Interview with Joseph Cautilli

When did you first start writing?
Joe: I started writing in College. I wrote mostly technical articles in behavior analysis and behavioral psychology. I published many articles in those areas. At the same time, I wrote science fiction and horror stories, mostly for myself and my friends.

Marisha: I began writing at five years old. I wrote a book about my school characters at PA Cyber. It was called Origins of the Kid Council. I really liked it and liked writing. I liked providing a background for the characters that I was learning from everyday.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Joe: Zombies vs. Robots for me was a great way to contrast two visions of the future: the vision of a progressing and improving society with an image of a society in decay. Particularly, I like the early scene in the book. It starts with one of the main characters of an ideal vision of the future waking from a nightmare. It is kind of symbolic of his denial and the situation intruding deep into his psyche trying to tell him something is wrong.

Marisha: For me, the story is about a team of friends and family bonding together to fight the end of the world from happening. Maybe they cannot save everyone, although Martin (a character in the story) would certainly try but they could save themselves and each other. Often they are not successful but then again in the end, none of us are able to keep death away forever.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Joe: My daughter had a story to tell and I wanted to aide her in telling it. At seven years old, she has really shone. In her school, she was found to be gifted (140 IQ) I really enjoyed the time we spent together designing the characters, plot, setting, conflict, and resolution. Once the story was written, we felt it was good enough to sell- so we began to look for an outlet. In our search, we wound up here.

Marisha: My dad inspired me. We had been doing some exercises to improve writing. These exercises required me to look at a half sentence for a minute and then write for three minutes. After that I got a minute to edit. My dad loved some of the stories I was producing. I was putting a lot of action sequences in them, so he decided we should sit and design a plot and start to coordinate these story starters. It was kind of fun. I felt like I was really creating something. My dad would take my writings and then work around them to put them into the story and help keep the plot on course. Overall, I feel like the book helped me to express myself and to develop characters that many can identify with.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Joe: I feel Smashword has provided us with an outlet to reach people, who we would never be able to reach with our work. We have even been given the opportunity to be interviewed a few times about the book by people who we met on smashword. I think that the ability to network with other writers and the feedback we have gotten from reviews has really helped with the second book in the series- Zombies vs. Robots: Out of the Rubble due out soon. In addition, we are working hard on the third book and integrating what we have learned through public and private feedback from people who have seen us on Smashword. The third book is titled Zombies vs Robots: Emma's Army.

Marisha: I think Smashword has really helped. I look at the number of likes and cannot believe that we have had over 340 people like the page. We have had a good number of downloads and sales, as well. I read the reviews and really like that people seem impressed with what I have had to say.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Joe: The greatest joy is to see our work in print. I really enjoy the amount of feedback that we have gotten. It has helped to build our confidence. I think that the book offers a new look at the Zombie genera. While solidly a horror and cyberpunk tale, it is very much a family story. People feel that they have bonded with the characters. Lots of people have said that they were inspired by the way Marisha and I worked on the book and thought that they would try the same techniques with their children. Who knows, maybe we have started a revolution in family writing. It seems to me that children of those who work in construction learn construction by working with their parents- maybe this is the writing equivalent of that. Maybe the next generation of books will be parent-child written and when those kids grow up, it will be good to see the impact.

Marisha: My greatest joy of writing is spending time with my dad writing. I liked how we worked through plot issues and he always respected my opinion even though we might not have agreed. When my mom read the work and said she liked it, I was really proud. I built my first robot with her, so to find that she liked the robot book made me feel really good. Also, my school did a story on me and it was totally cool. I liked being interviewed.
What do your fans mean to you?
Joe: Fans are why we do what we do. I don't think anyone would write a book if they felt no-one cared or no-one was reading. I enjoy hearing from fans. Sometimes, people come up to me and say, "Hey I read your book, I really liked it" when that happens I get filled with joy.

Marisha: My fans mean to me that others like my work. It is important that I don't let them down. I read every comment and try to learn from them. I am glad that they like what I am doing. I hope that I continue to please them.
What are you working on next?
Joe: Zombies vs. Robots was planned to be three novels. The second is coming out now and we are working on the third.

Marisha: After we finish book three, I would like to finish a story I was working on that I hope to sell to American Girl. It is a short story about a girl in Cyber School that travels and is on a swim team. I feel that that Cyber family is really under -represented in kids stories. I was also thinking of doing a story a skier girl and she travels to California to see her cousins and she learns to be herself no matter where she goes.
Who are your favorite authors?
Marisha: My favorite author is Susan Collins and Gary Paulsen. They both have survival themes in their books. Paulsen wrote a book called Hachette about a boy who crashes in Canada and has to survive on his own. Susan Collins wrote the Hunger Games series. It is a series about a girl who volunteers to take her sisters place in a gladiator environment. Often like the character in our book, she is coping with situations that are out of her control.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Joe: My family is my inspiration. In addition, I work with children with mental health problems and developmental disabilities. I enjoy my work. I own a company- Behavior Analysis and Therapy Partners located in Bala Cynwyd PA. In addition, I often teach at the university in courses that range from behavior analysis to psychopharmacology.

Marisha: I like to do things that bring me a smile during the day. I love to play and have fun. I find the world exciting.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Joe: I usually spend most of my time either teaching, supervising staff that work with children, or serving as my daughter's guide for Cyber School.

Marisha: I spend my time having fun and thinking of ideas. I am working on creating a doll line called "Career Girls"
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Joe: I try to look for authors that I know and like. I like Jack Apsche's work. He writes in my field of psychology. We worked on developing several online journals in behavior therapy together. He is a very bright guy.

Marisha: I pick books that fit me. I look for books that are about smart girls my age.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Marisha: I wrote a story about a girl who goes to a place called Midlandia. It was a take off on characters that were part of my school curriculum.

Joe: I wrote a short story years ago about a person who hunted mutants down. He was a pretty cold hearted guy and very much in the tradition of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.
What is your writing process?
Joe: We work as a team. We work by getting the overall characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. After that we write titles to the chapters to guide us. Then I design brief half sentence "story starters" like they use in curriculum based measurement to assess student writing; only ours are related to our plot. I let Marisha think for one minute and then write for three minutes. Finally, she edits for a minute. She usually produces about 50 words. I get her to do 3-4 of them a day. After she is done for the day, I take what she has written and then start to craft the rest of the scene around it. I like to make the scenes action packed and scary as possible. Marisha likes to write dialogue. Sometimes, she writes things that are not really able to be done were we are in the plot, so I have to problem solve those into either a character's fantasy or a dream. Overall in writing, I like he characters to be as human as possible, so I like them to discuss both politics and religion. I also like to put things in the story like parts of American culture that are important to me. Marisha like to put music into her scenes. Sometimes, I have fun trying to talk her into a different song then the one she wants- which gives us the chance to watch the songs on utube. Finally, I read the scenes and try to think about what makes them scary. I like to build tension and also to put a cut in the action to keep the reader in suspense.
Published 2013-08-30.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.