Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Andrew Joyce. Andrew left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn't return from his journey until years later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books.
His first novel, Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, was awarded the Editors' Choice Award for Best Western of 2013. A subsequent novel, Yellow Hair, received the Book of the Year award from Just Reviews and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 from Colleen's Book Reviews.
Andrew now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, Mahoney: An American Story.
Norm: Good day Andrew and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going?
Andrew: One morning, about seven years ago, I went crazy. I got out of bed, went downstairs, and threw my TV out the window. Then I sat down at the computer and wrote my first short story. And just for the hell of it, I threw it up on a writing site. A few months later, I was informed that it had been selected for publication in a print anthology of the best short stories of 2011. I even got paid for it. I’ve been writing ever since.
What keeps me going? Writing keeps me from going crazy.
Norm: Do you write to express something you believe in or is it just for entertainment? As a follow up, what do you think most characterizes your writing?
Andrew: I did write one book, Yellow Hair, for the express purpose of detailing the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from 1805 up to and including Wounded Knee in 1890. However, my other books—while historically correct—were written for pure entertainment, but my beliefs are sometimes found between the lines.
In my short stories, I write like I’m sitting next to you at a bar and you’re buying the drinks as long I keep you entertained with my stories. My novels, I think, are conventional in the fact that I want them to be page-turners. And according to the reviews I’ve received so far, I’ve somewhat succeeded.
Norm: What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
Andrew: I don’t get around much, so I don’t know what’s trending. I just write my stuff, edit my stuff (with a great editor), and market my stuff—like I’m doing here today, thanks to you.
Norm: What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far in your career?
Andrew: This is an easy one. I’ve received a few awards for my writing and even became a best-seller on Amazon (for a short time), but my biggest success is the fact that most of the people who read my books, like my books.
Norm: What has been your greatest challenge (professionally) that you’ve overcome in getting to where you’re at today?
Andrew: Getting an agent was the greatest challenge. It all started way back in 2011. My first book was a 164,000-word historical novel (Yellow Hair). And in the publishing world, anything over 80,000 words for a first-time author is heresy. Or so I was told time and time again when I approached an agent for representation. After two years of research and writing, and a year of trying to secure the services of an agent, I got angry. To be told that my efforts were meaningless was somewhat demoralizing to say the least. I mean, those rejections were coming from people who had never even read my book.
“So you want an 80,000-word novel?” I said to no one in particular, unless you count my dog, because he was the only one around at the time. Consequently, I decided to show them City Slickers that I could write an 80,000-word novel!
I had just finished reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for the third time, and I started thinking about what ever happened to those boys, Tom and Huck. They must have grown up, but then what? So I sat down at my computer, banged out Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in two months, then sent out query letters to agents.
Less than a month later, the chairman of one of the biggest agencies in New York City emailed me that he loved the story. We signed a contract and it was off to the races, or so I thought. But then the real fun began: the serious editing. Seven months later, I gave birth to Huck and Tom as adults in the Old West. And just for the record, the final word count was 79,914. The book went on to reach #1 status in its category on Amazon—twice. And it won the Editors’ Choice Award for best Western of 2013. The rest, as they say, is history.
Norm: What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
Andrew: I just tell stories. I had to learn some of the niceties of writing and learn a few of the rules, but I more or less just want to tell my story my way, and if a rule gets in the way, and it’s a rule that I can ignore, then I do so.
Norm: How many times in your career have you experienced rejection? How did they shape you?
Andrew: As I mentioned above, I was rejected every day, seven days a week, for one solid year while trying to get an agent. Nowadays, rejection is when I get a lousy review. It doesn’t happen that often, but it still hurts like hell.
Norm: What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
Andrew: Telling a good story.
Norm: It is said that if you want to write a good story or novel you need to create struggles of powerful descriptive individuals and not just issues. Through their accomplishments and travail, we very much comprehend the issues? Do you agree with this and why if so?
Andrew: I’m sorry, but I must repeat myself. I never think about things like that … I just tell stories.
Norm: How did you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula? Please describe your writing process.
Andrew: When I have an idea for a novel, I know the first sentence and the last paragraph (more or less). Then I sit down and start to tell the story. But the finished product is always different from what I set out to write. Sometimes I will take my characters to a place and they will rebel and take off on their own. Then I have no choice but to follow where they lead.
I prefer to write in the early morning hours when things are quiet. I usually get up around 2:00 a.m. and go to work. The commute is not long . . . only a few steps to my computer.
Norm: Are you working on any books/projects that you would like to share with us? (We would love to hear all about them!)
Andrew: Thanks for asking. First of all, I’d like everyone to know about my new book Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups, which I’m in the process of marketing. I’m also working on a novel that will detail three generations of Irish. Starting with the grandfather in 1849, a man from Ireland who immigrates to the United States and the story ends with the grandson in 1970. A lot of stuff happens in between, which I have yet to write.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your work?
Andrew: At MY WEBSITE:
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Andrew: I have done many interviews over the years. I really don’t like doing them because the questions tend to be all the same or just silly. But your questions were different and stimulating. So, I think I’ll leave well enough alone.
Norm: Thanks again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
Andrew: Thank you for having me over. It’s been a real pleasure.