P’ville Author’s Latest Novel Puts Readers in Post-Apocalyptic World

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Pleasantville author Joe Wallace will be participating in a signing this Saturday at The Village Bookstore for his new novel “Slavemakers,” which was released this week.
Pleasantville author Joe Wallace will be participating in a signing this Saturday at The Village Bookstore for his new novel “Slavemakers,” which was released this week.

Joe Wallace remembers the instant his latest novel materialized. He and his wife were on their way to Maine taking their daughter back to college when Wallace suddenly grew quiet and began scribbling notes to himself on the back of any piece of paper he could find.

He doesn’t recall exactly what triggered the outline for his new science fiction story, but it certainly has paid dividends.

The result was “Slavemakers,” Wallace’s third novel and the sequel to his 2013 thriller “Invasive Species.” Published by Ace Books, part of the Penguin Books group, “Slavemakers” hits stores today (Tuesday), including The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville and Barnes & Noble.

“I can say in all honesty, of course the story’s different, but 90 percent of the concept and work of the events of “Slavemakers” presented itself to me, the entire story, in one instant,” said Wallace, a Pleasantville resident. “That has never happened to me before in my life.”

The strange part about Wallace’s on-the-road epiphany was that he never planned a follow-up to “Invasive Species,” where humans were threatened with extinction. In fact, he set the final chapter of that book 20 years after the rest of the story in hopes of avoiding a sequel.

Despite the unplanned return to the story, Wallace was able to pull it off, and do it in a way that puts readers in the center of the action and making the characters’ world seem real.

“With the core-centered characters, with them struggling with what they’re struggling with, I want you to respond and identify with it, even if you will never be in the situation they’re in,” Wallace said.

“They can only communicate that if they feel like a real person living in a real world, even if that world is in the 1920s or living in a post-apocalyptic world,” he added.

Whether you’ve read “Invasive Species,” which received excellent online reviews, or are planning to read “Slavemakers,” don’t expect Wallace to necessarily become a household name in the thriller or sci-fi genre.

From the time he began his writing career more than 30 years ago as a freelancer, Wallace has written on a wide range of subjects. There were health and science articles for magazines in the 1980s, followed by a period writing about baseball. Wallace has also written two short stories and two series and even the text for children’s books.

About six years ago, he adapted one of his short stories into his first novel, “Diamond Ruby,” set in the 1920s about an 18-year-old girl who is a baseball prodigy.

Wallace said he’s uncertain whether the lack of connection to one genre has been a detriment. Sometimes it’s even been difficult to pigeonhole his books; “Diamond Ruby,” for instance, could be considered historical fiction, but the publishers also tried marketing it for young adults, he said.

The advantage for Wallace, who organizes creative writing workshops and contests for students in local schools and serves as a mentor to young writers, has been having the luxury of writing on subjects and characters that he cares about most.

“It makes it very entertaining but (it) also means that I’m not part of any writing society,” Wallace said of his career. “I think there’s a gain and a loss to that, a loss in recognizability but also a loss of community.”

Like any working writer, there’s always the next story or another project. Wallace will once again dabble in another, by writing the text for a National Geographic photographer’s collection.

“I’ve been writing for a lot of years and if there’s one thing I’ve proven, I’m always moving on to the next thing,” Wallace said.

The Village Bookstore will be hosting a book signing by Wallace this Saturday, Dec. 5 from 2 to 5 p.m. He will participate in a reading and discussion at 2:30 p.m. The Village Bookstore is located at 10 Washington Ave. in Pleasantville.


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