Interview – Joseph Cautilli

Everyone please welcome Joseph Cautilli, co-author of Zombies vs Robots: A Cyberpunk Tale of Terror. cautilli-revised-front_1Joseph and his daughter Marisha are an amazing father and daughter author team whose new book was just released this week.

Book Description:

A desperate tale of survival… A family and their friends frantically battle legions of zombies in a major American east coast city. This family has one advantage, and that is its ability to innovate new technologies, including robots, to increase their chances of survival.  Through the use of the robots they are able to reclaim some of their lost world, but zombies are not their only worry. Other survivors are often just as dangerous. Finding sources of food and water prove to be equal and ongoing challenges for them. Follow their movement through joy and despair as they seek to live just another day.  If you like the fusion of cyberpunk and graphic horror, action, suspense and apocalyptic science fiction, then this is the series of books for you!


What gave you the idea for (your book)?

The book I did with my daughter is a cross genre Cyberpunk- Horror/Apocalyptic book. The idea emerged for the book when I was working with Marisha- practicing her writing skills for state tests.  There is a method of monitoring children’s writing call “curriculum based measurement.” I let Marisha think for one minute and then write for three minutes. Finally, she edits for a minute. She usually produces about 50 words. I get her to do 3-4 of them a day. So she was producing about 200 words a day. Coming you with the story starters that interested her was, where I finally got the idea- what if we used this to create a book. If she produced 200 words and I could easily write a thousand or so around that, I figured we could get a good story.  She liked the idea and we spent a lot of time working on the basics.

As to how we decided on the topic-  Zombies were very popular at the time. I was always into the more biopunk Zombies like Resident Evil than the typical Zombies like the Walking Dead.  Of course that fit with my interest in genetics. Also at the time, we were watching a series on the SyFy channel. I cannot remember the name right now but it was sort of a boxing between robots show, where the to team won 100,000 dollars. It was a battle bot kind of show which huge robots battled each other. There was a father daughter robot team on the show- so it really caught both our eyes. They were Marisha and my favorite team.

We work as a team. We work by getting the overall characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. After that we write titles to the chapters to guide us. Then I design brief half sentence “story starters” like they use in curriculum based measurement to assess student writing; only ours are related to our plot. As I said before, her writing would serve as the core and I would kind of smooth it out into the plot. After she is done for the day, I take what she has written and then start to craft the rest of the scene around it. I like to make the scenes action packed and scary as possible, so that was my driving goal. Marisha likes to write dialogue. Sometimes, she writes things that are not really able to be done where we are in the plot, so I have to problem solve those into either a character’s fantasy or a dream. Overall in writing, I like he characters to be as human as possible, so I like them to discuss both politics and religion. I also like to put things in the story like parts of American culture that are important to me. Marisha like to put music into her scenes. Sometimes, I have fun trying to talk her into a different song then the one she wants- which gives us the chance to watch the songs on youtube. Finally, I read the scenes and try to think about what makes them scary. I like to build tension and also to put a cut in the action to keep the reader in suspense.

We worked hard to bring our vision to something we thought was publishable. I think it has a lot of uniqueness. Zombies vs. Robots for me was a great way to contrast two visions of the future: the vision of a progressing and improving society with an image of a society in decay. Particularly, I like the early scene in the book. It starts with one of the main characters of an ideal vision of the future waking from a nightmare. It is kind of symbolic of his denial and the situation intruding deep into his psyche trying to tell him something is wrong.


What got you into writing horror and cyberpunk?

As a child, I always loved horror movies. I was a generation that grew up with Dawn of the Dead, Halloween, Friday the 13th and a ton of other horror movies. I remember going to the old Colonial Theater, where you could see four moves for $5. It was a col way to spend a Saturday or Friday night. Not just the theaters, local television had a horror Saturday- Dr. Shock was the show and he would play a “Double Feature.”

Of course in college, I wrote mostly technical articles in behavior analysis and behavioral psychology. I published many articles in those areas. At the same time, I wrote cyberpunk and horror stories, mostly for myself and my friends. I had a ton of ideas- many not very good but most held the dystopian theme of man vs. corporation. I always liked the idea of manipulating DNA and the unintended side effects of that.


How long have you been writing?

I guess I have been writing stories since High School. I use to write shorts with my friend Marc.

Tell us about your past books and stories?

Well we have a ton of books coming out through JAE Press. We have four books in the Zombies vs. Robots series that were all previously self-published- a long with a bunch of shorts from the series.  It basically takes the readers through the entire Zombie war and has a bunch of twists for the reader along the way.

After we finished writing Zombies vs. Robots, we did a book with Adri Lemke called “Soul Warriors vs Witches.” This series was more dream-punk in its writing style. We had this concept of when people die, most of them go start toward a final judgement but some people are so controversial that when they die- people in this world higher witches to shred their souls on the other side before they get to judgement.   These witches can do this because they posse this mixture of technology and magic called travel stones. Over time, a group of people are recruited, who are not aware of this role while they are awake, but when they are asleep- they serve as escorts to protect these controversial people from witches They are soul warriors.  The plot of this book is really driven by the dead character- who has plans not only to avoid being shredded but plans to come back to life.

After that, we started a bunch of books with Johnny Andrews. These books take place in the same physical world as Soul warriors but are much more in the cyberpunk/biopunk tradition. This as our cyberpunk detective. The first in this series is Red Light Falling- so keep an eye for these books on JEA Press.


What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like?

I still enjoy hashing out plots with Marisha. I have fund as she has gotten older we rely less on the structure of writing that we use to. I guess she is my inspiration to keep going- although as she has gotten older- she has definitely gotten more vocal, as to what she likes.  She has also taken our writing much more into the general fiction realm, where she has a lot of ideas from her creative writing club at Pa Cyber Charter.

What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why?

I am a big fan of William Gibson’s work. I love Neuromancer for me it really fit with my view of the world and I enjoyed the Sprawl Series: Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. I found chase to be a wonderfully complex character and if you asked my second favorite character it would be Molly Millions.

In the horror realm, I loved the Books of Blood- Clive Barker and the Stand, Carrie, Christine, and at least a dozen other Steven King Novels.

What are you doing next?

Marisha and I are finishing up the Red Light Falling Series. We are finishing with Johnny Nannitte Nation- a book that looks at a world where people have taken Nannittes to srvive a plague but the nannitees are sort of a Trojan horse for aliens to take over and mind control that world. While Johnny Johnson (our Detective character) solve the puzzle in time and save the day? Probably not.

After that, Marisha and I have a bunch of books we never seemed to have time to finish. We have Legend of the Birthstone Dragons- a fantasy book we did not complete.  Marisha is working on a realistic fiction book without me called Linda: A Swimmer’s Dream.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

I think to be a good writer; you have to keep doing it. When people tell you to write everyday- it is critical. I see so many writers start a story and then lose touch with it because they take too much time away.


Joe Cautilli has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Temple University. He has two master’s degrees. The first is in Counseling Psychology, and the Second is in Applied Behavior Analysis. He has a doctorate in school psychology. He completed a Post-Doctoral Masters in Clinical Psychopharmacology at Fairleigh Dickenson University.  He is licensed as a psychologist in Pennsylvania, NJ and Delaware. He is licensed as a counselor and a behavior specialist in Pennsylvania. He is certified in Head Injury Treatment, and in Applied Behavior Analysis at the doctoral level. He has worked for almost thirty years in mental health, including owning his own company (Behavior Analysis and Therapy Partners– Philadelphia, Mont County, Bucks County, in PA and Burlington County in NJ), and in the prison system, working with inmates with mental health issues. Joe founded seven academic journals in behavior analysis and behavioral psychology. In 2010, he sold those journals to the American Psychological Association. Joe has written numerous articles in psychology/behavior analysis, as well as in both the horror and cyberpunk genera. The goal of good cyberpunk, as he sees it, is to pull science and technology out of the lab and put it altered into the everyday world. In the horror genre, he strives to create realistic images of the darkest elements of human nature. When asked what his goals for a horror novel are, he states: “To leave the reader with a sense of paranoia and fear about the world. A good novel is one that the reader, to some degree, causes intrusive memories about the events in the novel later on, some sense of grief, or distress over character losses, and a feeling of jumpiness.”


If you are a season prepper or just an apocalyptic fan, for real life survival tips on youtube from the character Emma:

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