Pump Up Your Book Chats with Joseph Spencer, author of ‘Wrage’

Joseph Spencer As a boy, Joseph Spencer immersed himself in the deductive logic of Sherlock Holmes, the heroic crime fighting of Batman and Spider-Man, and a taste for the tragic with dramas from poets like Shakespeare and Homer.

Before Joseph took to spinning his own tales, he pursued a career in print sports journalism, graduating summa cum laude from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He covered such events as NASCAR’s Subway 500 race in Martinsville, the NBA Draft Camp in Chicago, the Junior College World Series, and Minor League Baseball’s Midwest League All-Star Game during a ten-year career throughout the Midwest. Now, he works as an emergency telecommunications specialist with an Illinois police department. The combination of years of writing experience with a background working with law enforcement professionals gave rise to his writing aspirations.

Joseph was married to Dr. Amy (Waggoner) Spencer, an accomplished veterinary doctor, on March 14, 2012. He received word his debut novel was accepted by his publisher, Damnation Books, the next day. Joseph is hard at work on the rest of the series. Book 2 – Wrage – was released June 1, 2013.  The Spencer family enjoys reading Charlaine Harris, George R.R. Martin, Mary Janice Davidson, and most paranormal stories. The Spencers also enjoy quoting movie lines from “The Princess Bride”, “Rain Man”, “Bridesmaids”, and “Office Space.”

Visit his website at www.JosephBSpencer.com.

Thank you for this interview, Joe.  Your latest book, Wrage, is the second book in your new series.  Can you tell us briefly about the whole series so we know what’s in store?

Joe:When I decided to expand Grim into the Sons of Darkness series with Wrage, I wanted to incorporate themes which intrigued me from religion and history to tell epic stories. The “War Scroll” from the Dead Sea Scrolls foretells of an apocalyptic fight between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness in which Light will earn eternal peace by destroying Darkness. Each son in the Sons of Darkness series will represent a deadly sin, and each son in my future Sons of Light series will symbolize a cardinal virtue.

Wrage Was it easier writing the second book than the first in the series?

Joe: Actually, I thought parts of making Wragewere tougher than Grim. When I started writing Grim, I didn’t plan for a series right away. It wasn’t until I hit the end of that book that I thought I could expand the story. I felt a lot of pressure to advance the story with different characters from the first book in a way that was believable and told a story I’d be proud to tell. Obviously, I’m not on the bestseller’s list right now, but I had a lot of readers give me great feedback that they loved reading Grim so the last thing I wanted to do is to add to that story in a way that would put off the readers from the first book.

I’ve read the reviews and this book isn’t for the squeamish, lol.  What kind of goriness do we have inside this latest one?

Joe: There are a lot of vendettas in this book. Several characters have axes to grind with other characters. Others find out that people who they thought were friends or colleagues aren’t really friends at all. I’d say I tried to dial back some of the gore from the first novel because there were some people that said it was too much, but I think there is still plenty of death and mayhem in Wrage, too. I’m writing books for adults who want to read a book and then have trouble sleeping afterwards, so I think I’ve accomplished that.

I’d love to know how you came up with the title for this?

Joe: I actually had a friend named Jeff Wrage during junior high and high school, and I thought his name fit perfectly with the character I wanted to create. I basically stole his name. It’s funny because he married a girl I grew up with named Stefanie, so I let them know that I used their names for characters. When Stefanie read Grim, she said it gave her nightmares. I don’t think she actually liked it. I can’t blame her since her character was killed. I hate trying to figure out character names so I usually combine names of people I know to make a character’s name. Some people even ask me to write them in. I just caution them that if I use their name that the character with their name isn’t exactly a representation of the real them.

How do you come up with all these ideas?  Do you watch horror flicks to give you inspiration?

Joe:  I used to work in the newspaper industry for 10 years, so I would consume a lot of headlines and news content daily. Personally, I think real life is stranger than fiction could ever be. I just read a story where two drug dealers kidnapped a teenage girl, kept her in a metal box, used her as a sex slave and kept her around because she trimmed their marijuana plants better than anyone else who worked for them. In a million years, I couldn’t come up with something like the details mentioned in this news report. I use stories like that for inspiration and put my own spin on things.

What other genre have you not written but you would love to?

Joe:  After reading all of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, I thought it would be fun to try my hand at fantasy. I would have to study the conventions of that genre and read more books of that genre to learn how to write that style well. I think fantasy affords you a creative way to make social commentary on the real world in a way that would make a reader take a closer look at life.

What’s life like for Joe?  What do you do besides write books?

Joe: First and foremost, I am an avid reader. There’s an opportunity to travel to new worlds and meet new people every time you pick up a book or turn on your Nook or Kindle or other device. My wife Amy and I also love to travel. We had our honeymoon in Paris last year, and we’ve also taken trips to Chicago, St. Louis, Phoenix, New York and Kansas City. Amy is a veterinarian who brought a 16-year-old orange tabby to our relationship, and he’s a big part of our family because we love animals.

What’s next for you, Joe?  More horror novels?

Joe: I’m currently working or in development of three projects. My priority is the Sons of Darkness series. I intend to write seven novels, one son for each deadly sin. I wanted to wrap up the action by telling the other side of the story in the Sons of Light series. I’ve also written a significant part of a manuscript for a young adult thriller in which a small town girl is conned into a big city life of sex and violence by human traffickers. Lastly, I am in development of an adult mystery thriller with my wife, Amy, who is also an avid reader. We thought it was fun one rare day when we both had a day off from work to bounce ideas off each other for a book we’d like to read. The concept we’ve come up with sort of ties in themes from movies like Ghost and Silence of the Lambs with a different spin on things.