Josh Vogt Interview
I am pleased to welcome Josh Vogt, a full-time freelance writer and editor, who has sold numerous stories to Paizo’s Pathfinder Tales, Grey Matter Press, the UFO2 and UFO3 anthologies, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Shimmer, among others. His work comes in everything from flash fiction to short stories to novellas to door-stopper novels, and is found in a growing variety of genres, such as fantasy, science fiction, humor, horror, and pulp. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, has been available since April 2015.
Josh writes for a variety of RPG developers and publishers, producing game manuals and sourcebooks, campaigns and adventure modules, worldbuilding materials and tie-in fiction. He’s a member of SFWA as well as the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. As a copywriter, Josh works with a roster of international clients, developing website copy, advertising, marketing, and sales content, video/audio scripts, social media campaigns, and much more.
Hey, Josh. Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I want to talk about your fantasy series, The Cleaners, but before we delve too far, we must address the elephant in the room, your remarkable log of endeavors. Tell us a bit about your journey into writing and the gaming industry. Where did you get started?
I’m a lifelong reader and gamer, plus have always found writing to come easily to me, such as school reports and essays. In my sophomore year of college, I was reading a fantasy novel and finished a chapter thinking, “I could’ve written that just as well or better.” And a little voice in the back of my head said, “Prove it.” That was my initial inspiration to start looking at what it might take to build a career around writing (it also helped that my mother is an excellent editor and award-winning author, so it’s in my blood!).
I started working on short stories and novels, pretty much all fantasy and sci-fi, because that’s just what my mind has been steeped in. After college, I attended the NYU Publishing Institute and landed a job from that as a sales copywriter for Simon & Schuster. After that, I went on to be a web writer, a journalism editor, and eventually a full-time freelance author and editor. I built up a portfolio, and also started branching out to write for other industries, including gaming. I managed to land some excellent RPG-writing gigs, and began emailing game devs and publishers to see who out there could use more freelancers. This is how I eventually sold my first stories to Paizo and got the Pathfinder novel contract. I continued working on my own novels all this time, and my first Cleaners novel, Enter the Janitor, ended up getting contracted and coming out the same month as Forge of Ashes.
It involved a lot of digging around online for gig sites and resources, being willing to cold-email companies, accepting a lot of rejection, and . . . well . . . lots of writing and revising, as you might guess.
You were submitting content for nearly four years before getting a break, right? I know many writers who give up long before then. What kept you going? Can you pinpoint the key to your success?
A bit longer than that, actually. I sold my first short story about 5-6 years after deciding to pursue being a career author. A lot of things contributed to my persistence at the whole process–everything from being involved with writing/critique groups, attending conferences, getting positive feedback, and my own joy in writing, in-and-of itself. I had this deep-rooted dream and never wanted to give up on it, however long it took. Did I get discourage? Sure. Did I take the occasional break because I felt burnt out? Absolutely. But a core part of me kept wanting to see that dream come true.
One of the main things that got me to where I am now is, simply enough, that I kept going. I persisted. The only way you can guarantee not succeeding as a writer is to stop trying. I connected with other writers so I didn’t feel alone in my pursuits. I also researched a ton, learning from others’ mistakes, learning the ins and outs of the publishing industry, and also learning how to accept feedback and constantly work to write the next story better than the one before.
Alright, I have been reading Forge of Ashes—happily I might add—for the past several days and the tale has been refreshing. I feel like I am reliving the great fantasy stories I grew up with, whether we are talking Dragonlance or Drizzt Do’Urden, and at the same time, the story clearly has Pathfinder written all over it. Literally. Tell me, what do you want people to remember from this story?
I grew up on those same novels, and I wanted to give people the sense of adventure I loved in them. I like writing stories that have threads of inspiration and hope, even in dark times. And as Akina discovers during her journey, life is so much about rediscovery and reinvention of ourselves, accepting our past, but never letting it define our future.
Can we expect you to write more for Pathfinder? I am asking for a friend . . .
I’d love to, and they know I’m absolutely open to the possibility. I still do some freelance editing and writing for Pathfinder, and if I get the chance to do more fiction tie-ins, I’ll be thrilled. For anyone who enjoyed the novel, you can also visit Paizo and read three short stories of mine for free, including a prequel short to Forge of Ashes.
I am crossing my fingers they pick you up for a few more novels, because this book is seriously awesome. In the meantime, tell us a bit about The Cleaners and what else are you writing?
So I’ve got The Cleaners #4: Fellowship of the Squeegee in its final stages, prepping to release it next year. The series should end on book six, if all goes according to my outline (yes, I outline heavily). Beyond that, I’ve got some potential tie-in work for other RPGs in the works, short stories and flash fiction, and upcoming RPG freelance work that I’m excited to see coming to publication. I’m also slowly building an indie publishing platform in order to release some projects, including another urban fantasy series and other endeavors. I also relatively recently landed a contract writing gig for Microsoft, which is going to be a whole new adventure!
What advice would you give to those folks who want to travel down a similar path?
There is no “one true path” to publishing or any guarantee of writing a bestseller, no matter how much someone might try to promise you that–especially if they’re selling a book or course intended to make you buy into their specific methods. You have to find your own path and build your own toolbox of writing and publishing skills. Some of what works for me, after many years of trial and error, may or may not work for others. I can point you in certain directions, give advice, and try to help you avoid pitfalls (and scams), but in the end, your path to publication will be unique. Go to conferences and network with other authors, agents, and editors. Learn to finish a story, even if you think it’s horrible, and then learn to revise. Submit to markets. Do your research and be willing to put in the time. Because even if a lucky break comes your way, if you aren’t working hard when it comes along, chances are you’ll miss it altogether.
Thank you for chatting, Josh! Please tell us where fans can find you this year for book signings and other events, and also online.
I try to keep my yearly convention calendar updated on my website, and anyone is welcome to message me via the contact form there. I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! Oh, and I have an irregular newsletter signup on my website, where I run the occasional giveaway, book updates, and the like.
Thanks for having me!