Behind the Book with Josh Pantalleresco
Liz - Congratulations on Alice Zero! I’m absolutely fascinated by this book—Alice In Wonderland is one of my all-time favourite books and I’m a total mythology geek. What inspired you to merge the two? Tell us about it.
Josh - I blame Colleen Anderson and a beautiful woman with a gorgon tattoo. Colleen Anderson requested and epic poem with the worlds of Lewis Carroll. Alright, I said to myself, cool. What can I say about Lewis Carroll that hasn't been said. While I was thinking about that, I went to a bar and met a beautiful woman with a gorgon tattoo. I liked her, she played for the other team, and that's cool, we're still friends. She made a great impression on me as a person – she's legitimately awesome – that I thought about how to incorporate her into the story. I always dug Medusa. She's an interesting character, so what if I put her in Carroll before she became a gorgon? From there, it clicked. Alice IS Pandora. Holy crap. And I had a story.
Liz - Do you envision a follow up to Alice Zero? Perhaps a mythological mashup with Through the Looking Glass?
Josh - So this is the prologue to a trilogy. Alice discovers who she is in Zero and in Alice Won? She chases the Queen of Hearts through the labyrinth. So you can imagine some of the things Alice and her Cheshire friend will face. Alice is cleansing the multiverse of the evils of the box, but in so doing she creates a paradox. She is both the cure, and the cause to the chaos of the multiverse, and this will all catch up to her, when she meets the monsters she unleashes.
Liz - Tell us about your first book, The Cloud Driver, and how it differs from your work on Alice Zero.
Josh - The Cloud Diver is my first love letter to pulpy science fiction. Johnny Wheeler is a coward that doesn't want anything to do with adventure. But fate has it that he follows a woman with a gunblade into the cloud and suddenly gets a file where everyone from unicorns that fart rainbows to zombie mobsters. Adventure finds Johnny. It's old school science fiction meets Tron. It was a blast to write. It's a more traditional science fiction story.
Liz - You’ve jumped into the world of freelancing. Welcome to the fold! Tell us about what led to this decision and how you’ve found it so far.
Josh - There's no future in working for someone. It's the way it is. We just went through a pandemic and in the process we just watched the work environment change forever. I don't think the masks are going to survive next year. I do think that office buildings and skyscrapers are about to be rethought of and redesigned. We are in a freelancing age.
Also, I have to believe in myself at some point. You have to wonder what you are made of. I am a writer and podcaster. I have to have incredible self belief to put my stories out there. What can I do with it? There's only one way to find out.
I don't want to spend the rest of my life wondering and hating everything I do. In fact, I won't. I refuse. I will do what I want to and believe in for the rest of my life. I want a creative life. I will make it happen.
Liz - On your blog you’ve written quite a beautiful tribute to the city of Calgary. Aside from the many life-changing experiences you had while there, what else it about the place that endears it to you?
Josh - The people you meet that change you. I mean, I wouldn't be who I was without meeting people like Adam Dreece or Suzy Vadori. I wouldn't be who I am without one of my best friends Cory McConnachie. I fell in love with the incredible Gisel Barre while I was there. I met so many people that shaped me and I wouldn't be the person I am without them. Calgary was good to me and without that time, I wouldn't have had the strength to go for this had I not had the support of the people I met.
Liz - I love that you’re so open about the ebs and flows of your life, and embracing change, no matter how scary, as a part of your own evolution and growth. Have you always felt like this, or was there a moment that triggered it for you?
Josh - I moved a lot. Even now, I was in Vancouver British Columbia this year. Now I am in Windsor Ontario. Change has always been my normal. The luxury of comfort is not something I have. Nor do I really want right now.
But I mean, there are three moments in my life that gave me this attitude. My parents getting divorced and watching my family disintegrate. My struggles in Snowflake Arizona, and a sickness I had in Calgary nobody really knows about. There were things all three of them had in common. They were unfair. Bad things happened to me I had no real control over, and I had to let go of control all three times.
My parents divorce taught me that nobody is perfect, and that bad things can happen to anyone. My experience in Arizona and later in Calgary taught me that I don't have a lot of control, and I never did. I'm going through life's journey as a passenger with only some say in the driving. That's the way it is, and the way it always will be. I don't know what my next pay check after my audiobook is handed in is going to look like. That's life. Change is inevitable and uncomfortable, but once you accept that, you can enjoy the ride.
Liz - What is it about the motto, “Don’t quit when it’s hard. Quit when it sucks” that speaks to you?
Josh - It's one of two great pieces of advice Tim Chizmar gave me during this time. But for me it's this. I'm giving freelancing one year. I'm going to go and see what I can accomplish. I can always go back to a day job next year sometime. In fact, I've been turning a lot of the kinds of jobs down I have already done. I don't want to do them anymore. It's hard. I have to pitch. I have to work everyday and motivate myself to keep going. But it doesn't suck. I get to tell stories and make other stories my own. I'm learning more about sound production and editing and performing on the audio stage. I'm growing. Now, I have a time limit and I need to work on some things, but I really believe by the end of this year I can make this a living. And if not, I can do something else. I'm not trapped.
Most people quit when it gets hard. Life is hard. Get something for the work you are doing. When it sucks, walk. You don't need to take crap you don't want.
Liz - Tell us about your podcast, Just Joshing?
Josh - Just Joshing is the three time Aurora award winning finalist and one time winning podcast in which I interview creatives and have casual conversations about life, the universe and everything. I also read stories on the weekend. I did the Cloud Diver and that just concluded. Soon Alice Zero will start and I'll probably do the Watcher, an older book before going forward with my next novel. Subscribe on the platform of your choice, or check it out here: https://jpantalleresco.podomatic.com
Liz - You have an impressive count of over 300 interviews under your belt! Do you have any standouts?
Josh - All of them? So my favorite guests this year have been Christina Z. I love how curious she is. There is something about her I think I'm a little in love with, but also, she's got this wild spirit. I loved my chat with Mckayla Eaton, and I think I have a life long buddy with AJ Vrana. Plus, I really am proud of my zoomcast with Sofia Evangelina, who's just incredible, as well as enjoying my conversations with Joe Compton and K. Lynn Smith. I have to say all time, It would be Spider Robinson, my editor Ellen Michelle, my first conversation with Sofia, the band Junkies Rush, Adam Dreece, and I dug my chat with Trista Robinson this year.
Liz - I see you have a wish-list of people you’d love to interview, so lets put it out there! Who’s on your current top ten list and why?
Josh - Here you go.
10. Samantha Beiko – Just incredibly talented. She does so much so well, that I think we could have an amazing conversation. An artist's artist.
9. Colleen Doran – She's a legend. I think she's so good at what she does that it'd be a hoot.
8. Lights – I write to her music. I'd love to chat with her about it.
7. N.K. Jemisin – Love what she's doing with Far Sector and would enjoy talking to someone that good in the craft. I feel I could learn so much.
6. Alice Cooper - because he's Alice Cooper. Great showman and storyteller
5. Brandon Sanderson – Because I want to play magic the gathering on the air with one of the best fantasy writers of all time. I think it would be awesome.
4. George Perez – Sweetest dude you've ever met. I want to do it.
3. Big Chris Wood – I did a great interview with him years ago that got flubbed. Chris has an incredible story and I want to do it again.
2. Larry King – Because he's a big influence on how I do my podcast
Tie 1. The Rock or Oprah – Oprah is a business machine, and would love the chance to learn for an hour. The rock, the same thing. I'm not sure how deep I could go with them, but it'd be cool. And don't think I haven't tried with some of them. I have zero fear. All they can say is no.
Liz - In another post on your blog, you discuss habits and state, “Doing nothing is the easiest thing in the world, and changes you the slowest.” I sincerely love this! What are some of the habits you’ve formed, or had to try and break as a writer?
Josh - Doing nothing. Getting out of my head and writing the story. As I've gotten older, it's how I tell the story and what is important. I'm now plotting each chapter in three sentences and I'm cutting away everything else. If it doesn't serve the three sentences or isn't better, it doesn't stick.
Liz - What are you working on next?
Josh - My parallel universe dragon slaying novel. Corie used to be a Knight of the Round. She was an assassin that couldn't do it any more and is now travelling to parallel universe after universe slaying dragons that have enslaved their worlds in their greed and malice. I want my own Parker series and would do it in a heartbeat.
Liz - Where can we listen to you podcast, read your blog or buy your books?
Josh - You can listen to my podcast anywhere. Literally. I'm on every platform. If you want the main page it is here: https://jpantalleresco.podomatic.com
My webpage, which offers my audio services, can be found here: https://jpantalleresco.wordpress.com
The Cloud Diver is here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0881HR54T and Alice Zero is here: https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Zero-Pandemic-Book-ebook/dp/B08GM4Y8DD . I'm on twitter and instagram as @jpantalleresco
My mailing list is here: https://mailchi.mp/ea0a0d561d56/lets-get-dangerous
Thanks for having me. Stay out of trouble, or don't get caught.