Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Interview: Joseph Franciosa Jr.

I now present to you my interview with Joseph Franciosa Jr., co-author of Young Adolf.  Enjoy:

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

A professor once told me it is more difficult to say a little than it is to say a lot. My interests are varied, ranging from writing and playing various instruments, to hiking and canoeing, to religiously following my beloved Boston sports teams. Don’t get me started on video games. Injury (and perhaps now age) may have betrayed my competitive spirit on a baseball field, a wrestling mat, or a volleyball court, but online is a whole different game. I have always loved reading. My family comes before all of these things, and my friends just after that. When it comes to writing, I try to work on my novel daily, there are days however that I devote to poetry. Every now and then a dream or circumstance will prompt me to write a short story.

How did you meet Frank P. Daversa?

I was fairly fresh out of college with a B.A. in English. Job prospects for that degree were less than plentiful, so I turned my talents to the freelance market. After a few weeks of perusing various websites, I finally settled into GoFreelance.com. It was there I first made contact with Frank. His story proposal piqued my interest for several reasons I will detail later. After submitting a bid and offering my portfolio to Frank, he decided to share his synopsis of the story with me. The rest was…well it was a job. This is not to say the fact that it was a “job” prevented me from enjoying my work.

What got you interested in alternate history?

My father can take that credit. He once read a book entitled “Sharpe’s Eagle” by Bernard Cornwell. Yes, the same Sharpe that was made into a BBC television series and the same Cornwell who in my eyes is the Lord and Master of the Historical Fiction genre. I devoured the book in a few nights, and soon the 20+ Sharpe books in the series found their way into a collection that has continued with nearly all of Cornwell’s work. Every year I try to find a new Cornwell novel for my father’s Christmas present. Thankfully, Cornwell continues to produce incredible works that Dad will let me read when he’s finished. So Historical Fiction gave way to Alternate History. After all, who hasn’t asked “What if…?”

What are some of your favorite "what ifs?"

What if the British won the Revolutionary war? Would the United States of Britain welcome immigrants of all types? Would Victorian ethics have prevailed across this nation? What would the slave trade have been like? Would there have still been a Civil war? Would the North still have won? What does that do to World War I, or World War II? I could spend a decade writing books trying to explore those questions and that only starts in 1776…What if Rome never conquered Britain to begin with? What if mankind never decided to group itself by nation? How about sports? The ball is caught by Bill Buckner, the Sox win the Series in ‘86 and 2004’s miracle comeback from being down 0-3 to the Yankees is mildly less dramatic because it hasn’t been 86 years since the last World Series win. What if in 2007,(sorry for this one Frank, but I couldn’t resist) Ref’s do their job and blow the play dead when Eli Manning is in the grasp of Richard Seymour and several other Patriots amidst the Giant’s collapsing pocket . David Tyree never makes a bubblegum catch on his helmet and the Patriots go on to win their 4th Super Bowl of the millennia. Spygate is revealed to be nothing more than an attempt by a certain Boston Heralding newspaper to create controversial headlines to save their sales figures. I should apologize, I’m turning “What if” into “What ought to have been”…

What is your novel Young Adolf about?

“The novel revisits Adolf Hitler's childhood as an exercise in developmental psychology: can an early romance overcome the domestic challenges of young Adolf's life? The story juxtaposes the real-life childhood of Hitler with a fictional female character two years his senior. The two hit it off and eventually fall in love, until a catastrophic event separates them forever. The story ends by asking the reader, "Was young Adolf's love for her strong enough to change his personality for the better—and thus alter the course of History?” But you can see that on our website www.YoungAdolf.com.

I would be cheating this interview if I were to leave things at that. The novel is about Adolf Hitler. It is about humanity, and perception, and pride, and ignorance. It is about Love, and friendship. But mostly, it is about Love. Yes, that deserved being mentioned twice. It may be difficult for readers to detach Adolf the Adult from Young Adolf, but it is a worthwhile exercise. Beneath Adolf’s stereotypes there was a real boy, who really grew up in a challenging domestic situation. He had real ambitions and well-documented desires that had nothing to do with the events of World War II. He was like any number of children, hoping to pursue his dreams of being an artist. That much was rather easy to relate to, really.

What inspired you to write the novel with Frank?

One of my largest motivations was a desire to prove my versatility. I had written manuscripts for epic Fantasy, Historical romance, countless short stories, essays, and poems, but those were either published by Suffolk University, or were sitting on my hard drive. This was my first opportunity to professionally prove my talents. Once I met Frank and understood his passion for this story, seeing his dream help fulfill my own was all the inspiration I needed. I told him from the start, “This is your book.” I am glad he is pleased with the work.

How did you and Frank split the responsibilities on producing the novel?

Frank provided me with a brief synopsis for the story. I then spent several months on preliminary research before I began producing drafts of each chapter. Frank would both edit those drafts and add insightful ideas for both the plot and character developments. Frank was entirely responsible for acquiring a publisher and an editor for the work. Frank also controls the marketing of the work.

What sources did you use when researching for the novel?

There were countless sources. I researched everything from grape varietals growing in the German-Austrian climates of the time just so Alois could complain about his wine having turned, to Wagner’s operas, to the history of the Waltz. Really, the entire work was a learning experience. I ended up writing a great deal of the book while listening to the various operas Adolf would have had access to at the time. I read August Kubizek’s somewhat questionable accounts of his friendship with Adolf. I read Adolf’s own words on the matter. I researched Adolf’s report cards, his teacher’s impressions of him as both a student and a person. Really, my job was as much about connecting the dots as it was creatively filling what voids I came across.

How did you come up with the title?

Well my first bad idea was to simply call the book “Adolf” hoping that alone would be enough to jar the reader into recognizing the book was about his childhood, since most people react to “Hitler” much differently. Frank then suggested adding the alternate history, but that still did not sound quite right. Eventually one of us thought to add “Young” and we settled on “Young Adolf: An Alternate History” I don’t recall who thought of that exactly, but as I said earlier, this is Frank’s book. The credit goes to him.

Who designed the cover?

Frank designed the cover exclusively, though he was generous enough to consider my thoughts before settling on what we have. You might be surprised to hear how many times I asked if we could leave the oldest image of Adolf off the cover, simply because I feared people would see “Hitler” rather than “Young Adolf”… All things considered, I’m pleased with how it came out.

Care to speculate on how your alternate Adolf Hitler's life would have turned out?

For this answer I defer to Frank, who said: “I project that Adolf would have pursued essentially the same path he did in real life, with the exception he would not be as guilty of letting his ego get in the way of his critical decisions. For example, he probably would still have interred Jews, but I don’t think he would have been guilty of genocide. He would have used better judgment in invading Russia, namely not doing so during the winter, which led to his defeat there originally. I believe he could have had the capacity to ultimately conquer Russia and Africa, but not the US. I believe he would have had more success initially because he would have demonstrated more patience and temperance than the real Adolf. Despite these victories, I believe he would have ultimately been defeated in the end by the US and internal resistance forces. I believe he would have married Eva Braun sooner than he did, and possibly had children by her.”

Do you have any other projects you are working on?

For over a decade now I’ve been creating the mythos for my Fantasy series tentatively titled “Chronicles of the Akinaur”…the first book in the series “The Mauglir’s Desire” I hope to begin publishing in 2013. I’ve re-written that novel at least three times since I first ignored High School lectures to instead write in my old red notebook. I likely owe some good teachers an apology for that at some point.

What is your fantasy series about?

The main trilogy of the series spans the life of Ruindil Akinaur, a Laurn elf exiled by his people in his youth for fear of his unique nature. The first book records his rise from being an outcast to being praised as the savior of The’Ar. The mythos begins with the Mauglir’s creation of The’Ar (Earth, a bit out of order). Various races, cultures, and religions are shaped and explored. There are detailed descriptions of elven forests and dwarven palace-fortresses, of vast plains and terrible mountains. It is a series about perspectives, of freedom, and free will, and the very definitions of life. The first book, “The Mauglir’s Desire” looks at life through the seasoned eyes of Fargon Aldaurin, the passionate eyes of Ruindil Akinaur, and the fanatical eyes of Kaurtav Taurmacar. Oh, and the Mauglir, of course, whose eyes are obsession.

The second book explores an escape from the reality of The’Ar itself, and themes from the first book propound a broader perspective of existence not only in a universe, but a multiverse. Ruindil continues his struggle against the Mauglir, gaining as many new allies as he does enemies along the way. There is an epic battle for the Flame Imperishable and more than just my own mythos is put at risk. The collaboration of several dear friends own storylines are enfolded within my own, providing a kaleidoscope of perspectives for the reader to associate with. The third book in Ruin’s trilogy then narrows the perspective again. Ruindil is forced to deal with just what “Imperishable” means, and the other responsibilities associated with the various titles and honorifics he has earned or otherwise adopted throughout the Ages. It again focuses as much on what it is to be human as it provides a perspective on what it is to be regarded as a god. Beyond that, it is an Epic tale in every sense of the term.

Other books in the series will explore the stories of minor characters from the first three books in greater detail, ultimately providing multiple perspectives of the same time line. It is an ambitious project, but I am roughly a decade into it, and the stories only gain clarity as I age. I hope to begin sharing them with the world next year.

What are you reading now?

I’m one of those people who read one book in their car, one book on the couch, one book on my laptop, one book on the kindle app for my phone, and another book for bed. In my car is currently Raymond E. Feist’s “Into a Dark Realm”…next to the couch is…a Sports Illustrated…I guess I’m slacking there. I just finished Charles Dickens’ “Dombey & Son” so a brief respite was earned I think. My phone is currently trying to tackle (and you are going to laugh at this) Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” more so I can see what sort of punishment my eyes can handle and how long it will take to read on my phone. I did some calculations the other night and at my current pace it will take another 76 days. My Laptop is holding Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” …mostly because I was mad at myself for forgetting the Tragedy when I saw there was a new movie being made of it. Lastly, next to my bed I’ve decided to take another turn on the “Wheel of Time” series by Robert Jordan. I’m just about finished with “The Path of Daggers” which I am enjoying even more on this second time around. Next up will be Cornwell’s “Agincourt”. That’s going to replace the Sports Illustrated next to the couch, as soon as I’m done reading about “Lin-sanity”.

Any advice for would be authors?

Frank says “Be passionate toward what you write.”

I will take that a step further and recommend that you learn to temper your passion until it is dedication. The day I knew I would be a writer was the day I turned down going to a party to instead stay in and finish the first draft of chapter 10 in “The Mauglir’s Desire”… That does not mean I did not go out and party the next night, but that chapter just needed to be finished. When the Muse visits, be hospitable and accommodate her every need. Make sure she leaves feeling like she wants to come back- Like she needs to come back. I could make an analogy between writing and Love right about now…

If you seriously want to write, write every day. Write as much as you can, for as a long as you can. Don’t worry about whether it is good or not, there are plenty of people to do that for you. Your job is to write. Eventually, you will come to understand that good writing is good thinking. Learn all you can, the more you know, the better your thoughts will be. You never know when the most obscure fact will be perfect for this character, or that setting.

Oh, and read. A lot.

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Those interested in learning more about Young Adolf can read War Blogger's review.

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