally written books to study the author’s mistakes.
What is your writing routine?
I’m now a full-time author. I get up, take care of our dog, Boo, make breakfast for Susan (wife/partner/Princess) and myself, then sit and write. Sometimes I’ll take a break for bodily necessities. Not often, though. Except Susan noticed I work out plot points or character lines in the bathroom. Probably because I’m in touch with nature’s primal urges.
But other than that, I’m always writing, if not on paper or at the keyboard, then in my head and am desperate for either a keyboard or a pad and pencil. I go to sleep and get ideas or work things out in my current works-in-progress. I wake up in the middle of the night and reach for the pen and paper I keep by the bed. We have a notepad and pencils in our car. At the gym, I’ll often pause in the middle of my routine to record an idea or story detail on my phone.
When you write, are you a planner/outliner or are you a “pantser”?
Great question for this point in my life. I had a wonderful discussion with a group of authors on this topic recently, and it made me study my methodology closely.
It seems I do both. Anything up to 5,000 words comes to me fully realized. There’s neither plotting nor pantsing as it’s all there in one lump. I have to know the ending of a novel to really get it going. Once I know the endpoint, usually the final scene, I write the rest of the novel to that final scene. Chapters come to me and major scenes and endpoints, each of which is somehow tied to the climax and final scene. Amusingly, sometimes I never use the original final scene. It goes into a “Ideas” file to be used in something else.
It’s the novellas, novellettes, and long short stories (oxymoron, that), 8k-20k words, where it’s a grab-all. Sometimes I have the complete story, opening scene to climax and have to fill in the blanks along the way.
Mixed in with all this, sometimes I’ll be writing away and get an idea that moves the story differently than I planned. Now I’m a true pantser, writing to learn what’s happening myself.
Is there something you set out to do, but somehow, it didn’t work out for you?
That astronaut thing still eludes me.
What tips do you give to new or even experienced writers?
Write, Write, Write, and Read, Read, Read. Always keep learning your craft.
Is there a type of writing/genre that you find difficult to write?
I love poetry and it’s not my Go-to form.
I suppose because it’s more subjective than any written form I know. I’ve read Dickey, Toomer, Poe, and others throughout history. Some is so obviously great. Dickey’s, The Sheep Child haunts me still, and I first read it thirty years ago. Much of Brautigan’s prose reads like poetry and is sometimes referred to as tone poems or prose poetry. Poets from the Harlem Renaissance (at least the ones I’ve read) are brilliant. What unites (to me) all of these is I don’t need a Masters in English to understand them. Some poems can’t be understood by common people and are so elitist I question their merit. Much like fiction, if it leaves you scratching your head, it’s not working.
I want my poetry to work, to be accessible, to touch people. My The Coyotes are Celebrating (https://josephcarrabis.com/2017/12/01/the-coyotes-are-celebrating-artwork-by-lady-sparrowhawk/ ) is one of my better known poems and it’s easily accessible (me thinks). Some of my other poetry is accessible because it sucks (https://josephcarrabis.com/category/my-work/poetry/ ) and some because it works.
So, I can write poetry that sucks, poetry that’s inaccessible, and poetry that works and moves people. Thirty-three percent isn’t a passing grade to me, hence it’s challenging to write.
Tell us about your book? How did you come up with the concept?
In the early 1990s, I was active in the psychotherapeutic community and studied trauma. My specialty was childhood trauma and my studies often overlapped with other types of trauma, specifically combat PTSD. There were so many connections between how these traumas were demonstrated by survivors, I started sharing my findings with others. These findings were largely ignored, in part because society wasn’t yet comfortable looking at itself through the necessary lenses. Because I couldn’t get anyone to pay attention, I took my findings and wrote The Augmented Man (http://nlb.pub/Augmented ). Now the findings are part of the therapeutic literature.
How did you come up with the title?
I originally wrote the book in 1991, before “augmentation” had the current meaning, so I have to think back. I know it was the title from day one. I suspect because trauma survivors tend to wrap themselves in psycho-emotional layers to protect themselves from their experiences, and back then you “augmented” things by layering them. The dictionary definitions of “augmented” include
1. Added to or made greater in amount or number or strength
1. Enlarge or increase
2. Grow or intensify
3. (music) increase an interval by a semitone
so it fits.
From your book, who is your favorite character?
Sorry, don’t have a favorite.
Who is your least favorite character?
If a writer can’t sympathize with a character, the reader sure-n-heck won’t be able to. To make a character sympathetic, they have to be relatable, recognizable, and identifiable at some level. I work to make all my characters relatable, recognizable, and identifiable, so each, no matter how wonderful or horrible they are, are people. Both protagonists and antagonists need to be accessible. Both must have flaws and merits.
That’s Joseph Carrabis! To find out more about him, here are some links to follow:
Find Joseph’s books on Amazon and B & N
http://nlb.pub/amazon all my books
http://nlb.pub/Augmented The Augmented Man