M. J. Joseph was born in the first Catholic hospital built in Florida, a Gothic Revivalbuilding designed by the Hungarian architect, Albert Olszewski von Herbulis. Now, a nearly abandoned stone pile listed in the United States National Register of Historic Places, the former hospital, deserted by the Daughters of Charity, currently houses a couple of eateries and a Montessori school. As a matter of curiosity, Joseph’s children attended the Montessori school.
Joseph represents the seventh-generation of his family to live in Pensacola, Florida, growing-up the son of a World War II PT Boat sailor and a working mother, spending the happiest of his early days along the shores of Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Island. Every year, like Persephone, he descended into what he regarded as the dark and forbidding underworld of schooling, enduring complete boredom and utter disinterest, except upon the occasion of first hearing one of his music teachers sing Schubert lieder. Upon escaping his primary education, Joseph discovered university life and began an enormously fulfilling period of scholarship and curiosity that has remained dear to him.
Joseph spent his professional career in his family’s firm, eventually rising to CEO and managing the corporation’s merger with a multinational company. He has been retired for sixteen years, occasionally working part-time in the non-profit world and in jobs that have interested him, as well as, directing, for several years, his own non-profit corporation benefitting international youth soccer, or, more commonly understood, football.
M. J. Joseph has written all his life, but, until sharing the manuscript of his book, The Lübecker, with a several friends and his wife, he had no interest in publishing any of his work, finding other interests sufficiently fulfilling, especially, sailing. Joseph plans to publish the entire work, of which The Lübecker represents the first book, largely owing to the enthusiastic support of the girl of his dreams, his wife, Ann, and wonderful publicist, Maryglenn McCombs.
Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about The Lübecker, and what compelled you to write it.
Author: Thank you, Ms Calvani, for giving me the opportunity to discuss my book, the first I’ve decided to publish. The Lübecker is a novel written over a period of about seven months, inspired, in part, by the life and work of Lou Andreas-Salome, the historical milieu the book depicts and the late nineteenth-century metaphrase of earlier Western philosophical and religious movements.
M.C.: What is your book about?
Author: The Lübecker is, and forgive me for using academic terms, a Bildungsroman and an Entwicklungsroman, respectively, of characters David Rosenberg, a merchant’s son from the Hanseatic German city of Lübeck and Hulda Yoffey, a doctor’s daughter from the Gulf Coast of Florida. The stories of these protagonists representing the book’s two distinctive narratives provide the dramatic arc of the saga of their families between the years 1882 and 1916 that will be continued in later books.
M.C.: What themes do you explore in The Lübecker?
Author: The development of personality and evolution of identity as influenced by varying degrees of self-knowledge influenced by friendship and love. The book is an expression of my understanding of heroic myth and retells and alludes to the stories of characters from classical, north European and biblical traditions.
M.C.: Why do you write?
Author: I write to challenge and amuse myself. I don’t assume that I have something important to say, but, I am motivated by the hope that I can either entertain or intromit something interesting into my reader’s consciousness that they haven’t considered.
M.C.: When do you feel the most creative?
Author: In the morning and early afternoon.
M.C.: How picky are you with language?
Author: Larruping; the most fundamental enjoyment I experience in writing is stalking the single word that seems ineluctable to the successful construction of sentences or phrases.
M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
Author: I would say “guided” by the rhythm of the text and the development of characters. My favourite characters are very clamant and I enjoy allowing them to influence the story.
M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
Author: Feeling compelled to write and it just doesn’t happen.
M.C.: Your best?
Author: When writing happens and promises more.
M.C.: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
Author: Fulfilling my responsibilities as a father and husband influence the amount of time available to write, but, the infirmity of age and, ultimately, mortality will end it.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
Author: Knowing that I had the time to write.
M.C.: Is writing an obsession to you?
Author: I’ve never thought of writing as an obsession. I suppose that writing has been a vocation to which I have an enigmatic obligation.
M.C.: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
Author: Yes, to memories of childhood, friends and relatives, the legacy of my family, my travels and intellectual life, but I have no inclination to recount the events of my life as an imaginative exercise.
M.C.: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Thoughts?
Author: I was a philosophy student, so don’t get me started on “Reality”. I suppose Mr. Bradbury was on about the comforts of Subjective Idealism against the Here and Now. He might have benefitted from psychotherapy, or perhaps he should have knocked on the door of a Zen temple, as it would seem to me that taking refuge in any obsession would be ultimately unfulfilling in the ineluctable (I know, enough with ineluctable, already!) challenge of reconciling life with suffering, cruelty and death.
M.C.: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?