March of the Sequels: Joseph John Lee

27 Mar 2023

The Author/s

Joseph John Lee

Joseph John Lee

I am an author of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and whatever other strokes of creative genius (“genius” is a relative term, I guess) come to me at the time.

I was born November 14, 1991 in Attleboro, Massachusetts and have never set foot in that town since. I’ve lived most of my life in or near Boston (as I do currently with my fiance, our imaginary dog, and our robot vacuum who we named Crumb), except for the years when I didn’t. I’ve also lived in Scotland, a fact I use as party tricks that don’t particularly go anywhere. I’m great at socializing.

I’m something of a lapsed academic. I originally pursued a career in academia, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and two Master of Science degrees from the University of Edinburgh - one in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies; and the other in Religious Studies - before I realized that the life of an academic scholar was not for me. (Burnouts will do that to a guy.)

That being said, I enjoy integrating historical study into my own fictional writing that still creates a tapestry of my historical interests - just with more fireballs and less syphilis.

My literary influences include Brandon Sanderson, John Gwynne, Joe Abercrombie, Yoko Taro, Tetsuya Takahashi, and others. I’m as much drawn to huge, epic fantasy as I am to more grounded, grimdark settings.

Outside of my own writing, I am an avid reader (duh) and gamer, a certified Simpsons quote machine, a bad hiker, and either a happy or miserable Red Sox fan, varying from season to season. I spend too much time looking at dog accounts on Instagram.

If anyone’s looking to start a Wikipedia page for me, this should be enough to get you started.

The Interview

First of all, tell me a little about your series and introduce us to the sequel(s).
The Spellbinders and the Gunslingers is a historical/epic fantasy trilogy detailing a war of conquest by foreign invaders from across the ocean, but told from the perspective of the indigenous peoples who live there. It’s framed as a deconstruction of “history being written by the victors” where we are introduced to the victors’ “history,” but are then presented with the truth of the events over the course of the main narrative.
It is a planned trilogy. The first book, The Bleeding Stone, came out last December, and a prequel novella set 400 years prior, titled Pale Night, Red Fields, came out in March.
Book two, The Children of the Black Moon, arrives on May 30, and picks up right where things left off at the end of The Bleeding Stone.


You can get a copy of his books from Amazon.

How difficult is it to add new characters in a sequel into already established relationships? 
It’s definitely a challenge because you’ve already spent one book creating a tapestry around your main characters - how they interact with people, who they are, how they tackle the challenges they face - that when you introduce new players to the board, you run the risk of just throwing a wrench in the dishwasher. But at the same time, those challenges create new opportunities to expand upon the world, expand upon a character’s worldview, and enrich the storytelling with even more fascinating personas that were not previously introduced.

Is it difficult to continue with worldbuilding for a world you have already built in book 1?  Do you find it easier to switch locations for the sequel and start again with worldbuilding? 
No, not difficult at all. If anything, it’s actually more exciting! There are little nuggets in The Bleeding Stone that I sprinkled throughout as a means to set up The Children of the Black Moon, small teasers that lead to larger implications in the sequel. Finally getting to those implications feels incredibly rewarding because you’ve finally reached the payoff, not just for the reader, but also for yourself.
I outlined this series three years ago, and I tell you, the excitement I felt at finally getting to write those huge moments was something else.
There wasn’t much location shifting between books, but there are a few locations that are seen for the first time in Children. It was a bit liberating in that sense because the slate is clean, so to speak, as far as what I want to depict in those locations, how I want those cultures to be portrayed.
Naturally, the biggest piece of worldbuilding added in book two is the Eclipseborn, since we’ve only been familiar with Sen so far. I wouldn’t exactly call the expanded worldbuilding with them “easy,” but it was probably the most fun in expanding upon who they are and what their motivations are.

Have you ever been stymied by a worldbuilding or plot detail from book 1 that is very inconvenient to deal with or write your way around in subsequent books? 
Not so much, to be honest. I think it helped that I outlined everything for the whole series before I even wrote a word of The Bleeding Stone. I’ve known where all the main story beats were going to go right from the start, so it’s been easy to blend in those foreshadowing nuggets throughout the series.
The only thing I don’t really outline in great detail is character appearance, so if anything, I have to constantly go back to previous scenes just to see if I said what color a character’s eyes are or something. Not so much stymied there, more just an annoyance of being detailed about a character and then forgetting that detail.

You also are running a Kickstarter to produce an audiobook for the first book. Could you tell us why you choose RJ Bailey as the narrator?
Truthfully, I actually hadn’t known who RJ was until he contacted me about doing an audiobook together. I don’t listen to a lot of audiobooks and have never really been familiar with many narrators beyond Michael Kramer and Kate Reading. But I was encouraged by a lot of my peers in the Indie Accords Discord by how highly they thought of RJ, and once I listened to the sample of The Bleeding Stone he recorded for me, I was floored and on board. Getting to work with him would be fantastic and I hope we hit that final push to get past our funding goal before the campaign ends.
You can support the project on Kickstarter.

Could you tell us a little about your novella Pale Nights, Red Fields?
It started as an idea of offering something for free as an incentive to get people to sign up for my newsletter, like many indie authors do. I thought about what I could do in this world as a novella, and realized over the course of my outlines, there were a couple Tribes who didn’t get much “screen time” and I wanted to be able to expand upon them.
And Pale Night, Red Fields is the result. It focuses on the Haunted Tribe - the Tribe which Shara and Ran from The Bleeding Stone hail from - and focuses on the night they effectively became “haunted.” There’s a conversation in The Children of the Black Moon which references the “Pale Night,” a particularly horrid event in the Haunted Tribe’s history. After I wrote that scene last year, I knew I would want to go back to it in some capacity to divulge upon it more. And that’s where this novella takes place. It’s a bit darker and grimmer than the rest of the series - and probably could be classified more as grimdark or dark fantasy - but it was a fun thing to write between projects.

Would you say your craft has improved with the subsequent books?
Of course! If you’re not constantly trying to improve your craft with each book, then you’re doing it wrong. There are some ambitious scenes I attempted in The Children of the Black Moon that I would not have even thought of doing in The Bleeding Stone. Part of it is feeling more confident in my craft and confident in my abilities. And the other part is that drive to take risks. Because taking risks is another way to improve your craft - you’re not going to know if the risk was worth it until your readers tell you whether it was good or shit. And I’m hoping my readers will not think it’s shit.

Do you have all the timeline planned for the full series?
Yes, there are two more books to go in The Spellbinders and the Gunslingers: the final novel, and a second novella. I am currently working on Book Three - title yet to be revealed - and am sitting on about 25,000 words or thereabouts right now. I plan for it to be released in early 2024.
The novella, tentatively titled The Last Ride of the Undying, will focus on the Arrow Tribe about 30-40 years prior to the events of The Bleeding Stone.

Do you have any marketing tips?
The biggest thing you can do is make friends in the community. You can pay for ad space on Amazon or social media, but that only takes you so far (unless some huge influencer happens to see it; I haven’t been that lucky). Having your fellow peers cheer you on when a new book releases, help spread the word about your work, and generally make you feel welcome into this community goes such a long way toward the overall success of your books. I feel I’m still in my infancy in this community, but I’ve already built a lot of great relationships with bloggers and fellow authors and I know what limited success I’ve had so far is thanks to those relationships. Friendship is power!