Thursday, February 13, 2014

Author Interview: Josh Hillyer

Today, we are very excited to welcome debut author Josh Hillyer to The Otherworld Diner!

Best. Author. Photo. Ever.

Josh and I were in the same grad class at Auburn (War Eagle!), and I am thrilled he's decided to enter the crazy world of publishing. He has such a unique, creative perspective, I have no doubt this is merely the start of what will be a long and successful publishing career. And I'm happy he's decided to share in the excitement of his debut with us!

Josh has very generously agreed to answer some nosey questions about writing in general and his debut sci-fi novella, Train of Thought, in specific. Without further ado, welcome to The Otherworld Dinner, Josh!

1) To start off, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to start writing fiction?

I'm in that odd late 20s/early 30s phase of life: I have a young child, sometimes have a job teaching college students, and I'm trying to figure out what's next. I have a history of being in mildly (and I do mean mildly) successful bands, attending Ph.D. courses, and recording podcasts about retro video games.

I ultimately started writing fiction because I am a storyteller by nature. I used to do it through lyrics and screenplays, but I've taken more of an interest in books over the last couple of years. 

Writing is necessary to my existence, I suppose. The medium changes but the desire to make sense of life continues. 

2) Where did you get the idea for Train of Thought?

I got the idea for Train of Thought from being overstressed and trapped in my head. I realized that it was difficult to explain what life felt like for me, so I started writing about it in the only genre that seemed fitting: science-fiction. The rest of it was pretty much lingering punk rock thoughts manifesting themselves in Geoff's (the main character) rigid, structured world.

3) What did you enjoy most about creating this story?

I most enjoyed writing the material about the Old World, which is actually present-day Earth. The idea of people and aliens in the distant future tattooing the NBC peacock logo on themselves is really funny and surprisingly believable to me. We all think the old days were better than today, after all. 

4) What was the biggest challenge?

The thing that I found most difficult was trimming Train of Thought to a suitable novella length. I knew that I didn't want it to be a full-length novel, but about two thirds of the way through the story I had to make myself hold back a bit. Length for any creative content is something I really struggle with, both as a creator and a consumer. I just feel like most books, movies, games, and even television shows overstay their welcome by drifting too far from what the creator imagined in the first place. Remember the majority of the second season of Twin Peaks? No? It had several pointless storylines, even with it being my favorite show ever made.

5) As a musical person, if you were to develop a musical playlist to accompany Train of Thought, which songs would you feature and why?

Interesting question! I'd include a few songs by the best band in the world, the instrumental duo El Ten Eleven: "Bye Annie, Bye Joe, Bye Michael, Bye Jake," and "Ian Mackaye Was Right." After looping those a few times, I'd end with "Thirteen" by Big Star, since I think Geoff would like that song. 

6) Do you plan to write any other stories set in this world?

I'd like to directly continue the story of what happens with Unitrak and the Yellow Jackets; I have tons of ideas on where it should go...I'm not sure many people care, though. If I realize that at least 10 people or so care, I'll probably write it. 

7) Any final things we should know about Train of Thought and the world in which the story is set?

I just want people to read this and remember to rest their brains from time to time. I know that sounds obvious, but we live in a society that is constantly finding ways to be busy, even for things that aren't necessarily important. Then when something important happens (or needs to happen), we don't know how to handle it due to how many other things are on our minds. Figure out what your train is, I suppose. 

I think that sounds like a wonderful take-away, and something many of us need to be reminded to do.

My thanks to Josh for joining us today! Josh can be found on Twitter. If you have not yet picked up a copy of Train of Thought, it is available now through Amazon. You do not want to miss this story! Go, buy, read, enjoy. And to help you with that goal, Josh is offering a free copy of Train of Thought to one lucky commenter. To enter, leave a comment on this blog with one activity that helps you clear your head of clutter and rest your brain a bit. Simple enough, right? (I'm not going to say mine is reading...but mine is totally reading.) You can also get additional entries by spreading the word about the contest on social media. So tweet, Facebook, Tumbl (is that the proper term?); do whatever verb means "to share" information on your site or sites of choice. One extra entry per each social media site used. Make sure you tally up how many entries you qualify for, and include links to the actual shares in your comment. Good luck!


Train of Thought by Josh Hillyer

Geoff was born to serve. He wakes up early, checks the train’s equipment (even though such checks are against Unitrak’s rules), and gives all of himself to his employer. And Geoff has more to give than any other member of his alien kind, the multiprocessing Cogitarians. He has the ability to carry out mental executions at the rate of eight brilliant human brains, a true gift. Like many gifts, however, it proves to be a blessing and a curse when he is promoted to the highest Cogitarian rank: Lead Energy Maker. As Geoff is tasked with providing enough mental power to move the train from one location to another, he must also address the inconsistencies in Unitrak’s messages of world restoration. How could the company that saved the entire Cogitarian kind and provided them with a permanent home be interested in anything other than rebuilding societies? In Geoff’s journey to regain trust in his employer and the worldviews they have given him, he begins to question everything: his day-to-day work, his father’s hidden rage, his mother’s unexplained disappearance, and the reasoning behind a rogue organization’s attacks on the train. Ultimately, he must decide where he will direct his intense mental abilities: into the train or into a new train of thought.

Fine Print:
Contest will run until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, February 16, 2014. Winner will be selected at random and notified following contest end. Winner will receive a Kindle ebook copy of Train of Thought. Contest open to US residents. Void where prohibited. 


  1. Love the premise, and the idea of resting one's brain from time to time - perhaps you could include a how-to companion?

    Look forward tot checking it out!

  2. Congrats on the book, Josh. This sounds like a very thought provoking and interesting read.

    My clutter remover is definitely listening to music. I especially like listening to bands/artists that I'm not too familiar with because there is just a certain joy in hearing a song that you really like for the first time that makes everything else around you seem unimportant for however long it plays. Also, I love the shout out to Big Star in the interview. By far, they have been one of my favorite musical discoveries.

  3. This sounds like just the kind of book my husband would love. :)

  4. I apologize for the delay, everyone. I've entered all commenters into, and the winner is........


    Thank you, Nick and Mia, for entering the contest. Dana, I'll email you with more info.

    Thanks to Josh for stopping by the blog!