Wednesday 12 August 2009

An Interview - Captain Joseph Barbelo

Captain Joseph Barbelo is the nom de plume of author Joseph Ferri, AKA Joe, AKA J.J. San Martín.

Born of Basque parentage, and a visual artist by profession, he travelled extensively throughout Europe and the Far East where he studied Eastern philosophies and martial arts with leading masters.

Since living in the West of Ireland, Joe blended his knowledge of the wider world with Irish mythology and finally found time to write. Barbelo’s Blood is the first in a series of novels that weave innovative, thought-provoking concepts with exciting stories and hard-hitting action.

Given his maverick nature, however, this might yet be another of the author’s covers and is by no means indicative of true identity.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

I’m working on my second novel in the Barbelo’s Blood series; set in the Middle East, 1947, with nefarious Nazis hunting Solomon’s lost treasure, ancient Sumerian free-energy devices, and the obligatory flashbacks to Jesus and revolutionary Zealots in 1st century Jerusalem. A crazy yarn, no doubt, but abundant in fit-birds and skulduggery galore.

Q2. Can you give us an idea of Capt. Joseph W. Barbelo’s typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?

Typically, 24/7 driven fucking bananas with theory and research. I barely have time for my second favourite passion anymore, reading good fiction. In terms of actual writing, that can often go on for days and nights, when it takes me, where it needs me – hopefully into realms I’ve never dared go before, and the darkest beyond…

Q3. What do you do when you’re not writing?

Oh you know, bit of this and that...

Drink beer, bounce off walls around Galway, and try to get home before sun-up without hitting anybody or losing my keys. And I swing swords in my spare room, that too. Second best hangover cure I know. I have a house full of weapons; particularly fond of those two katanas I got from a videogame’s shop here, €28 a piece. Stainless steel, but sharp and classy.

Love the paranoid dichotomy of toyshops selling classy weapons.

Q4. Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the crime fiction scene?

In all seriousness, I’m not altogether sure I’ve broken into any scene, not yet. I’m maybe stalking around in the shadows, tooled up, waiting to bludgeon my way in (thanks to Ken Bruen and Declan Burke giving me the thumbs up) but the penny only dropped recently that Barbelo’s Blood fits under crime fiction. Or that it would come under any genre at all, I might add, so it’s a great encouragement (and an honour) to feel I belong somewhere.

In regards giving writing advice, I suppose just continue to learn the craft, be honest with yourself, know your limitations and then lie, scam, and cheat the reader into submission. Let the blood flow. Follow through and before you know it, job done.

The thing to remember is your book is already written, in its future, waiting for you to catch up with it. Do the legwork and you will.

In many ways I don’t have a monkey’s clue what I’m writing half the time, where it will go or even agree with half the things my characters say and do. That’s the best part, that’s when you know you’re onto something: when it all comes to life in a world of its own.

Any time I get stuck, I treat them like living people, ask questions, cast them Tarot Card readings (seriously), that kind of thing. Works, I shit you not.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

I’m particularly impressed with anything the government writes. They never fail to dazzle me with their skulduggerous twists and sub-plots. This year’s dodging of the State’s role in institutionalised child abuse, along with the Church itself, was another outstanding contribution to crime fiction as a whole, in my opinion. Sorry, alleged role, of course.

Another thing to remember, what works on the big end, works on the small end. A governmental psyops is identical in essence to any common con-trick, but on a massive scale. Same intent, only the 'mark' is the whole population of a country.

Growing up in Brixton, I suppose I had the fortune of seeing firsthand how things really work: from the bottom up, the entire world functions under the principles of organised crime, with ever-increasing levels of higher organisation. That’s one of the themes I explore in Barbelo’s Blood.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

Half-way through re-reading the Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, but truth be told I’m totally sidetracked with Codex Alimentarius: the proposed WTO foods guidelines which class all nutrients as toxins, effectively making a criminal out of anybody possessing high dose vitamin pills or growing their own organic veg. It’s gonna be implemented in Ireland next year, allegedly.

Auld Mary down the road here (the mad one) won’t be happy when they come for her; she loves her garden – but that’s okay, I’ll point her to a great little toyshop I know 

Q7. Plans for the future?

Presuming half the planet isn’t wiped out from vitamin deficiency and man-bird-pig, or some likewise bio-engineered terror virus, I plan to procure land. High ground. Defensible position. Or a boat. A gunboat. Failing that, a well-armed fit-bird with a boat – head for the Philippines.

Trust me, the way things are going, good future plan by anybody’s standards.

Q8. With regards to your writing career to date, would you do anything differently?

Do anything differently? Blimey… nothing, meaning if I’d known what all this entailed I wouldn’t have started! Sitting on a chair hour, after hour, sucked into a screen ten inches by six, the ashtray piling up, the lungs caving in, being misunderstood by all other life forms except the neighbour’s cat – and only because she likes gone-off milk.

Don’t do it guys, I’m serious, if you’ve not got a screw loose already, don’t go near this writing lark. Do anything else, go out there, frolic in the sun, dance in the rain – buy a gun and rob a bank – stop while you can, if you can.

I can’t.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

Hmmm, not really… I’ve had many, truly awful experiences involving writing… Alright, here’s two, on a par but for different reasons.

One, the classic. Was living in a truck at the time, down in Dingle, running an ancient Toshiba Satellite off some solar panels. Lost over a month’s work when it crashed, fucking thing said it was ‘saving’ but wasn’t. Was the best stuff I’d ever written, or could ever write, ever. It was so fucking good I can’t even remember how good it was. It was THAT good… and gone, all gone.

First rule in this game, if you believe your laptop’s not demonically possessed by lower astral entities, let me guarantee ya it is – always back up your work 300 times.

Two, another classic. If you ever write your girlfriend a sexy love letter and her mother gets it by mistake (and they’re both called ‘Raunchy Rachel’) don’t let it take ten years before you realise that yes, that smile did mean exactly what it meant.

Damn it.

Q10. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

Good question, how long have ya got? LOL! Nah, I don’t wanna risk boring you tit-less with any more of my personal life, have me on again if anybody’s interested. Will just say, I’m delighted you’ve picked up on what I’m doing; Barbelo’s Blood can be read in many different lights, but it takes the subtle mind of a fun-loving criminal to see it for what it is.

As they say, takes one to know one.

All the best, and keep yer heads down,


Thank you, Captain Joseph Barbelo/Joseph Ferri/Joe/J.J. San Martín!


Tony Bailie said...

That's the best interview I've read this year Gerard. Do you know if novel is in No Alibis. And the new one sounds even better.

Gerard Brennan said...

Tony - It's a cracker, isn't it? I'm not sure if it's made it to No Alibis yet. I'm sure it's only a matter of time, but you can order a copy direct from the publisher until then.



adrian mckinty said...


Another nice IV.

I was thinking about your previous post with what to do with CSNI.

Why not branch out into Sci-fi (as Marco points out Ian Mac is the man) and lit fiction with an Norn Irn bent. You could also do Irish American crime stuff too. Plenty of material there.

And you know you could do follow up IVs as well.

seana graham said...

I like this guy. Or guys, as he seems to have a multiple personality thing going on there.

Also, those WTO guidelines sound kind of scary. It's kind of ironic, since three or four of our top selling books here have to do with thinking about food issues. And I'm not just talking Julia Child either.

Gerard Brennan said...

Adrian - Yeah, I think that's the way I'm heading, mate. Thanks for throwing in your two cents.

Seana - I think the good captain makes a lot of sense!



marco said...

I really enjoyed the interview to this Barbelo guy (ambitious nom-de-plume, by the way). You should review him asap.