Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Interview with Joe Powers.

Full Name:
Joe Powers

Do you have a nickname or what do your friends call you?
I’ve been called all kinds of things. Nothing that’s really stuck though.
Well, with a cool last name like “Powers” there’s not a lot of room for improvement.
I’ll grant you that. Interestingly, when they gave me my grandfather’s middle name instead of his first, I narrowly avoided becoming the original Austin Powers.
That would’ve been shagadelic baby!  I mean, an unfortunate coincidence.

Birthplace / Current hometown:
Fredericton, NB to both. I’ve actually come full circle, in a way: I’ve spent the last fifteen years living in the house I spent the first four years of my life in.

Favorite city and why?
I’ve drifted around a little bit, but rarely very far, and I always come back. It’s a great area in so many ways. It’ll always be home.

Birthday / Age:
September 24th. I’ll be 44 this year.

How would you describe yourself physically?
Large, hairy, and unintentionally intimidating.
So, like a friendly bigfoot.
That’s about right. One of my sister’s friends likes to claim there are several sightings of me, but few clear photos.

How would someone else describe you physically?
I’ve been described as a big, scary biker or Viking.  The awful truth is that I’m just a big teddy bear, for the most part.

The first thing people notice about you is…
Probably my hair.  There’s a lot of it, even after a recent shearing during which I shed probably six or eight inches of it. 

Religion, if any?
I guess you could call me a non-practicing Christian.

Are you superstitious? Any phobias?
I’m superstitious to a point, but I certainly don’t go to ridiculous extremes. For example, I’m a big hockey fan. I spent about a year in a couple of sports writing gigs, in fact. Anyway, at one point early this season I decided to spend an evening hanging out with my better half instead of catching the game on TV or online, whatever. They won decisively, so we had a sort of running joke all year that whenever the Islanders played I had to be with her, and pay no attention to the game until it was over. It worked often enough that we’ve had some fun with it. But realistically, if they’d lost that night, you can bet I wouldn’t have insisted we avoid each other on game days. 

Do you smoke/drink? If so, what? Any bad habits?
Yes to both (update: I’m nearly two weeks smoke free as of mid-June). I’ve always been a whiskey man, Canadian Club being the perennial favorite, though in recent years my consumption has flagged considerably. Considering my once near-heroic capacity for the stuff, that’s probably not a terrible thing.
As for other bad habits: I’m a bit reactionary sometimes; I hear myself saying things before I’ve really had a chance to think them over. This occasionally has unpleasant results. Conversely, I also tend to overthink and overanalyze, which can make things a lot more difficult than they need to be.
The first time I got drunk, it was on a bottle of something I think was called “Canadian Rare”.  I had a friend whose father owned a bunch of properties and when the tenants left without notice, he’d keep their liquor.  He had a case of 48 different bottles of alcohol locked in the attic, but we were teenagers, so a lock isn’t much of an obstacle.  We took a shot from each bottle to try them out and them we each picked a favorite.  I’m French-Canadian by descent, so I stuck with the Canadian Rare and put down two 50/50 whiskey/root beers before the alcohol caught up with me.  I ended up puking in the sink because my friend locked himself in the bathroom and I was drunk for about a day and a half.  But, whatever doesn’t kill you…
That sounds like it might be R & R (Rich & Rare) Canadian Whiskey.  Dandy stuff, that.  Hell of a way to launch an alcohol-fueled lifestyle.  Kudos to your friend’s dad for his enterprising nature.  My first go-around was a godawful substance called Five Star.  Today that’s the name of a whiskey, but back then it was rum.  I think it cost about eight cents a bottle, and worth every penny.  The after effects of Five Star and Sprite added the term “Five-Star Flu” to the vernacular of my little group.

Current occupation / Dream job:
I’m currently an aquaculture technician, which I’ll delve into more later. The dream, of course, is to chuck the day job and write for a living. Ideally towering best sellers, one after another, with fat royalty cheques arriving like clockwork. 

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
When I leave the office, I leave whatever I was working on back there. I’m not the type to bring it home with me, obsessing and agonizing over stuff during my downtime. I spend a lot of time with Marsha and her daughter, doing anything or nothing together. Just enjoying the time we have, and being grateful for how much of it I get. Late nights are when I do most of my writing. Thoughts and ideas come to me whenever they come, but I carry a little recording device with me everywhere or I jot them down, and it’s only after the lights go down and the rest of my world is asleep that I try to piece it all together.
That’s really my whole world in a nut’s shell these days. And I’m pretty lucky, when I stop to think about it – which is often: I get to spend virtually all my free time doing the things that I love to do the most.

What is your zombie outbreak survival plan?
I live in a pretty sparsely populated part of the world, that’s uncomfortably cold nearly half the year. My best bet is to hole up and wait for winter, when all the zombies either die off, or migrate to Florida. Either way I like my chances.
I’d suggest waiting a while before trying to go to Florida.  Florida is fucked up enough already.  When the zombie apocalypse happens, that peninsula is going to go to hell a lot sooner than the rest of the country.
Good point. Honestly, I have serious doubts zombies would survive a Canadian winter anyway. This is maybe why we never see zombie movies based here.

Weapon of choice:
Against zombies, or in general? I like bows, but when push comes to shove, I’ll take a good old baseball bat any day. 

Do you have any special skills?
I don’t know… I guess I’m moderately good at a lot of things. I’ve been told I’m a fairly entertaining and compelling storyteller. After a twenty-plus year hiatus I’m trying to pick up the guitar again. I assumed there would be some muscle memory carryover, but apparently my muscles have developed acute amnesia. That, or I just wasn’t as good back then as I thought I was.

Did you go to college and, if so, what for?
I did two years of a business admin degree before deciding the hallowed halls of academia were not for me. A few years later I reconsidered and returned to college, where I studied broadcast journalism.

Any pets?   If so, what are they and what are their names?
I have a fourteen-year-old German Shepherd named Eddie, whose biggest claim to fame is being born on the morning of 9/11. In an aquarium at my office there’s a large algae eater named Zoidberg, but he doesn’t technically belong to me. Fish are generally pretty terrible pets, but his one redeeming quality is that he occasionally freaks out and cruises around the tank with his big dorsal fin in the upright position.

What is your favorite animal?
I’ve rarely met a dog I didn’t like, though I tend to prefer the large breeds. But aside from that I’d have to go with bears. They’re big, highly intelligent, solitary, misunderstood animals. I can relate to some of that. Even though I’m under strict orders not to do anything risky around them anymore, I’ve always felt a connection to the ones I’ve encountered in the wild.
Well, I’ve often sought them out, and I’ve gotten up close and personal with a few of them along the way.  They don’t scare me as much as they probably should.  I have a healthy respect for them, but little or no fear.  My friends will sometimes hesitantly tell me about bear sightings, ostensibly so I’ll be careful in those areas but partly I think because they’re curious whether I’ll go looking.  These days, with new parameters at play – wife-to-be, impressionable nine-year-old – I’ve reluctantly agreed to rethink my approach toward things that could, in theory at least, kill and eat me.

Speaking of pets, any pet peeves?
Bad grammar, and ad hominem arguments. They’re both extremely lazy and uncreative. It also bugs me when people mispronounce common words, like supposedly or et cetera, as if they’ve only ever heard them aloud and never seen them written correctly. Or make them up entirely, like irregardless or alot.

What is your favorite quotation / motto / saying?
There’s a quote that’s often attributed to Mark Twain that I rather like. It’s the one that says “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” I think there’s a lot of truth in that. People shouldn’t be afraid to take risks and try the things they’re passionate about. If you fail, well… odds are good you’re going to fail at a bunch of stuff in life anyway. At least this way when you succeed, you’ve succeeded at something you enjoy. 

What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
Meeting my fiancée, Marsha. Hands down. It changed my life. 

What is the worst thing that ever happened to you?
I had to think about this one a while. Lots of unpleasant things over the years, but as for the absolute worst, it might have been the night I got swarmed by seven guys who were far less drunk than I was. Ironically the only real damage I suffered came when I slipped on the ice and broke my jaw in two places. It sucked at the time, especially being wired shut for so long – over Christmas, in fact - but now I kind of joke that I got into a fight with all these guys and still had to kick my own ass. 

Ever had your heart broken? Is there a story worth telling behind your answer?
For sure. I think most of us have at one time or another. I generally keep myself fairly guarded and protected against such things, but at the same time when you’re going into a relationship you really have to put it all on the line, or you’re beaten before you even get started. Not much in the way of stories here; you put yourself into certain situations, go into things with expectations high and defenses low. Sometimes it works out great. Other times it blows up in your face. You do what you can to learn from it and apply the lessons moving forward.

Ever broken someone’s heart? Is there a story worth telling behind your answer?
I have, a couple of times I guess. In at least one case I did it for the right reasons, even if it probably didn’t seem like it at the time. We’d been dating for a while, and she was far more serious about it going forward than I was at the time. The final straw for me was when she told me she was passing on going off to college in order to stay home with me. There was no way I was going to let her do that, so I broke it off. She was pretty devastated, but I understand she rebounded nicely and got married a few years later, and remains so today. So, everything worked out for the best in the long run.

What is the best thing you’ve ever done?
I think this question and the next would probably be better answered by those around me, whom I’ve affected in some way. But as for what I think the best thing was, it has to be the night I proposed to Marsha. I’d been kind of evasive and cryptic all day leading up to it and I think she might have been a little afraid of what I was up to, like I was about to drop some nasty bombshell on her or something. I won’t go into the squishy details, lest I ruin my reputation as a scary badass, but I will say her reaction was one of the best things I’ve ever seen.

What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?
Generally speaking, most of the worst things I’ve done have been to myself. Again, I’m sure others could answer this one more accurately than me. But in my mind, the worst thing – or at least the thing I regret the most - was probably a fight I had with an old and dear friend. It made me bitter and angry to the point where we lost contact for many years, close to twenty of them, in fact. We’ve since mended fences and are on great terms again, but the fact that I held a stupid grudge for so long and wasted so many years we could have had together makes me a little sad. Sometimes more than a little. I try not to dwell on it. 

What do you do?
I work in the aquaculture field. The short version is, I work on the design, layout and mechanics of fish hatcheries and the like. My primary focus is water quality monitoring, and the various equipment and procedures that entails.

How did you get started doing what you do?
More or less by accident. I’d recently left college and had been working in radio. I burned a couple of bridges in that industry and that, coupled with my growing distaste for the reporting/newsgathering life, gave me pause to reassess my career trajectory. An opportunity arose and, lacking a better option at the time, I took it. I not only changed paths, I dove off the path altogether and burst into the surrounding forest. It’s pretty far from glamorous, but it’s paid the bills for the past nineteen years. 

What is your advice to other people that want to get started doing what you do?
If we’re talking aquaculture, my advice would be: don’t. There’s an old joke in the business: how do you make a small fortune in aquaculture? Start with a big fortune. Seriously though, it’s a very risky industry with almost no margin for error, in which fortunes are lost far more often than they’re made.
If we’re talking about writing, I would wholeheartedly encourage anyone to go for it. Write as much as you can, as often as you can, about whatever strikes your fancy. Enjoy it, it can be a wonderful and rewarding experience even if it never earns you a dime or nobody but you ever reads a word of it. 

What are some of the projects you’ve worked on/finished in the past? Give us a little history if you will.
I’ve written I don’t know how many stories, about a dozen of which have been sold, with seven or eight published to date. I’m a little bit late to the party; I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but later on I took an extended hiatus and really only started taking it seriously in the last five years or so. I decided the best way to get myself established and start carving out a little name for myself in a timely way was to get a bunch of shorts published. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, but all things considered it’s gone fairly well so far. I’ve gotten to know a number of publishers, editors and various people in the industry, made some good friends and had a lot of great experiences. I’ve learned an awful lot about the business in a relatively short time, and thanks to some very kind and generous people I didn’t have to learn most of it the hard way.
I was invited to participate in a round robin novel project about a year ago by a fellow named J. Richard Jacobs. He’s just about seen and done it all, and has been writing and editing longer than I’ve been alive. J, incidentally, was also the first editor to ever buy one of my stories. We’ve developed a friendship and worked together a few times since. When he was putting together his roster he invited me along, and I accepted. It’s still a work in progress, but I was happy to contribute a chapter to it.
That first story I mentioned appeared in an anthology called Twisted Tails VII. It’s a long-running and successful series that, for me, was a huge first step into the publishing world. It was the point at which I started to realize I just might have enough talent and desire to find some success doing this.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this I actually got the chance to put some of my journalistic background to work, this time in sports writing. I spent a year writing about the New York Islanders, first for a website under the Sports Illustrated umbrella and later for another site we pioneered called Islanders Insight that ultimately partnered with USA Today. My resurgence was relatively brief, but this time I left on my own terms, voluntarily, with an open door offer to return if I so choose down the road. One of my fondest memories will always be logging into the SI website and seeing something I wrote there on their home page. Who knows how many people read my articles? SI is read by millions. Kind of cool to think about. Sadly, I have serious doubts my fiction will ever reach anywhere near that large an audience. But hey, I had my fifteen minutes. And some closure on the whole journalism career. I’m cool with that. 

What projects are you working on now?
Most of my focus these days is on my first novel. It’s a paranormal thriller with horror elements that I’m quite pleased with so far. Up until now I’ve been focused almost entirely on short stories, so this is a whole new direction for me.
Along with that I’ve just finished compiling a collection of short stories, tentatively entitled Night Terrors. I’ve sent out some feelers, testing the waters for possible placement options. It’s my first “stand-alone” project, and I’m fairly excited about it.
Later this summer I’m collaborating with Marsha on an artist-in-residency project. Basically we’ll be on display to the public, plying our respective trades, answering questions and telling stories, combining writing and visual art into what we hope will be something pretty cool. 

What are you watching?
Criminal Minds is one of the staples; it’s like comfort food for my brain. I’ve recently discovered The Following, which despite some draggy stretches I’m really enjoying. I’m also slowly catching up on American Horror Story, which has such a cool premise.

What are you listening to?
It varies a lot from day to day. Under the right circumstances, any number of things can strike my fancy. Puttering around the studio the other night we dusted off an old Collective Soul disk and gave it a spin. I’m also experiencing a bit of a Led Zeppelin resurgence lately. When I’m driving, it’s usually set to the Lithium station on XM. Pretty nice mix of grunge and alternative staples, a lot of which I’d all but forgotten about. Offspring, Smashing Pumpkins, Live, that sort of thing. 

What are you reading?
I’ve been working my way through the Dark Tower series. I started them back when the first couple of books were still pretty new, but took a long break around the fourth one and for whatever reason never got back to them until last fall. I’m just about to start into the last one, The Dark Tower.
Have you ever seen Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai?
Sadly, I have not. It’s on my to do list for sure. I’ve heard nothing but good things, one of those must-see things that I, well, haven’t.
You definitely should see it.  Although the premise is going to seem a little familiar.  The book where the Gunslingers are protecting a village from the Doom-Bots is lifted from Seven Samurai.
So many things to catch up on, so little time. My pop culture awareness has diminished greatly in recent years. 

Favorite author / book?
Probably Michael Crichton. He had a real knack for making the most impossible scenarios seem at least plausible, whatever the subject matter. Also he wrote Jurassic Park, one of my all-time favorite movies, so that’s a big plus in my book. It’s hard to narrow it down to just one favorite book, but I guess if you were to put a gun to my head I’d have to go not with something from the Crichton library, but The Stand. I was in my teens the first time I read it, and it was so unlike anything I’d ever read before, both in terms of content and magnitude. 

Favorite band / song?
That’s a tough one for me, since I listen to such a wide variety of stuff. I was weaned on old twangy country music, but discovered and latched onto hard rock/metal in my formative years. Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin begat Anthrax and Metallica, then on to Godsmack, Pantera and Black Label Society, with a detour into Southern rock, and most points in between. Even Elvis, Jim Reeves and Johnny Cash find their way into my rotation. More recently I’ve been exposed to a bunch of alternative stuff I, and probably most people, had never heard of. It’s kind of hard to nail down where my preferences lie, even for me. When I write I like quirky, eclectic stuff like Tori Amos or Steve Vai.

Least favorite band / song?
This one’s kind of tough too, since if I don’t like a particular song or artist, I tend not to listen to it. I could say I hate Justin Bieber, but the truth is I’ve never really listened to him. It’s more the idea of him that I don’t care for – the whole manufactured, doctored, sterilized and homogenized sound that American Idol and all those type of shows have popularized. I don’t mean to imply these people have no talent – many of them do – it’s more of an indictment of the process by which they seek their recognition.

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would you do?
Well again, if I could make my living by writing, I would absolutely do that. I was recently offered an opportunity to teach writing to kids, which also sounds pretty cool to me. While I’m not entirely convinced I’m qualified to do that, I’m more than willing to give it a shot. 

Who would you want to meet that you haven’t met? You get three choices:
Alive. Dead. Fictional.
Alive: Seth MacFarlane. I think we’re very similar in terms of humor, both the source and how it manifests, and I’m pretty sure we’d either hit it off incredibly well, or really dislike each other.
Dead: My great-grandfather on my dad’s side. His origins are shrouded in mystery – he seemingly appeared out of thin air one day, no paper trail, possibly under an assumed name – and I’d like to get the answers to a hundred questions I have for him.
Fictional: Tony Soprano. As odd as it may sound, we share some character traits too. 

What’s the best and worst job you’ve ever had?
Years ago I worked for Elections Canada briefly, as an enumeration supervisor. Basically, I got paid a ridiculous amount of money to send all of the people who worked under me off to take stock of who lived in every house in the province. Theoretically it was to give them an idea of how many potential voters there were. Whatever their motivation, it was an easy gig that paid well.
The worst job would have to be when I was the target guy at a shooting range. I can guess what sort of mental image that description brings to mind, and you’re not far from right. Basically, a bunch of us huddled in a ditch behind the targets they would shoot at. After each shot we’d have to drag the target down with a chain lift sort of thing, take note of where the hit was, put a sticker over the hole, and then send it back up for the next shot. Behind us was a big metal barrier, angled toward the targets. Its purpose was to corral any stray bullets, but this ingenious design would have deflected any errant shots directly down into the pit, straight at us. Kind of like trench warfare, except we were unarmed. It’s a miracle nobody was killed back there.

Are there any questions that I didn’t ask that you wished I had asked that you would like to answer now?
Despite my habit of answering direct questions honestly - sometimes embarrassingly so – and my seemingly gregarious, outgoing style, I’m actually quite a shy, introverted, intensely private person. I’ve come out of my shell a little bit of late, and if you catch me in the right mood I’ll talk your ear off well past the point where you’ve stopped caring, but it’s not uncommon for me to go through long stretches of tight-lipped silence and one-word answers. Some might (read: do) consider me on the moody side, which I guess is true to a point. Maybe my biggest stumbling block is the idea of letting people get too close, out of fear they’ll discover I’m not nearly as interesting as I may have first appeared.
I guess that’s not really a question, or the answer to one, is it? Let’s pretend you asked me “Joe, what are some of your insecurities most people really don’t know about you, and probably never will, at least until they read this interview?”

Anyone you recommend I interview that you can put me in touch with?
Got any questions for me?
If you haven’t already, you should reach out to our mutual friend Michael Kanuckel. He’s an interesting guy with a penchant for straight-up honesty. I’d love to see what he’d come up with in this type of interview.
I’m not saying you’re a bad friend for not knowing I already interviewed him, but I am posting the link to the interview I did with him here, just in case you haven’t read it yet.
I should have known you’d have gotten to him already. And I’ve read your interview with Jay Wilburn also, so I won’t recommend him even though I would have otherwise.

Thanks for letting me subject you to being interviewed!
Hey, my pleasure. Thanks for subjecting me to this!

Pitch parade:
Give me all of your links for things you want to promote.   All of them.
Twitter: @Joe_SoWhatElse
Amazon Author Page:
My collaborator/partner in crime:
Just because: (thanks for the great times and memories, guys!)

About the Interviewee:
Joe Powers is a Canadian horror writer with a fondness for literary sleight-of-hand. He loves the idea of prompting a strong emotional reaction using no more than words and his slightly off-center imagination, and delights in taking the reader on journeys to previously unexplored regions. He is a member of the Horror Writers’ Association, ArtsLink NB, the Writers' Federation of New Brunswick, the NB Authors Portal and the Short Fiction Writers' Guild, and is active in the local arts and writing communities. His work has appeared in several anthologies and magazines. You can follow Joe at

About the Interviewer:
Scott Lefebvre can write about whatever you want him to write about.
Mostly because when he was grounded for his outlandish behavior as a hyperactive school child, the only place he was allowed to go was the public library.
His literary tastes were forged by the works of Helen Hoke, Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, and H. P. Lovecraft.
He is the author of Spooky Creepy Long Island, and Condemned; and a contributing author to Forrest J. Ackerman’s Anthology of the Living Dead, Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction, The Call of Lovecraft, and Cashiers du Cinemart.
His reviews have been published by a variety of in print and online media including Scars Magazine, Icons of Fright, Fatally Yours and Screams of Terror, and he has appeared in Fangoria, Rue Morgue and HorrorHound Magazine.
Check out his publishing imprint Burnt Offerings Books here:
Check out his electronic music here:
And here:
Check out his Etsy here:
Stalk his Facebook at:
E-mail him at:

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