Getting into writing – an interview with Joe of Crystal Lake Publishing

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What got you interested in writing?

It was an unquenchable thirst to create something out of nothing more than ideas, imagination, and damn hard work. I can still remember a young(er) me trying hundreds of different things to satisfy that alien need, from building up collections of comic books and rare coins to earning medals, and writing severely depressing songs. One memory I’ll always remember has me sitting in the back of our car on a long journey from South Africa to Namibia, dreaming about being a famous young author. I was about 28 when that memory, combined with the then desire to write songs, brought me over to writing short stories.

Tell us a little about your chosen genre.

Well, you write what you know. You write what you read most. Ever since I was a youngster visiting our local library, I was hooked on the weirder, more obscure books. Anything with amazing covers that reached into my subconscious and imagination. There weren’t a lot of horror books in that library, but the sci-fi and odd Fantasy book here and there did the trick. Along with that were comics like Batman, and TV shows like Tales from The Crypt. I was about 9 or 10 when I used to sneak out of my room at night to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street. But I was completely hooked after reading King’s IT when I was about 14 (I think. My memory is terrible). Another big favorite was Friday the 13th, from which I borrowed the name Crystal Lake for my publishing company. It’s professional, while sticking to its horror roots.

What are your happiest memories in your writing career?

There are so many, and they just keep coming. The first one was the pleasure I found in writing. In having people read and enjoy my stories. Then I sold my first story to an eZine. My first published story actually brought in some money, so I was hooked. There was no going back after that. The best part was reading the positive comments below the story. Comments by complete strangers.

Once I started publishing books, the highlights included holding the first book with the Crystal Lake logo in my hand, and then getting the opportunity to work with authors/actors/directors I looked up to as a kid. I did an email interview with Wes Craven a few months before his death. What an honor. I had multiple conversations with Graham Masterton, and published a story of his in the very first Tales from The Lake. I’ve since corresponded with Peter Straub and Joe R. Lansdale, and published stories by Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker. Yes, I’ll always be a fanboy first. Coming soon will be books that include Stephen King and actor Tony Todd. Now remember, I live on a continent far away from these people. Far away from Hollywood and New York and all these brilliant places and people I only saw on TV, in books, and in my dreams. It’s like living those dreams when I get to work with these people. Damn I love my job.

How do you handle success and failure?

You have to see everything as just another stepping stone into the future. That however does not mean treating people like stepping stones. It’s about experiences. Sure you can celebrate or pout for a short while, and then you just get going again. No one thing can turn you into a failure or success (unless you’re really lucky or you seriously screwed up), so enjoy the moment, go through the emotions that are part of being a human, and get back to work. Success is a combination of many small steps taken every day. And they can’t all be great steps. You need to experience life. You need to learn from those experiences. Grow a tough skin, grow weary of pitfalls. Learn so that you can help others going through the same issues.

I also learned quickly that everything changes. Nothing remains. The good times are coming and so are the bad. Just do your best, keep your wits about you, and have a strong support system. Family, friends, etc. Being stubborn doesn’t make life easier.

What makes you write when you’re exhausted and your fingers ache?

The fact that I’m not just in this for myself. I represent authors and their work. I signed on to promote their careers. I see myself as their publisher, publicist, agent, and biggest fan.

I also have a family to think of (just my wife and our two dogs…for now). And I really don’t want to go back to my day job.

Some advice, though: Take care of your body. Your mind. Don’t just keep feeding and training it. Learn when to give yourself a break and when to just suck it up. It’s all about finding the right balance. Like running long distance. You can’t go full speed all the time, but you can’t go too slow or stand still, either.

What is your advice to young and new writers?

Ask yourself how serious you are about being an author. If you want to write for a hobby, stick to short stories. Flash fiction. If you want to get rich quick, this is not for you. You’ll make more money getting a 2nd job. If you’re committed to doing this all your life, no matter if you make it or not, then you’re in the right place. Now you need to commit and work. Learn every day. Write every day. Read every day. Work on your craft, your skills, your social reach, your personal life, love, everything. Being a successful author these days is about finding that perfect balance between all the right aspects. How good you write, how you present yourself, how active you are online, your people skills, business skills, marketing… The list goes on and on. You have to willing to adapt. To change. Stay up to date with the world around you. Yes, that includes technology, social media, and reading trends. Look what happened to the big publishers who didn’t like the invention of eBooks.

Are you a traditionalist or a digital? (paper or eBook)

Both. I accept change, but will always be a fan of ‘old’ things (I still have a record collection, even some old coins from the Roman Empire). I love staring at my books. At the awesome covers. I think it goes back to when I was a kid in the library and video store. I fell in love with the covers before I even experienced the stories.

Do you blog?

Just a bit, updating the Crystal Lake blog with new releases, but it’s definitely not my favorite pastime. Hopefully I’ll get someone else to run it one day.

Do you self-publish?

That’s where I started. I was in a position where I needed to start making money, no matter how little, and wanted to learn more about the publishing industry, anyway. It was a great way to prepare myself for eventually publishing books full time. I learned from my mistakes and made sure I didn’t repeat them with more important books later on. Will I do it again? Not sure. I adapt to circumstances, so we’ll see what happens down the line. I miss writing, and would love to get back to my short stories one day.


If you have a publication or promotion – tell us.

I’m always working on at least three recent and three upcoming projects. So here are a few recent releases

  • Quiet Places: A Novella of Cosmic Folk Horror by Jasper Bark
  • Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors by Todd Keisling
  • Behold: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders, edited by Doug Murano


And three upcoming releases:

  • Tales from The Lake Vol.4, edited by Ben Eads (out November 27th)
  • Where Nightmares Come From, edited by myself and Eugene Johnson
  • The Ghost Club by William Meikle


You’ll find info on all these books on our website or Facebook page.

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