To begin, please introduce yourself to our audience. What is your name? Who are you? What books have you written?
My name’s Joe Martin. I use my initials, J.M. Martin, in all my publishing endeavors, because I think it’s more ‘literary’ I suppose. I started out primarily as an artist, and I began drawing comics after being introduced to and inspired by legendary comic artist George Perez, who hung out with me for over an hour at a store signing around 1989 and gave me all kinds of encouragement. I met David Mack after that — we were fresh-faced lads back then and just learning our trade, but collaborating and sharing energy with one another — and my career just took some twists and turns and I found myself doing more editorial and design and writing along the way for various companies, namely Caliber Comics, McFarlane Toys, and Privateer Press.
In recent years I met author Tim Marquitz and we hit it off; so well, in fact, we ended up launching Ragnarok Publications together in 2013. During this time, I also met a lot of cool Permuted creators like Tim Long, Peter Mannering, Eloise Knapp, Shana Festa, and Peter Clines, and it was through this association I think I managed to squeeze my way in with a project proposal that was, happily for me, accepted.
What first inspired you to become a writer? And what compels you to continue your career as an author?
One day as a toddler I discovered a magical tool called a pencil. From that point on, I always kept one with me, and I drew on anything I could find. I was destined to create. My earliest memories were sitting at the kitchen table at Mamaw’s house. She always kept a stack of typing paper ready for me, and I drew cowboys and Indians and aircraft and dinosaurs and robots, usually all clashing together in epic battles. And then I would give her my drawings in exchange for a bowl of vanilla ice cream with Hershey’s syrup (the kind you poured from the can, the good stuff). So, answering the question, ice cream. Ice cream inspires and compels me.
What is the first book you read that made you fall in love with literature?
My 6th grade English teacher, Mr. Pope, assigned Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT as a class reading assignment. It blew my 10-year-old mind; like, my hair just exploded off my head and stuck to the ceiling. My transmutation to consummate fantasy nerd was utterly cellular from that moment. I began walking around the neighborhood with a sheet as a cloak, a Wiffle ball bat as a sword, and a metal garbage can lid as my shield, while at night I absorbed the works of Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. I even exhaustively studied THE SILMARILLION. I was that friggin’ obsessed. But it all started with THE HOBBIT, and I still own the exact copy, tattered, yellowed, and dog-eared — just like me.
What do you think is the most difficult part of being a writer? What is the most rewarding part?
The most difficult part is many-fold for me. One, getting started; two, maintaining focus as I am easily distrac—oooh, shiny!
*refers back to question three hours later*
So, yeah, maintaining focus. I have three kids and I’m a stay at home dad running a publishing business, so writing is sometimes a futile exercise, but I make it work after the kids are in bed at night. IF I manage to avoid Facebook. And Twitter. And Pinterest. And my e-mail. And…focus, Martin!
Oh, numero tres, si — for me, number three is overcoming mental barriers. I always hit these insane walls right around 30k words into a manuscript. Something in my creative process just locks up. I suspect part of that is because I’m a pantser. I’m slowly, through the power of Scrivener and the whipcrack of Marquitz, learning that a crude outline (bullet points) is a good thing. It’s helped me so far, though pantsing (and de-pantsing) is still far too much fun.
And I already covered the most rewarding part. Ice. Cream.
What is your most recent work? What can audiences expect from this book or series?
I’m collaborating with Tim Marquitz and Kenny Soward in a series called Dead West. It’s an 1860’s/70’s Western horror set in the time of railroad expansion, complete with zombies, monsters, and magic. The lead protagonist, Nina Weaver, is half Shoshone, and she is paired with her wasichu (white) father in a world suddenly gone mad. Some have billed it as ‘The Walking Dead and Hell on Wheels Collide.’ We recently released the DEAD WEST OMNIBUS #1, which compiles the first two novels.
What do you think are the most common misconceptions about writers?
I think it’s interesting how some folks think writers live a celebrity-like lifestyle, or that we’re all soused slaves, tethered to our Muse, or weird but creative junkies up at all hours gibbering to ourselves as we hunker over our keyboards. Hmm. Actually, those are all fairly accurate. Nevermind.
Why did you decide to join Permuted Press?
Having met some of those notable folks mentioned earlier, and knowing the company’s reputation for fine publications, how could I refuse? Besides, as a fellow publisher, I appreciate Permuted’s president’s approach to his authors. He seems a likeable fellow, and I haven’t heard a bad word about him or the company. That’s not just blowing smoke. I think it’s an excellent publisher that offers something worthy of and to their readership.
So, yeah, I was talking to (Permuted’s president) Michael Wilson about “Dead West,” originally, and it eventually turned into an invitation to shoot him an additional series proposal. He‘d mentioned Permuted was looking to expand into some different subgenres, sci-fi being one, so a few days later I pitched the “Empire of Dust” series, with book one being GHOSTFALL and book two being GHOSTWAR, and I framed it as elements of ‘Bladerunner mixed with Avatar and Aliens.’
So, in GHOSTFALL, Earth has been atmospherically compromised after some planetary rehabilitation efforts have failed, and now there are these massive spacefaring corporations in competition with one another in the race to successfully terraform other planets. The main one in GHOSTFALL sanctions privatized prison colonies to do their dirty work via sentience transference into hardy biological host bodies called pseudos, which are designed to function in harsh and uninhabitable atmospheric conditions. But then the whole operation goes to hell in a hand basket, and the characters find their entire situation compromised, with no one sure about who they can really trust. That’s the nutshell version.
What are your dreams for the future as a writer?
I work from home. I don’t have to wear pants if I don’t want to. I have the freedom to come and go as I please. And I have a freezer-full of ice cream. I’m already living the dream, baby.
But I definitely plan to continue publishing dark genre fiction through Ragnarok, and keep busy writing the “Empire of Dust” series, the “Dead West” series… and I also have a fantasy series in mind that involves ghosts, massive spiders, a princess, and a crusty war veteran haunted by a dark past.
Is there anything else that you would like for people to know about yourself and your work?
Only that I’m pretty awesome. Most of the time. I also have no ego. And I live and breathe writing and publishing and making cool stuff. Oh, and especially that I appreciate readers of all stripes. Keep reading, good people! Read on paper, read on screen, doesn’t matter how you do it, just READ.
Also, please support your favorite writers, discover new ones along the way and, if you like a book, talk about it and make an effort to review it! The most excellent way you can say thank you to an author for their work is to post a review. Reviews = more sales. It’s that easy. Now, off the soapbox, madman! Give me that megaphone! Joe Out.