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IR Approved Author Joseph Howse: “The freedom to take risks is both the best and the hardest part of being independent.”

The Girl in the Water received a 4+ star review, making it an IndieReader Approved title.

Following find an interview with author Joseph Howse.

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

The Girl in the Water, published September 17, 2022.

What’s the book’s first line?

“Call her Nadia; her parents did.”

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.

The book introduces a multilayered story of family, society, and nature, centring on a Soviet girl, Nadia, who, one day on a remote beach, looks up from her book to see that her friend is drowning.

The story’s historical backdrop includes the Soviet-Afghan war, the Chernobyl disaster, and a conflicted sense of a long slide from triumphs to collapse.

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?

The novel is, of course, fiction and it takes inspiration from various classics, including the Russian, French, and English. However, it also draws on historical research and on my own impressions of Ukraine (which I visited in 2012) and Estonia (in 2017).

I wrote the novel’s first drafts during May 2020 to February 2022, to read to my parents as a serial during COVID lockdowns.

As work on the drafts progressed, the characters themselves became the inspiration for a longer story. More of this is yet to be told.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?

I hope that readers will find the book finely crafted, a pleasure to read, and an antidote to brainwashing.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character?  Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?

Nadia is a young thinker, an abstract thinker, who is growing up in an era of endgames. All around her, she sees people quietly gambling with life and soul, for little apparent gain, and she wonders whether she is at all capable of intervening in this; also, whether she or anyone else plays fair. She is a bookworm, an architect of reckless pranks, a day-and-night wanderer, a compulsive witness and note-taker.

Nadia’s sister calls her by a childhood nickname, “Little Hedgehog”. Nadia is – or, at least as a child, she was – a bit like Yuri Norstein’s “Hedgehog in the Fog”, the softspoken Soviet cartoon animal who gets lost in the eerie forest because he simply must go off at twilight, into the mist, to chase a vision that nobody else has seen. Her sister, Nastya, is haunted by the fear that everybody is too irresponsible to bring Nadia back. Of course, Nadia as a young adult doesn’t want to be brought back.

That is one point of reference for Nadia’s character, at least in the eyes of an older sister who sketches pictures. The reader will doubtless find other landmarks. Another notable character type is the Fool, like in Shakespeare or Beckett or the Russian classics, the Fool who sees and has judgement, however elliptical it may seem. There is no reason our judge should not be a Soviet girl, in the role of the Fool who is sane.

Is this the first book you’ve written?

No, but it is the first novel I have published. I have also written several technical books for traditional publication.

What do you do for work when you’re not writing?

I am a computer scientist. My specialty is computer vision, which deals in ways of creating and analyzing images based on light, radiation, or sound.

How much time do you generally spend on your writing?

As much as I can possibly steal. I have not yet matched Flaubert’s record of one word in one sleepless night but sometimes this novel progressed at the rate of one paragraph in a night; other times, faster than that.

What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?

The freedom to take risks is both the best and the hardest part of being independent.

Is there something in particular that motivates you (fame? fortune?)

Love of the characters, love of writing, existential angst.

Which book do you wish you could have written?

The one after my demise.


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