I had a chance to interview Josh after his success with NaNo. He is set to be a writer as he waits to become a teacher once more. NaNo is no easy feat and I certainly wish him luck in being a writer. Check out the interview of who he is, what he writes about, and lessons learned this year.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a high school English teacher by trade, but I’m not working this year as I wait for my Canadian immigration to go through. I’m American, from Michigan. I’m married with a 19-month-old daughter. For six years I lived in the United Arab Emirates, first in a city called Sharjah and then in the capital city of Abu Dhabi. I worked first at a private school, then as an Educational Advisor for 2.5 years, and then again as a high school English teacher. I am an Orthodox Christian in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. I’ve been writing off and on for years, but this year, since I’m not allowed to work, I’m taking advantage of the time and focusing on my writing more.
2. Do you consider yourself a character driven writer, or a plot driven writer?
I’m definitely a character driven writer. I’ve always struggled with plot. My fist novel, called “Give Up,” had some good ideas, but the plot was pretty weak. This new novel I’ve written, “I Am Zombie,” is much better with the plot, but it all started with a set of characters, and I followed the characters rather than a specific plot idea.
3. What is your favorite sport and team?
I don’t follow sports, so I don’t have a good answer. Since I’m from Michigan, by default I’d be a Tigers fan. I suppose I prefer baseball over anything else.
4. Where were you born, where did you grow up, and where do you live now?
I was born in northern Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. I grew up there. Right now I live up in Northern Ontario, about a 13 hour drive from my hometown.
5. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
France. My wife and I have been there a few times already, and we spent last Christmas there with our daughter. There are cliches about the love that Paris and France holds over Americans, and I think that’s true. My wife and I are in love with France, and we would fly there tonight if we could. We’d love to look into moving over there to teach at some point.
6. What writers inspire you?
Probably the fist author that meant anything to me in a meaningful way was Ernest Hemingway. I think his connection to Michigan, the world he writes about, particularly the Nick Adams stories, left a strong impression on me when I was young. In addition, Ray Bradbury’s short stories always blew me away, and his poetic prose has stayed with me. Lastly, I’ve been reading Stephen King forever, and while I didn’t know it at the time, I can see very clearly now that he made a huge mark on my way of thinking—perhaps most notably in the fact that this novel is about zombies. Since college, Soren Kierkegaard has shaped my philosophical and religious thinking, and his existentialist ideals resonate with me. This is demonstrated, in part, in this recent novel.
7. What is your favorite food, color, and ice cream flavor?
Favorite food is pie, and of course black coffee. The stronger the better. Favorite color is red, and favorite ice cream flavor is mint chocolate chip.
8. When you write, what is your drink of choice?
Strong black coffee to start with, and if I’m writing a long time, or at night, then mint or chamomile tea.
9. Tell us about your current books and future releases?
The novel I’m currently editing is called “I Am Zombie.” It follows a man who wakes up on morning, unexpectedly turned into a zombie. He goes on a journey to discover himself—who he was before he turned into a zombie, and who he needs to be now that he’s turned. I’m about a third though the first round of editing.
I’ve never had fiction published before, so this will be my first major attempt. I’ve got a few short stories submitted for contests, but my main focus is this novel right now.
10. How much control do you feel you have on the outcome of your story? Do you have complete control or are you along for the ride?
I waver on this, actually. I think both things are true, but as it turns out, this novel had more surprises to it than I had expected. In fact, I’m not sure it would have worked had the surprises not shown up. That being said, I think each writer has to do what they can. It’s like teaching—you plan your lesson, you know what you’re going to teach, where you want to go, and where you want to end up and how. But sometimes, life happens, a student has a good question, or whatever might be the case, and you have to improvise. Sometimes those improvisations make the class better, more meaningful. I liken good teaching, and perhaps good writing, to jazz. You have to know your scales, practice your stuff, but when the solo comes, you also have to let the mood, rhythm, and happy accidents lead you to places you didn’t know you could go. It’s a mystical thing, like losing control in a very structured way.
Adam Newman wakes up on a Saturday morning to find himself turned into a zombie. The thought disgusts him; it terrifies him. He tries to figure out a way to accept this new fate, as in doing so, discovers a secret. Far off into the woods, an experimental facility called the Hive is working on a plan to turn the zombies into an army. How far will Adam be willing to descend into its depths, and what will it mean for freedom, rights, and the future of all of his race? Ex-fiancee Felicity and a new acquaintance named Harmon complicate matters. How do you fight for your rights when you hate what you are?
About Josh Luukkonen
Josh Luukkonen is a writer living in Northern Ontario. He is a stay-at-home dad, taking care of his daughter when he isn’t working on his writing.
Josh is a trained high school teacher, and has worked in both the United States and the United Arab Emirates. While awaiting Canadian residency, he is able to spend more time writing.
Josh has written two novels, I Am Zombie (currently editing) and Give Up, along with short stories and poems.
In addition to teaching and writing, Josh plays music, and has been a drummer in numerous bands in his home state of Michigan in the USA. In addition, he has released a split e.p. with a friend of his, which can be downloaded on his Bandcamp site (jluukkonen.bandcamp.com).
Josh’s life-long dream has been to write, and now he is getting a chance to focus on it. He isn’t looking for fame or riches, but wants to see a work of his reach someone, make an impact, touch a life. “Even one person who is touched by art is something blessed and special.” He wants to make that impact on the world.
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