Joe Mahoney - Witty Prose and Existential, Thought-Provoking Dilemmas
Joe Mahoney is a writer/broadcaster currently working full-time for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He lives in Whitby, Ontario with his wife and two daughters and their golden retriever and Siberian forest cat. His first novel, Time and a Place, has been called an "entertaining, chaotic adventure" by Publishers Weekly. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about this book.
Please give us a short introduction to what A Time and a Place is about.
A Time and a Place is a time travel fantasy adventure about a man by the name of Barnabus J. Wildebear who tries to rescue his 15 year old nephew after the boy is recruited by an enigmatic alien to fight in a war halfway across the galaxy. The boy, Ridley, is a bit of a McGuffin character leading Wildebear into a series of strange adventures during which he goes back and forth in time, becomes a seagull for a while, inhabits the mind of alien creatures, gets caught up in an interstellar war, and so on. It’s episodic in nature, funny at times, philosophical at others, and hopefully a lot of fun.
What inspired you to write about someone who must rescue his 15-year old nephew from an enigmatic alien?
The original kernel of the story was about a character starting to behave strangely and someone close to him trying to figure out what was wrong with him. Then it became a puzzle for me, the writer, to figure out what was actually going on. All of the reasons and consequences had to make sense and be entertaining and compelling at the same time. It took a lot of time to figure it out and make it all work. I’m pretty happy with the result.
Tell us more about Wildebear. What makes him tick?
Wildebear is an ordinary man confronted by extra-ordinary circumstances. If there’s anything special about him it’s his ability to remain unruffled by everything that happens to him. He’s a bit contrary in nature. If someone tells him to do something he’s likely to do the opposite. This might account for his ability to persevere in the face of all the crazy things that happen to him. Whereas someone else might run screaming in the other direction, he just rolls up his sleeves and gets on with turning into a seagull or becoming an alien cat or going back in time. Some readers perceive him as an anti-hero. He doesn’t always (or even often) do what the reader might want him to do. It’s a part of characters taking on a life of their own, I think. Also I’m a big fan of Stephen R. Donaldson’s work, especially The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Covenant is definitely an anti-hero. He and Wildebear may share some of the same genes.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’ve spent most of my life in broadcasting. I’m an audio guy by trade. I’ve been working professionally in broadcasting since I was sixteen, which is why I felt confident producing the audiobook version of A Time and a Place myself. I also like to dabble in making videos. I just like creating things, whether they be videos or audio productions or novels or what have you. I guess creating something from nothing is my secret skill, or at least passion.
This is your debut novel, what has the experience been like so far?
The whole A Time and a Place journey has been an amazing experience. Writing it was a lot of fun. Working with my original editor on it, Arleane Ralph, was educating and rewarding. I was thrilled when it was picked up by its original publisher Lorina Stephens of Five Rivers Press, one of Canada’s finest Independent publishers, which recently shut down operations, sadly. Working with their Senior Editor, Dr. Robert Runte was also a great collaborative experience. We launched the book at the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy in Toronto with an incredible turn out that, I was informed later, made A Time and a Place the best-selling science fiction Trade Paperback for the month of October 2017. I was quite pleasantly surprised when Publishers Weekly gave it a positive review, which propelled it into many libraries across the planet. And I’ve been quite happy with the critical response.
Which of your characters was the most challenging to create?
Definitely the most challenging character to create was the Sweep of the Paw, a T’Klee cat. The job was made more challenging by the need to have Wildebear inhabit her brain during her entire appearance in the book. The novel is largely first person but becomes a combined first/third person perspective during our time with Sweep, which, now that I think about it, I’ve never seen done before. It was really tough to get that balance right. The tone of that chapter is slightly different too, rather more serious, so integrating it into the rest of the novel seamlessly was quite a challenge. I have to credit my first editor Arleane Ralph with helping me get that right. I have nothing but praise for both my editors, Arleane and Robert, who really helped me address the technical challenges of this book.
Readers say that your story includes some existential, thought-provoking dilemmas. Why did you take this approach?
I think that’s just a function of who I am. A bit of light philosophy was bound to creep in. I don’t like to gloss over plot points; I like to carry them to their logical extremes. What does time travel imply about free will? If there’s no such thing as free will, what does that say about the nature of evil? If you can inhabit the mind of another creature, and control that creature’s actions, should you? I tried not to let the plot get bogged down with these questions, but it was fun to touch upon them.
What is the best writing advice you’ve received?
Writing is like building sand castles. The first draft is just shoveling sand. I hate first drafts, so this advice really spoke to me. Don’t start polishing that sand castle until you have enough sand to work with. Also Elmore Leonard’s excellent advice to leave out the parts “that readers tend to skip.”
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation I’ve met my fair share of famous people. Some of them were a lot of fun to meet, like Eric Idle of Monty Python. I have a recording of him calling me a “free-loading bastard.” And I was able to tell Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins of Genesis how much I love their music. The thing with famous people, though, is that unless you’re working with them for a while and become friends with them you don’t really get to know them. And I like getting to know people. So I’m more interested in meeting ordinary people, all of whom are extra-ordinary in some not necessarily visible way, even to themselves. But to marry the spirit of your question with what I’ve just said, if I had the opportunity to become friends with just one famous person, I know I should say someone like Shakespeare or Benjamin Franklin, both of whom I’m sure would be really interesting, but right now I would choose the actor Simon Pegg, cuz I think he’d be a lot of fun, and it would be great to make a movie with him, and also I think he’d make a great Wildebear.
What are you working on right now?
I’m finishing up my second novel, called Captain’s Away. It’s about a family of four who have their space station blown out from beneath them during an interstellar war and wind up separated from one another physically and emotionally. They help fight the war in their own way as they each find their way back to one another. It’s loosely based on events of the second world war. There’s a lot of potential for both conflict and humour. It’s a lot of fun to write. Hopefully it’ll be a fun read too.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
The best place to find me is my web page where you can sign up for my newsletter:
You can connect with me on Twitter at:
I post videos here:
And I’m on Goodreads too: