Yes, I know I said a couple of weeks ago that Finding Fiction Friday was going to go on a few-month hiatus. BUT ... when I found out last week that an old friend had just had his first book published, I absolutely had to share it and him here on the blog. So this is a very special Friday for me as I introduce you to the incredibly creative mind of Joe Heilman ...
Joe Heilman was born and raised in Baltimore Maryland and is the Lead Storyteller at Poema Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. For over 20 years Joe has been telling crazy stories, writing and singing decent songs, and hanging out in shady bars and churches. Friar Tuck's Tales for The Common Outlaw is Joe's first collection of mischievous parables.
Joe, tell us about your journey with this book. When did you first think about writing for publication and how did it all come about?
About 4 years ago I was having lunch with a good friend who asked me if I had a "bucket list." I replied that, for the most part, I felt like I had accomplished a lot already and didn't really keep an active list of "things left undone." But that conversation somehow rekindled thoughts I had entertained through the years of someday writing a book. (I just always assumed I would be in my sixties when I finally got around to it.)
I soon realized that I actually had a good start on one if I just began to take the stories that I had created for use as a public speaker and began massaging them into something readable.
I didn't really think about publishing it to a large audience until I had my manuscript read by some authors I respected who encouraged me to publish it in a more formal way.
Tell us one thing about yourself that you think might surprise us.
Well, yes, I am a pastor and storyteller, but before those I am a rabid KISS fan. If I could preach every Sunday in kabuki makeup & demon boots, I would!
I'm also a very skilled backgammon player, and didn't appreciate the value of eating kale until in my forties!
Now let’s get to the book itself. “Friar Tuck’s Tales for the Common Outlaw” is an anthology, correct? What kind of stories will we find?
Yes, Friar Tuck is a collection of short stories. You're gonna find diverse tales ranging from all time periods and settings that, at the end of the day, hopefully point you in the same direction.
I know with everything you create, there is meaning behind it. Feel like telling us the meaning for you, or is this something you want people to discover on their own?
The stories in the book I consider to be parables. So, yes, there's a deeper meaning to be mined. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What people discover for themselves I can't say nor would I hope to discourage.
But my hope is that by the end of the book people will see we are all a part of something much bigger and beautiful than what most of us have ever dared to dream.
Do you have another book rattling around in there?
As I read advice from bloggers and self-publishing gurus apparently the best marketing for your first book is to begin writing your second one. So, yes, I have a few ideas rattling around. My hope for the new year is not only to enjoy the process of seeing Friar Tuck find its way in the world, but beginning to get back to creating something fresh.
If there is one character you’ve written or are writing that you would really like people to meet, who would it be and why?
Spread amongst the short stories in the book is the over-story of Friar Tuck. He's the one supposedly telling these scandalous tales and bringing trouble on himself by doing so. He's who I sometimes fancy myself to be. I enjoy an "amphibious lifestyle" of playing music and hanging out in bars and clubs all week, and then preaching and worship leading on Sunday morning. Talking theology over a tall pint gives me a great thrill. To some these two worlds, religious and otherwise, don't really go together. For me they absolutely are one in the same. I thrive in both. There's a lot of church happening in a bar. I wish there was more bar in church sometimes. So Friar Tuck is who I aspire to be, I'd love to hang out with, and hope people get to meet as well.
What about being published and the book industry in general has most surprised you?
Hum, I honestly haven't been around it enough yet to say. However, one thing I have found is people's respect level seems to go up for you when you achieve getting your work "out there." Why it does I couldn't say. I think a lot of people have a dream of one day writing and publishing a book of their own but not many actually see it through for one reason or another. So I kinda get the sense from people who find out I've written a book that I just came up a level for them, which is a weird feeling.
I know another passion for you is music. What does creating that do for you, and has that process translated to or influenced your writing?
I've been a songwriter much longer than I've been an author. One of the most important things a songwriter can strive for, in my opinion, is to achieve poetry and brevity at the same time. One of the earliest influences on me as a writer was the poet e.e. cummings. He really did an amazing job at making a point with as few words as possible. Bono says writers should be "masters of compression." So I tried to bring a songwriter’s way with words and poetry into my short stories. For example, one of my characters is a homeless person who is trudging down the street. He's tired, cold, and wet. Instead of just listing those qualities I say he's, "wet foot weary." Same meaning, less words, decent poetry… I guess.
To close the interview, I have ten questions for you. Here they go!
- What is your favorite word? Soul
- What is your least favorite word? When my 12- year-old daughter rolls her eyes and says, "DAAAAAD!"
- What turns you on? A good audience
- What turns you off? Unexamined living
- What sound or noise do you love? A Gibson guitar through a Marshall stack
- What sound or noise do you hate? See answer #2
- What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Hibachi chef
- What profession would you not like to do? Sales
- If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? Welcome to the party!
- What question have you never been asked, that you wish someone would ask you? (and you can answer it if you want) What I hope Friar Tuck accomplishes? Answer: Dialogue.
Joe, thanks so much for spending time with us. Can you let us know where to follow you, and where we can go to purchase your book and music?
You can follow me at joeheilman.com, or on Facebook. You can hear me tell stories if you hit poemachurch.org. You can grab a copy of my book from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or from me if you happen to catch me playing music in your local watering hole!
Rudy and Trish are the main characters in Patricia and my published short stories in the "Evernight: Romance in a World of Darkness" anthologies. You can get to know them as well as get 23 other great stories! Here's where you can find them: