Inkshares Interview - Joseph Asphahani & THE ANIMAL IN MAN

AiM Cover

An artifact of immense power puts Maxan in the middle of a secret war between mighty guilds. To overcome the resourceful and sinister masters who would use him, use everyone, as puppets, he must decide which nature defines him. Animal, or man?

Who is Joseph Asphahani and what's THE ANIMAL IN MAN all about?

Legends say that Asphahani was a high school English teacher [turned corporate stiff], and that he cut his literary teeth by helping his students analyze the techniques of effective rhetoric and then refine their own writing. Nowadays (referring to that jab about being a corporate stiff), he helps a multi-million dollar logistics software corporation with their online marketing. By day, not so creative, perhaps, but it pays the bills. By night, he's a proud father of two rambunctious daughters, showing them the wisdom of Samurai Jack and Powerpuff Girls, and he's a sci-fi-fantasy writer into the wee hours of the morn. "The Animal in Man" is a fictional exploration of some questions that have come to bother him for decades. Are we addicted to violence? Is being violent part of our nature? Do we have to be violent to release something worse from our souls, and if so, what? The story of The Animal in Man takes a shot at answering these by following a fox-man named Maxan as he's pulled into an ancient conflict between two powerful, secretive groups. He gets his paws on a weapon that could turn the tide of that shadow war - a mind-altering device capable of turning everyone around him into ravaging beasts - and must ultimately decide what to do with it. A decision that defines who he truly is. ......The story is so complex and epic, to this day its author struggles with summarizing it. Forgive him.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

(Switching to first person now...) Almost all the stories I've ever conceived or written have focused on just one theme in some form or another. Deception. Lies. Manipulation. Whether we lie to others to gain control over them, or we lie to ourselves to pretend we're happy... I often wonder what is the deeper reason for telling lies. Why do we want that control? Why do we seek false happiness? For my own part, I was once lied to by someone very dear to me, and it destroyed me utterly. And yet, finding the truth ultimately set me free. It's very much like the age-old allegory of Plato's Cave. The idea of "The Animal in Man" was born from this need to explore how lies can control individuals, groups, entire nations. What if their innate desire to harm one another turned out to be part of some malicious plan? Would they keep fighting, since it's all they've ever known? Or would they at least try to lay down their arms and find peace? ............Oh, and the book is also very much about anthropomorphic animals. There's an important reason for that. Like how - in this world - we may call someone crazy, and we say "he's an animal!" Is he though? Isn't he still human? What is a human? And is a human really any better than an animal? These kinds of questions fascinate me, and I believe writing this book is my attempt at answering them.

Why Inkshares?

Just look at this place! The website is clean and user-friendly. My book stands shoulder to shoulder with some other really fascinating books on this platform. Self-publishing on Amazon, to me, is like trying to launch a ship into the ocean, only the ship is made from duct tape and cardboard. Inkshares provides the author/boat-builder with better materials to make it, a better pier to launch it from, and a network of support from other builders to keep you going. Your ship is much more likely to sail (and sail in style!) when it sets out from Inkshares.

What books have captured your attention lately?

I'm following so many books, it can be hard to explore all of them. (That would be like a full time job!) But there are definitely some that rise to the top. Honestly, taking a closer look at YOUR book "Wrestletown" is what got me in touch with you to begin with! I would probably not be here answering these questions if I hadn't been mesmerized by the amazing cover-art. The synopsis hooked me, and the first couple chapters reeled me in, man. Besides that, Peter Ryan's novel "Sync City" grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. (Like, seriously, I can feel it's meaty grip pulling my neck around by the ear right now; if you read the first chapter you'll understand what I mean.) Peter's a talented author and worth paying attention to. His second book "Destiny Imperfect" is one I'm closely following. Outside of Inkshares....... There's this one book called "The Buildiers" by Daniel Polansky that was absolutely thrilling. It's a quick read. You can finish it in 2-3 hours. It comes with my highest recommendation. It's also about animals killing eachother: A salamander with knives, a badger with a gatling gun, and a stoat (NOT a skunk!) with a French accent. And so much more.

Who are your greatest influences?

Hmmm... Influences on my writing style are constantly shifting. I'd say that right now, it's Joe Abercrombie. I read "The Blade Itself" a while back, and have just begun the second book in his First Law trilogy, "Before They are Hanged." If you're an author who's heavy on writing an action scene (like me), you can learn A LOT from a scene out of Abercrombie's work. I also like how he handles weaving a character's thoughts into a scene - something that's crucial to how I'm telling the story of "The Animal in Man." Besides Abercrombie, I've carried a copy of Gary Whitta's "Abomination" in my laptop bag since I first started writing (after publishing via inkshares became a reality). I knew who Whitta was, having been a super-fan of The Book of Eli, and I found his writing style in the novel to be really crisp. I am constantly re-reading scenes from Abomination to study how I can keep moving plot, speaking dialogue, relaying thoughts, and describing action, all on the same page, all as engaging as possible. (Also, I'm a huge fan of Dark Souls - the video game franchise - and I found "Abomination" was hitting all those dark-grotesque-monstrosity notes for me.)

What's next for you as a writer?

I have about eight projects that are always kicking around in my mind. I wrote a pretty heavy Game Design Document as my Master's Thesis for Full Sail University - called "The White Shadow." It's pretty frikkin' rad. I'd like very much to shop that around to game development studios and see if a team of creative designers, artists, and programmers would be willing to help me make the damn thing. Other than that, I have an idea for a Y.A. novel in which a young, orphan girl wonders why real life can't be like the life she sees in movies and games, and soon begins to see the lines between them blur thereafter. Finally, I'd really like to tell a branching narrative story I'm calling "Curses and Mists" in a choose-your-own-adventure format. I grew up on those books! I'd really like to see them make a comeback, and Curses' particular story of darkness and insanity would really lend itself well to the genre. Stay tuned, I'm always working on something.

You can read a sample & pre-order THE ANIMAL IN MAN on Inkshares.