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#Author #Interview Joshua Merrick

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When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I would have to say that I started making up stories at a very young age, well before kindergarten if you can believe, and it’s only gotten worse since. I have always loved books and have been an avid reader since the age of 3 (mostly because my mother got tired of reading to me and told me I’d better learn how to read for myself). After my elementary years, and the coerced writing assignments we all hated, I became more critical of the books available to me and would think to myself. “I could do better than that,” and I started writing short stories for fun.  My writing has taken many turns over the years, everything from short stories to political essays, comic strips to professional reviews, and now poems and action novels.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I really don’t have a schedule, and I find my daytime hours increasingly spoken for by my wife and children – but my most creative hours have always been after dark. It is not uncommon to find me still at my desk typing away in the early morning hours after a long night of writing. I find too that my work comes in rushes of creativity; sometimes it seems to flow effortlessly while at others I really have to work at it (those parts seem to get edited most heavily afterword). All in all, once the writing is done the hardest part is the editing; usually by this time I have seen the same words hundreds if not thousands of times and my errors no longer jump out at me, and I have to elicit help from my editorial staff (i.e. friends and family).

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Some of my earlier attempts started more as a critique of someone else’s work, but now I will be driving or standing or sitting or working or not doing anything at all and thoughts will pop into my mind and somewhere a little voice will say, “That would make an awesome book, if only…” and then my nights are booked for several months. One of my current writing projects is based upon personal experiences that my wife and I went through, I think that one has proven the most difficult to write if only because of the intense emotions I relive each time I write about them. As for information, it has been my pleasure to make many acquaintances across the country from all walks of life, and many diverse backgrounds – these contacts are some of my best sources, along with traditional information outlets, but the rest of it comes from my own imagination and widely varied experiences.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
The one thing that continues to surprise me in my writing is how my characters change as they develop in the stories; I will start my books with an idea about who and what each character is and by the time I finish they are someone else – they become more full, more real, more alive than what I had imagined in the beginning. My sister (also one of my greatest fans) told me she loved reading my stories because the characters weren’t simply “formula” characters, that you could feel their feelings and get to know them personally, empathize with them and understand what makes them who they are. Either that means I’m still a rookie, or I have some serious psychological problems, or maybe that’s my one distinguishing talent in writing – guess we’ll see what my public has to say.

When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing sometime during junior high, mostly as a means to satisfy my own literary interests, but also I think as a way to express that part of myself that was most hidden. Like most people I was raised in a home where the three R’s reigned supreme (no, not those ones – I’m talking about respect, responsibility and the rod). That is not to say that my books don’t reflect those values, quite the opposite, but my parent’s idea of responsibility was of the “early to bed, early to rise” persuasion, and my childhood responsibilities included a lot of early morning chores, paper routes, farm work and the like – not much time for daydreaming. Of course, being and insomniac was probably a contributing factor in my writing, because I still find myself up at all hours writing on my latest book after a long day at work.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In the dedication of my first published work, Wrong Way Street, I wrote, “There are times in life when we all feel as if we were going the wrong way down on a one way street.  It isn’t necessarily that we are traveling in the wrong direction, sometimes we are merely on the wrong path.  This book is dedicated to those who are struggling to find their direction.  Life is indeed a one way street, but each life and each path is unique.  May you find your path – and may you travel it well.” Sometimes the hardest part in life is to find our direction, that purpose we dedicate ourselves to that really defines us and gives us the opportunity to show what we’re made of. Of course, the title also refers to those who routinely go the wrong way because it’s easier, or they can get away with it or for whatever reason – whatever the case may be, if you find yourself going the wrong way down a certain street, look for a different street (or make your own). That’s what I would like my readers to see.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The premise behind Wrong Way Street is pieced together from several different stories, some parts are (or were) quite real, while others were written in to fill out the story. Several of the main characters are based loosely, and in some few cases almost entirely upon people in my sphere of acquaintance. One of my upcoming works, Silent Victory, is based on events that my wife and I went through in our first years of marriage.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part (for me) of writing any book is knowing when to let go; after months of rewriting Wrong way Street led to years my sister had to tell me to just get it out there, get it published and get it out there so people can read it. That certainly hasn’t proven true with my next work (coming soon, I promise) The Black Cat, which went from inception to completion in less than 9 months. And conversely, the greatest challenge with Silent Victory is turning off my own emotions long enough to get the writing done while staying true to the events that happened. In reality, each book comes with it’s own challenge.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Here are 2 brief excerpts from The Black Cat, a novel based on a SOA soldier whose experiences lead him to a discovery of Ancient American Shamanism, and the occult practice of shape-shifting. Several Native American legends tell of spiritual warriors who had the power to take the form (and in some cases even the body and spirit) of ferocious jungle cats, primarily Jaguars to protect their people and to guarantee prowess in battle. This story introduces some great sci-fi to the old legends and throws it into modern day California, and then it grows from there.
The shots sounded before Jamaal finished talking, then screams and shouts broke out on both sides amid the firing.  Most of the shots flew wide of their intended marks, but a few of the screams at least were from wounded and scared thugs on both sides of the parking lot.  Suddenly, a different sound pierced the night air – the terrifying scream of the Black Cat. 
The big Cat leaped from the canal at the back of the parking lot and raced to the center of the fight.  Many of the thugs were already writhing on the ground, the few that could still stand or point a gun were savagely crushed by the Cats powerful jaws, or ripped apart by its long, sharp claws.  Though it had been several minutes, in what seemed like moments the fighting was stopped.  The air reeked of cordite, blood and human excrement, the only sounds were the low growl of the Black Cat and the grating of its claws against the pavement. 
Shaw awoke to the sharp sound of breaking bones and tearing flesh, as he looked at the carnage all around him he vomited onto the blacktop.  When he could lift his head without feeling faint, he looked up to see the Black Cat sitting only a few yards away – the beast was licking its paws and face, its coat gleamed darkly with the blood of its victims.  The jade green eyes pierced Shaw’s gaze and he cowered to the ground with a whimper.  The Cat stood then and padded lightly to the Detective’s side.  Shaw cringed as he saw the sharp claws glinting coldly against the dull black of the asphalt in the moonlight.
“Look at me Shaw!” growled the Black Cat.
The cowering detective slowly rolled onto his back, still holding his hands up to his face as if to hide from the horrific vision before him.
“The innocent are mine – tonight you are mine.  You know who I seek, and why.  Do not come between the Black Cat and its prey.”
And this second excerpt from the epilogue:
Finally, just before 1 o’clock in the morning, she saw a dark shadow move across the flat expanse – the man-sized shape crouched near the center of the clearing and began to build a small fire, bringing it to life with an old flint and steel.  Illuminated by the tiny fire’s light, the man she saw looked nothing like the picture of Marshall – this man looked aged and worn, his skin bare and his hair shaved.  She saw dark lines covering his body like a web.  As the fire grew, the man drew ashes from the edge of the pit and, mixing them with the soil, covered his body until she could barely distinguish his form from the surrounding earth.
The man then began to chant in a strange but melodic language, lost to the modern world.  He moved his hands as he sang, his motions seemed part of the words, calling to an unseen someone.  This was it!  He was calling to his wife, she was the ghost!  Now he was holding his hands close to his body, leaning over something in his lap – then he stretched his arms out over the smoky fire and began to rub his hands over his brow and chest. 
Suddenly the vale grew still, as the man stretched his hands over the fire again a hidden wind gusted through the hills, stirring the ash and dousing the fire.  When the dust cleared and Kelly could see again, a beautiful woman stood in the air in front of the man below.  She seemed to take form in the swirling ash and dust that still blew like a tiny cyclone where the fire had burned.  Astounded, Kelly could barely breathe as she watched the two figures in the center of the whirlwind.  Then she stood and started running down the ridge – she didn’t want the man to disappear before she could question him. 
The ethereal figure of the woman stirred and faced Kelly with a look of resolute dismay.  The wind slowed and the woman began to disappear as the dust settled to the ground.  The man yelled in anguish and reached out toward the quickly fading woman – he fell to the ground as she vanished.  Kelly stopped and stood in awkward silence a dozen feet from the prostrate man.  At first she could see no movement, but then she saw his shoulders shake and heard the muffled cries.
“I, uh I’m sorry,” she murmured softly.  “Who was she?  She was beautiful.”
“She.  She is gone,” the man replied in an achingly dull tone.  “What are you doing here?”
“John Marshall?  Are you…”
“He is no more,” he said, the words even emptier than before.  “Like She, He is gone.”
“Then who, who are you?  And what happened?”
“I was He, now I await the end and We will be together once more.”
“When?”
“When They cry no more and il B’olom is satisfied.  Until then I must hunt ‘    ‘.”
Kelly heard the punctuated silence, it was heavy with meaning that she didn’t understand.
“You must go,” said the man.  “il B’olom now calls.  Each year after She, and I must answer.  Go.”
Kelly felt the ground rumbling beneath her – she turned and ran far beyond the ridge until her lungs ached and tears stung her eyes.
It was many long hours before Marshall returned to the cave.  Back in the dismal confines of the hidden cavern, his sleeping form lay on the mats at the rear of the cave.  The man’s powerful body was pale and coursed with newly formed vessels.  Lines creased his naked brow and tears wet his face – even in sleep the voices could be heard, and their anguish felt.  Standing over the sleeping form was an aging man with long grey hair tied back in a single braid.  There were tears in his dark eyes as he watched the younger man start in his sleep and utter two short words. 
“Silka!  Querida!” he cried desperately.
Turning, the older man walked quietly to a large container against the opposite wall of the cave.  Lifting the lid slowly, he peered inside – two green eyes stared back at him darkly from the snarling face of the Black Cat.  The man paused in thought, wondering if he might have the strength now that his leg was healed – but no, il B’olom had chosen and he must trust in the spirits.  The warriors’ dance is long, but the night is not without end.  His own task was trial enough – slowly, he let the lid close and returned to watch over the sleeping man.
_________________xXXx_________________
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’m sure if I had it to do over again I would make a few changes, but when is an artist ever really satisfied with his work. There are always little things you want to add to clarify the plot line, or to murk it up a bit and ad suspense, but all in all I think I am quite pleased with it. Mostly. 99% anyway. /;{>
What are your current projects?
My current projects include The Black Cat, The Black Cat Book II, Silent Victory, and an as yet untitled work of historical fiction about a family in papal service that disappears to remote North Eastern Germany, after changing their religious affiliations and their name (based on what little has come to light of family origins).
Do you have any advice for other writers?
If it’s in your head and crying to be let out then let it out, it wouldn’t be there without a reason. The same goes for those who are struggling to finalize their works, the time always comes when you have to put down the pen, pick up the phone and get your work into the hands of your readers – trust me, they will thank you for it.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
First, last and always - Thank you! I would probably still write if no one bought my books, but it sure means a lot to me that people really enjoy them. I hope that my writing serves to educate and inspire, to provoke thought and lead to those actions that can change lives in a good way, not simply to entertain or take up time on a slow day. To my dedicated readers I will say, look out, more is coming soon! And once again, thank you.

Author Joshua Merrick –
I have always been one who loved the arts and creative mediums: painting, leathercrafting, pen and ink drawing, sculpture, poetry, acting, comedy and now beginning my foray as an author with my first novel, Wrong Way Street. Over the years I have put my hand to a variety of career fields,  everything from cowboying to wildlife conservation, construction to private protection, teaching, translating, and many other completely unrelated disciplines (often just for the fun of it but sometimes because even a starving author has to eat occasionally). My college years were much like my work history, an enigmatic experience during which time I found myself drawn to completely unrelated disciplines: science, computer programming, engineering, foreign languages, linguistics, history, theatre, acting, rodeo, wilderness survival, fitness/health... you get the idea. I'd like to think my unique and rich life experience lends itself to my writing.
Twitter   @JoshuaMerrick1          Facebook   Joshua Merrick


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