By Jeff Ayers
Joshua Graham’s latest thriller, DARKROOM, provides a riveting and page-turning experience. After scattering her mother’s ashes in Vietnam, photojournalist Xandra Carrick comes home to New York to rebuild her life and career. When she experiences supernatural visions that reveal atrocities perpetrated by American soldiers during the Vietnam War, she finds herself entangled in a forty-year-old conspiracy that could bring the nation into political turmoil.
Launching headlong into a quest to learn the truth from her father, Peter Carrick, a Pulitzer Prize Laureate who served as an embedded photographer during the war, Xandra confronts him about a dark secret he has kept–one that has devastated their family.
Her investigations lead her to her departed mother’s journal, which tell of love, spiritual awakening, and surviving the fall of Saigon.
Pursued across the continent, Xandra comes face-to-face with powerful forces that will stop at nothing to prevent her from revealing the truth. But not before government agencies arrest her for murder, domestic terrorism and an assassination attempt on the newly elected president of the United States.
DARKROOM is a riveting tale of suspense that tears the covers off the human struggle for truth in a world imprisoned by lies. The novel won First Prize in the Forward National Literature Awards and was an Award-Winning Finalist in the Mystery/Suspense category of The USA “Best Books 2011″ Awards. He took the time to chat with ITW.
What sparked the idea for DARKROOM?
My wife and I had been through some very challenging times around 2008. We had both recently lost loved-ones, and my job of nearly a decade, along with my entire department had been outsourced to an offshore company. Seizing the opportunity to concentrate on writing another novel, my wife and I sat down for a few hours discussing what we thought made up a great book. A few hours later, we came up with a character (Xandra Carrick) and everything that made her who she is. I put her in a situation, and DARKROOM unfolded from that point on.
For Xandra’s life and character, I drew upon the struggles and issues my wife and probably many other people have dealt with. I daresay that Xandra’s character is believable and relatable to most people.
Talk about winning the Forward National Literature Award.
When I learned that DARKROOM had won First Prize in The Forward National Literature Award, I was both honored and thrilled. I had previously won The International Book Award for BEYOND JUSTICE, and to have won another award gave me further confirmation about my calling as a writer.
Why the shift in writing a different genre?
You’re referring to my excursion into Young Adult Epic Fantasy in which I write under the pen name of Ian Alexander. My book ONCE WE WERE KINGS was written at the request of my then 6 year old son, who at that time knew all the seven books in THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C.S. Lewis like the back of his hand. We had been enjoying them together, and one night as we read THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, he turned to me (knowing I wrote novels) and said, “Daddy, will you write me a book?” The rest, as they say, is history.
I mainly write suspense and thrillers, but in fulfilling my promise to my children, I have at least two more books to follow ONCE WE WERE KINGS. And who knows? After that, maybe more.
Can you discuss writing in different genres under different names? Does this cause a problem for your fans?
I find that writing under different pen names for different genres is actually quite fun. Mostly all my fans know that I refer to Ian Alexander as my evil twin. Ian has his own website, facebook page and profile, and for all intents and purposes, is an entirely separate entity. Occasionally, Ian and I will have online arguments. Ian has some fans of his own that are loyal and prefer him to me. But they’re biased, obviously. 🙂
How does faith play into your novels, and how do you balance it with the thrills?
For me, my faith is not a religion that I practice only on the weekends. Nor is it a mere set of rules and morals. It’s the driving force of my life. And to be clear, it’s not my faith that drives my life, but rather, the object of my faith (God, with whom I, and everyone can have direct access to through Jesus Christ and The Holy Spirit.)
Since it is the most significant part of my identity, I can scarcely compartmentalize it in my life any more than I can escape being a husband, a father, a son. If you speak with me for about 5 minutes or more, you will invariably hear about my family because they are such a part of me, and because I have such a deep relationship with each of them. It’s the same for my faith in God. It affects every aspect of my life and permeates my world view.
Therefore, I cannot help but incorporate my faith into my writing. The good news is that (Dammit, Jim!) I’m a writer, not a preacher. So it has always been my goal not to preach, but rather present life as I see it in as objective a manner possible, and let my readers draw their own conclusions. I’m happy to say that most of my reviews have stated that though they are not fans of Christian Fiction, they enjoyed my books and didn’t feel at all preached at.
Balancing it with thrills? Oh, I don’t know. I think that if you look throughout the Bible, you’ll find that faith always plays a part of thrilling events and stories. Why? Because when you’re faced with dangerous situations, impossible situations, you’re going to have faith one way or another. Seriously, think about it. Faith is a choice. Faith is what you’re willing to act upon when you don’t have visible, tangible evidence of your hope. Each time a character takes a risk, doing what he knows he must, he’s putting his faith into action. If an author were to remove all elements of faith in his books, it’d make for a fairly boring read. That’s because you cannot separate risk from thrillers. Nor can you remove risk from faith.
Imagine this: You’re leading captives away from their captors. All of your people are unarmed, untrained men, women and children. Suddenly, the entire army of the captors pursues you and those under your charge. They’re armed, dangerous, and will stop at nothing to recapture your people and punish them for escaping. Finally, you can’t go a step further because before you lies the sea. You have no ships, everyone has walked for miles. They’re exhausted, frightened, resigned to their fate.
What will you do?
If your name is Moses, and you know it’s your destiny to lead God’s people to freedom according to His plan, you can: A) give up, or B) Have Faith that God will provide you with a way to accomplish your mission.
We all know this scene resulted in the epic parting of the Red Sea. And really, it’s not Deus ex machine because all along, Moses acted by the power and authority divinely granted. The point is, faith makes its way into all great stories, be it history or fiction. This is because every human being has some kind of faith. Some put theirs in God, others not. Until and unless humans become omniscient and omnipotent, faith will always be a pillar of great storytelling.
What are the “Accidental” books?
The Accidental Stories are short novellas with a common theme of destiny. They are all standalone and independent of each other. They share a common theme and their titles use the term “Accidental” ironically. Almost all of them have a supernatural component in which an ordinary person gains an extraordinary ability (healer, exorcist, etc.,) or has an extraordinary experience. I wrote these stories over the course of about six months as a way to express not religion, but the amazing supernatural side of life about which not everyone thinks. Also, I wrote some of them as an homage to Stephen King and Dean Koontz, two of my favorite authors.
How has the ebook revolution helped or hindered you?
I can’t see how the ebook revolution has actually hindered any author. Because of its ease of getting titles out to millions of readers instantly and affordably, it’s been a great help to my efforts. How else can a new author, not yet backed by a major publisher (as was the case with BEYOND JUSTICE) get his book out in front of so many readers? And how else can such an author—called an independent author—become a #1 bestseller on Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble, without the support of a major publisher’s marketing department?
As always, I want to thank the hundreds of thousands of Kindle, Nook, Kobo, SONY Reader users out there who have supported my efforts and brought me to those bestsellers statuses. Much love and appreciation to you all!One of my favorite parts of the day is reading emails or Facebook messages from my readers giving me feedback or asking me questions. Some of their messages have brought me to tears, and others have made me laugh so hard I nearly shot soda out of my nose! But what I love most is when they tell me how my book touched or changed their lives. It is truly my honor to serve you, my readers by bringing you stories that not only entertain, but challenge you to examine your lives and beliefs in a positive way.
It’s not so much the praise that I love in these messages, but it’s the story. For a change, I get to be blessed by my readers telling me their stories of overcoming adversity, bitterness, being set free by forgiveness and truth.
In the economy of human connection, from the days of Adam and Eve until even today, the currency upon which we transact and transmit the value of our lives and identity is Story. Thank you for letting me share mine with you. I look forward to hearing yours.
Winner of the 2011 INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS, and Amazon.com #1 bestselling author Joshua Graham’s Barnes & Noble #1 bestselling novel BEYOND JUSTICE is taking the world by storm, one reader at a time. Many of his readers blame him for sleepless nights, arriving to work late, neglected dishes and family members, and not allowing them to put the book down.
Suspense Magazine listed BEYOND JUSTICE in its BEST OF 2010, alongside titles by Scott Turrow, Ted Dekker, Steven James and Brad Thor.
His latest novel DARKROOM (Howard Books/Simon & Schuster May 2012) won First Prize in the Forward National Literature Awards and was an Award-Winning Finalist in the Mystery/Suspense category of The USA “Best Books 2011″ Awards.