Author Interview: Joseph Badal
Joseph Badal’s 38 years in the banking and financial services industries provide a solid foundation for the storyline in Shell Game, a thriller that uses the financial meltdown that began in 2007 as a backdrop for murder, greed, corruption, and mayhem. His roles as a financial consultant and as a senior executive in banking and mortgage organizations give him unusual insight into the capital markets meltdown that continues to impact economies and markets to this day.
Prior to his finance career, Joe served as an officer in the U.S. Army in critical, highly classified positions in the U.S. and overseas, including tours of duty in Greece and Vietnam. He earned numerous military decorations.
Joe was recognized in 2011 as “One of The 50 Best Writers You Should Be Reading”. His short story Fire & Ice will be included in the anthology Uncommon Assassins, which will be released in Fall 2012.
C&D: When did you begin writing your first book?
Joe: I always wanted to write a book, but always seemed to be too busy to do so. I began writing my first book in 2000. I hadn’t gotten any less busy; I just came to the conclusion that putting off doing something that was so important was foolish.
C&D: Why do you write? Why do you write thrillers?
Joe: I write because I cannot NOT write. I write thrillers because my background has given me a lot of material to write about. Writing a thriller based on personal experience makes the writing process easier and more enjoyable.
C&D: How did you get started writing thrillers?
Joe: I had a story in my head for well over 20 years. It was about international intrigue, murder and mayhem. After I wrote that story, I was hooked on the genre. Of course, I have always loved reading thrillers, so writing them was the natural thing to do.
C&D: Where do you get your story ideas? How do you pick your locations?
Joe: My stories are generally inspired by actual events, many of which were personal experiences. When I change a location from the location where an experience or incident actually occurred, I try to come up with a place that adds drama and interest to my story. For example, the treasure that forms the basis for the story in The Pythagorean Solution was actually on a fishing boat sunk off the Attican Peninsula. I moved the treasure’s location to the island of Samos because of the ancient historical sites on Samos and because Samos was the home island of Pythagoras.
C&D: Do you know the endings to your book when you start writing? After it’s in print, do you ever wish one of your books had a different ending?
Joe: I never know how my books will end. So far, I’ve been happy with the endings.
C&D: How do you come up with titles?
Joe: I agonize over my titles. Sometimes, the title of a book just comes to me with little effort. Other times, I spend hours and days making lists of possible titles.
C&D: What is your work schedule like? Has it changed since you published your first book?
Joe: Although I write at least 5 days per week, I tend to fall into manic cycles during which I will write in 6-8 hour stints. I usually write 40-50 hours a week, not including research time. If anything, I write more today than I did before being published.
C&D: Please describe your workspace.
Joe: I write on a computer in a room with a large table on which I can spread out my research materials. There are windows that afford plenty of light and gorgeous views of mountains and sky.
C&D: What do you do in your spare time when you aren’t writing?
Joe: I do financial consulting work for a variety of clients, and I speak to writers groups.
C&D: What are your most and least favorite things about being a writer?
Joe: I love the process of writing and love talking to readers about that process. My least favorite thing about writing is interacting with agents and publishers who approach your work from a biased position, who start with premises such as “only women buy books” or “men won’t read books that have a strong female character”. I have found that my readers are split about equally between men and women.
C&D: Do you read your reviews (good or bad) and do they make a difference to you?
Joe: I read all of my reviews, because I can learn a lot from what people think about my work. Sure the bad reviews bother me, but not for long.
C&D: What is the most interesting criticism you have received?
Joe: One reviewer told me I should put more sex into my books. My counter to that was “I only write about what I know and understand”.
C&D: Character, Setting Story. Which is your starting point? Do you outline your plot before you begin? If so, how extensively?
Joe: I wish I could tell you that I am so disciplined that I can outline my plots. I start with a concept and a main character and then go from there. I never know how my books will end, and add characters as the story evolves.
C&D: What are your long term goals as a writer?
Joe: I have two aspirations regarding my writing: I want each book that I write to be better than the previous book, and I want to make the best sellers list.
C&D: What is the best advice you would give another writer?
Joe: Don’t put off writing. If you have the passion, then start writing today. If you don’t have the passion, find something else to do. Writing is not a guaranteed path to fame and fortune. It is hard work and often the only gratification you will receive is the feeling of accomplishment you get in finishing a project.
C&D: What was your biggest career break?
Joe: My biggest break came when Tony Hillerman read and blurbed my first novel and then introduced me to his agent.
C&D: If you could acquire a talent or skill just by asking, what would you ask for and why?
Joe: I would ask to be a great pianist. I admire people who are accomplished musicians, and I have always wanted to play the piano.
C&D: If you were taking a long flight – 15 hours or more – who would you like to sit next to, picking anyone past or present?
Joe: I would love to have a conversation with Leonardo DaVinci. Just trying to find out how his brain worked would be fascinating.
C&D: If you could be any hero/heroine in a book, which would it be?
Joe: Edmund Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo.
C&D: Do you watch any comedy/thriller series on television? If so, which one is your favorite and why?
Joe: Yes, I watch crime/mystery/thriller series on TV. Some of my favorites are MI-6, Breaking Bad, Damages and Justified.
C&D: Has TV influenced your writing?
Joe: I can’t say that I’ve been influenced by TV other than in the area of creating short chapters. My chapters tend to be similar to movie scenes – short and punchy. The greatest influences on my writing have been personal experiences and the writings of other authors.
C&D: Who are some of your favorite authors? Is there anyone in particular you draw inspiration from?
Joe: Robert Ludlum’s work made me fall in love with thrillers and international intrigue. James Clavell, Nelson DeMille, Steve Brewer and Michael Connelly are some of my favorite authors.
C&D: If you could trade places with any other person (famous or not) for a week, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?
Joe: I would trade places with William Shakespeare, on the assumption that when I reverted back to my real persona I would carry with me W.S.’s talent.
C&D: What was the last movie you went to see?
Joe: Man on a Ledge.
C&D: If aliens landed in front of you, and offered you any position on their planet in exchange for anything you desire, what would you want?
Joe: I would ask for the position of Space Exploration.