Today's interview is with author Joseph Rakowski who is the author of the debut novel The Delivery Cut (Black Rose Writing Company, 2012). Joseph’s literary work can be found at www.josephrakowski.com.
After receiving his Bachelor's degree from Florida State University, Joseph Rakowski hitchhiked around the southern United States. Somewhere outside of Montgomery, Alabama, while smoking Backwoods cigars and writing, he decided to seriously pursue his ambitions of becoming an author. Shortly after, he entered law school, staying only through his first year. After leaving, he devoted his full-time to writing. Joseph currently lives in Florida and is working on his second novel, Bar Mate.
Joseph has worked with the United States Marshals, been to jail twice, hitchhiked around the southern United States, held over 30 odd jobs, held a national ranking in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, totaled a motorcycle, killed a pit-pull with his bare hands ‘-in the defense of another,’ and saved a man from drowning. Joseph has been the best man in three weddings and has been between housing for the last five years.
When Joseph received his literary contract for The Delivery Cut, he was living in a kitchen in D.C. The actual night of receiving the contract, Joseph was sleeping off a hangover and ass-whooping in the Arlington County Police Station. (Stop running means . . . stop running.)
Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?
Joseph Rakowski: The first story I ever wrote was about women. Growing up with a mother and three sisters guarantees at least one of them, every week for the first 18 years of my life, was menstruating and pissed off at me. They say women who live together eventually get on the same cycle. This is a lie. Trust me. I do not remember what happened to the actual story. I was 12 when I wrote it. My mother probably has it somewhere piled with her signed copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about your book The Delivery Cut and the main characters? How long did it take you to write the book?
Joseph Rakowski: The Delivery Cut is a literary contemporary fiction that follows the protagonist, James Young, through a twisted and turned path at self-realization. It is written in the same mold as The Rum Diary, by Hunter S. Thompson, but also invokes punch-to-the-throat living used in the autobiography Life by Keith Richards.
James Young is under pressure to be just like any other ordinary young adult who is seeking higher education to achieve a postmodern American, accomplished and prideful, nine to five. Despite his set path as an incoming law student, James, accompanied by a slew of alcohol and chain-smoked cigarettes, awaits a future meltdown. Surrounded by a fog of commonplace people who strive for unoriginal lives and others who have found them, James searches for a flash of inspiration to discover life as more than a mere existence.
Within the first 24-hours of his law school orientation, he finds himself under the watchful eye of an egotistical law professor and face to face with a mysterious Frenchman’s beguiling proposition for a story. The anarchical Frenchman joined by a misanthropic brute leads James through a revolution of the South Florida drug market, positioning him as a new addition to the drug world hierarchy. As he struggles to mentally shed from his old life, James takes refuge in a local Cuban Coffee shop where he befriends its regretful owner for advice.
Leaving his prior self behind, James is soon engulfed by the “who’s who” of upper class clients wanting their drugs brought to their downtown night scenes, high-rise luxury condominiums, local offices, and island mansions. Armed with reliable transportation, three dress suits, a tight schedule, and pushed by the fear of never having lived, James becomes the man who brings them their needs with a smile and a touch of customer service.
When violent competition for the market heats up around him, James, in a final climax, must choose between death and what is giving him a newfound sensation of being alive.
As for writing the book, my process was very rigorous. I woke up every morning at 4:30a.m. and had three or four espressos before sitting down at my desk. My goal was to reach 2,000 ‘meaningful’ words by 1:00p.m each day. With revision, The Delivery Cut took me 11 months to write, numerous cartons of cigarettes, a few handles of Jack Daniels to combat the caffeine shakes, and a few broken doors.
Books & Writing: I understand you are also working on a book called Bar Mate. Is this a sequel to The Delivery Cut, or is it a totally different story? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Joseph Rakowski: Despite current requests for a sequel to The Delivery Cut, Bar Mate regrettably is not. Bar Mate follows a collection of untamed characters at a removed Miami pub as they drink their way through temperance, unchecked masculinity, infidelity, mocked reason, and a brilliant riposte to the great illusion of what it means to act human. Guided by Geno, their expatriate tender, they take to the agreement that amongst everything else, a wild romp around the fervent city is best done after a few pints. Bar Mate is a sardonic look at modern man.
Books & Writing: What do you love about writing a story?
Joseph Rakowski: Ironically, what I love about writing is also what I find the most challenging. Writing is the process of finding the primal rhythmic beat of life and putting it into words. As a writer, I find myself in a daily quixotic attempt to uncover this structure, this inherent beat of life. I place commas and periods for reason rather than structure, short tense here and there as emotions, even the repetition of dialogue in imperative moments helps transpose the untamed lines of human life to words on pages. The ability to develop characters, their changes and their thoughts, leaving plots of the mind rather than rehearsed and copied premises is very self-abusive. Cracking into this subconsciousness and the primal rhythmic beat in which my fiction, yet participatory fiction vibrates, most days leave me drained and lost. “Why must I experience everything I write?” Is a question I ask myself daily. The difference between fiction and journalism, to me, is not an unequivocally circumscribed square, but an enigmatic and mysterious edge of balance. Maintaining balance is the challenging part. My pure love is to fully understand and liberate human existence, both verbally and textually.
As I continue my contemplation for being a writer past simple love, I know more than likely it will only bring mental and financial hardship. I find myself searching . . . searching for all the missing writers. Maybe why I write is the personal fact I cannot deal with another plagiarized and regurgitated $16.95 packing the shelves at the local bookstore, giving preferential treatment to market make-ups rather than anything resembling sustenance for starving high-quality literary work. Of course, there is a place for this, but it is not my place.
I write to transgress the dichotomy between living and writing. Where authors are not trapped in coffee shops, drinking $8 lattes, thinking of synonyms for something they never experienced.
Where did all the Hesses, Bukowskis, Kerouacs, Keseys, Hemingways, Fitzgeralds, Bolaños, Thompson’s, etc. go? To me, writing is a true adventure, a drunken romp, a failed or successful exploration of self. I understand the need for genre, but fuck give me something original and fresh. Give me selfless plots and multifarious characters.
Maybe I write for the nostalgic idea of what a writer was, the original Rock Stars. The “go out and live what you are writing then come back and write about it” attitude. If it sucks at least you will know I was there. You will know what I felt. You can believe in the pages I captured.
I hope when you read my work, you understand why I write. Besides love and the eternalness of the written word middle finger, I am seeking understanding.
Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Joseph Rakowski: When your dreams become crazy to everyone else, that is when you must follow them the most. Write every day, open your mind to experience, and never let anyone take your passion.
Ad Astra Per Aspera –“Through difficulty to the stars.”
Books & Writing: How do you go about in publishing a fiction book?
Joseph Rakowski: So you want to publish a fiction book? Turn back now. Publishing a book is not for the faint-of-heart, the prideful, or writers unwilling to become educated in the language of literary publishers and agents. There are millions of writers and only an infinitesimal number will ever see their name on something they did not self-publish. The odds are stacked against you, go start a family photo blog. If you are still reading then you more than likely are a brazen writer like me. I advise a cold stiff drink before we continue.
The world of publishing a first book is extremely multifaceted. Writing the darn thing will be the easy part, enjoy it. In fact, if you are currently not staring at your finished manuscript, stop reading immediately and get back to writing. No publisher will place any effort in a book “about to be” written. There are enough want-to-be writers at the local Starbucks. They sit there sipping their coffee slowly, waiting on their “great book idea” to come to fruition eventually. It is a crock, write the thing or shut up.
A first time author, depending on genre, needs to have a manuscript between 50,000 and 90,000 words. Before submission, your manuscript needs to be revised, edited, and formatted properly. Your content should be, to the best of your abilities, perfect. It should be your finest work, ready to be read by the world. So what do you do once your manuscript is polished?
Every writer’s first step should be buying a copy of the Writer’s Market. It can be found at your local bookstore for around fifty dollars. The Writer’s Market houses all the information you will need in submitting your manuscript to different publishing houses, literary agents, and independent publishers; their addresses, their requirements, and genres they accept for review. Once you get your copy, go through it and find the most suitable places for your work.
Next comes the bane-of-existence for all writers, the query letter. A query letter is a one-page, single-spaced letter selling your idea or convincing an editor to request your entire manuscript. A query letter is not the back cover of your book. You need to explain, in entirety, the plot, the premise, the crux, and the resolution of any conflict in the ending. Prove to them your book does not suck. Not with grandiloquence or an austere speech, but with the bare bones of your writing. Remember, the editor does not care what you think or feel about your book, you are supposed to love it and consider it your magnum opus. Let your work speak for itself. There are great examples and tips in the Writer’s Market for you to reference. Give it the same time and thought you did for your manuscript. This is your golden ticket.
Once your query letter is complete, it is time for you to submit. After that, sit back and hold on. You will hear no, no, and probably more no’s. Do not give up. Rejection is not the end. This is the process.
During the waiting game, use this time to your advantage. Begin attracting a following. Start a website with your work, the more creative the better. If you do hear back and it is good news, be proud, but your work is still far from done. You have contracts, agents, reading, approving, signing, promoting, book reviewers, and building a platform for future readers to follow. You have come this far, do not blow it now. There is knowledge all around you on this process. You just need to look for it.
“When the going gets weird, the weird go pro.” H.S.T.
Below is the trailer for the book so check it out!
Below is an Excerpt from Chapter 16 of The Delivery Cut
“We headed downstairs riding the elevator to the 4th floor. “This is where the car will be from now on,” Hugo said gliding out as the doors opened. The car rested about three spots down from the elevator and I got in. Hugo opened the back door and sat down releasing the compartment. He placed the five packages into their different slots then moved to the front opening the center console. I watched as he plugged in a USB drive uploading the addresses into the car’s computer.
I opened the gold canister and took a couple large bumps giving one to Hugo as we waited. “Alright, all of the locations are in the computer. Any special directions for you once you arrive will be highlighted on the final destination screen as an end note,” he instructed. I pulled up the GPS on the screen and went to the first destination on the list. I scrolled through the directions of right and left turns and came to what he was talking about. “These the notes?” I asked.
“Wow, I knew we found the right guy,” he said. He pushed my hand off the screen and went to a different menu.
“I also uploaded you a playlist on here. You like Quiet Riot?” he asked.
“From the eighties?”
“Yeah from the fucking eighties,” he said punching me in the shoulder were Claude had pinched the fabric earlier.
“You know, you should really look into getting a girlfriend or something,” I said. “You have a lot of pent up anger.”
“Relationships?” he responded disgusted. “I only pay for sex.” I shook my head. “Don’t fuck this up,” he said getting out of the car.
Back in the driver’s seat, the adrenalin and blood ran hard through my unused body, the drugs now adding to my natural high. Since last week, a vein had developed and ran down the middle of my forehead. Alive, it bulged on the verge of bursting open and shooting everywhere. I liked it.
I pulled up the playlist and hit start along with the first address. I raced out from the spot speeding down the parking ramps as I beat the steering wheel uncontrollably to the song pumping through the speakers. I left my worries and wounded cares behind me. It was past that now. Tonight I wasn’t James Young. I wasn’t Gabriel. I was simply and responsibly alive once more.
On the map, my first delivery near the beach sat only eleven minutes away and I took my time cruising there, enjoying every second. The roads were empty, still early for a Friday night, the heat off the black top now just beginning to settle. The air was crisper near the ocean and I could feel I was getting close. I passed a row of beach bars as they began setting up. The droning screeches of freelance musicians playing Margaritaville one more time hadn’t started sounding from their open patios. The mindless debauchery of another drunken bar scene wasn’t at all missed.
I found The V complex of high-rise condominiums and pulled into a meter parking spot before the resident’s gated entrance. The highlighted endnote read, “Suite 126, gate word—Jewel.”
I jumped into the backseat shifting my weight over the sensor like Hugo. It released the lock and I pulled the armrest down. I grabbed the first package, A200, putting in its place the envelope Claude had given me. I closed the compartment and jumped back up front proceeding to the gate. A guard stepped out carrying a clipboard as I came to a stop.