I chatted to Joe after finishing his fantastic book The Face of God…
Tell me about yourself and what made you start writing.
I was born and brought up in Geneva, the home of CERN, which is where I picked up my interest in science. In my twenties, I joined the British Army and did a few tours in Northern Ireland and Cyprus, but it was during a tour in Iraq that I really started to formulate my thoughts on how little control people have over their lives. How your life is governed by where you’re born, by events that happen to you or even the physical make-up of your brain. In the end, I began to believe that we have no freewill, zero control of what happens to us and who we are. So, as my ideas developed, I began to put them down on paper, as well as how we could potentially break free from that fundamental limitation on our freedom.
Where did the inspiration come from to write The Face of God?
You know, I think I was receiving so much content, whether through books, films or music that I became saturated with information and ideas. I got to a point where I had to send something back out into the world, and it made me really think about what that would be. What did I want to say? The freewill ideas were interesting, but they weren’t enough, so I wrote a lot more, about the scientific themes in the book and about the combat and PTSD scenes, which were inspired by my operations in Iraq. But even then, I still didn’t have a cohesive story. The final spark (here comes the cliché!) was that I fell in love with a woman, who sadly didn’t love me back, and I found that quite difficult. I ended up writing her a number of letters that I never sent, and they became the backbone of the love story in The Face of God and brought everything together.
Despite the complex and difficult subject matter your story is direct and cohesive. Was it difficult to, in essence, keep it simple?
The message is actually quite simple: We don’t really know that much about the reality we live in. No matter how elaborate our explanations are of our world, whether complex scientific theories, or elaborate theology, we are probably not getting the full picture of what is actually going on out there. We focus on the things that we think we understand, creating detailed narratives about them, but again, we are probably being influenced by phenomenon that we don’t even know exist. What was really fun, was wrapping that philosophy in with the action scenes and the love story, and turn it into what I think is a bit of a page turner.
The door appears to be left open for a follow up. Any plans for a sequel?
The sequel is well underway and I’m pretty excited about it!
Can you explain the beautiful cover of the book?
The cover was made by an extraordinary Lithuanian designer called Gražina Grei. Among other things, she writes algorithms to create digital representations of nature. The cover of The Face of God is a digitisation of a Lithuanian weave pattern, using a bespoke algorithm (a cellular automata), to make a mathematical mandala, a religious representation of the universe. So it’s a mix of science, religion and Lithuania, three themes of the book.
Check out The Face of God now on Amazon.