Joseph Nassise, the author of Eyes to See, agreed to let me interview him for our blog. Nassise is the author of over twenty novels including the best selling Templar Chronicles. His work (notably his first novel, Riverwatch) has been nominated for several awards. He has also worked in both comics and role playing games.
Shauna Kosoris: Many of us here at the library loved the premise of Eyes to See. What inspired you to write it?
Joseph Nassise: Most of my books start out with an image and very little else and Eyes was no different. I could see a picture in my head of a man holding the hand of a little girl. I was behind them and could only see their backs, but as I came around to face them I realized two things – the man was blind and the girl was a ghost. That single image set me off on the trail of the story itself and what emerged from that search was Jeremiah Hunt, Whisper and Scream, and the rest of Eyes to See.
SK: That image really is powerful – it seemed to characterize the whole book. I found your ghost characters quite fascinating, particularly Whisper and Scream. What was your inspiration for them?
JN: Whisper came through in that original image; she just needed a little fleshing out. Scream developed as the result of creating Whisper. It seemed odd to me that a young girl, ghost or not, would be alone in a world that was so obviously dark and deadly. Whisper needed a protector, someone to watch over her. That’s how the character of Scream began and the history that connects them developed out of that key relationship.
SK: What was the hardest part of writing Eyes to See?
JN: The hardest part was constantly reminding myself that Jeremiah could only see certain things in certain situations. I’d write an entire scene before realizing that it was impossible because Jeremiah was standing in the light or he couldn’t reach Whisper to borrow her sight, etc. While difficult, it also made the book professionally challenging which I appreciated. It is always nice to stretch your talents to see how far they will go and I was pleased with the end result.
SK: I’d like to talk about some of your other work, too. I know you wrote some of the books in the Rogue Angel series. What was it like writing in a shared universe?
JN: I truly enjoy working on the Rogue Angel series and I’ll be doing three more books for them this year as well. Writing in a shared universe is interesting. Normally, you have a lot of continuity issues to worry about, making certain that you’ve built on the story line from previous books without going too far out on a tangent. The Rogue Angel books are a bit different, in that each and every volume is written to be a stand-alone work that allows the series to be read in any order. That means you can’t refer too closely to any previous incidents or characters from other books in the series. It also means that you have to provide enough information for new readers to understand what’s going on (like the mystical sword Annja Creed carries and just what it can do) without boring long-time readers of the series at the same time. It can be tricky but fun at the same time.
SK: What can you tell me about your newest series, the Great Undead War?
JN: The Great Undead War is an alternate history novel set during World War One, Rather than inventing mustard gas, as the real Germans did in 1917, the Germans in my series invent corpse gas, bringing the dead back to life on the battlefield as zombies. It combines the action of movies like Where Eagles Dare and The Dirty Dozen (except in WWI) with a steampunk setting in a slightly altered Europe. In the first book, By the Blood of Heroes, Major Mike “madman” Burke and his team of misfits are sent behind enemy lines to try and rescue an American pilot who is vital to the war effort.
Book two, On Her Majesty’s Behalf, will be out later this year from HarperVoyager. I’ve also written a prequel story, “The Sharp End,” that dives into the relationship between two central characters and tells of the introduction of corpse gas to the war.
SK: What was your favourite series that you’ve written (thus far) and why?
JN: While I once swore that I’d never write a zombie series, I’ve been having quite a bit of fun with The Great Undead War series and I hope HarperVoyager continues them for several more books into the future.
SK: Why did you swear you’d never write about zombies?
JN: In the months just before I came up with the idea for the Great Undead War series, it seemed like everyone and their mother’s uncle was jumping on the zombie bandwagon. Zombie books were everywhere and I didn’t want to be just another voice in the crowd. Zombies as a character class (for lack of better terms) just didn’t interest me all that much.
SK: That’s understandable. What changed your mind?
JN: What changed my mind was when the concept for the Great Undead War jumped fully formed into my head. I was reading about the first use of mustard gas on the battlefield at Ypres in 1917 and had the sudden thought – What if the gas had resurrected the dead instead of killing the living? That one question led me down the trail that would eventually culminate in the setting for the Great Undead War. By then I was hooked – I had found a concept that I wanted to write. Yes, it included zombies, but it also could just as easily have been classified as alternate history or steampunk or even military action-adventure. It has, in fact, been labeled all those things. So, despite my earlier vow, I ended up writing not just one but two zombie books and hope to write more!
SK: I see that you’ve also written for comics and role playing games. What was it like working in these other media?
JN: I tend to credit role-playing games as being the basis for my storytelling ability, so being able to work in that arena was like coming home again. I’d love to do more work there in the future if time permits. The same holds true for comics – since I “see” most of my stories in my head like a movie before writing them, the task of translating those to images on the page is an intriguing one for me. I’ve done one six issue mini-series and graphic novel (Candice Crow) with Arcana Comics in Canada and would love to bring some of my other properties to that medium as well.
SK: TBPL Off the Shelf is a blog largely dedicated to reading. So to finish off, I’d like to ask you a few questions about what you read. What book or author inspired you to write?
SK: Is there a book or author that you think everyone should read?
JN: I think John Connolly is writing some of the most interesting supernatural thrillers around today and would urge people to pick up the first book in his Charlie Parker series, Every Dead Thing.
SK: And what are you currently reading?
JN: I tend to read several books at once. Right now I’m reading T. Jefferson Parker’s The Renegades, Lee Child’s Never Go Back, Devon Monk’s Dead Iron, and the manuscript of the forthcoming Grunt Life by Weston Ochse.
For more on Joe, try: http://josephnassise.com/