I’ve been a professional writer for more than a quarter of a century. (And a writer for even longer, ever since my parents bought me a clattery but oh-so-cool Olympia electric typewriter for my thirteenth birthday.) I’ve always bounced around from one subject to the next. Baseball. Natural history. Science and technology. Children’s books. And, more recently, my first published fiction: short stories in a variety of mystery/thriller anthologies and magazines.
From the start, though, my dream was always to write a novel and see it published. Like so many others, I started trying as a child. My first great work was going to be a science-fiction trilogy about the end of the world and the founding of a new society on another planet. When I was thirteen, I actually finished the first part, which culminated in a spectacular rocket crash, but I bogged down in the second. (I remember paging through Shakespeare plays looking for titles, because I knew that all serious novels had titles from Shakespeare.)
There are no rocket ships in Diamond Ruby, and the title doesn’t come from the Bard, but I’ve finally seen my childhood dream come true. For the first time, I feel like the characters and incidents in my head ended up on the page the way I envisioned them. When people tell me that they enjoyed the book, that they cared about Ruby and her girls, that they worried about them, I feel a sense of pride (and relief) that’s hard to express. Every writer’s goal is to communicate, and perhaps that’s what I’m doing now.
I've been hoping to publish a novel since I was thirteen and writing on my oh-so-cool Olympia electric typewriter.
But I don’t spend all my time researching in the library or sitting in front of the computer. Some of the best days of my year are spent in the local schools, where I run storytelling and creative-writing workshops for elementary-and middle-school students. I tell some bizarre and funny stories from my own life, and encourage the kids to tell—and write—their own. I’m always amazed by their joyful creativity.
For the past twenty years, I’ve also volunteered to be a mentor for high-school students who want more chances to write than the school allows. What a pleasure it is to be in the company of these talented, enthusiastic young writers. Plus, I could never have created the characters of Ruby, Amanda, and Allie without everything I’ve learned from my students. I hope they enjoy Diamond Ruby too.
What does the future hold? I have no idea. But I know that I’m going to keep mentoring, storytelling, and writing about Ruby. I hope you’ll join me on the journey.
I am thrilled to announce that Berkley Books will be publishing my new novel, Invasive Species, this fall. It's a huge thriller all about the end of the world. More soon!
The Pulpwood Queen Book Club is the world's largest, with more than 400 chapters and 2000 members worldwide. I'm thrilled to be an official author-guest at the Pulpwood Queen's annual Girlfriend Weekend, Jan. 17-20, 2013. Parties! Costumes! Panels! Writers dancing! If you want to be part of the festivities--and see me in a wig at the annual Great Big Ball of Hair Ball. Hope you can join us!
I finished my new novel and sent it off to my agent. It's a big thriller with an end-of-the-world slant, but I tried to pack it with the vivid characters and page-turning plot that people seem to enjoy so much in Diamond Ruby. Stay tuned here for further updates.
For the second year in a row, I was privileged to visit with the astounding 8th-grade book group at New Paltz (NY) Middle School, who read Diamond Ruby. These 14-year-olds were among the most perceptive, thoughtful readers my novel has ever had, and spending several hours with them was pure joy. Can't wait till next year!
I've been hiding out in my writing cave these past months, working on revisions for my next novel. It's a change of pace from Diamond Ruby: A big, international, apocalyptic thriller featuring a large cast of colorful characters and a threat I guarantee you can't guess at. Check back here for updates!
News Archive 2011
News Archive 2010
For Book Clubs
I’d love the chance to meet with your book club to talk about Diamond Ruby! (You’ll quickly discover how much I enjoy talking…and listening.) We can meet via videoconference, telephone, Twitter chat, or even in person, if I’ll be in your town or your book club is a reasonable distance from my home in suburban New York.
If you’re interested, please contact me and we’ll set something up.
My publisher also hopes that book clubs will take a look at Ruby. The book comes with an extensive reader’s guide, including a set of discussion questions for readers and a Q&A with me about the choices I made in writing the novel. Here’s a small sample of what we talked about:
What made you decide to set this novel in Brooklyn, New York? What effect do you believe the setting has on the book overall? Did you consider any other cities for the setting of Diamond Ruby?
I never doubted that Diamond Ruby would be set in Brooklyn. It’s where I grew up, so I know it well: its sights, smells, even the color of the light there. More importantly, Brooklyn and New York City as a whole were among the most fascinating places on earth to live in the early 1920s. They were perilous and intoxicating at the same time, places filled with danger and opportunity. Between the opening of the Coney Island Boardwalk and Yankee Stadium, the rise of women’s rights, the flowering of the Ku Klux Klan, Prohibition rumrunning, and the kind of active tabloid press that would have loved her—well, where else would Ruby live?
Describe the journey you took while writing this book. Is writing fiction a different experience from writing nonfiction? Do you prefer one to the other?
Writing fiction is the most exciting, fulfilling, frustrating, and terrifying process I’ve ever been through. I can usually tell when my nonfiction books are going well, but during the first draft of Ruby I was always wondering if I was simply deluding myself. I was so relieved when my first readers liked it!
I enjoy telling fascinating true stories in my nonfiction books. But I fell in love with writing fiction while working on Diamond Ruby—which is why I’m writing a new novel right now. I think I’m hooked.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
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More Writing by Joe
I had a long career as a freelance writer before writing Diamond Ruby. Magazines, encyclopedia yearbooks, newspapers, medical journals, nonfiction books: I’ve written about everything from dinosaurs to robots to the latest advances in medicine and threats to the environment. Most recently, however, I seem to have focused on two subjects: short stories in a noir vein and books about baseball history. (Together, they made perfect preparation for Diamond Ruby!)
Now in Stores: The Best American Mystery Stories 2010 including Joe's story "Custom Sets"
The Best American Mystery Stories 2010
Otto Penzler, series editor of The Best American Mystery Stories anthologies, annually selects fifty stories from the hundreds published that year. He hands the finalists over to each edition’s guest editor, who selects the twenty best for publication. I’m thrilled to announce that Lee Child, this year’s guest editor, selected my story “Custom Sets” (first published in The Prosecution Rests, below) for inclusion. It appears alongside stories by such superb writers as Dennis Lehane and Kurt Vonnegut.
The Prosecution Rests
Every year the Mystery Writers of America publishes an anthology. In 2009, the theme was stories set in courtrooms, the book was called The Prosecution Rests, and the editor was former New York prosecutor and best-selling author Linda Fairstein. I’m pleased to say that my story “Custom Sets” appeared beside stories by S.J. Rozan, James Grippando, Angela Zeman, Barbara Parker, and other genre superstars. “Custom Sets” was a blast to write, and is likely the only story in the collection to be set in four separate courtrooms. (Not bad in 4000 words!) Women of Mystery says that “Custom Sets” “will give you the shivers even on a day when it’s eighty five degrees and sunny.”
“A stellar anthology that will appeal both to contemporary noir fans and devotees of Law & Order.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
My story “The Big Five” appears beside terrific works by such literary heroes of mine as S.J. Rozan (the anthology’s editor), Lawrence Block, and Kevin Baker in Bronx Noir. Publishers Weekly loved the collection, saying that it contains “memorable tales of betrayal and despair that reflect the borough’s varied ethnic populations and geography.” The review also praised my story, saying, “The most imaginative entry, Joseph Wallace’s ‘The Big Five,’ about a hunter who targets his prey in the Bronx Zoo as part of a national contest, concludes with a satisfying noir twist.”
Hard Boiled Brooklyn
“Dead Man,” my contribution to this innovative collection, may be the darkest (and trickiest) story I’ve ever written. It joins noir stories by such groundbreaking genre writers as Ken Bruen, Peter Blauner, Maggie Estep, and Tony Spinoza (alter-ego of the book’s editor, Reed Farrel Coleman). Bestselling writer Lee Child said, “My favorite writers on the greatest city in the world…what’s not to love?” while Booklist called my story’s “O. Henry twist on standing up to a childhood bully” one of the collection’s highlights.
My very first published story, “Liminal,” appeared in this terrific collection beside stories by David Simon (The Wire), Sujata Massey, Tim Cockey, and the collection’s editor, Laura Lippman. Looking back at “Liminal,” I’m struck by how the roots of Diamond Ruby Thomas were already present in Tania Blumen, the brave and determined protagonist of this early story. “Mystery fans should relish this taste of Baltimore’s seamier side,” said Publishers Weekly of this entry in Akashic Books’ ongoing series of city-based noir anthologies.
Grand Old Game
This book features 365 rare and spectacular images from the unmatched photo archives of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, one for each day of the year. Inside you’ll find images I guarantee you’ve never seen before: Lou Gehrig posing with the Marx Brothers; Babe Ruth boxing with Jack Dempsey; Ty Cobb at the checkerboard; Casey Stengel with a presidential trifecta: Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Lyndon Johnson; wartime ballplayers; Negro League stars; a host of other players, fans, and celebrities (including Al Capone, William Jennings Bryan, and Milton Berle!); and Jackie Mitchell, the teenage girl who inspired me to write Diamond Ruby.
“Wonderful... It’s like looking at old postcards, addictive and unpredictable.” —The Arizona Republic
Baseball 365 Days
With wonderful color photographs for every day of the year from the archives of Major League Baseball, Baseball 365 Days picks up where Grand Old Game leaves off. It contains spectacular images and fascinating background stories of every great star of the game’s eventful last forty years from Willie Mays and Tom Seaver through George Brett and Ozzie Smith and all the way to Derek Jeter, Ichiro, and David Ortiz. Add fans, surprising spring-training and behind-the-scenes shots, and highlights from great All Star Games and World Series, and you’ve got a book to remind you of why baseball remains America’s Pastime, more than a century after it first came on the scene.
“It’s an overflowing, batter’s-up buffet stocked with goodies for fans of all ages.” —Neil Pond, American Profile
The Baseball Anthology
The Baseball Anthology is an anthology like no other. More than just a compilation of the finest writing about baseball, it is a history of the game through the sharp, funny, and evocative writings of each era in baseball's first century and a quarter.
Yes, all of the Hall of Fame writers are here: Red Smith, Roger Angell, Roger Kahn, Grantland Rice, Peter Gammons, Bill James, and many others. So are telling autobiographical essays by some of the game's finest players, including Christy Mathewson, Hank Greenberg, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, and Nolan Ryan.
Accompanied by more than 300 stunning and rarely seen photographs and illustrations, the ninety-seven pieces in The Baseball Anthology transport readers to the innermost workings of America’s pastime.
“A beautiful and enjoyable baseball time capsule.” —Kirkus Reviews
I’m really looking forward to hearing from you. Let’s talk about my books, your books, writing—or anything else under the sun.
You can email me, or get in touch with me through any of the links below.
Also, check out the Diamond Ruby YouTube channel.
Looking forward to being in touch!
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