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Josef Alton Interview

Welcome to Ink & Magick. I'm your friendly neighborhood witch. What kind of spell can I get for you (or your character) today?

Enoch Campbell, the troubled lead character in my #historical #crime novel, is a bit lost. Maybe a spell to adjust his poor decision-making skills? If not that, he’ll take a wee dram of whisky.

I see. Well, those seeking guidance have many avenues open to them. Enoch could meditate and seek his truth internally, he could talk about his problems with a trusted individual, or we could do some divination. In any case, I do not believe alcohol is the answer to any problem, except maybe an open wound...Please, have a seat and tell me about Enoch and his problems.

A string of patricides rocks 1916 Dublin and a washed-up Scottish doctor receives a mysterious manuscript from a fellow Scotsman recounting his dark experiences in the pioneer city of Seattle in 1889. As the doctor reads the manuscript, he’s made aware the murders in Seattle are connected to those in Dublin, and he and the author crossed paths many years before and under tragic circumstances. In Seattle, a tale of corruption and conspiracy unravels at the feet of a crazed serial killer hell-bent on halting historical progress. It’s just a matter of time before the city will burn. The doctor must decide if the author is an ally, or the killer himself, amidst an atmosphere of political instability and impending revolt. Throw Away Faces is a raw look into the abuse of power, the well of madness, and the inevitability of tragedy versus the power of redemption. 


I had the dream again. She’s there, sitting on a rock, looking out to sea, and I’m looking at her. Then, she falls. Well, half of her falls. An apparition of her sits up from her own seated body and slips off the cliff. I jump up and look over the side, horrified, and I see her body flail and her white dress whip with the wind as she gets smaller and smaller until she disappears into the black swell of the Irish Sea. Her other body comes up behind me, caresses my back and then pushes me off the cliff. In mid-flight, when the air is being sucked from my lungs, a rigorous pounding shakes me awake.

I opened my eyes and the death of the night hummed in my ears, and I lay there thinking I drowned until the pounding returned and the shadow of two feet laid planted and interrupting the slit of light which glowed on the other side of my hotel room door.

“Enoch,” Madame Lou Graham said, “it’s happened again.”

I sat up and asked myself two questions. The horrible dream I couldn’t seem to burn, yes it would never die. Secondly, where am I? The here-and-now repositioned back into focus. I was in bed, it was late, but telling from the noise downstairs the bar was still open. The killer claimed a new victim.

It sounds like your story takes place in a few different locations. What kind of research did you do for this book? 

The research was intense. The Dublin scenes are more topical and came from my memories of when I lived there, coupled with my past research of the city when I attended grad school studying modern Irish history at Trinity. As for the Seattle scenes, I spent months reading Seattle history books and studying old city maps to reconstruct the old layout of the city before it burned down and was subsequently raised and stilted. The present downtown area is between 10 and 20 feet higher than the original city!

I also had a wee bit of scholarly background in Scottish literature, especially the works of Sir. Walter Scott. Many of the flashbacks set in Scotland are meant to allude to different settings found in Scott’s historical Scottish novels. As for the accents, I asked an old friend to help me with my Scots. And, when he wasn’t available, I made sure to let the reader know that the Scots is supposed to be bad (I hope!).

That cover is pretty disturbing. How about giving a shoutout to the cover artist? Tells us about where the design originated. 

All credit to the cover design and webpage goes to Seattle Artist, designer, and builder, Jesse Montini-Vose. 

He read the earliest version of the book, and we both agreed that one particular scene was the most memorable—it involved a sinkhole, a drowning boy, a rope and a pig’s head. Most people love the cover, but I’ve gotten a fair share of kickback also. Don’t worry, folks! No pigs were hurt or killed in the making of the book cover.

Which one of your characters surprised you?

The historical character, Madame Lou Graham; she was meant to be somewhat of a peripheral character, but her personality developed on the page so effortlessly, and her banter with Enoch so natural, she played a larger role in the novel than I had originally planned. I’m happy that she did because the novel is loaded with a lot of men and that bothered me, but I didn’t know what to do exactly being that the Seattle business elites were mostly all men in 1889. Lou Graham was not only an exception to that rule, but in fact, was a major source of under the table high-interest loans at the time, and so, held a lot of power and clout.

Who is your favorite (or least favorite) character and why?

Besides Lou, I’d say Princess Angeline (kikisoblu). She was the daughter of Chief Si'ahl (Chief Seattle). She played just a small role in the novel, but I loved her interactions with Enoch, and her lack of interest in the main conflicts of the novel. I tried to weave her closer into the book, but she was like: “Naw, I’m good. Let these business dudes do their own bizarre shit, and I’ll just be over here washing clothes and remembering the landscape before the buildings and buggies.” I totally respected that.

If you could time-travel, would you travel to the future or the past? Where would you like to go, and why would you choose that time period?

I’d go back in time for sure. I’m not sure where though? If I was endowed with the language skills I’d probably check out the library of Alexandria in Egypt before it was destroyed. Eat some dates, people watch, ya know. Or, Birmingham in the late '60s and watch an early Black Sabbath show. Drink a pint, people watch, ya know. 

What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?

I’d say it’s an honor to know it’s just being read and hopefully enjoyed. That said, reviews are so important. If a reader liked the book, it’d be amazing if they could leave a short review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Goodreads (or, all three!). Also, if you liked it, recommend it! Word of mouth is still a powerful tool! 

What can we expect from you next?

I’m currently working on the sequel and hoping to have it done and dusted by 2020. History takes time.

Josef Alton was born in Seattle, Washington and attended Seattle University, Trinity College Dublin, and the University of Otago, New Zealand. He’s published with several publications, including the Australia Journal of Victorian Studies, Seattle Weekly, City Arts Magazine, and several others. He currently lives in Seattle and works as a general contractor and author.   

You can connect with Josef on his website and Twitter.

You can get a copy of Throw-Away Faces on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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    D. Lieber has a wanderlust that would make a butterfly envious. When she isn’t planning her next physical adventure, she’s recklessly jumping from one fictional world to another. Her love of reading led her to earn a Bachelor’s in English from Wright State University.

    Beyond her skeptic and slightly pessimistic mind, Lieber wants to believe. She has been many places—from Canada to England, France to Italy, Germany to Russia—believing that a better world comes from putting a face on “other.” She is a romantic idealist at heart, always fighting to keep her feet on the ground and her head in the clouds.

    Lieber lives in Wisconsin with her husband (John) and cats (Yin and Nox).

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