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Author Interview with Joshua Ian

Catering to Love is out today! It’s book one in the Departments of Love series. Joshua was kind enough to answer some questions for us.

You can get your copy of this delicious historical romance HERE

Did you always know you wanted to be an author? What is the first story you remember writing?

I’ve always known I wanted to be a storyteller, however that might manifest itself. I’ve always been fascinated by and felt a kinship to musicians, actors, and writers – anyone who can take you into a world or an experience through language. I wrote a lot of poems and short stories as a kid and teenager, although I can’t remember the first. On a recent trip to visit my mom, she showed me a little spiral bound booklet of Halloween poems, with a laminated cover, that I made when I was ten years old. I think it must have been for a school project, so that’s likely one of the first things. I even illustrated it and gave myself an editorial company name with a title page and copyright and all. Apparently I was self-publishing before it was chic, darling!

What is the most inspiring place you’ve visited and has it shown up in one of your books?

I think London would be the obvious choice. It’s one of my favorite cities, and when I first visited it, I felt very at home. I think that’s why I was compelled to write about it historically. But a specific place that captivated me was the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA. The museum is something like a mansion with a massive interior courtyard and garden. It was a direct influence for the home of a magical, immortal woman who appeared in a novella I wrote a few years ago (which is now out of print, but I hope to get it back out in future).

How much research do you do into the time period and places you write about? What drew you to the era you write in?

I do quite a lot of research about the time period and places I write about. I love the research aspect of historical fiction. I’ve never been much of one for wars and politics and dates, but I love the social history. I love researching how people went about the quotidian tasks of life. How they cooked, cleaned, what they wore, what they did for entertainment, all of that. So I try my best to put dedicated research into those details because I think they provide for a richer, truer portrait of the time period. And it’s amazing how finding little details about something that one might consider a minor aspect can shift how a character might have gone about their day-to-day which in turn informs how you build their personality.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Edwardian Era. I think it started for me when I was young and first saw the Merchant Ivory film ‘Maurice’ based on the EM Forster novel. That was impactful for a number of reasons. Not only was it the first male/male romance I remember seeing but it also has a happy ending, which was something you rarely saw for queer dramas or romance. Then, too, I was fascinated by the aesthetics of the time. The Edwardian Era, although a very short period of time technically, is really the birth of modernity as we know it. It was just after the Industrial Revolution and just before WW1 and there was so much experimentation and innovation, both technologically and socially. We see the beginning of automobiles and telephones and film-making, and all the weird and quirky iterations they took in their nascent forms. From the Arts & Crafts Movement to the luxury liner ships like the Titanic to the birth of ragtime, it was just a kind of glorious and ever-shifting time in the exploration of aesthetics and art.

I think people would be surprised at how many parallels there are socially between that time period and our current time. It was a time of social change, where the class structure was beginning to make a major shift. Women, people of color, queer people were all struggling against social constrictions but they were also starting to push back against those in a major way and make advancement towards equality and inclusion. Obviously, those are still issues we are dealing with a century and more later, but the beginning of the twentieth century is a time when those movements were sinking in their roots. Voting rights, fare wages and labor laws, unions, social mobility, all of these things were undergoing a revolution during these years that I think we can see reflected now.

Where is your favorite place to write? Does your writing process include any kind of ritual?

I have discovered that I write best when I have physical space. That unfortunately is quite limited and at a premium in the city in which I live, so I often go to the public library to write. I like having a big table/desk and open space around me; I think somehow that allows my mind to feel like it has space to roam. I used to be able to write in noisy spaces or with music playing but the older I get – or maybe the more overfilled my brain has gotten – the more I need quiet to really focus and dig in. I am constantly thankful for the invention of smart phones. I carry a little notebook and pen with me at all times, but, when I am out in the city, on the subway or scurrying about or what have you, I have countless times been struck by an idea with my hands full or in a rush, and I type the note into my phone or record a voice memo to myself. Sometimes I later see a detail I love that from one of those notes and know it would have been completely lost in my cluttered brain if I hadn’t sent it right when it occurred to me. I don’t currently have much in the way of rituals when I write – a lot of the time I’m forced to just grab snatches of time where I can find them –  but I always have green tea and dark chocolate handy while I’m writing and those solely sustain me through long jags. I like to tell myself it’s all the antioxidants and flavonoids and whatnot that keep my brain chugging along, but it’s probably just an excuse to eat chocolate. Either way, it’s inspiring!

When it’s difficult to physically travel, how do you find ways to escape?

I’m a cinephile and a lover of theater, so, other than reading, those are my favorite forms of escapism. I’m catholic in my tastes so I’ll see anything from a superhero epic to an obtuse arthouse flick, just depending on my mood. I love being surprised in the theater and I’ve put off reading a number of many well-known or famous plays in the hopes that I’ll see them live on stage someday. As far as physical escapes, I love being near water. So I will often take a train to the riverside or a beach somewhere and just enjoy being near the sea. Mind you, I’m not one for lying out and I cannot tan so bright, beaming sunshine and I are not kindred spirits. I probably look like something out of an Edward Gorey illustration in my long sleeves and black umbrella, but, still, I love to listen to the ocean and see the waves crashing. It centers and calms me.

What do you like to read when you’re not reading in your genre? Did you have a favorite book or series when you were growing up?

I am a devoted fan of mysteries, particularly “Golden Age” and modern day cozy and historical mysteries. Whenever I need a soft place to land, I turn to one of my favorite mystery series. My devotion started with my mom and I watching ‘Murder, She Wrote’ when I was a kid. From Jessica Fletcher I moved onto my beloved Miss Marple and then on and on from there.

As a youngster, I had far too many favorite books to choose just one. The very first series I remember loving as a wee tot were the Amelia Bedelia books. I was constantly entertained by Amelia’s misinterpretations and malapropisms. I think there’s a hint of her always running away somewhere in my narrative brain. As an older kid, I was very much a sci-fi/fantasy nerd and my favorite series was the ‘Dragonriders of Pern’ series by Anne McCaffrey. As a teenager, I also devoured Armistead Maupin’s ‘Tales of the City’ series and Anne Rice’s ‘Vampire Chronicles.’