Please welcome Joe White, author of the novel Isle’s End: A Spiritual Thriller, available in paperback as well as on Kindle.
A sculptor, musician, contractor, and father, J. H. F. (“Joe”) White resides in the Great Northwest devoting his time to the craft of writing and storytelling. What most interested me about Joe’s novel is that the main character is written with much of himself as the inspiration. If you hear Joe’s story, you’ll be interested too, especially once you discover his gift for narrative voice and scene development.
So, Joe, the age-old question: Why did you become a writer?
Joe: I enjoyed reading as a young boy, and did well in all my English and creative writing classes. The short stories I wrote in junior-high were “published” in the school “Muse”. When my kids were young, I wrote stories for them. Finally, I made the decision to write “that novel” I always wanted to write.
What three books are most influential in your writing?
Joe: I don’t know if any books were influential regarding my writing “style”… I read Jack London, C. S. Lewis, and Tolkien when I was young. After that, many different writers…lot’s of sci-fi, especially, Robert Heinlein.
If you could go back in time to when you started writing your first novel, what practical tips would you give your younger self?
Joe: Oh man! I learned so much writing this novel! A few practical tips, which are probably often discussed, might be, don’t open with too much back story, don’t overuse adverbs, and don’t take too much time trying to make things perfect when the story is flowing out. You’ll have plenty of time later to edit, edit, and edit.
Tell us about your novel, Isle’s End: A Spiritual Thriller.
Joe: It began as a short story idea written for my kids. I had hoped it would entertain them while, at the same time, make them consider some theological ideas. Eternity, deception, free will, accountability, spiritual forces and a loving God. It involves a young man who loses his fiancé and parents in a small plane crash. He leaves the city and relocates in a small town called Isles End where he begins a contracting business. He discovers an old chest in the basement of a burned-down home and, trapped inside, he finds a celestial being. A relationship develops as the “angel” takes Harry into the supernatural.
Where did the idea come from?
Joe: The idea of finding an angel locked in an old chest simply came to me one day. Who is this entity? Why was it trapped in the chest? The more I wrote, the more it seemed to take on a life of its own.
Is there a character or aspects of a character in the book you most relate with?
Joe: Yes. I am sure the main character has lots of “me” in him.
You decided to self-publish this novel. What made you choose this option over, say, querying an agent or publishing company?
Joe: Yes, after hearing about several successful authors who had the experience of being turned down multiple times, I decided to avoid the trouble. The book, “The Shack” is a prime example. After a dozen rejections, William P. Young’s friends insisted he self-publish. Now, over 8 million copies sold! Also, Madeline Le Engle was rejected many times before “A Wrinkle in Time” was finally published. Though not self-published, she may have done so if the opportunity had been available. I believe the entire book industry has been in flux for a while now, and self-publishing seems to be the trend. Maybe the big houses will pay more attention to the ones that rise to the top.
What would you recommend to others considering the self-publishing option?
Joe: I’ve been told there was a time when self-publishing would instantly alienate you from the big houses. Not anymore, in fact, it might be a way for them to take interest, especially if it does well. There are a few venues you can choose from. I used Create Space/Amazon. It was very user friendly and was almost entirely free.
Are you working on any other projects?
Joe: Yes, I’ve begun another novel titled, “The Dreams of Gabriel Greene”. It’s about an average guy who has average dreams, until suddenly his dreams explode into brilliant, chaotic, and prophetic visions. His life is turned upside down as he seeks help.
Many who write fiction are initially drawn to it because of the creative outlet factor. Do you have other creative outlets in your life? Care to name a few?
Joe: My father was disappointed with me when I showed no interest in sports. I did participate with him in hunting and fishing, but my real loves were always art, music, and literature. I ran away from home at the age of fifteen and worked as a sculptor in California for the next six years. I sculpted faces on cups which were high fired and sold in several states outside of California. I did literally thousands of them. Then, in my early twenties, relocated to Washington and worked as a musician, playing lots of small venues around the Seattle area. Acoustic guitar mostly, some mandolin, and the flute, all rock oriented.
What was the toughest bit of criticism you ever received from a reader/reviewer—something valid, not from someone just trying to flame message boards?
Joe: Well, so far, nothing very bad (knock on wood…). I guess maybe a couple comments warning me of having too much back story in the beginning. I took it to heart, and though some might still complain, I’m happy with it as it is.
What was the best comliment?
Joe: That’s easy. Read the back cover of Isles End on amazon and you will find two, both from people I’ve never met. 1) “…an extremely well-written tale that bridges the gap between several genres for a refreshing uniqueness I’ve not experienced in a long time…just enough mystery mixed with the mundane to keep us guessing as to the true purpose of the story.” 2) “The book is so enjoyable I couldn’t resist reading it…the end is ravishing!”
If you had to assess yourself (which I suppose you do, because I’m asking for it :)), what would you say is your greatest strength in fiction writing?
Joe: Originality and creativity, based on feedback from my “fans”. People are continually telling me they have never read a book like mine…the storyline and characters…the varying genres. I call it a spiritual thriller, but one woman called it a romance…another reader said it’s a mystery, others have labeled it a sci-fi. Secondly, creativity. I try to go outside of the box and keep the reader guessing without being predictable. Some say I succeeded with Isles End.
Anything you’d like to say to readers/fans?
Joe: I love feedback. if anyone has read Isles End, I’m a glutton for punishment, so positive feedback is great, but I am interested in constructive criticism as well. The other thing I’d like to say to them is….THANKS!
Any tips you’d like to offer others attempting to write novels?
Joe: Yes. Don’t be afraid…! If you have the passion, everything else will come or can
be taught. If you don’t have that initial passion, I think you will have a hard
time. You can tell when you read a good book that the author was passionate
about telling his/her story. They have immersed themselves, and if the writing
is good, they pull you right along as they guide you through their maze.
Secondly, read lots of books of all different kinds. It’s easy to read the
things you already like, but sometimes it’s healthy to go out of your comfort
zone and explore other topics, genres and styles. Finally, share your
“work in progress” with people besides your mom. It might be hard to
find some honest beta readers, but it will be essential for you to get honest
feedback, both positive and negative. It’s sometimes hard to “see”
the things which need attention when you are the author. Others will see things
you have missed, so welcome all criticism. You can sort through it all later
and choose the things you believe need to be addressed. Don’t be thin skinned.
Be ready to use any and all critical responses to your advantage.
Many thanks, Joe. Invaluable feedback from a creative mind. To our readers, don’t forget to check out Isle’s End: A Spiritual Thriller, available in paperback and on Kindle.