An Interview with Joseph Foti
To start this off, why don't you give an idea of what the book is about?
The Carrot and the Mule, is a contemporary fiction novel, which details the dangers of racism, sexism, domestic violence and toxic relationship's. It was written to be a book that makes a difference and should prove helpful not only to battered women but all members of our society seeking happy relationships and happiness itself. Overcoming toxic and manipulative relationships are covered in depth in the novel, along with the dangers of materialism and need for self-empowerment,
The Protagonist is a young law student named Roger who survived an abusive childhood to make it to law school where he falls in love with Sara, a seemingly good and pure fellow student who also suffers from childhood maladies. What follows is a thrill ride of betrayal, lust, greed, murder and suicide as Roger tries to protect Sara and himself from a bevy of characters that seemingly block their way to happiness. What makes this novel unique is its concentration on the consequences of making the supposed moral choice. A brief hint; choosing the moral path does not always lead to happily ever after. Although parts of the novel deal with the darkest of human emotions, from feelings of emptiness to complete failure, the overall message is extremely uplifting. It demonstrates that no matter
how far we may seem to fall as long as there is life, there is hope and a chance for redemption. In the end, it is always up to the individual to choose. To read a sample chapter visits my website www.hometown.aol.com/jfotibooks
Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life?
I was born and raised in New York City. Reading was a part of my life from the beginning as my Father, Mother and Grandmother read to me nightly as a young child. It was my Uncle Peter who introduced me to Edgar Allen Poe by giving me a collection of his work for my sixth birthday, which opened my eyes to a completely new frame of thought.
Who were your earliest influences and why?
Writing wise my earliest influences were Poe, and Agatha Christie whom my Grandmother was a big fan of.
What would a typical day be like for a writer?
A typical day is waking up early so I can write before I go to work. I find my best work is done early in the morning. Ill spend the train-ride to work reading the newspaper and going over my writings. Upon arriving home Ill work on revising my newest novel, promoting my short stories and cooking dinner for my wife and 1-year-old son.
How long have you been writing and in what capacities?
I started writing short stories and poems in grammar school. My first comprehensive short stories came in high school. In college I became a published poet and also wrote for the school newspaper. It was at St. Francis where my fiction began to blossom as my stories and poems were routinely on page one of the literary magazine.
Which is more difficult to write - Fiction or nonfiction and why?
To me it isnt a question of difficulty but of passion. I am more passionate about writing fiction as compared to legal briefs, which are highly structured. While nonfiction requires documentation and citation, fiction relies on personal experience, your citations are your eyes and ears, your footnotes your memories which is unacceptable for nonfiction. That said writing nonfiction could be fulfilling as well which I found out while writing my senior College Thesis, Cuba A Marxist revolution?
Has there ever been a time when you wanted to throw in the towel and give up? And if so, how did you defeat those instincts?
Quitting has never been a part of my nature from a young boy playing baseball to my legal and writing career I always see things through to the end, fearful of wondering what If. Before finding a publisher for my novel The Carrot and the Mule, which now has received international praise and reviews, I was turned down many times by publishers and literary agents. Most disappointing was a publisher where the reader liked my work, asked to see the entire manuscript, raved about it and had it put to a vote where it received a 80% approval rating two votes short of the ninety required. This setback only made me try harder and a year later I found my publisher. Also some of my short stories had been rejected several times only to find a home in several prestigious literary magazines.
What is the hardest part about being a writer?
The lack of security. Unlike a 9-5 job until a manuscript finds a home you make no money and receive little encouragement. It is these times when you must perceiver realizing the overall goal is to write interesting and mind-numbing tales that entertain while forcing the reader to take a deeper look at their own decisions.
Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?
I enjoy nature and spend many a moment wandering Central Park or sitting in Battery Park or the Brooklyn Heights Promenade staring out at the water. Many of my story ideas have come to me in this tranquil setting. I also love baseball, a rich game that often mirrors life in that no matter how many times you may err in the end you can still come out the hero. Many ideas have come to me while watching the Mets.
Articles and media alike make it sound as though the only way to rise to the top is to sacrifice. What do you find to be good sacrifices?
The biggest sacrifice is time. Writing and revising books and short stories means sacrificing two hours sleep and waking up at 4:30am to work on the next chapter or revise the last. It means skipping a movie to revise chapters and send promotional letters to magazines and newspaper. Monetarily it means copying your manuscript and mailing it out a simple task, which could become quite costly. All of this however is necessary to the goal of completing an interesting and exciting book or story, an accomplishment well worth the sacrifice.
What question do you get asked more than any other?
By far the most frequent question is how did you find a publisher. I answer by explaining the writing process, the query letters, the manuscript submission, the rejections and the final acceptance.
Whats the coolest thing a reader has said to you?
I once had a reader come up to me at a signing and say that she had read my book The Carrot and the Mule, which details domestic violence and toxic relationships in its characters and it made her realize that her life very much mirrored that of April a character in the book who searches for value in the arms of a man and is constantly used and left with nothing in that her boyfriend for six month spent her money, used her for sex, and disappeared for weeks at a time. She said she had been afraid of leaving him because she couldnt take being alone, however not wanting to wind up like April she ended the relationship, went into counseling and was taking night classes in communications at a local college.
This made me feel wonderful because my main goal as a writer is to tell an interesting and exciting story that also forces the reader to think. Through this womans feedback, I know I accomplished that goal with my novel The Carrot and the Mule.
What has been your feedback from readers? What do they say to you about their interpretations of your book?
The vast majority of readers have given me positive feedback, the best case being the woman I described above. The main theme I constantly hear from readers is that they like the way I paint a picture which helped to make the book a fast and enjoyable read. This I contribute to the fact that I revised my novel for three years after writing the first draft to make sure every sentence had meaning and forwarded the plot.
Do you think that as a writer you are more prone to watching what goes on around you and observing behaviors than most people are?
My personality has always been that of a watcher in that Ill spend hours sitting out in the park looking at the trees, the ocean, boats on the water and the people walking by. Its helpful as a writer because while observing someone Ill often exercise my imagination and think what would happen if he said something or she did something and the next thing I know Ive turned two people innocently walking by into complex characters in my next book or story
Who are some of the authors you consider to be "don't miss"?
The three most influential writers to me are; Edgar Allan Poe (poems and short
stories), Fyodor Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment), and Daphne du Maurier
(Rebecca) The thoughts their stories stir in my mind have not been forgotten and all of their books are cant miss. Steven King has to be my favorite living author in that his stories delve into the darkest regions of his imaginations revealing his worst fears something, which cannot be taught. I also find Frank McCourts introspective style to be very interesting.
If one were looking to start his/her own career as a writer, what would you suggest his/her first step to be?
Find a story you are driven to tell and write it. Do not let naysayer discourage you and above all be true to yourself. Do not hurry your work or submit something
you are not happy with. Write because you love writing not expecting to make millions.
What kind of movies do you enjoy?
I enjoy dramas based on literature, for example watching Rebecca or the numerous versions of Great Expectations or Othello. I always look forward to watching A Christmas Carol, during the holidays, however I prefer the versions closest to the book version.
That said Im a huge James Bond fan and have watched every single one of the Bond movies, also stories about quests into the wild or the ocean. Nature and history programs about sunken ships or lost paradises never bore me.
What is your favorite city to visit, but one that you wouldnt want to live in?
Yorkshire, England. The rocky heather filled moors excite my imagination and the beautiful cliffs and quiet serenity is a wonderful environment to write and think in. That said it can be a very lonely and desolate place, especially in winter and given my odd imagination when it comes to whats lurking in the dark, it wouldnt be wise to spend an extended period of time there without risky my sanity.
Whats the strangest question youve ever been asked in an interview?
The above one. Usually the questions focus on my stories, the writing process, and advice to other writers, the pressure of writing and the sort. However before this interview no one ever asked what is your favorite city to visit, but one that you wouldnt want to live in?
Whats the best part of being a writer?
The best part of writing is creating an entire world and breathing life into strange and vivid characters
My next novel is called Sunnyside. Its about two abused children growing up in a surreal toxic neighborhood and trying to survive and escape to happier lives. Interracial relationships are detailed in depth and the bigotry that those engaged in them are subject to, is also starkly depicted. It is about four hundred pages and in the revision stage. Hopefully I will have finished it within the next six months