Joseph Lewis Tamone "I didn’t realize how much power language had until I was in college."
The writer talks about his series Philanthropy and his motivations and influences as an author.
I had the great pleasure of reviewing Fusion World last year from author Joseph Lewis Tamone. I remember reading the first fifty pages of the story and being captivated by the question “What is the Fusion World Project?” Now in the second book of the Philanthropy series, Shadow of The Demon we are getting a more in depth look at the characters and the continue epic story of this series.
I have had the great fortune of interviewing the author about the story and about writing in general.
Could you tell me a bit about your series, "Philanthropy?"
Philanthropy is the story of survival, and the means to survive is by working as a team and helping your fellow man. The whole idea of Philanthropy came about from ideals that I hold about the world. War begets war. Violence solves nothing, and only leads to reactionary violence. You take real-world examples, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand catalyzed Slavic nations from waging war against Austria-Hungary, which was the start of World War I. That war ended with the Treaty of Versailles, which placed the financial burden of the war on the backs of Germans. This resulted in the uprising of a particular political order in Germany, called the NSDAP, or the Nazi Party. The Nazis then went on to attempt to conquer Europe, resulting in World War II. World War II and the nuclear arms race led to the Civil War, which sparked the Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, 911, and every single armed conflict still ongoing.
War solves nothing. You can’t change the world through violence, but you can change the world through kindness, and humanitarianism, and empathy and compassion, and that’s sort of the message I wanted to send with Philanthropy. Although it’s a story of war, it’s also a story of accepting faults in your own system, accepting responsibility for the suffering of others, and doing your part to help ease that suffering. It’s a story of idealism and globalism and unity. About entire worlds, multiple worlds, coming together to better themselves as one complete faction.
What are your influences as a writer?
My wife is my biggest influence. I had stopped writing, and she convinced me to get back into it. She helped me come up with a plot, and wrote and designed multiple characters that are integral to Philanthropy. In Fusion World, her characters are Siren/Raven, and Rylie and Reece Mulloway. In Shadow of the Demon, she gave me the characters Turf Taldale, Bastion Sax, Jim Dobbs/Salazar, Coby Churchlin, Olizer and Shiva Wilder, and Vint Sawwood. She read a rough draft of Fusion World and forced me to work to get it published because she liked it so much. She’s the reason I sought a publisher, which led me straight to Erik Evans and Chandra Press.
My biggest influence for the Philanthropy saga is Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, a science fiction series that deals in parallel universes and time travel. I read through that series while I was in high school, and liked it so much that I decided to try my hand at writing a story of my own with some of the same elements.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I didn’t realize how much power language had until I was in college. My first semester, I was stuck taking prerequisite writing courses, and one of the classes had us writing papers every single week. I discovered then that I was pretty good with written language, which was comforting since I’ve always had trouble verbalizing language out loud.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I typically don’t research before beginning a book, but rather research while I’m writing. I’ll come up with an idea and just start writing, and then when I hit a roadblock, needing to write something that I have no knowledge of, then I’ll do some research.
“Your plan is to have five people sabotage an entire army?” – Fusion World
How was your writing process different between Fusion World, and Shadow of the Demon?
With Fusion World, I had to do a lot of world building and introductions. I also had to be
ambiguous enough in my writing to keep the majority of the story a secret right from the
start. The characters go through the story and discover things as the reader discovers
things. For Fusion World, I focused more on plot, and while I still tried to make each
character very personable with their own personal struggles to go through, it was more
so a story about the events going on, not necessarily about any particular character
With Shadow of the Demon, the majority of introductions and world building are already
out of the way. I built my foundation with Fusion World. Shadow of the Demon just adds
a layer on top of that, and this time, I slowed down the pace a little bit. The story focuses
more on personal struggles than it does on a particular plot. All returning characters
have things they’re going through. Marissia Tarria is suffering from severe PTSD from
the events of Fusion World. Edam Lavinski is remembering a bit more about himself,
and is understandably confused, so he retreats in isolation. Sajaelar Molaes takes up
more of a leadership position, whereas the previous leader of Philanthropy, Raemund
Kogan, takes a back seat. Marden Aswalde just got done fighting a lifelong war against
Colvac, only to find himself at war again, with the cancer growing in his own body,
festering from years of radiation exposure from the nuclear fallout on Vyndal. Siren
becomes sick, having her optical powers taken away. She was overpowered in Fusion
World, so to make her arc interesting in Shadow of the Demon, I took her down a peg,
bringing her to the brink of death.
The new world introduced in Shadow of the Demon was also a cakewalk to introduce,
since it’s a portion of California, only 50,000 years in the future. It was very easy to
intrude a new world when I had the template of an existing place to bounce ideas off of.
What was your hardest scene to write?
The chapter Gray Skies and Glass Lands from Fusion World was a very difficult scene to
write. The scene shows glimpses of Marden Aswalde’s past, and the purpose of this
scene was for Marden to begin to paint Cein Colvac as somebody without the interest of
the Vyndral people in mind. The purpose of the scene was for the Vyndral people to
reject Colvac and acknowledge Marden as their leader. In the scene, Marden tells the
truth about Colvac. Colvac killed his brother, is leading Vyndral down the same path as
Hernando Colvac. On top of that, we see things that happened over three years in the
past, all important information, that needs to be told is about ten pages.
Humor is always the easiest thing to write for me. I find life in general and the majority of
people to be funny, so a bit of levity comes very easy to me in my writing. I find that the
most difficult things for me to write are serious moments.
The romance between Siren and Vai was another difficult thing for me to write,
specifically because it was a serious moment. Vai is on the brink of death, poisoned by
one of Siren’s knives, and is about to travel through the Fusion World machine to shut
down the portal, but before he leaves, Siren has a heart to heart with him and tells him
how she feels. The serious moments mixed in with all the levity are very sincere and
written with a lot of heart.
If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
I would have read more classic literature when I really found my passion for books as a
teenager. I spent my time reading fantasy/science fiction novels. I enjoyed Dragonlance, His Dark Materials, and the works of Stephen King. Although I have no issue with any of these works, nor do I have an issue with the writings of Weis & Hickman, Philip Pullman, or Stephen King, I would have spent time reading more Dickens, Tolstoy, and Twain. Another thing I would have done differently would be my college education. When I entered college, I had no intention to actually publish anything, so instead of focusing on an English degree, I went into engineering. I have a degree in Environmental Engineering which I’ve never done anything with. It just seems like a waste.
I enjoyed the character Raven quite a bit. Is she based on anyone you know or any literary influences?
The first version of Fusion World that I wrote was when I was in 11 th grade, and it didn’t
include Siren. She wasn’t part of the story at all. I didn’t even create the character. She
was written by my wife, Erica. A few months after I met my wife, I found my old
handwritten copy of the Philanthropy trilogy that I wrote. I opened it up and started
rewriting it, and realized that something was missing. I had a lot of characters that all
seemed the same, so I needed help coming up with dynamic and interesting characters.
For that, I turned to Erica. Her idea for a character was a ninja assassin, who she based
off of the character Anko Mitarashi from the anime/manga Naruto. She based Siren’s
background, appearance, and skill set around Anko.
When I started writing the character, and giving her personality, I wanted to honor my
wife and her contributions to my book, so I based Siren’s personality on my wife’s
personality. On top of that, I wanted to be really cute in a very subtle way, so I wrote my
own personality into Siren’s romantic interest, Vai Kogan.
Finally, are you a reader? If, so what are you reading right now?
I spent most of my early adulthood reading science fiction, but I’ve been getting more
into classic literature. I just finished reading Lost Horizon by James Hilton, Uncle Tom’s
Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, and The Sea Wolf by Jack London. I’m currently
reading Twice-Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I haven’t read them since I was a
kid, and I’m glad to be revisiting them with a bit more perspective.
I’ve also been reading quite a bit of poetry by Robert Browning. Robert Browning’s poem
Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, which inspired Stephen King’s The Dark Tower;
one of my biggest influences. The poem was in the back of Dark Tower VII, so after that
book came out, I purchased a collection of his poetry. I found my copy recently and have
been reading through it. It’s interesting literature.
I’ve also wanted to start supporting my fellow Chandra Press authors, so I picked up a
copy of Mirrors by Sonya Deulina Williams. It’s very good. I’m planning on reviewing it
on my blog whenever I’m finished.