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Interview: Joseph Spencer, Author of Grim

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At a young age, 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 such as Shakespeare and Homer.

Before Mr. Spencer began spinning his own tales, he pursued a career in print sports journalism, graduating summa cum laude from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He covered a wide range of events, including 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. At the present time, Joseph Spencer works as an emergency telecommunications specialist with an Illinois police department. The combination of his years of writing experience along with a background working with law enforcement professionals, gave rise to Mr. Spencer’s writing aspirations.

On March 14, 2012, Joseph Spencer married Dr. Amy (Waggoner) Spencer, an accomplished veterinary doctor, . The following day, he received word his debut novel was accepted by his publisher, Damnation Books, . 

Murphy, a 15-year-old orange tabby, is perhaps the most vocal member of the family. The Spencer family enjoys reading Charlaine Harris, George R.R. Martin, Mary Janice Davidson, and most paranormal stories. The Spencer family also enjoys quoting movie lines from The Princess Bride, Rain Man, Bridesmaids, and Office Space.

Joseph Spencer’s latest book is the paranormal crime thriller, Grim.

Readers can learn more about Joseph Spencer and his work by visiting the following links:

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

If you had to describe your book in two sentences, what would they be?

Grim tells the tragic tale of a man so consumed with gaining vengeance that he loses all of his humanity to achieve it. This vigilante forces an impossible choice upon the detective charged with bringing him to justice – uphold the ideals he’s held dear his entire life or become a murderer to avenge his slain wife.

Do you have a favorite line or excerpt from your current work?

Adam heard a few sounds of Velcro peeling off its straps. Suddenly, Black Mask shed the mystery and ambiguity of his headgear. He became another mystery altogether. What happened to this guy? He looked like he’d seen Hell, escaped, and doctored his face to give everyone else on Earth a preview.

Black Mask obviously suffered from rosacea because his skin was inflamed, swollen, and the angriest shade of red Adam had ever seen. A jagged circular scar similar to a clock face ran from Black Mask’s forehead down his cheeks to his chin. A vertical scar ran straight down the middle of his forehead and along the bridge of his nose. Two horizontal scars extended from the side of his nose and curved upward to his temples. Two additional scars extended outward at angles from just under his nose, across his lips and ended on either side of his chin. All of the scars connected like spokes to the inside of the circular scar in a design resembling a starfish. He also had a solid black teardrop falling from the corner of his left eye. Adam struggled not to have any reaction, but failed to keep the corner of his mouth from inching up into a grimace.

Black Mask smirked and put his right hand up to his face. He pretended to be admiring himself in a mirror. “It’s okay, Detective. Your reaction is fairly common and a lot more subdued than most. Of course, I bet you’ve seen a lot of horrors in your line of work.

“So, you want to know the tale of Heath Grim, huh?”

What are five important things that you take into consideration while writing your story?

First and foremost, I believe characters drive the story. I’m more worried about creating characters which grab your attention and don’t let go than anything else. Secondly, I don’t believe in creating strictly good and strictly bad characters. I want my writing to reflect the experience I have with people in the real world, and everyone has a gray tinge to their moral values depending on the circumstances. The next two things are that I tend to write tragedies and crime stories because of my background as a 9-1-1 center employee and my reading preference for those sorts of novels. Lastly, I write with visceral descriptions. During my creative process, the story unfolds like a movie in my mind, and I try to relay that feeling to readers. Several critics have commented that they find Grim gory and bloody. I wanted to create a city which is gritty and corrupt as a backdrop for the dark characters featured in the story.

Why should readers pick up your book?

Because I didn’t write the happy-ever-after story where the characters ride off into the sunset with all they ever desired. I wrote the story which makes you question morality, spirituality and other societal belief systems and conventions.

What was the turning point when you realized you wanted to write and share your voice with the world?

Four years ago, I switched careers from working as a newspaper journalist to managing an emergency 9-1-1 communications center. I decided to switch careers because the explosion of digital media endangered the future prospects of print journalism. The abrupt change caused me to miss writing terribly. I began working on Grim about a year into my new career.

What genres do you prefer to read? Which do you enjoy writing in?

I read across genres all the time. My favorites the past few years include YA series like Beautiful Creatures, The Hunger Games and Mortal Instruments, the Dr. Kay Scarpetta crime series from Patricia Cornwell, action series like Sigma Force from James Rollins and Jack Reacher from Lee Child and George R.R. Martin’s tremendous fantasy series Song of Fire and Ice.

I am inspired by Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series in my preferred writing genres – crime thrillers with dark humor. Charlaine Harris’ paranormal novels featuring Sookie Stackhouse and Harper Connelly also inspire my otherworldly characters.

What five things would you have with you at all times if you had to be prepared to take a trip at the drop of a hat?

I’d need my iPhone, Kindle, Toshiba laptop, granola bars and fruit snacks to feed all of my addictions – reading, writing and snacking.

If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?

I would choose the ability to manipulate time so that I could create more time for writing away from my full-time job.

What footprint do you want to leave behind in this world?

I try to excel in everything I choose to do, and I’d like to leave behind a legacy of helping others through my work. I’d also love to be considered a talented writer who entertained others with my stories.

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