Joe Bonadonna is one the many friends I've made online who I wished I lived closer to so that we could spend the whole day just hanging out and talking about writing, books, movies and pop culture. Which would probably means that neither one of us would get much work done and thereby deprive you guys of a lotta good reading.
But interviewing him is the next best thing and here we are with another one. You can find previous interviews I've done with Joe HERE and HERE. And now, go on and enjoy this one!
Derrick Ferguson: What have you been up to since we last talked?
Joe Bonadonna: Let’s see now, quite a lot has happened in the last two or so years. I tried to get a sword and planet sequel to my space opera, Three Against The Stars completed, as well as a second “Mad Shadows” novel. But other things got in the way. First, in 2014 I wrote “Sinbad and The Golden Fleece,” which appears in SINBAD: THE NEW VOYAGES, VOL. 4, published by Ron Fortier and our good friends at Airship 27 Productions.
Then I wrote “We the Furious” and “Undertaker’s Holiday” (with author Shebat Legion) for POETS IN HELL, volume 18 in the long-running Heroes in Hell shared-universe series, created by author Janet Morris in 1986, first published by Baen Books and now published by her own Perseid Press. In 2015 I wrote two more novellas for Perseid Press: “Hell on a Technicality,” for DOCTORS IN HELL, volume 19 in the Heroes in Hell series, and “The Dragon’s Horde,” for HEROIKA: DRAGON EATERS, the first volume in Janet Morris’ new Heroic Fantasy anthology. Then I went back to working on my novels. However, I got sidetracked once again. In 2016 I wrote “The Pirates of Penance,” a very long novella for PIRATES IN HELL, volume 20 in the Heroes in Hell saga, which is set to be published sometime in early 2017. Then Shebat Legion and I wrote a quirky little tale called “Samuel Meant Well and the Little Black Cloud of the Apocalypse” for the next volume in author/publisher Michael H. Hanson’s shared-world series, SHA’DAA. Meanwhile, “To Save Hermesia,” a short story I wrote with Dave Smith, was accepted for a new sword and planet shared-universe called THE LOST EMPIRE OF SOL. 2016 also saw the publication of my humorous, modern-day Lovecraftian tale, “Queen of Toads,” which you can read for free at Black Gate Online Magazine. Somehow I managed to write another novella for LOVERS IN HELL, the 2018 volume in the Heroes in Hell series. (Hopefully, that will be accepted next year.) Miraculously, 2016 ended with the completion of two novels: The MechMen of Canis-9, (the sword and planet sequel to my space opera, Three Against The Stars) which has been accepted by Airship 27 Productions and will, hopefully, see the light of day sometime in 2017.
The second novel, Mad Shadows II: Dorgo the Dowser and The Order of the Serpent was recently published by me, with the help of the incredibly talented artist and author, Erika M Szabo, and her Golden Box Books Publishing Services. Not only did Erika design my cover and the interior look of the book, she turned my original, poorly self-drawn map of Dorgo’s world into a thing of beauty. She set up everything for me: paperback through CreateSpace, and Kindle through both Amazon and Smashwords. So a big shout and thank you to Erika, who came along like a Guardian Angel just when I needed one.
DF: You've published a new Dorgo The Dowser novel. Tell us about it.
JB: As mentioned above, the title is Mad Shadows II: Dorgo the Dowser and The Order of the Serpent. This time around, it’s more of a novel than its predecessor, Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, which consisted of 6 novellas. Old friends from the first book return, and we meet a few new friends, as well. This time around, Dorgo falls in love with a witch known as the Girl Who Loves Ghouls, battles creatures from another dimension, and meets one very special cat named Crystal. It’s also the first time he hears about an ancient death cult known as the Order of the Serpent. Then, after a young woman is murdered and a dangerous book of arcane lore is stolen from her, Dorgo comes closer to learning more about this secret Order. But first he must battle both humans and demons in order to find and destroy The Book of Echoes. Finally, Dorgo squares off against a horde of fiends born of dark sorcery when he tries to help a young girl who became trapped inside a powerful spell while attempting to destroy someone calling himself Ophidious Garloo. Racing against time, Dorgo the Dowser uses every trick he knows to uncover the secret identity and learn the True Name of Ophidious Garloo —who may very well be the deathless leader of the Order of the Serpent. The novel has all the magic, murder, mystery, monsters and mayhem you’d expect from a Dorgo the Dowser novel.
DF: Are we going to see more of Dorgo?
JB: I hope so. I have about half of a third novel in first-draft form, and if possible, I’d like to do a fourth book, but return to the type of picaresque novel I wrote first: six or seven separate novellas. Who knows? Only Time will tell.
DF: You've been keeping busy doing some editing work as well, I hear. What are the challenges of editing?
JB: Keeping my eyes open for typos, missing words, and such. I don’t do story editing: I may, on occasion, suggest that a sub-plot or story thread be placed here or played out there, but mostly I just spot-check for typos. I don’t consider myself a “real” editor, and I always suggest that authors find some professional editing service, if they can afford it.
DF: Did you find yourself using a different set of creative muscles editing?
JB: In a way, yes. Since my editing consists mostly of proofing, I have to keep my mind away from thinking: I’d write this scene differently, I’d play out this subplot in a different way, I’d add another character or take away an unnecessary character; I’d go in this or that direction; I’d kill off this character or that character, etc. I try not to think about how I would write the story, and I never suggest anything about plotting unless that is something I’m asked to do. I will give tips on things like giving every character his or her own voice and way of speaking, and I always tell people to watch certain movies by certain directors and screenwriters who were masters of dialog. I hate reading books where every line of dialog sounds like the stilted, all-too-unnatural, Biblical style you hear in many Cecil B. DeMille movies. Writers like James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Paul Cain, Chester Himes, Leigh Brackett, Cornell Woolrich, Elmore Leonard . . . these authors really knew how to write natural-sounding dialog.
DF: Think you'll do more editing in the future?
JB: Perhaps, if I’m not too busy at the time and a friend needs help with a short story. But I am not a professional editor, nor do I play one on TV. I really don’t like editing. Editing is not something I would do on a regular basis . . . not for love or money.
DF: Tell us about AZIERAN ADVENTURES PRESENTS ARTIFACTS AND RELICS: EXTREME SORCERY
JB: This is a shared-theme anthology, available only on Kindle right now, published by Heathen Oracle. The idea behind it was to come up with some “artifact or relic,” write a brief history of it, and then write a story around it. Azieran is the world author and publisher Christopher Heath created for his own stories of his mage-warriors, the Malkan Knights, and this was his brain-child. We were given total freedom to do what we wanted, with only two rules: use an artifact or relic as the story’s McGuffin, and make it pure sword and sorcery. Part two of my new Dorgo novel, “The Book of Echoes,” made its first appearance in this anthology, although for my novel it was greatly changed, revised and expanded. This anthology was published back in 2013, featuring stories by such authors as James Beamon, David J West, John M Whalen, and Christopher Heath, to name a few, and even a reprint of “The Mad Abbott of Puthuum,” by Clark Ashton Smith. It’s a pretty darn good anthology of sword and sorcery tales that needs more recognition.
DF: What keeps you motivated during creative slumps?
JB: Family, friends, old movies, and reading non-fiction books, such as biographies, film studies, and even doing a little research — especially for the Heroes in Hell series. Writing for this series requires a lot of reading up on real, historical characters, as well as characters from legend, mythology and pre-1900 fiction — provided we can find a link to a real personage. While my two main characters in Hell are Victor Frankenstein and Quasimodo, both of which are pre-1900 characters, I found links to real people. At the time Mary and Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron were traveling through Geneva, Switzerland, there lived a doctor and vivisectionist: Doctor Johann Conrad Dippel (August 10, 1673 – April 25, 1734) who was a German pietist theologian, alchemist and physician. Dippel was born at Castle Frankenstein near Mühltal and Darmstadt. He is often credited as being the inspiration for the infamous doctor we all know and love. As for Quasimodo . . . back in 2002 or 2003, workmen at Notre Dame Cathedral broke through a wall and discovered the bones of a hunchback, dating back to Victor Hugo’s time. There are some accounts that there was, at one time, a hunchbacked bell ringer at the cathedral, and that Hugo might have known him.
DF: What do you do with your free time when you're not writing?
JB: Due to health problems that have cropped up over the last few years — especially in 2016, which seems to have been a bad year for so many — I am now fairly limited to what I can physically do: no more helping out friends rehabbing houses and such. I spend a lot of time going to doctors and physical therapy. But I do spend time with family and childhood friends, many of whom I’ve known since around 1960. I do a little reading, but my mind tends to wander to what I’m working on or want to work on. I watch a lot of old movies, too, and by old I mean 1920s through 1950s. In the future I hope to spend as much time as possible in Arizona and Las Vegas during the winter months, going back and forth occasionally, and not officially returning to Chicago until May or June. Mostly, I take it easy, and discuss writing with a lot of young people I’ve met on Facebook.
DF: Tell us about your upcoming projects. Anything you're working on now that you can tell us about?
JB: Other than plotting and working on that third Dorgo novel, and taking notes for a possible horror novel, I may try my hand at something autobiographical. But the big thing planned for next year is to put out a second and revised edition, totally self-published with Erika M Szabo’s help, of Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, which will give me total control of pricing, giveaways and other things over which I currently do not have.
Derrick Ferguson: Drop some Words of Wisdom on all the young aspiring writers out there reading this and thirsting for your knowledge.
Joe Bonadonna: LOL!!! The Old Guy speaks, right? Well, I’m still learning. Every day I learn something new about writing and the publishing business. Some advice I would give is: read and know the genre you write in, but read beyond it, too. Read a bit of everything: true or fictional crime, history, romance, sci-fi, horror, erotica, espionage thrillers, biographies, etc. Read the novels of Bronte, Hugo, Verne, Wells, Austin, Dumas, Stevenson, and Poe. Read the great plays by Clifford Odets, Tennessee Williams and Lillian Hellman. I also suggest that writers read screenplays by the masters: Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, for example. Watch and study their films, as well as the films by people like Howard Hawks, Ernst Lubitsch, Fritz Lang, Raoul Walsh, and William Wellman, to name a few. Books like Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, and especially The Chicago Manual of Style should be on every writer’s desk; they have helped and taught me a lot.
Lastly, if any of your readers are interested, one of my stories from Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, called “The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” has been in the top ten list of fiction on Black Gate Magazine for almost six years now. You can read it for free, right here:
And if anyone would like to read a light-hearted horror story, they can read my “Queen of Toads,” also at Black Gate magazine:
I’d like to, if I may, give a shout-out to Erika M Szabo, in case anyone out there might be interested in her and Golden Box Publishing Services:
Once again, thank you very much, Derrick. I hope to be interviewing you fairly soon, too.