M. J. Joseph was born in the first Catholic hospital built in Florida, a Gothic Revival building designed by the Hungarian architect, Albert Olszewski von Herbulis. Now, a nearly abandoned stone pile listed in the United States National Register of Historic Places, the former hospital, deserted by the Daughters of Charity, currently houses a couple of eateries and a Montessori school. As a matter of curiosity, Joseph’s children attended the Montessori school.
Joseph represents the seventh-generation of his family to live in Pensacola, Florida, growing-up the son of a World War II PT Boat sailor and a working mother, spending the happiest of his early days along the shores of Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Island. Every year, like Persephone, he descended into what he regarded as the dark and forbidding underworld of schooling, enduring complete boredom and utter disinterest, except upon the occasion of first hearing one of his music teachers sing Schubert lieder. Upon escaping his primary education, Joseph discovered university life and began an enormously fulfilling period of scholarship and curiosity that has remained dear to him.
Joseph spent his professional career in his family’s firm, eventually rising to CEO and managing the corporation’s merger with a multinational company. He has been retired for sixteen years, occasionally working part-time in the non-profit world and in jobs that have interested him, as well as, directing, for several years, his own non-profit corporation benefitting international youth soccer, or, more commonly understood, football.
M. J. Joseph has written all his life, but, until sharing the manuscript of his book, The Lübecker, with a several friends and his wife, he had no interest in publishing any of his work, finding other interests sufficiently fulfilling, especially, sailing. Joseph plans to publish the entire work, of which The Lübecker represents the first book, largely owing to the enthusiastic support of the girl of his dreams, his wife, Ann, and wonderful publicist, Maryglenn McCombs.
Tell us about your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
The Lübecker may be regarded as an historical novel, set between the years 1882 and 1916. The book follows the lives of David Rosenberg and Hulda Yoffey in two, very distinct, narratives, and the many characters that ultimately encompass an entire saga of four books. David’s story takes the reader from the North German city of Lübeck, during the last of its years as an independent principality, throughout Germany proper, and along the Levant. Hulda’s narrative begins in the American South and moves through North Africa and the Near East. The book explores religious and philosophical currents arising from ancient thought through their nineteenth-century expressions, while propelling the characters through the historical milieu and ultimately bringing their narratives to resolution.
I was inspired to write The Lübecker by my interest in the life and work of Lou Andreas-Salome, the historical period defined above and the many conversations I had over the years with European friends and acquaintances.
Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?
I have no interest in submitting myself to the vicissitudes, whims and dictates of traditional publishing and choose to submit my work to small, independent presses who wish to include it in their lists. I have no reservations about underwriting the cost of publication to avoid the wretchedness of seeking traditional publishing.
How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing the story, or did it come later?
I arrived at the title of the book very early in the process by relating the book’s ultimate hero to characteristics peculiar to his city of origin.
Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?
I worked with my publisher’s designer and my web designer’s inhouse artist to render my ideas satisfactorily. As I composed and photographed the cover’s primary image, I had a fairly good idea of what the cover would look like.
Who is your cover designer and how did you find him/her?
The initial design was conceived by Rebecca Barbier of The Peppertree Press, my publisher, with revision and further work by Rachel Zampino of Hail Studios, which handles my web services.
How was your experience working with the designer?
Working through my publisher, I found the process less personal and more difficult to refine than working directly with Ms. Zampino at Hail Studios, but both of their efforts were appreciated and essential to capturing the image I wished to convey.
What has been the readers’ response to your cover?
Readers have often commented that the cover seems strongly emblematic of the book’s primary theme, but, occasionally, readers have expressed the feeling that the massive sweep of the narrative would lend itself to a more dynamic and colorful cover. No changes are planned.
What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?
Presenting a cover designer with a few images that capture your vision of your book’s setting and the essence of the primary character(s) is very helpful. Try to work directly with the designer.
Anything else you’d like to say about your book?
Only to express my excitement at being invited to speak with you about The Lübecker! Your interest in my work is very flattering and much appreciated. I look forward to discussing the next project with you: the title is…