Joshua Crook is an author of numerous short anthologies and is working on a novel as we speak. Is splash into the horror pool was Amid the Recesses: A Short Story Collection of Fear.
1) How did you become an author? What motivated you and what made you decide that this was the life for you?
I've always been a writer. From as soon as I could be. To be a writer, I think one has to love language and how it works. I've always been interested in words and the ways they're used, how they're used differently in foreign places. That seems almost a linguistic interest. My passion as a writer came through when writing, in books or any other means, managed to guide my imagination. My imagination has always been a bit unrestrained. It was nice to have something there to help guide it, but still evoke its power the same. I'm finishing college now with a degree in English with a focus on creative writing. I was considering law school for a while and decided that it probably wasn't for me. Again, I've always been a writer, and it was time I committed entirely. I did and here I am.
2) What inspires you to write. I notice you have multiple novels so, if you could, give me a little bit of history on what you did to get the ink flowing for some of them.
People are probably my most powerful inspiration. That old cliche line, truth is often stranger than fiction, in my opinion, is true. So, I listen to and observe people when I can. When I can't, I try an read. I don't read a lot of fiction, but I read a lot of nonfiction and a wide range of articles on the world's curiosities, whether it be societal, or cultural, or whatever it may be. There are stories buried within these things and I try to extract them.
When it's time to write, however, I suggest what Stephen King does, and that's to turn everything off. That's more difficult than it sounds these days. Phones are incessantly vibrating at us, or our computers are chiming for our attention. We need to turn it off and focus. That's when things start working on the page.
3) Do you have a project underway? If so, could we possibly get a sneak peek as to what we'll be seeing when it comes out (if yes, include excerpt that is exciting, hopefully with a cliffhanger)
I do. I'm finishing my first true novel. Up to now I've written short story anthologies. My first book is going to be different than anything I've done before. For example, I wrote the first edition of Amid the Recesses: A Short Story Collection of Fear before I sat in a college classroom. This book will be an example of what a person can learn, I think, from exposure to certain artists and writers, to other writers aspiring to success, etc. Unfortunately I can't share much now, but there will be a serialized chapter published in the Gravel Press soon, through the University of Arkansas.
4) How do you come up with your characters? I know many authors struggle to come up with names. Where do yours originate from?
I think names should be the last thing writer's worry about. They're often silly and superfluous, an identifier for something great, that provides clarity. A character is what's important--what they represent. I've written stories without names at all and I didn't feel like I lost anything as a result of that. I suggest to writers: just pick something simple. Don't pick something flashy or trendy, because it comes off less genuine in a way. Focus on character. My names, when I choose them, are often names that you might hear anywhere, or something reflective of the location in which the story is written. The South of the United States might have a very Southern sounding name, while someone residing in the urban areas of the North East might sound quite different. If I choose an odd name it's because it has purpose.
5) Do you have any underlying themes in your work that we should be aware of?
My narrative distance in writing has a tendency to sway from the microscopic to the universal in the span of a few lines. Some people may not enjoy that I can write about something inherently human and intimate and in the next line pose a critique on society or politics. I reach for a broader symbolism in almost every line I write. I admit I don't know what that symbolism always is, but I hope that someone someday might tell me.
6) What is your most recent addition to the literary world? Tell us about it?
My first novel is currently under a working title, Nefas or The Night We Die in Sanctuary. It's about a detective, Joe, who begins the story on the verge of suicide. He's essentially interrupted and he lives on as a sort of shadow of himself. He works a case in which he falls in a love with a dead girl, and as he untangles the mystery of her murder, he falls deeper and deeper into decline. It's a story about the fragility of human beings, of our weaknesses to things, material and emotional. It's about a lot of things.
7) I've seen you on Twitter; do you have any other ways we can follow you so that we can keep up to date on your publishing?
I think Twitter is probably the best way to stay in contact with me. I have a mailing list available through my website and a quick Google search of "J. A. Crook" should bring it up. I haven't used it much yet, but it's slated to come into use once the book finds a proper agent.
8) Out of all your novels, which was the hardest to write and why?
I think my most recent novel was difficult in that I felt I had to write it to justify my writing career. It was something that I knew would somehow define me as a writer and it would move me away from the gimmicky world of horror shorts. Not that I don't love horror, and not that Nefas isn't terribly dark, but this was something more substantial than anything I'd done before. It actually came out smoothly, despite having 15 hours of senior and junior-level college classes. But while I was working, it was difficult.
9) Out of all your novels, which one do you like the most? Which one brings a smile to your face?
I enjoy the Second Edition of Amid the Recesses. I wanted to go back and work on my first independently published piece, to make it more than it was. I rewrote some stories entirely, removed some, made some better. My work often has a bit of humor, as any horror book should, and the revision of "Soup" especially makes me smile, because it's just grotesque enough and just funny enough to do so.
10) Finally, what can we expect in the future from you? What genre's do you expect to take a crack at?
I've always wanted to write a children's book with creative art styles, maybe even a little dark. Not inappropriate, but a darkness mixed with light. Think Tim Burton, for example. I thought that would be a lot of fun. I also want to work on more contemporary literary fiction. I want to write about people just being people, about the struggles we face in the United States. This election cycle has brought to a light a lot of frailty in this country. There's a lot to say about that.