Could there really be anything worse than an eternity of damnation? Maybe if you were Heinrich Juarez. Today my guest is Joel Bain, author of EACH OUR OWN DEVIL (March 2017, Dumple Meadows Publishing).
He started Dumple Meadows Publishing in 2008, delving into a variety of platforms including fiction and digital magazines in the pursuit of developing and encouraging aspiring writers. He formerly held the role of Editor-in-Chief and founder of Sour Grapes Winery from 2010-2014.
Since 2017, he has worked as a Copy Editor with Bookfish Books. In 2017, he also launched a literary editing firm, Q Book Editing Services, working as a Book Editor to help train and mentor aspiring writers and authors.
He is a graduate of the University of British Columbia (2009) with a B.A. in International Relations and English Literature. In late 2016, he completed his Certificate of Editing from Simon Fraser University.
Among his writing interests are storytelling, social commentary, and film.
Me: So tell us a little about the book.
Joel: Abandoned. Adopted. Bullied. Orphaned. Disowned. Terminated. Rejected. Heinrich Juarez is Lucifer’s worst nightmare. Only, not for the reasons that one might expect. Heinrich is the saddest man in Hell, and tales of the miserable life he led in Cuba are spreading among his friends. Suddenly, Lucifer’s greatest fear is realized when the damned souls begin to believe their torment is not severe compared to the torment Heinrich endured on Earth.
Lucifer attempts to extradite Heinrich, but as he arrived in Hell by his own request, Lucifer cannot unilaterally expel the sad man. Heinrich doesn’t want to leave because for the first time in his existence, he has made friends. After a lengthy negotiation, Lucifer convinces Heinrich to abandon his infernal friends for a second chance at life in New York City, providing he swears his soul to return to Hell. In return, Lucifer grants Heinrich the role of Dante Condonnato: an agent of the devil, a broker of power, and a harbinger of wealth. To sweeten the deal, his new life will give him a chance at revenge against his adopted brother, Jose, who ruined his life by bullying and disowning Heinrich after their parents’ death in a freak accident.
Me: Oh, sounds exciting and intense. How long did it take you to write this book?
J: The idea for the book first came in my last year of university (2009), but I only started developing it in 2013, so about 3+ years in reality. In December 2015, the final pieces came together, and I spent the next year and a half editing and refining it.
Me: It must be wonderful to finally finish the journey. What Genre do you write and why?
J: I’d classify myself as multi-genre. I like to explore themes rather than finding new ways to explore genres. Nothing against genre writers, I’d just prefer to explore themes more.
Me: That’s great you’re so versatile. Can you pick a favorite line from your latest work and tell us why this is your favorite?
J: “Mephistopheles, do all these souls really hope for an audience with me this evening?” Heinrich asked.
Most are, but few will be so lucky.
“Why are some chosen, and others are not?” asked Heinrich.
It is simple, replied Mephistopheles. Some are at their best service to Lucifer by continuing to live their lives the way they are—narcissistically and without meaning.
This passage from a shorter chapter explains almost all of Lucifer’s motivation, or lack thereof, for acting in most of the novel. It is why Lucifer meets with Heinrich in the first place in Hell. It’s what propels the devil to act throughout the novel, even if Lucifer is often contradictory and rarely is consistent. There’s spooky stuff that occurs all around the world that people attribute to the spiritual realm, but I think most of us here in North America would say it’s absent or it’s rare. If there is a devil, perhaps it’s absent because we’re all doing a fine job of mucking up the world by just living our lives the way we are. Or it could simply be like how The Usual Suspects laid it out, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist. And like that, poof. He’s gone.”
I love it, because it’s a foretelling.
Me: That’s great! What can you share with other writers were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
J: I don’t know if I learned it this time around but was simply reminded of it. The publishing process is not a journey that one goes on alone. Without the support of others, it is a fruitless endeavor. You need the opinion of others to not only to validate you, but to draw your eyes to that what you cannot see on your own. Never mind that writing can often be a lonely journey.
The other thing I’d say I’ve learned time and time again is that the journey to publishing is not so unlike the path many of us take in dating. Finding an agent and/or a publisher is about making a connection with someone with your story. It doesn’t matter what someone’s manuscript wish list says. You can write verbatim to what someone is calling for, but if they don’t connect with the story, it’ll go to the PASS pile. And with that, a rejection from an agent or a publisher is not a judgment of your ability as a writer, in the same way that if someone turns you down for a date, it isn’t dismissing you as the most unattractive person; there was just no connection from their end. You can think you check off all their boxes, but unless they have that connection, it won’t go anywhere. So really, the journey to publishing is one of simply getting your book out there to as many agents and publishers as you can. And if you still don’t find someone who connects with it, maybe it is time for you to self-publish it since you are the one who connects the most with your story, and you might be the person who needs to bring it to the world. Or…maybe you’re fortunate and someone connects with your story, and you’ve found your greatest ally in the form of an agent or a publisher.
Me: Very true. The arts are so subjective and we’re not all going to connect, but I think so far you’ve made some connections. Do you have a favorite author(s)?
J: Malcolm Gladwell. I know he doesn’t write fiction, but I buy every single one of his books. He is great at telling real-life stories in ways that few fiction writers are even capable. For a fiction author, C.S. Lewis would be the one I’ve read and enjoyed the most. The Great Divorce may be my favorite by him.
Me: What are a few things about yourself most people wouldn’t expect?
J: It wasn’t until I studied other languages in university that I finally understood English grammar. I couldn’t have even told you what a noun or a verb was before university. Embarrassing to admit. Now though, I speak three languages, English, French, and Italian. In the past, I could speak Russian and German, but not any more. What else? I’ve been to 40 of the 50 States, to all but one Canadian province, and to eleven countries.
Me: Well traveled! Must be some great experiences. Can you offer one or two helpful tips for fellow writers?
J: NEVER skimp on your book cover. While the old adage of “never judge a book by its cover” is oft repeated, it is patently false in publishing. It is mind boggling that we as writers would work so hard and long on our manuscripts and wrap it up in an unsightly package. It’s like a car engineer putting together a Ferrari engine and using the body of a Ford Pinto. No one would take it seriously.
My other piece of advice might go against the grain, but…whenever one tells a story, there needs to be some moral or a theme that the manuscript explores. Too often I fear writers start a story with a wiz-bang premise, but they scrap the idea or move onto another one down the road because they didn’t know what the story is about. They lack a passion to finish the manuscript and then get sucked into doing the whole thing all over again with another premise that they won’t finish because again they don’t know what the story was about. Know what you want to say with your story, but find a way to say it subtly. No one wants to read a tract or a pamphlet for the “moral of your story.” This is partly why so many of the classics are timeless because we can discern what they were about and what they were trying to say. There is so much to study within them.
Me: Great advice! If you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
J: I’m not sure. I know a lot of other writers (and myself in the past) have used inspiration boards to help figure this out, but I didn’t do that this time with EACH OUR OWN DEVIL. I guess if I were to cast Heinrich, it’d be Jesse Eisenberg. Not even for his appearance, but because he’d have the range as an actor to bring Heinrich to life both as a lonesome, depressing figure, a figure of power, and finally as a figure of brokenness in the end. As for Lucifer, Michael Fassbender or Mark Strong would both intriguing choices. Probably Fassbender since he has often been so capable of portraying characters who we ought to be unsympathetic towards as sympathetic in their own perverse way. He could capture the duplicitous nature of Lucifer very well. And for Greta, I’m not sure. It’s difficult for me to say because I intentionally try to leave some of the characters as a mostly blank slate with the exception of a few identifying details. I wrote almost no description of Lucifer because I feel most readers already have some notion or feeling about what Lucifer must look like and I felt it would be more powerful to allow their own horror or fear of Lucifer to play into their visualization of him as a character.
Me: Something fun. Chocolate or Wine (or any other adult beverage)?
J: I was going to say wine, but in truth, coffee is my main morning routine. Love getting to quietly wake up with a cup and a book. Plus…my day job is working as a Starbucks store manager, so…it kind of comes with the territory.
Me: *raises hand* Coffee addict here! What is your favorite meal?
J: Hawaiian Pizza. There’s been so much hate for pineapple on pizzas lately. It’s the perfect pizza, and there are few things I get as excited about eating. Could eat it every day for a week if I had to. Don’t know if I could do that with anything else.
Me: Lol. Yes! I’ve heard the it could possibly be outlawed! Favorite Color?
J: Orange! Love its brightness and how lively it is. That’s not to say I enjoy wearing it though.
Me: What’s next in your future?
J: I’ve got a couple of things going on in the future. I’m working on a dystopian novel that takes place in Dunkirk, France, where I lived from 2009-2010. I’m also editing a novella I’ve written for a Christmas anthology coming out next holiday season. I also just finished my Certificate of Editing from university just this past year, so I intend to launch my editing business both for literary editing and corporate editing.
Me: So many great things in the works! Thanks for joining us today, Joel. And for our readers, check out all of Joel’s links and an excerpt from his book below.
Click on Author Interviews on my homepage if you’d like to be featured on an upcoming post of Behind the Scenes, an author spotlight series.
Excerpt from Each Our Own Devil:
Never had a couple looked so out of place. Blonde hair and blue eyes were rare in Havana as was the tongue of Swedes. The hot Caribbean sun scorched their pale skin, but they were too enthused to complain. The island nation of Cuba welcomed them with a greeting sign in English, but they didn’t know it. They spoke only a few words of English, and even less of Spanish. They looked as lost as could be. If it were not for their enthusiasm, they might have looked isolated waiting for a taxicab by the airport roadside curb. The woman glowed in her loose-fitting bright blue sundress, disguising her pregnant belly.
Her partner hailed a cab to take them to their resort hotel. He stood lanky but had soft and charming features, which played a role in drawing her to him. He tried his best to appear confident in front of his wife.
As the cab approached, he grasped her hand and gave it a weak squeeze. The cab driver jumped out and scooped their luggage, placing it in the rear trunk. The husband helped his expectant wife into the back seat and followed her in.
When the driver returned, he attempted to communicate with them, but it was a fruitless effort. The husband flashed a hopeful grin and gave a hand-written note with their destination. The driver recognized the address and did his best to convey his understanding to the couple. They were on their way, much to their relief.
Later that evening within a gated seaside resort, the couple sat down for dinner. They shared a brief kiss just before beginning their meal. Within minutes, the woman’s water broke. A flash of embarrassment came over her, but she became much more concerned about another fact: their child had chosen that moment to be born. Her husband shouted in broken English for a medic. He comforted his hysterical wife.
An ambulance shuttled them to a hospital outside the resort. The ride was rough, but the husband and wife clung each other’s hands. When they arrived, the paramedics ushered the parents into the delivery ward. Again, they ran into the language barrier, as the doctors spoke frantically in Spanish. The couple’s inability to communicate traumatized them, but after a hard, quick labor that involved many attempts at conveying instructions through body language, a child was born.
The mother spent several days in the hospital recovering from the premature delivery as did the newborn boy. Complications from the premature birth required him to stay beyond the mother’s discharge from the hospital. The couple’s romantic getaway to Cuba became consumed with visits to the hospital, as their appetite for anything else had dissipated.
After a week, the couple took the child and the birth certificate produced for them back to the resort. The young couple embraced their new roles as mother and father. The rest of their vacation passed almost exclusively within their hotel room. The mother nursed her son as her husband gazed upon the child. They named him Heinrich in honor of his mother’s father, who had died in the Second World War.
Once their ten-day vacation ran its course, they checked out of the resort and caught a cab to the airport to return home with their newborn son. They checked their bags and passed security, but customs stopped them. The officials demanded papers for the infant. The couple had none but the Cuban birth certificate provided to them.
Communication was difficult due to the language barrier again, but the officials clarified that the child couldn’t leave the country. The child was born on sovereign Cuban soil and he was a Cuban national without the proper paperwork to leave the island nation. Neither did the parents have any documentation of the child’s Swedish citizenship.
The parents returned to the resort and sought guidance from their national embassy in Havana. Little was accomplished though, as the father lacked the necessary documentation to register the child’s foreign birth.
Several days later, the Cuban authorities came knocking on their door. Their tourist visas had expired. Escorting them to the airport again, the authorities checked the parents into their flight and ushered them through security. When it came to the customs officials, against the parents’ will, the child was taken from them. The officials re-iterated that the child didn’t have the proper permission to leave the country. The parents were required to leave due to their expired visas. The father attempted to bribe the officials. He offered their wallets, their wedding rings, and any jewelry they had on them, but the officials were unswayed and shuffled the child away.
The mother became so hysterical in seeing her son taken away from her that it required four male officials to restrain her. With their hands on her, the father responded with violent force. An official knocked him unconscious in response. They carried the father onto the plane. The officials dragged the mother to her seat and waited with her until the plane took flight. Her husband slumped unconscious beside her and bore a bandage applied to his head.
When the time came to shut the plane door, a customs official helped a medic from the airport administer a sedative to the mother; they gagged the woman to not disturb the other air travelers. The door was shut, and the plane took off for Sweden, leaving the child in the care of the Cuban customs officials.