This spring, as I was getting ready to launch The Undine’s Tear, I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to do an interview on Joshua Pantalleresco’s podcast, Just Joshing. After our interview, Joshua and I visited for about another hour, and I found out that he is a very interesting guy. So, naturally, I asked him to share his story with my readers.
And he said yes.
If you talk to Joshua Pantalleresco, 37, for longer than five minutes, you’ll notice that he is both very optimistic and very laid back. On his physical journey, he’s moved more times than you can count on your fingers and toes—from his home province of Ontario, to Calgary, then Arizona, and then back to Calgary, with some summers at his grandmother’s in Detroit thrown in for good measure.
However, his emotional and spiritual journey, as well as his career journey, can be marked by just as many milestones. Not all of them seemed positive at the time, but they led him to the place he has landed today as a writer, award-winning podcaster, advocate of the arts, and overall fairly chill, self-aware human being—for which he is grateful.
“My life is a fairy tale,” says Joshua. “The other day, I posted an episode of my podcast where, in the interview, I negotiated the podcast into a video game. It feels surreal to say that. I’m about to publish my fourth book, which is my first novel, and it will be my first to go into audio book. My podcast is listened to by people around the world and it’s growing. It’s been a wild journey.”
Joshua discovered his passion for writing “by accident” in the eighth grade when he entered a writing contest and took third place. After that, all he wanted to do was write.
“I wrote about a smart-ass kid from Calgary who travels back in time to ancient Canada and discovered that writing was a blast. I wanted to be the next Robert Jordan, Ray Bradbury, or Isaac Asimov,” says Joshua.
Joshua spent his high school years working on a novel (which remains unpublished). He also voraciously read novels, graphic novels, and comic books by authors such as Warren Ellis, James A. Owen, and Neil Gaiman. His favourite book at the time was Green Lantern by Ron Marz and illustrated by Daryl Banks. By the time he’d finished high school, he’d discovered comic websites.
“My dreams became my quest. I believed I could get that book deal I wanted. I went into journalism in college, and even though I dropped out, I started doing interviews with up-and-coming creators. I self-published my first book, a collection of short poems called I Am, then moved to Phoenix when I was 24 and began interviewing independent comic creators for a website called ComicBloc. Because of the interviews and the book, I ended up getting a job with one of my childhood heroes,” says Joshua.
Unfortunately, the dream job ended poorly within a year, leaving Joshua financially strapped and still living in Arizona. The United States was in a recession, and jobs were hard to come by. In 2008, Joshua took a job pumping gas, which seemed like a step down.
“I kept hearing the phrase ‘lucky to have a job.’ I knew some guys who would wait weeks before they got their paycheque from their employers. A lot of companies didn’t have the money to pay. So I did what I had to do to survive,” says Joshua.
He had no car, walking everywhere he needed to go. The physical wear and tear of that stressful year took a toll—several of his teeth cracked and he lost weight. But despite what he was going through, he never stopped creating or lost his passion for writing.
“I was working on my first comic and I didn’t stop, but bad things continued to happen. During that time, I faced my own demons and mortality and it changed me, for better or worse, leaving my broken teeth as a battle scar,” says Joshua.
He moved back to Calgary in 2009, vowing to publish more of his work. He wanted to revisit the success he’d had with I Am and publish another collection of poems. However, his next project took on a life of its own.
“I had this vision of a boy in a watchtower looking into the horizon while below him, his family and friends worked for dragons. It was a fascinating world that grabbed me. Each time I thought I was finished with this story, I kept picking it up. After the fifth or sixth chapter, I realized that this was my ‘collection.’ I had to see the story through to the end,” says Joshua.
Joshua intended to self-publish the epic poem as an eBook and occasionally order some small print runs to sell at conventions. He hired illustrator Florence Chan—“one of the most professional people I’ve ever worked with”—to do the art, and The Watcher came into being. Then his career took another turn—this time, for the better.
“I had interviewed indie author Justine Alley Dowsett for my website years before, and she bought my book off of Smashwords. It was my first sale. She told me she was about to become a publisher and she wanted to publish my book. That’s how I got published,” says Joshua.
Mirror World Publishing picked up the title and published the next two books in the series, Stormdancer and The Wandering God, also illustrated by Chan. Meanwhile, Joshua’s ongoing interviews with creators were bearing other fruit. In 2016, he finally got to interview one of his heroes, Robert J. Sawyer. This interview was inadvertently responsible for Joshua launching a podcast.
“I met Rob at a convention and thanked him for his contributions to Canadian fiction. By the time I asked him for an interview a year later, I’d finally time-travelled to the twenty-first century and gotten a smart phone, so I recorded our interview. I’d planned to transcribe it to my website, but Rob had mentioned to someone that this was for a podcast. That was what gave me the idea,” says Joshua.
In 2016, the Just Joshing podcast was born, featuring Joshua’s interview with Sawyer on Episode 20. Nearly four years and over 278 episodes later, Joshua has interviewed creators from many different disciplines, including authors, illustrators, actors, producers, editors, and more. In 2018, the podcast won an Aurora Award (Canada’s Science Fiction and Fantasy awards) for “Best Fan-Related Work,” and is a finalist this year in the same category.
In 2018, Joshua had 12 poems published in the Starklight Press collection From the Depths. Earlier in that same year, he had finally gotten his teeth fixed.
“I kept the damaged teeth for about ten years. At first, it was because I couldn't fix them, and it was a reminder of what I had survived. Later it became something I wasn't proud of, but I wasn't ready to deal with it until about a year and a half ago,” says Joshua.
Now, at nearly 38 years old, he has taken the lessons he’s learned and the twists and turns of his life and molded them into an optimistic view of the future.
“I embrace taking chances and expanding my comfort zone. My life has been about chasing dreams, and I've been fortunate enough to make some of them real. I would tell people not to be afraid to take chances. Don’t be afraid to fail and, most importantly, don’t be afraid to succeed,” says Josh.
Ever on the search for more opportunities, Joshua has imminent plans to move to British Columbia. In November, he’ll be releasing his next book, The Cloud Diver, in print. He’s also finishing up another epic poem called Alice Zero, the precursor to a series-slash-board game which he describes as “Alice in Wonderland mashed up with Greek mythology, with Alice as Pandora.” His first audio book (The Cloud Diver) will be released in April 2020.
“There is real magic out there. I’ve learned that all things are possible and nothing goes as planned, and that is not a bad thing. I got to travel across two countries, struggle, starve, learn who I am as a person, and see just how magical life can be. All I've done is embrace the opportunities that have come my way. Not all of them have worked out, but when they have, they’ve been better than anything I could have possibly imagined,” says Joshua.
If you want to connect with Joshua online, you can find him on Twitter or Instagram @jpantalleresco, on YouTube, Amazon, or his website at https://jpantalleresco.wordpress.com, and of course, subscribe to his podcast at https://jpantalleresco.podomatic.com.
I hope Joshua’s story inspired you like it did me, friend! If you’re going to be in Calgary next weekend, you can see both Joshua and me at the When Words Collide readers’ and writers’ conference in Calgary. I hope to see you there!
Also, to go along with both my trip to the conference and my birthday next week, I have put the eBook for The Undine’s Tear on sale for only $3.99 CAD until August 15. The sale starts today on this site, Amazon, and Google Play Books, and on August 9 everywhere else. Find direct links and more information here:
I’m an author, blogger, journalist, knitter, and freelance editor who is addicted to tea, stories, and silver linings. I love helping people, either through helping them tell their stories or entertaining them with my own. Check out my services above to see if I can help you with anything. :-)