The pandemic is now hopefully at it’s tail end, but it has raised some very valid and pertinent questions. What is our new normal? How will we interact, behave, communicate and work? These metamorphic and evolutionary changes have been speculated in many sci-fi books, journals, articles, prophesy’s and the like — one such close analogy is the movie ‘Contagion’, which eerily holds up a mirror to many of the challenges we are facing today.
Likewise, as we look ahead to the future, we can draw on many parallels in current day science fiction, and there are many plausible instances described in The Augmented Man by Joseph Carrabis, which is set between a time period of 10 and 30 years from the present and focuses on issues surrounding childhood trauma and PTSD.
As I started to delve into this book, I was fortunate to borrow some of Joseph’s time last week to talk through his book and his journey.
I finished reading ‘The Augmented Man’ the day after my interview with Joseph, with a new found respect for his writing which not only represents the work he’s done with trauma patients, it has a solid grounding in reality that resonates with authenticity and emotion that I ended up empathising with all of the main characters, villains and anti-heroes. It’s certainly left me wanting to learn more and I hope a sequel is on its way very soon!
29 March 2021 — Interview with Joseph Carrabis
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
‘I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was probably 7, 8, 9 years old, my sister was the one who got me encouraged’
Joseph goes on to describe his most poignant childhood memory. He’s doing the dishes with his older sister Sandra one evening. Her being 7 years his senior and his idol, enthralled him with her wonder and excitement of a book she was reading for a book report in school. The book was ‘Mission to the Heart Stars’ by James Blish. Through her narration of this Golden age science Fiction story, he re-enacts to me her thrill, excitement and wonder that created this ‘light bulb’ moment in a young Joseph to realise…. ‘this is it!’
This is the energy that he wants to capture and replicate, to be the one to generate this same power and joy from reading in people.
When did you write your first book?
‘My first published book was in 1978, a Children’s story’
How would you describe your career path, and how it’s lead you to where you are today?
Joseph comes from an interesting background, and knowing at an early age that writing would be a difficult occupation to support a family, he pivoted and pursued a career in programming and subsequently creating a consulting group, ‘Northern Lights’. They created software technology that was patented and within 3 months it was active in a 120 countries and they had offices in 4.
He had however not completely abandoned writing, and continued to write during College for his friends, a series of short stories that are now published as an anthology by Harvey Duckman.
As successful as he was, starting, running and subsequently selling 3 companies through his career progression, he knew that writing and telling stories, was at the core of his ideals and passion. And as of 5 years ago with encouragement from Susan his wife (partner and princess) he finally gave it up to become a full time writer.
What was the most surprising or unexpected paths your work has taken you to?
As an example a character in his current work in progress grew beyond his originally intended role, which made him uncomfortable and intimidated. His analogy to this was, ‘Instead of your child becoming a word class physicist, they have become a world class violinist. It just was unexpected!’
He goes on to explain that in the writing world there are Plotters (People who plot their story) and Pantzers (Someone who wings it from the seat of his pants!), but Joseph considers himself a amalgamation of the two — ‘a ‘Plotsner’ perhaps’ he says, and has learned to adapt and roll with the punches as his story unravels.
In his current work in progress novel there is a violent scene, where suddenly one of the lead characters pulls out a gun saying ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got this under control!’ and he’s thinking ‘when did this happen??’. A moment later he recollects that a few chapters back there was a dialogue where the character talks about knowing how to use a gun. He sounds almost like a proud father as and when these character develop, as to him they are very real and famously dubs his writing as biographies.
What inspired you to write ‘The Augmented Man’?
In the early 1990’s before he started the last company, he was in an interim period of his life, and subsequently studied psychodynamics and psychotherapy, with speciality in childhood trauma. He’s been an international ambassador for psychological science specialising in trauma, and would travel around the work developing therapeutic paradigms for people specific to their country and culture, with the premise that they could continue to heal without his guidance.
He saw an immediate link between childhood trauma and military PTSD, which at the time was not given a platform and more importantly was not accepted. This book in effect became a homage to the trauma he saw and so keenly wanted to help find solutions for.
‘ And then something much softer, more peaceful, more restful, replaced the predatory purring, the predator became a kitten.
Donaldson stared at him. He’s changed his own state. He used the tools we gave him to change his own state’ — Joseph Carrabis, The Augmented Man
Were the characters ‘Trailer’ and ‘Donaldson’ inspired by real people?
They are an amalgamation of many instances of the people he’s counselled over the years. He describes one particular scene with Trailer, when he talks about what he went through as a very young child with a disassociation to the trauma, is the same reaction he received when counselling in real life, where the patient shut down all expression and recited as in rote. There is clear evidence of a feeling of abandonment in military personnel and specially with children who’ve suffered through trauma.
He brings up a quote, ‘Fish don’t know that they are living in water’ to highlight that this is their normal, and it takes a lot of work and courage on the part of the individual to reshape their thinking (like Trailer starts to do) and to say ‘thats not a thought I should have’, accept this response, and use them to become better.
Its a testament to his work and its authenticity that therapists and trauma survivors with PTSD have written to him, as the book has helped them through their journey.
Were you ever in the military?
‘No, but it’s funny you ask that’ he says as he’s clearly been asked this question many a time. Some who’ve read ‘The Augmented Man’ have outright asked ‘where were you stationed?’ and wouldn’t believe that he wasn’t, and side eye him with, ‘black ops, right?!’
Another guy walked up to him and was curious where he learnt to fly, as he was a helicopter pilot himself in the Gulf war. Again he was shocked to learn that Joseph has never learnt to fly a helicopter, as he had so nailed the writing of the mechanics.
Joseph gets this ‘real’ knowledge by talking to a lot of people and doing a lot of research as he tends to seek people out and talk and to understand. For instance, to understand and get experience in weapons, he contacted an armorer in the local police department, who in turn connect him with others in the industry, and thereby gains significant knowledge on weaponry and the new technology coming out.
I really enjoyed the dynamic between Trailer and Donaldson, do you see these characters continue to evolve into a sequel?
The original version of the book had a last chapter, which he kept thinking it would make an incredible sequel. This has been pulled it out and is currently being mapped out.
So watch this space!
Amongst your books, fiction and non-fiction — do you have a favourite?
‘who is your favourite child!’ He says.
‘Different stories are favourites for different reasons…..
In ‘Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires’, anthologies of previously published stories ‘Dancers in the Eye of Chronos’ — was his wife favourite because it was about when they were taking dance lessons together;
‘The Goatmen of Aguirra’ is about a cultural anthropologist on a deep space mission encounters aliens on planet which was not supposed to be inhabited, because it based on his experiences working with indigenous people working at high altitude;
‘Winter Winds’ (end of tales) — story about a father and son watching a winter storm.
‘The Augmented man’ is another favourite to him because it is one of the most powerful stories he’s written, but in the end, and with good humour, he says his favourite has to be the next one!
And finally, Is there any guidance you’d like to give to anyone starting out as a writer in todays pandemic world?
‘WRITE, WRITE, WRITE!’
‘Even if you don’t want to write, write ‘I don’t want to write today because….’ and continue with this sentence and eventually you will get into the flow of it. In additional to his normal writing schedule he has 2 times a day dedicated to practice. It could be dialogue, character, metaphors, similes etc’.
‘If you need encouragement, find a writers group that would be truthful and encouraging. I.e if someone says you cannot write, move away from them and trust what’s in your heart. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you write well, let someone else decide. And if they still think you don’t write well, learn to write better! Be with people who will encourage you and will be honest with there encouragement. i.e ‘I don’t like that paragraph, but here’s why…..’
‘If you’re work gets rejected 500 times, maybe its time to look at the story differently, and it doesn’t matter how many people reject it, find the one that says yes. ’The Augmented Man’ recently published is the 17th version and with each version he learned to write better.
Joseph’s advice is to write everyday, to get into the habit and practice writing in all its forms, and believe in the process. It certainly brings to mind Gladwell’s theory of success with the 10,000 hour rule. It doesn’t matter if you believe in this theory or not, the message is clear, practice will only make you better. so…. Write, write, write!
See the full interview here: