Today I will be interviewing Joel Ohman! Enjoy, and remember if you ever want to be interviewed Contact Me!
My name is Joel Ohman. I am 33 years old, married to my best friend, Angela, and have 3 kids, ages 5, almost 3, and 1. My writing companion is my 130lb Bull Mastiff, Caesar (who's asleep on the job most of the time, to be honest). I am a Christian who likes to talk about the good news of Jesus Christ. I do volunteer work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and also with my church in Tampa. I am a serial entrepreneur, having founded a number of different startups in the web space. I am currently the President & CEO of 360 Quote LLC and Real Time Health Quotes LLC, and we own a lot of different web properties, one of the most popular ones being our workout website/iOS App/Android App for Exercise.com. You can learn more about me at JoelOhman.com.
What books and authors, past or present, have inspired you to write?
I read a LOT, so there are many different things that have shaped my writing over the years, but I wouldn't say there was any particular book, or books, that I was consciously looking to for inspiration while writing Meritropolis and Meritorium. For the craft of storytelling, I have learned a lot from John Truby and his book, The Anatomy of Story. I can also see different threads of influence in almost everything I have read over the years that contribute toward making the Meritropolis series what it is—the strong protagonist of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, the philosophical bent of C.S. Lewis’ fiction, the dystopian setting of Hugh Howey’s WOOL series, and many more.
What are you currently reading, or what was the last thing you read other than your work?
I am constantly in the middle of about 15-20 different books. I read for an hour or two every day, and I try to read a wide variety of genres and authors, both fiction and non-fiction. You can check out what I am currently reading and follow me on GoodReads here!
Do you listen to music while you write, and if so what kinds of music and which artists do you enjoy?
I almost always listen to music while I write. Usually it’s a playlist of the same song or group of songs over and over again, because it allows me to kind of zone in on what I am doing. Here is a link to the Spotify playlist of music that specifically inspired the Meritropolis series (each of these songs were among the songs I would listen to on repeat while writing): spoti.fi/1qDgfy9
In the Meritropolis series how were the animal combinations decided upon? For example, I know you chose to write about a bion (bull-lion), as well as many other freaks of nature. So what I want to know is how did you decided which animals to meld together and why. I have a big list of animal combinations that I came up with before I began writing the book, and I tried to work in as many as I could. Sometimes the only criteria was that I liked the way the name sounded. There are over fifteen new animal combinations introduced in Meritorium as well as a couple of big reveals toward the end that many readers might not see coming…
Who or what was your inspiration to write about post-apocalyptic, dystopian, sci-fi?
I've read a lot in this genre, so I would say it’s a mix of a lot of different things. I really just wanted to explore this question of, "What gives a person worth?" Is it their usefulness to society? Is it because someone loves them? Is it because of how they look? Is it because of their health or ability? As a Christian, I believe that all people have worth, because they are made in the image of God. I wanted to explore some different takes on this question. I think that the post-apocalyptic/dystopian/sci-fi genre was the best vehicle to tackle some of those deep philosophical questions in a fun and interesting way.
What projects are you currently working on—both in your writing and otherwise?
The next writing project is book #3 for the Meritropolis series. Other than that, I own a number of different businesses, so we always have new and interesting projects in various stages of development. One fun project is our workout website/iOS App/Android App Exercise.com.
Why the title Meritorium?
I wanted a short one word title that was a clever—or at least semi-clever—play on two different words and that was similar to Meritropolis. I like "Meritropolis" because it combines "Merit" and "Metropolis," two words that are great for describing a city where each resident's worth is measured by a score given to them and I like Meritorium because it continues this idea of “Merit” with “Colosseum” / “Auditorium”, words that are perfectly suited for describing a city where gladiatorial games of life or death combat are waged between High Scores and Low Scores, man and beast.
Can you tells us about your characters and who/what inspired them?
I am a big believer in John Truby’s approach to building a “character web”, because this deepens the relationships between characters and helps to make each of the characters more complex. Absent building a good character web, it can be all too easy to fall into the not-very-true-to-real-life good-person/bad-person false dichotomy where your protagonist devolves into this I-can-do-no-wrong character and your antagonist is just pure evil. I was very much aiming to show the imperfections and brokenness in each of the characters. My thinking as a Christian influences this to some degree, given that the Bible teaches that we are all essentially the same; we are all sinners—only God is perfect.
What was the easiest part about writing Meritorium? The hardest?
This was my second book, so I would say that the entire process was much easier than it was for the first book. I have great editors who were able to offer constructive criticism, point me in the right direction, and really speed things up.
Check back next year as I will be reviewing Joel's book Meritorium!
Thank you so much for allowing me to share a little about myself and my book, Meritorium. Here is a brief synopsis of the book:
Charley has escaped from Meritropolis… but in his quest to take down the System that has taken his brother from him, he must go through Meritorium, a city where gladiatorial games of life or death combat are waged between High Scores and Low Scores, man and beast. Charley and Sandy must face man-eating plants, religious zealots, slave traders, and the ever present mutant animal combinations that roam a dystopian Coliseum presided over by Emperor Titus, the one man standing between Charley and the answers he seeks. Man is not an animal, but if they are to make it through Meritorium, will they even be able to tell the difference? The lines between man and beast, friend and foe, will blur in Meritorium, the riveting sequel to the bestselling Meritropolis.
Here is the link to book #1 in the series: http://amzn.com/B00NFNEOP6