Monday, October 11, 2010

Joe Prentis: Abraham's Bones

Joe Prentis dropped by for a friendly interrogation. Welcome, Joe, and thanks for coming over. Tell us a little about yourself and your novels, Innocent and  Abraham's Bones.

Prentis: I guess you could say that I am pretty much your average guy, which means that I have the same ambitions, desires and fears as the rest of humanity. My father was interested in almost everything, and I learned to exercise my curiosity at an early age. Our home was filled with people from all walks of life. From listening to their conversations, I learned that the world was a huge, complicated, and wonderful place. My desire to write came about because I wanted others to experience the sense of wonder that captivated me at an early age and has continued throughout my life.

Q: What are your writing goals?

Prentis: I learned early in the process of becoming a writer that the idea of being one of the literary giants of the century was an illusion that I was not likely to realize. I write for the pure joy of creating a story that will entertain, inspire, or teach. My main goal is to produce stories that someone will love in the same way I love a good story. One of the most enjoyable experiences in my life was going into a library and being drafted by the librarian to read to the children. They were especially attentive when I read the story and did all of the voices. A few years later, I attended a book signing at the same library. One of the little girls was then in middle school. She announced to the crowd that she was my number one fan. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Q: Tell us about your latest book. Is it available in print and e-book formats?

Prentis: Several years ago, I started writing a book about the Middle East. I soon realized that one book would not tell the story I was trying to tell. It soon grew into a series. I finished the first book, Abraham’s Bones, and I’m now working on the second book in the series. It has a working title of The Relic, and should be available by the end of the year. I like adventure stories with suspense and human conflict. I think Abraham’s Bones meets both of these requirements. The book is available at Amazon, both in print and e-book format.

Q: How do you develop characters? Setting?

Prentis: I am a character driven writer. Characters sometimes spring into my head fully grown and then demand that I do something to improve their situation. When I was at a library meeting that hosted five different fiction writers, I was the only one who wrote character driven fiction. Someone asked me how I could possibly write without a detailed plot. I asked her to imagine what would happen if her best friend was carjacked, threatened, falsely accused, or imprisoned. Once you know your characters as well as you know the people around you, most of the plotting will take care of itself. Writing from a character driven prospective does not involve sloppy writing. If anything, it channels the process of plotting into a logical sequence that covers all the requirements for a well crafted story. I love books that contain detailed description of their setting. It is fun and a challenge to try to find new ways to make the reader see and feel the surroundings without weighing the story down with extraneous details.

Q: What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?

Prentis: There are too many books where the characters are little more than cardboard cutouts. If you think about the books that really move you emotionally, it is the ones where the protagonist is strong, yet flawed. People are a lot more complex than some writers realize. We are all tugged in different directions, and if a writer wants a book to resonate with the reader, he will make the characters complicated and conflicted.

Q: Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track.

Prentis: When I start a story, I usually have little more than one scene in mind and only a vague idea where the story is headed. My suspense novel, Innocent, grew out of a brief incident I witnessed when going into a shopping mall. A police officer held the door for a young woman, then bent and picked up her young daughter’s toy when she dropped it. There was something particularly moving in the way he presented the toy to the little girl. He was a tough looking veteran, but with the tender touch of someone who loved kids. After I have captured someone like that on the page, I ask myself where I am going with the story. It is at this point where I find it possible to present this person in conflict with life and the events surrounding him. By the time I finish the story, I have a tall stack of notes, most of them involving questions I ask myself about the plot. One carefully explained detail can lead the reader to anticipate what is going to happen in the next chapter, and most important of all, the reader can feel it as it happens. I make lots of notes, and usually create a storyboard outlining the sequence of events in the story. This allows me to tighten up the plot without leaving out any essential details.

Q: Where do you write? When? What do you have around you?

Prentis: I have an office at home where I have two computers. One is the conventional set down arrangement at a desk. The other computer is setting on a cabinet where I can stand up and write if I get tired of sitting. I have the blinds closed, the television and radio off. I also don’t want to be disturbed. I have a table where I have my notes arranged in order where I can look up any detail, and my storyboard where I can glance at it without too much of an interruption. I can write at any time of the day or night.

Q: Where can folks learn more about your books?
Prentis: My blog address is:

Thanks for coming by, Joe. Continued success.


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Joe,

I definitely want to know more about your new novel! It sounds exciting.

Jacqueline Seewald

Betty Gordon said...

A great indepth interview, Joe. Susan, a good presentation as usual.
I look forward to reading "Abrham's Bones."
Betty Gordon

Pauline B Jones said...

Most interesting, Joe. I'm surprised that people are surprised you can start from character, though. Lots of authors wing it, though the battle lines are always drawn between plot ahead writers and wing it writers. LOL! Congrats!

Lise said...

A terrific interview, Susan and Joe - We have very similar creative habits, I note, Joe. I, too, am character driven and I love seeing an incident and trying to decide how each character might react to it. I also use the "what if", or that flash of an image that grabs hold and creates the desire for an entire story. Would that I were as prolific as you are! Continued good luck with your writing projects and enjoy. Isn't it great to be a storyteller?

Milton T. Burton said...

I think writing to entertain is one of the highest callings there is. This is an often dreary and heartbreaking old world, and those who can lift us out of the mundane for a few hours deserve our praise. I enjoyed both "Abraham's Bones" and "Innocent" greatly.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Interesting interview, Joe. I think any book of depth comes from being a character driven novel. Those that are not, usually are cardboard in terms of characters, actions, plot, etc. in my opinion.

Nice to see somebody else who needs the radio, TV off when he writes. I have always felt alone on that as so many report they have music playing or whatever.


Susan Whitfield said...

Kevin, I'm with you guys. I have to have quiet and few distractions when I'm in the groove. Thanks to all of you for stopping by.

Joe Prentis said...


By the time I finish a story, I am enraptured by each of my characters, and the thought of someone getting to know them, as I do, is a heddy experience. I am now to the editing stages of the sequel to Abraham's Bones. Can't wait to shove it out into the world.

Joe Prentis

Joe Prentis said...


I would love to hear your comments on Abraham's Bones. Looking forward to reading it.

Joe Prentis said...


I am surprised that anyone would even want to write a book that wasn't character driven, although there are many writers who do. Many of the writers I have met in person are mostly non-fiction writers and I suppose the process of constructing an article that must be footnoted gives a different prospect on the creative process.

Joe Prentis said...


I hope no one takes offense at this, but the difference between character driven and plot driven fiction is the same difference as in sending an email to your significant other, or kissing them . . . but maybe I am just prejudiced toward my own creative methods.

Joe Prentis said...


Since the beginning of time, there has always been a special place around the bonfire for the story teller. I hope it will always be the same. I'm glad you liked Abraham's Bones and Innocent.

Joe Prentis said...


I think writing methods depend on how much we become immersed in the plot of our books. I remember some famous writer who wrote historical fiction. His books were filled with tragedy. His friends would often worry about the state of his health. I have not (thank God) reached a point where I 'become' my characters, but I do want to feel their pain.

dkchristi said...

Another interview that reveals just a little more about an author and his work. Character is everything in my book - though a reviewer said the environment was the main character of Ghost Orchid; I beg to differ :-)

I look forward to seeing the entire series in print. author of Ghost Orchid, a mystery wrapped in the aura of the rare and endangered ghost orchid.

Sally said...

I love your characters they are so believable. Now I know why. I can't wait to read Abraham's Bones.