DERRICK FERGUSON: Who is Joe Bonadonna?
JOE BONADONNA: Well, I'm a single guy pushing 61. I'm of Sicilian-Irish blood, with some Spanish (my paternal great grandmother was born in Spain), German, Scottish, Greek and, so I'm told by older relatives, Ethiopian blood going back hundreds of years when the Moors and Ethiopians were in Spain. Both sides of my family are doing the Ancestry. com thing, and we even have a private Facebook page. I live alone; my relationship with a woman I've known as a friend since 1976 came to an end in November, though we remain friends. Never been married, have no kids, no brothers, no sisters. I do have a rather large family of cousins, and a few aunts and uncles who are still living. I'm quite a chatterbox and a sense of humor helps me survive.
DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the government you do for a living?
JB: I was born, bred and still live in Chicago. The IRS knows that in 2010 I was "forced" into early retirement when the pharmaceutical chain I worked for since 1978 closed their three main warehouses in my area. I've pretty much been writing articles for Black Gate magazine's website, blogging a little, writing my stories and networking ever since. I'm looking for part-time work, but have resigned myself to the fact that I may not find a job. So I'm riding it out best I can until January 2014, when I turned 62. Hopefully there will be some social security left. Do you think they'll give me all the money I put into it since 1969 -- right now? No? I didn't think so.
DF: How long have you been writing?
JB: I've been writing, off and on, since grade school. I wrote my first "story" in 5th grade, about 1962-63. It was a sequel to "Nightmare," an episode of the original THE OUTER LIMITS. I later wrote a play I had hoped to "produce and direct" in my parents' basement. It was called "The Return of the Greatest Monster Ever," a sequel to FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN. In high school I wrote a sequel to JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS that I called "The Glass Impala." After that I wrote poems, songs and song lyrics, dabbled in fiction, etc. In 1983 I wrote a screenplay based on my job, and between 1997 and 2001 I wrote and co-authored 5 screenplays, none of which sold. I was a board member of the Chicago Screenwriter's Network, from about 1998 to 2002
DF: From your blog I gather that you’re a major Sword and Sorcery/Heroic Fantasy fan. When did you discover the genre?
JB: I discovered sword and sorcery (and heroic fantasy) in 1970, quite by accident. In 1969 a guy who sat next to me in high school physics turned me on to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. A year later, while looking for more of the same, I stumbled across copies of deCamp's THE TRITONIAN RING, and Leiber's THE SWORDS OF LANKHMAR in a used bookstore. I bought them because they looked interesting. The Ballantine Books Adult Fantasy Series got me hooked. And then I discovered Robert E. Howard.
DF: MAD SHADOWS is one of the best reviewed New Pulp books to be published recently. You describe it as gothic noir. I’ve also heard it called “hard-boiled fantasy” Tell us about it.
JB: MAD SHADOWS: THE WEIRD TALES OF DORGO THE DOWSER . . . ah, I do call it "gothic noir." Don't ask why, lol! I like the sound of it. It's sword and sorcery with a film noir edge. Adding elements of film noir from the 1940s and 1950s, the old "Black Mask" type of story, and Warner Brothers gangster flicks of the 1930s were my inspirations. I wanted to attempt something different with my sword and sorcery.
DF: How did the character of Dorgo The Dowser develop?
JB: Dorgo the Dowser came about after watching THE MALTESE FALCON on television back in 1978. He just popped into my head, as Robert E. Howard said of Conan. Then I saw a TV Guide listing for the old GORGO monster film of the 1960s, and I just changed the "G" to a "D" and there you go! At that time all I knew about "dowsing" was that it was about searching for water -- "digging" for it, so to speak, as Sam Spade dug for clues. A rerun of the old THE RIFLEMAN television show, wherein an old dowser was trying to find water, gave me the idea to add a nickname to Dorgo. Hence, Dowser. It was a last-minute bit of inspiration in 2008 that gave me the idea of having Dorgo use a dowsing rod as a "magical, investigative tool." I had NO idea until shortly before MAD SHADOWS was published that dowsing rods are also metaphysical tools: there are many types of dowsing rods, and each has its own use.
DF: Tell us about your future plans for the character.
JB: Ah, Dorgo's future. Let's see. . . . I have written 3 new tales of Dorgo the Dowser. I hope to keep writing his tales until I feel his time has passed, until I feel that his stories do not live up to what I accomplished in MAD SHADOWS. Haven't thought much about his "arc," but I have made him a bit tougher, a little more "hard-boiled." Because the stories (except for one thus far) are written in first person, I try to have the tales revolve around a main character who goes through changes, so to speak, with Dorgo as the narrator. These are his adventures, but since I don't really write the lone wolf or "barbarian solo" type of thing, I like to feature other characters: I like dialog with my action, human drama and interaction. I also like working in the 15-K to 25-K novella arena, and I may or may not write a full novel about him. I do, however, have one idea in mind starring Dorgo and some of his recurring cast of characters. This would be a sort of SEVEN SAMURAI and THE WILD BUNCH sort of tale. Dorgo's swan song? Who knows. I don't.
DF: Anything else in the works that we should know about and be on the lookout for?
JB: As far as my upcoming projects are concerned: I have a space opera, THREE AGAINST THE STARS, coming out later this year or early next year from Airship27 Productions. A new tale of Dorgo the Dowser, a novella titled "The Order of the Serpent," will be published by Weird Tales, on the PDF version of their magazine, sometime in 2013, I believe. Another Dorgo tale, "The Book of Echoes," will be published next year in Heathen Oracle's eBook anthology, ARTIFACTS AND RELICS. A third tale of Dorgo, "The Girl Who Loved Ghouls," has yet to find a home; I tend to write "long," in the novella format, and this often works against me, lol! My first sword and soul story, "The Blood of the Lion," will be appear in 2013, I believe, in the second GRIOTS anthology, GRIOTS 2: SISTERS OF THE SPEAR.
I'm just finishing up a sword and sorcery pirate novel, WATERS OF DARKNESS, that I'm writing with David C. Smith, based on an idea of his. Dave has been writing and publishing since about 1978. He is the author of ORON, THE FALL OF THE FIRST WORLD TRILOGY, SEASONS OF THE MOON, CALL OF SHADOWS, and the upcoming DARK MUSE. Our good friend, Charles Saunders, "introduced" us back in 1977. Dave and I are also working on a sword and planet story, "To Save Hermesia," for a shared world anthology. I have at least three more Dorgo stories planned, and hope to write. Beyond that, the future is wide open.
DF: You’ve also got a musical background. Tell us about that.
JB: My musical "career" began when I took my first guitar lesson in October of 1964, about 8 months after The Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. My folks' basement and garage were the entertainment centers in my old neighborhood. I played in bands, wrote lyrics and songs for the next 20 years, while writing fiction on the side. I was a very, very minor barstar on the local music scene here in Chicago. In 1984 I hung up the guitar and concentrated solely on writing sword and sorcery, with occasional excursions into whimsical fantasy, horror, and screenplays. Arthritis in both hands makes it difficult and painful for me to play guitar nowadays, so I rarely touch my "six-string razor." While I miss being up on stage, I don't miss the work involved in rehearsing and traveling. But standing on stage . . . that's pure fun, pure joy.
DF: What’s your thoughts on New Pulp?
JB: I've always said of myself: "I'm a pulp fiction author. I write pulp fiction." There are some comments about pulp fiction in MAD SHADOWS, and a discussion of my influences in the Afterword of the book. I've always loved pulp fiction, even before I knew the term. That's pretty much what I first started reading in the science fiction, fantasy and horror magazines: Analog, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Astounding, Ellery Queen, etc. I really wasn't aware of New Pulp until 2011, when I went to my first Windy City Pulp and Paperback Book Convention with Dave Smith. This is where kismet plays into the picture: A friend took me over to the Airship27 table to show me some books. I got to talking with Ron Fortier and Rob Davis, and learned we had a mutual friend in Charles Saunders; he's at the center of everything!!! As it turns out, Ron was a member of the same writer's group that Charles and I belonged to back in the 1970s, SPWAO, the Small Press Writers' and Artists' Organization. Well, one thing led to another . . . Dave Smith published CALL OF SHADOWS thru Airship27, my space opera THREE AGAINST THE STARS will be published by Airship27, and all sorts of connections were made.
I embrace New Pulp -- it's a breath of fresh, and yet familiar air in this heavily-competitive world of writing and publishing. There are literally scores of excellent writers involved in this, as well a a large number of great pulp houses. A variety of "genres" that you won't find in bookstores. Incredible amount of new and old pulp fiction characters. I've made many new friends through New Pulp, and have become a part of a number of fun and informative Facebook Groups. I am proud and happy to be associated with New Pulp and all the writers, artists and publishers I have met through friends and Facebook. To some it all up: Pulpae fabula victa!
DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Joe Bonadonna like?
JB: A day in my life is pretty dull and routine. I wake up, make coffee, check my emails and Facebook pages, write, read, dinner, television or hanging out with friends. I manage to get a few hours of sleep, too. That's about it, Oh, there are a few other things, but they're of no real interest to most people. Writing and networking are very lonely "professions," especially when you live alone. I should get a cat.
DERRICK FERGUSON: Anything else we should know about Joe Bonadonna?
JOE BONADONNA: I'm pretty much a domestic "housecat." I tend to keep to myself, though I get together quite a lot with friends. I have been getting back in touch and seeing a lot of my childhood friends -- many of them I've known since kindergarten 1957/1958. This Facebook thing is great for things like that, too. I'm really having one of the best times of my life right now. I'm truly blessed.
Joe Bonadonna, author of Mad Shadows: The Weird Adventures of Dorgo the Dowser, a collection of sword and sorcery tales. You can order it from: www.iuniverse.com, and Amazon.com at: www.amazon.com/mad-shadows-weird-tales-dowser/dp/1450276156
Also available from the Book Depository at:
Visit my Blog at www.dorgoland.blogspot.com You can find me on Facebook and Google+, and visit my Google Profile. I can also be found on YouTube. Just Google: "Joe Bonadonna sword and sorcery." It's a 6-part talkfest on fantasy and publishing.
Coming soon, from Airship27 Productions: Three Against The Stars, my new space opera: old-fashioned adventure in the grand tradition of Henry Kuttner and Edmond Hamilton.