Interview: 11 Questions for Joshua Viola, IPPY Gold Medalist

Since winning the silver IPPY for best SF/F/H ebook, I’ve gotten to know the other two medalists in my category. The three of us have been chatting (and put together the awesome giveaway I’ve linked at the bottom of this post). We’ve been learning about each other, and this has led to some fun interview opportunities.

Today, I ask a few questions of Joshua Viola, gold medal winner for The Bane of Yoto. This can be considered a follow-up to Abigail Owen’s interview, but you can read these separately or together. Enjoy!

1. In your interview with Abigail (May 21, 2013), you talk about turning down a traditional publishing contract because you wanted more control. Why/how did you team up with FiXT in particular?
The Bane of Yoto by Joshua Viola
I was offered a traditional deal, but the catch was that I’d have to make some major changes to the final act of the book – which has always been my favorite part of the story. I just couldn’t bring myself to do that and turned it down. My agent, at the time, lost some enthusiasm after that. So publication was dead in the water. But around the same time, I was developing the Bane of Yoto 3D comic app with Leviathan Games. I made the decision early on to include music in the app. I reached out to movie/video game music label, FiXT, in hopes of licensing Celldweller audio (I had been a fan of Celldweller for many years). FiXT loved the app and eventually offered to publish Yoto, unchanged, under their label.

2. Slave uprisings. Survival of the fittest. Root for the underdog. These are old, powerful themes. What was your intended main theme for The Bane of Yoto? Is it the one that most readers and reviewers notice?

There are definitely a number of different themes in The Bane of Yoto. Personal growth. Acceptance of others. And all of those you pointed out. But for me, the story is really about two brothers – Yoto and Eon – and their journey to discover the true meaning of brotherhood. It is the interpretation of my relationship with my own brother, Cody (Eon).

4. You call The Bane of Yoto a “revolutionary transmedia experience.” Which came first: the comic, the book, or the game? Which excited you most?

I’ve always had numerous different visions for how Yoto’s story should be told. But it all started with the most important element: the story. And the book will always reign as king for me.

The novel didn’t, however, launch first. The public’s first exposure to Yoto was through the 3D comic book app (which is based on the novel). To date, the app has achieved the most success. It has over 100,000 downloads with a full 5-star rating. And the plan was to use this media experience as a way to draw newcomers into the novel.

As for the video game, that’s been in development for some time, and we’ve had meetings with big-name publishers like Konami and SquareEnix in the past – but none of them took the bait. My hope is to continue building a fanbase and approach publishers about the game in the future. Unfortunately, right now, it exists only as a playable demo on PC and Xbox 360 for Leviathan Games employees.

5. How does telling a story in transmedia affect your choices?

Transmedia has allowed me to reach a broader audience. I’ve acquired a number of literary fans. But I’ve also reached gamers with PS3 dynamic themes, the comic book market with the app, and, my biggest gain, FiXT/Celldweller fans. I’ve definitely made mistakes along the way. But I’ve learned a lot about launching a product, how people respond to various different offerings and what to-do/not-to-do in the future.

6. You’ve been racking up awards for this project. Which are you most proud of?
I’ve received seven awards for TBOY and, to be honest, I’m equally proud of them all. The IPPY and the International Book Festival were both ceremonies I was really hoping to take an award home in, so I was pleased to receive those. I suppose the London Book Festival offered the most fun, as I was able to travel overseas for the first time in my life.

Fingers crossed that someday I’ll be nominated for a Hugo. 🙂 (Yeah, right!)

7. You and your fans are all over Facebook. What’s your favorite thing about marketing on social media?

Facebook has allowed me to connect with a number of people from across the world that I otherwise may not have been able to reach. So far, I believe, TBOY Facebook page has 13,000 followers, my new book is at around 1,300 and my author page sits at 550. I’ve chatted with fans from so many places: Africa, Europe, Australia, Japan, Russia, South America and various other regions. It’s been great and very surreal.

8. You do a lot of genre-blending with The Bane of Yoto. I’ve seen it described as horror, science fiction, fantasy, morality tale, and thriller. How did you get to this point?

I’ve always considered myself a pop culture whore. I consume it all like crazy. From comic books to novels to video games to movies and anime – it’s all on my radar. My collection might make me look like a bit of a hoarder. So, bearing that in mind, my head has more than a little inspiration from a lot of places. And as both a writer and an artist, I like to take those inspirations from all over the place and create my own example of what I think is cool. And that’s TBOY.

9. Are any of your characters based on real people?

Definitely. Eon is, without a doubt, based on my brother. His mannerisms, dialogue, outlook on life and even his fascination with weaponry are all inspired by Cody. Yoto is my interpretation of myself. Writing the character was, in a way, therapeutic. It forced me to really examine myself under a microscope. And I tried to put things on paper I wasn’t necessarily proud of.

There are also a number of other influences, particularly with the characters Hamel and Skoyk. Both of whom are inspired by two wonderful students of mine from when I was a professor at Westwood College. And, as bad as this may sound, there are also some victims in the book based on other students who didn’t make my job very enjoyable. *evil grin*

10. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from writing and publishing your first book?

I’ve learned a lot. But what I value more than anything are the fans I’ve met along the way. When you first set out to write a book, you do it for yourself. Now, as I’m moving forward with new things for TBOY and other projects, I’m realizing that this is for more than just me now – and that’s a great feeling.

11. What’s your next project?

I’m currently writing Blackstar for FiXT/Celldweller. It is a science fiction novel based on Celldweller’s concept album, Wish Upon a Blackstar. “Act One: Purified” will be out this summer and accompanied by a soundtrack from Klayton of Celldweller. Read more about it. And watch the trailer below!

Don’t forget to enter to win a Kindle Paperwhite + all the IPPY award-winning SF/F/H ebooks, including The Bane of Yoto by Joshua Viola.
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About
Janine A. Southard is a Writer & Editor for narrative projects. She's a proven talent when it comes to mimicking voices and crafting content for videogames, articles, & fiction.