Another of my WorldCon interviews. I met with Josh Vogt and chatted with him for a few minutes.
I am here with Josh Vogt, author editor, and freelance writer. Thank you for doing this interview. To start off, tells us a little about yourself.
Thanks for having me. Yeah, I’ve been an author and writer for over ten years now. I mostly write writing fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp. I’ve got two novels that fame out this year. One is Forge of Ashes. It’s a Pathfinder tie in novel about a female dwarf coming back to avenger her family when her mother goes missing and is presumed dead, and my other one was through WordFire press which is Enter the Janitor about a janitor working for a supernatural sanitation company. I’ve got a couple dozen short stories published in various magazines online and also freelance write for game developers and publishers. So that’s just me in a nutshell there.
Ok, so you mentioned Enter the Janitor. We recently did a review on that, but I have ask, why magic janitors?
The title came to me first so I was playing around with that and “Enter the Janitor” just sounded like a really fun story to tell, and I’ve already read science fiction and fantasy so anytime I get an idea, I naturally take it in a weird direction. As soon as I realized I was going to make a fantasy story about janitors it started making a lot of sense because janitors carry their mops instead of staves, and they carry squeegees instead of wands. It was a pretty easy translation of your typical wizards and sorcerers and mages and witches into janitors and maids and plumbers and handy men and that sort of thing. It snowballed from there.
Enter the Janitor is the first book in a series called the Cleaners. Is that going to be a long a series or a trilogy? How far are you going to go with that?
I originally had plotted out about ten books. It might end up being closer to twelve to fifteen. I’m going to revisit it a little bit. I’ve got the second one coming out later this year, The Maids of Wrath. The third one should be out probably May of next year called The Dustpan Cometh, so you see where I’m going with all that. I’m aiming for six to eight months between releases, so yeah, as long as people are enjoying it, and I’m having fun writing it, I’ll keep them out there. The first four or five stories, I’m aiming to be more standalone, and then there will be an overarching story that will develop along the way.
With a series that long, how much do you have plotted out right now? You mentioned the first four will be stand alone, but this overarching story arch, do you have more or less planned out or just idea right now?
Generally speaking, I know what the endgame is and I know the major character developments and plot developments. For each of the books that I have set right now, I have at least a paragraph synopsis of what the main plot and then I have an idea of how it ties in to the overall series. I do a lot of plotting and outlining with each one, but I take that on a case by case basis.
Your debut novel was debut novel was Forge of Ashes which, as you mentioned, was a novel in the Pathfinder universe. As a new novelist, how did you manage to get a book with a media tie in like that?
I’ve always been a lifelong gamer, and once I started becoming a writer, I knew that I would want to write for games eventually. After I sold my first few short stories professionally, I just started pitching myself to game developers and publishers. I started emailing or going to cons and networking with people and seeing if they needed writers, and I managed to connect with James Sutter who is the executive editor with paizo, which publishes the Pathfinder game and the Pathfinder Tales novels lines, and he liked some of the material that I sent him, and he bought a couple of short stories of mine set in the Pathfinder world of Golarion, and then he asked me to pitch a novel and asked if I wanted to pitch a novel, which of course, I was very happy to do, and it just went from there.
Enter the Janitor is a humorous story about a secret society of magical cleaners. Forge of Ashes is a more epic fantasy type story. Those are two very different styles. Did you encounter any challenges in switching gears between the two?
Not terribly. What I would consider my training over the years writing for a lot of different clients, writing for a variety of games and in a number of different genres, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, sword and sorcery, humor, sci-fi, it’s gotten me used to switching between those different styles and different voices. I like humor so I tend to bring it into a lot of my stores, even in small degrees anyway, so it was more about ramping that up a bit in Enter the Janitor. I like the flexibility and variety of that, and hopefully I’ll be able to continue expanding the genres that I published in.
You’ve also written some short fiction with Iron Kingdom Excursions which is another media tie in. Have you encountered any unexpected challenges in working in someone else’s universe as opposed to your own?
Certainly. I’ve gamed a bit, so I have some familiarly with the worlds that I work in just on a gamer level, but you have to do a lot of research. You have to have at least a decent idea of what the setting is like, what the rules are like because the fiction has to reflect that world. It has be authentic of the style. It has to be authentic to the rules of that reality and what the players experience is like, so going in and making myself much more familiar with it takes a bit of work and then also, I can’t have a grand artistic vision for this story. They want this kind of story and that’s the story I need to provide. If I give them something and they have some give editorial comments, I have to make those work, so that’s definitely a challenge.
Any plans for additional Pathfinder novels
Hopefully. James has said that he wants to work with me on one in the future. Right now, Pathfinder, Paizo has a new distribution deal with Tor and Tor is bringing in a number of bigger and more established authors so that’s filled up their production pipeline for the next year or so, but we are talking. Later this year, James and I are going to sit down and talk about some different pitch ideas. My hope is to do more. I’m doing a novella right now based on one of their adventure path, and I have several short stories that people can read free online under their web fiction series.
I saw that you have written for RPG companies and privateer press. Was that just fiction, or was there anything else you did for them?
So far for both of them it has been fiction. I’ve written probably close to a dozen game developers altogether. Modiphius is one that does Achtun! Cthulhu, and they also have a new version of the INFINITY setting they’re coming out with, and for those I’ve done more manual chapters and faction write ups, setting and lore building. I’ve worked for a company called Raging Swan Press that does game supplements, describing details of characters and all sorts of sensor elements that you can see in dwarven mining towns or desert cities or trading hubs or port towns just to enhance the table top role playing game so I’ve done the fiction, I’ve done the world building, the game manuals, cyberpunk interface zero setting from gun metal games. Again, so a lot of variety.
In addition to being a writer you were recently the executive manager at WordFire press. You’ve since left that, but can you tell us a little of what you did there.
Yeah, I’ll still be working with WordFire, but just not in that central role. My job was a bit of a catchall a bit of a jack of all trades, I helped coordinate communications with the different team members. I worked with the managing editor Pater Wacks as partly his assistant taking on some of his old roles. I worked with Kevin Anderson, the owner and obviously the author, with WordFire Press taking on a lot of tasks that he was managing as the publisher and I was also helping with event management and setup, getting booths at the different comic cons we go to and helping run and sell our books and doing some of the social media and promotion on the side, so again a wide array of jobs with in that.
WordFire Press pushed Enter the Janitor so I’m just curious. Which came first. Did you sell Enter the Janitor to them and the leverage that into a position with them or was it the other way around?
I got the contact for Enter the Janitor first. Peter read it and liked it and asked for it when he was doing the editing, and he picked that up with his line. WordFire is semi based in Denver. A lot of the team is central to the Denver area which is where I’m living right now, and so I would see them at conventions around the area and would start helping out at the booth just for fun, learning how they do their sales and their setup. I just started doing that more and more until I started doing like Pensacola ComicCon and travelling and doing the road trips and eventually it became more of an official thing after three or four months of that sort of work. It was just loving what they do, loving the quality of production they do, loving the events and the energy and wanting to be involved a lot more.
With that position, I imagine that gave you more of a behind the scenes look at the whole publishing process so has that affected your own perspective on your writing?
I’ve been involved in publishing ever since college. Actually, after college, I went up to the NYU Publishing Institute which is a summer intensive programs. I got into it with that and then had several years where I was working with Simon and Schuster in their sales department, writing copy and catalogs and that sort of things so I’ve always had a pretty decent idea of what goes on but seeing WordFire building and seeing the logistics that go into it and see the different goals and hats you have to wear, that’s been very fascinating from the industry side of it. From the writing side of it, it gives me perspective on what goes into producing a book, every step, every major thing that has to be communicated, everything that can go wrong with producing a book, and how you handle that, how you fix it, the people you go to, who you need to rely on. Then, just the joy of seeing the whole process from beginning to end is a lot of fun.
Thanks. So, what are you working on now?
Well, I just turned in Maids of Wrath, the second Cleaners one. I’m working on The Dustpan Cometh, the third Cleaners. I just finished a short story set in the Cleaner’s universe for a holiday anthology so that will be coming out later this year. I have a couple of game projects that I’m working on, and I have several different media tie in projects, a bunch a novels to different editors to different publishing houses. I’ll be shifted to a new editing job here soon, and there’s always something new going on. As a writer in publishing it’s hard to be bored.
Well, that was all I had for you Josh, so thanks for doing this interview.
Thank you so much for having me.