The Story Behind Grim by Joseph Spencer

I began Grim because I missed writing terribly. For the first decade of my professional career, I’d written at regional daily newspapers with the pressure to produce entertaining and informative stories on a tight deadline. The pursuit of my writing goals led me to papers across the country in Illinois, Iowa, Virginia and Colorado, but the gloomy outlook for print newsrooms created by the explosion of digital media and a desire to see Grimmy family more often led me to switch careers.  Four years ago, I completely rebooted myself at the age of 30 as a 9-1-1 emergency dispatcher.  The abrupt change created a void that I didn’t expect.

Grim started as an idea after I’d watched The Dark Knight for the hundredth time. Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker captivated me in its vision for the character as an agent of chaos. I know it’s a movie telling Batman’s tale, but I longed to know more about the Joker. I wanted to create my own version of an agent of chaos, and tell that character’s story in more depth. I also wanted to explore a non-traditional storyline in which there aren’t clear cut good guys and bad guys, one where many of the characters and their motivations are morally gray. As a nod to Heath Ledger’s work in the film, I named my title character Heath.

Other characters from my favorite works of literature also influenced Grim. I love Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series, and I strived to use a similar sort of dark humor with a serial killer, a character typically viewed as a social pariah, as a sympathetic figure, albeit as an anti-hero. I’ve been captivated with anti-heroes since reading Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, and that theme of vengeance looms large in Grim. I’ve also developed an affinity for the grit of hard-boiled fiction writers such as Dashiell Hammett and Sara Paretsky, and often explored in graphic novels by Frank Miller and Alan Moore. In Prairieville, I tried to create a city every bit as gritty and dirty as Miller’s work which inspired the film Sin City.

Unlike most other novels in the crime vein, I chose to include several paranormal and mythological themes within the framework of the story. Heath Grim’s possessed by Abaddon, a spiritual entity whose character and motives are as murky as most of the rest of the cast. When gaining vengeance for a victim of a violent crime, Heath uses one of my favorite myths from Egyptian mythology concerning the weighing of a soul to determine its destination in the afterlife.

During my writing process, Grim became much more of a lifelong milestone rather than a manuscript I expected to have professional potential. I wanted to prove to myself that I could finish a novel, not just tell myself that I could do it someday without putting my feet to the fire. I took a year after I finished to have it edited by Stephen King’s first editor, Michael Garrett, and to query agents and publishing houses. I received a few offers from independent horror trade presses, and selected Damnation Books because of their eagerness to work with me. I plan for Grim to be the first book in my Sons of Darkness series. My next book, Wrage, will continue the series when Damnation Books releases it on June 1, 2013.


Joseph SpencerAs a boy, Joseph Spencer immersed himself in the deductive logic of Sherlock Holmes, the heroic crime fighting of Batman and Spider-Man, and a taste for the tragic with dramas from poets like Shakespeare and Homer.

Before Joseph took to spinning his own tales, he pursued a career in print sports journalism, graduating summa cum laude from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He covered such events as NASCAR’s Subway 500 race in Martinsville, the NBA Draft Camp in Chicago, the Junior College World Series, and Minor League Baseball’s Midwest League All-Star Game during a ten-year career throughout the Midwest. Now, he works as an emergency telecommunications specialist with an Illinois police department. The combination of years of writing experience with a background working with law enforcement professionals gave rise to his writing aspirations.

Joseph was married Dr. Amy (Waggoner) Spencer, an accomplished veterinary doctor, on March 14, 2012. He received word his debut novel was accepted by his publisher, Damnation Books, the next day. Joseph and Amy look forward to their honeymoon in Paris in September 2012. Murphy, a 15-year-old orange tabby, is perhaps the most vocal member of the family. The Spencer family enjoys reading Charlaine Harris, George R.R. Martin, Mary Janice Davidson, and most paranormal stories. The Spencers also enjoy quoting movie lines from “The Princess Bride”, “Rain Man”, “Bridesmaids”, and “Office Space”.

His latest book is the paranormal crime thriller, Grim.

Visit his website at

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