Conversations With Colleen: Meet Author, Andrew Joyce
Hello everyone! This week I’m thrilled to bring you another fabulous author, Andrew Joyce. I asked him to pick a few questions from my huge list HERE.
We all aspire to be successful writers and the best way to learn some of the tricks of the trade is to ask questions. Learning from the experiences of other authors is an added bonus!
Please meet my guest, Andrew Joyce. I’ve been an avid reader of his books for a few years now. Andrew’s writing reminds me of the Louis L’Amour westerns I read in my teens.
My favorite book in Andrew’s repertoire is “Yellow Hair,” although I’ve enjoyed everything he’s written. You can read my review of this book HERE.
Author, Andrew Joyce
Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until years later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books. His first novel, Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, was awarded the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Western of 2013. A subsequent novel, Yellow Hair, received the Book of the Year award from Just Reviews and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 from Colleen’s Book Reviews.
Joyce now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, Mahoney: A Dream Realized.
Hi, Colleen. Thanks so much for this interview. I’m ready to share some authorly wisdom.
Share away, Andrew. What advice would you like to give to aspiring writers?
There is one bit of advice that I have for aspiring authors. And that is, if you want to write well, you must read. Reading to a writer is as medical school is to a doctor, as physical training is to an athlete, as breathing is to life. Think of reading books like taking a writing course. I would suggest reading the classics: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and, of course, Steinbeck, to name but a few.
*Below are three examples of Steinbeck’s writing. If you read stuff like this, you can’t help but become a better writer. Please note that the first example is one long sentence that makes up an entire paragraph.
“The concrete highway was edged with a mat of tangled, broken, dry grass, and the grass heads were heavy with oat beards to catch on a dog’s coat, and foxtails to tangle in a horse’s fetlocks, and clover burrs to fasten in sheep’s wool; sleeping life waiting to be spread and dispersed, every seed armed with an appliance of dispersal, twisting darts and parachutes for the wind, little spears and balls of tiny thorns, and all waiting for animals and the wind, for a man’s trouser cuff or the hem of a woman’s skirt, all passive but armed with appliances of activity, still, but each possessed the anlage of movement.”—The Grapes of Wrath
“The afternoon came down as imperceptibly as age comes to a happy man. A little gold entered into the sunlight. The bay became bluer and dimpled with shore-wind ripples. Those lonely fishermen who believe that the fish bite at high tide left their rocks and their places were taken by others, who were convinced that the fish bite at low tide.”—Tortilla Flat
“June is gay—cool and warm, wet and shouting with growth and reproduction of the sweet and the noxious, the builder and the spoiler. The girls in the body-form slacks wander High Street with locked hands while small transistor radios sit on their shoulders and whine love songs in their ears. The young boys, bleeding with sap, sit on the stools of Tanger’s Drugstore ingesting future pimples through straws. They watch the girls with level goat-eyes and make disparaging remarks to one another while their insides whimper with longing.”—The Winter of Our Discontent
Now that’s some great writing. My first bit of advice is to read. My second: Never, ever, ever respond to a bad review.
Excellent advice. So, is there anything you are currently working on that may capture the interest of your readers?
Yes, there is something I am working on, and thank you for asking.
Here’s a synopsis of my latest effort, entitled Mahoney, to be published after the first of the year.
It started as a dream … a dream of a place where no one ever went hungry and fine Irish whiskey flowed from fountains, a land of good and plenty. But first, the nightmare had to be endured.
This is the story of the Mahoney clan. A story that starts in Ireland in 1849 and concludes in Washington D.C., in the year of our Lord, 1963. Three generations of Mahoneys take us on a journey through one hundred and fourteen years of American history. The history we all know about … and some we don’t. The story is told in three parts.
(If this were a movie pitch, I’d say Mahoney is Gone with the Wind meets East of Eden. Maybe with a little How the West Was Won thrown in for good measure. I’m not saying I’m on a par with those writers, but story-wise and in scope, Mahoney is similar.)
Mahoney sounds exciting. I’m thrilled that you are sharing some of the story with us. Thank you!
In the second year of An Gorta Mhór—the Great Famine—nineteen-year-old Devin Mahoney, the descendant of kings, lies on the dirt floor of his small, dark cabin, waiting for Death to lead him out of this world of misery. He has not eaten in five days. His entire family has preceded him in death, one at a time, as the hunger grew. He is the last of the Mahoneys.
To be rid of him and open the land up for grazing, Devin’s landlord offers him a ticket to America. With no other options available, Devin agrees to leave his beloved Ireland. But he has a dream that one day he will return a rich man and he and his descendants will never go hungry.
After surviving disease and storms at sea that decimate crew and passengers alike, Devin’s ship limps into New York Harbor three days before Christmas, 1849. He starts his new life and things seem to be going well until he runs afoul of a local gang and has to run for his life. He finds his way to Pennsylvania and goes to work laying track for the railroad.
Although he fights against it, Devin falls in love. He tells himself that he is in America to get rich and go back to Ireland, not to take on a wife. However, love wins out and Devin marries the beautiful Mary Callahan, also an immigrant from the ol’ sod.
Devin works hard and is promoted time and time again until he is earning enough to build his and Mary’s dream house. In 1860, their son, Dillon, is born, and the Mahoney household is one happy family indeed. The American Dream is within reach.
But then the Civil War intervenes. Devin believes it’s his duty to fight to free the slaves. Mary begs him not to go off to war, but Devin has a ready answer, “Sweet Mary, I was a slave all my life. My entire family were slaves. We were bonded to the landlord … I cannot live in this land any longer while other men are held in chains.”
Mary learns of the horrors of war from the letters Devin sends home. He is a prolific writer and writes in great detail of what he has seen on his march south, the battles he has been in, and the mundane life of a soldier between battles. Mary lives for his letters until she receives a final letter, not from Devin, but from the Department of War, telling her of Devin’s heroic death during the Battle of Fredericksburg. However, Devin’s dream will live on through his son, Dillon.
As he’s growing up, Dillon’s mother inspires him with stories of what his father had to go through to get to America, and once here, what it took to just get a start.
At age twenty, Dillon’s mother dies. The year is 1880. Dillon, at loose ends, sells the house and boards a train for California. He is anxious to experience the flavor of the Wild West, so during a water stop in the small town of Slow Water, Wyoming, he leaves the train to soak up the local atmosphere. While sipping whiskey in a saloon, he is taunted and physically assaulted by the killer Luke Short. Only by the intervention of a former lawman is his life spared. Vowing to settle things with Short, Dillon stays behind as the train continues on its westward journey.
He knows he cannot take on Short until he toughens up and learns something about guns. The former lawman, now El Segundo on a cattle ranch, offers Dillon a job as an assistant cook for an upcoming cattle drive, with the promise to teach him how to use a six-shooter so he’ll have at least a fighting chance when he goes up against Short.
By the time he returns from the cattle drive, Dillon is proficient with a gun. However, he has calmed down some and decides to let things be. But Short has other ideas and ambushes Dillon, leaving him for dead.
When he recovers, Dillon goes out after Short. Along the way and through no fault of his own, he has to face down another infamous killer, Heck Thomas. Dillon beats him to the draw and word spreads that there’s a new fast gun in the territory. Finally, in the little town of Taos, New Mexico, Dillon has his showdown with Short. With Short’s death, Dillon now has a reputation and every two-bit gunslinger is looking to add a notch to his gun by taking down Dillon Mahoney, the man who bested Luke Short and Heck Thomas. Dillon wants nothing to do with that kind of life and heads for California where he is not known.
In California, he strikes it rich in the oil business. He marries and has a son, David. Sadly, his wife dies in childbirth, and Dillon is left to raise his son by himself. Out of misplaced guilt for David not having a mother, Dillon spoils the boy rotten.
At the age of twenty-one (1917), an angry David has a falling out with his father and relocates to New York City, where he lives off an inheritance from his maternal grandfather. By 1930, he has squandered his inheritance and goes home to California to ask for monetary help. But Dillon, now seventy years old and dying of cancer, has lost all his money during the crash of ’29. When Dillon is unable to help, David curses his father and heads back to New York and an uncertain future.
David’s decline is swift and painful. His friends won’t lend him money and start avoiding him. He eventually is forced to give up his resplendent flat on Park Avenue and moves into a small, cramped apartment. Before long he cannot afford even that and is thrown out onto the street where he becomes acquainted with flophouses and soup kitchens.
Months later, a despondent David meets a freelance journalist who offers him a job as a kind of assistant, traveling the South. The journalist is investigating why a town that had a population of three hundred and fifty-five “Negroes” according to the 1920 Census, had, by 1930, not a single black resident (a true story). David, weary of life on the streets, eagerly accepts the job.
The citizens of the town warn the Yankees away, but when the stubborn Yankees persist in their investigation, drastic steps are employed by the town’s people to preserve their secret. Dillon and his employer barely escape with their lives.
The experience matures David, and at thirty-six he is finally a man. He now feels an affinity for the poor and downtrodden, a class of people he once despised. He next wants to tell the story of the farmers’ suffering through the dust storms of Oklahoma.
To quote Tom Joad:
“I’ll be aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be everywhere … wherever you look. Wherever there is a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there is a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be there in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready.”
That becomes David’s cause. Wherever there are people fighting for their rights, for the right not to go to bed hungry, for the right of a decent wage for an honest day’s work, for the right not to be discriminated against because of the color of their skin, David is there. He appears at some of the pivotal moments of social change of the early to mid-twentieth century.
David has gone from a spoiled rich kid to a fighter for human rights for all, not just for the rich and powerful. At sixty-eight years of age, he is present as Martin Luther King gives his “I Have a Dream” speech, which harkens back to what he had heard about his grandfather.
My grandfather’s dream dies with me. But others also have dreams. And their dreams will come true; it’s where the world is headed.
With tears in his eyes, David turns from the throng listening to King’s speech and slowly walks away, knowing that even though the first half of his life had been a complete waste, the second half was spent helping people—people like his grandfather—attain their dreams. And even though he has no family of his own on which to bestow his dreams, his life was a life well spent.
Thanks for sharing the news of your upcoming novel, “Mahoney,” Andrew. I can’t wait to read more. Mark your calendars, everybody. January is just around the corner.
Amazon Author Page US: Andrew Joyce
How to connect with Andrew Joyce
Facebook: Andrew Joyce (Yellowhair1850)
Connect with Andrew on his author blog at andrewjoyce.wordpress.com
Thanks for stopping by to meet Andrew Joyce. ❤