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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Joshua Valentine shares the inspiration behind his new science fiction novel, Runaway Humanity, what his creative writing process.

the best creativity magazine in the UK, the best book magazine in the UK, the best arts magazine in the UK, the best entertainment magazine in the UK, the best celebrity magazine in the UK, book marketing UK, book promotion UK, music marketing UK, music promotion UK, film marketing UK, film promotion UK, arts and entertainment magazine, online magazine uk, creativity magazineWritten by JJ Barnes

www.jjbarnes.co.uk

I interviewed Joshua Valentine about his life and career, what inspired him to start writing, and the story of his new science fiction novel, Runaway Humanity.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

Joshua Valentine on The Table Read Magazine
Joshua Valentine

So, to start things off, my name as an author is Joshua Valentine. As an author I like to focus on my image and I incorporate fashion and drag art forms more broadly to create a more holistic, dynamic appeal as a writer. I’ve been more fascinated with the imagery evoked by modern pop stars – ranging from The Supremes in the 60s/70s all of the way to Lady Gaga in recent decades – than by books, which to some seems like a paradox that my inspiration is pulled from something not literary by nature.

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When did you first WANT to write a book?

I probably first wanted to write a book when I first developed an interest in writing. I think when one starts off as a writer, it’s always enticing to write a full-length novel; when you start off, short stories and novellas seem more like creative exercises than drawn-out endeavors. So essentially, when I first began to write stories in composition notebooks stored in my Grandma Jane’s storage room next to her cats’ litter box, that’s when I first became interested in writing a book.

When did you take a step to start writing?

The same time I began to write in the summer leading up to the 5th grade – I began to write short stories, between 30-60 notebook pages, and throughout that time, experimented with how I wrote the stories. I had a smaller goal at the time of writing 100 notebook pages – do I cram as many words as possible and describe the events as much as possible to reach that quota? Or is it more so quality over quantity, that kind of thing. I remember attempting to write a psychological thriller about a boy who kills his mom for not letting him have a smartphone, and I always tried cramming as many words as possible to fill space. As I progressed in my writing journey, I came to realize that it’s not necessarily the word/page count that matters as much as the experience evoked by reading the novel itself.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

It depends on what you want to refer to as my first book. Technically, my first book was self published during sophomore year of high school, and that one took 16 months to write, with an extra month or so for revised chapters. I don’t view that book very favorably, so I consider it ostracized from my bibliography. Rather, in principle, I view Runaway Humanity as my proper debut, and that took 6 months to write the first draft, and an additional 2 months for revisions. After that, it took about an additional year to secure funding, copy edits/proofreads, formatting, and eventually releasing it in November of 2022.

What made you want to write Runaway Humanity?

Well, it was probably November 2020, around the time of the presidential election; control of the senate was up for grabs for the next couple of months, and any potential legislation to help mitigate US contributions to the climate crisis was in limbo. I guess I was going through a period of existential dread at the time – I had taken a then indefinite hiatus from writing after the financial failure of my first book, I had an unstable transition into the new medications I was starting to use. My future seemed uncertain in many personal ways, and the external world seemed to be on an uncertain cusp of a better future, or a much worse one.

Amidst this dread I felt, I remember reading this one article from the Brookings Institute, where the author was discussing reasons for the partisan divide in public opinion on the climate crisis – it was for a persuasive speech I was writing in my introductory communications course. And one of the reasons was that there wasn’t a lot of engaging media discussing climate change and showing the negative impacts of it. I mean, think about it – the closest we got to making a creative, yet entertaining point about climate change was Netflix’s Don’t Look Up, and climate change was metaphorized with a freaking asteroid. So, I had some inspiration there. And, while raking leaves with my dad at my Grandpa Rosa’s ranch on a gray, overcast day, dry fields of rotten sweet potato roots, I finally realized what would pull me out of the writing drought I was in: and that’s how I decided I wanted to write Runaway Humanity, more or less.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Runaway Humanity?

I don’t think I really had challenges with writing it. My biggest challenge was extraneous to the writing process of Runaway Humanity, and rather involved finding the write editor for my book. I wanted someone who understood the point I was trying to make with Runaway Humanity, from the angle I was trying to, rather than have their own expectations of the book impact their perception of its merit. So, ultimately, outside of writing, it was difficult finding an editor who I could trust would understand what I meant with this particular symbol, with this particular scene – simply because I was unaware that that was an important thing to be mindful of when selecting an editor. Inexperience seemed to be the source of this challenge.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

I’m not sure if there really was an inspiration for the protagonist. I feel like Dr. Shelby Hilton was more so just a personification of the book’s broader message, rather than a fully fleshed out character. The book is a feminist science fiction “cli-fi” novel that uses feminist allegories to convey the issue of climate change and its effect on earth (i.e. disrespect of Dr. Shelby Hilton represents disrespect of the earth).

Most of the people that I’ve enjoyed strong connections with throughout my life – whether as family, friends, or artistic inspiration – have been women, and pretty much by a large discrepancy. So, I think naturally, taken much inspiration from mostly female figures, I was able to empathize with how a woman like Dr. Shelby Hilton would feel in the situations she was thrust in and create a realistic enough character. My copy editor, who is also a woman, also was instrumental in editing out quirks that didn’t help construct Shelby’s character as a female scientist in a male-dominated field.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

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I feel like there wasn’t an exact inspiration for the book’s antagonist, it was more so just a meta version of multiple villainous archetypes I was aware of throughout my life. I don’t know why but I really want to say the Mr. Lovejoy from Titanic, upon introspection I can see some notable enough similarities between their actions and behaviors that could reflect an unconscious inspiration.

What is the inciting incident of Runaway Humanity?

The inciting incident of Runaway Humanity is when President Alex Wilson orchestrates the murder of Doctors Shelby and Drake Hilton’s son after Shelby is diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer and Alex attempts to force her to pursue the mission. She relents when he kills her son.

What is the main conflict of Runaway Humanity?

The main conflict of Runaway Humanity is when Shelby murders the medical staff trying to kill her after landing on Earth for their interplanetary investigation, and then is abducted by a clan of a bioengineered humanoid species and has to escape from them with her friend Andrea, and her humanoid friend, Ika.

Did you plot Runaway Humanity in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

I would say intuitively, I had a general picture of how the book would be structurally, while most of it was subject to change based on random bursts of inspiration during the writing process that took my writing in another direction. Runaway Humanity originally had no corrupt space agency theme or feminist undertones; it was the fluidity of my creative process and restricted level of constraint that allowed those themes to become part of the story.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Runaway Humanity need?

I did actually – in fact, one of the biggest costs of the book was copy editing & proofreading; I think it comprised about 30-40% of funds spent towards the book. I recall my copy editor thinking the book needed more editing, and my first beta reader thinking I should just totally rewrite the entire thing, but I think both are a function of expectations for the story. I think my book might’ve worked better if characters were more complex – though I think the storyline and symbolism were on point, and it was more so just expectations based on a misleading description. I believe that’s another reason why my book has such divided opinion in review aggregators.

The #1 Writing Tool

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

I think this is actually a piece of advice I gave at the first pop-up event I ever hosted – at Coffee Bandits here in Merced. I was with my old drag girl group, Joshua Valentine -and- Two Girls, and this one guy that was a doctoral student asked for some advice he could give to his little brother. Essentially, the piece of advice I gave him was to always have an end goal in mind when writing, to keep you motivated to complete the piece.

When I was writing my first books, I always had this goal of me being a #1 New York Times bestselling author, published by one of the ‘Big 5’ publishers, yada yada. Maybe not technically a realistic dream for most authors in the statistical sense, but it’s still a good motivator to keep writing, and it certainly was for me. Keep the dream – that end goal – real enough in your mind, and you’ll be able to commit to writing until you manifest a version of that dream.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

No, I can’t. I don’t like describing my works prematurely, and subsequently build up expectations for what my next book will be like, only to have people negatively perceive my craft because they were so committed to a particular incarnation of the book. To me, the greatest killer of good art is an audience’s expectations; expecting it to be too much of one thing leads you to negatively perceive the quality of the art, even if it wasn’t technically bad.

So, just know I have already finished writing my next book, with a slated release for November 2024; I am about 34k words in for the book I plan to release afterwards, and both will not only be distinct aesthetically, thematically between each other, but also with Runaway Humanity. At least, artistically, that is my perception of them. But, I refuse to offer any more details before the time is right.

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And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

I’d say yes, I am proud of what I have accomplished thus far with my book. As of today, I’ve sold about 270 copies, which though not a flashy figure, is actually apparently in line with some estimates for the average number of copies sold in the first year of sales for a traditionally published author. I’ve also received a positive review from Kirkus, even with the little verdict tagging “GET IT”, which I guess is also a rare achievement for an author. I’m also working with a major publicist – Tracy Lamourie. I think for a 19 year old author, I’m more than proud of what I’ve accomplished, and deeply believe in the worthiness of this effort, and future continued efforts.

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

 Joshua Valentine Social (Instagram):

https://www.instagram.com/joshuavalentine1/

Runaway Humanity (Amazon):

Kindle: https://amzn.to/3Gkjb1Z

Paperback: https://amzn.to/3GntFO8

Somebody’s Dilemma (Kickstarter):

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/joshuavalentine1/somebodys-dilemma-a-science-fiction-novel

 

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