Masonic author Joshua Lorenzo Newett spent some time recently to talk about his new work of fiction, In Remembrance of Things Lost. Yet, as Joshua tells it, the work is underpinned with Masonic and esoteric themes that center on purpose, recovery and the story of one mans journey of becoming a Freemason, a journey that, in some respects may mirror the authors.
Masonic Traveler (MT): Joshua, thanks for taking the time to talk about yourself and your new book. Let’s start at the beginning, tell us, who Joshua Lorenzo Newett is?
Joshua Lorenzo Newett (JLN): Well here are the particulars. I am 36 years old, and am currently a lecturer at the Korean Navy Academy in Jinhae, South Korea, although I am originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I am a member of Pusan, Korea Lodge, No. 1675, on the Rolls of the Grand Lodge of Scotland as well as a member of the Seoul Valley of the Scottish Rite (SJ).
MT: How long have you studied Freemasonry? What led you there?
JLN: An uncle of mine is a Freemason so, from a young age, I’ve been aware and interested in the organization.
In high school and university I got into existential philosophy which asks all of the big questions: Where are we? What are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? Why does it matter? What is the good life? Existential philosophy led me to the study of history and International Relations which eventually led me back to the original questions posed.
When I was thirty three I contact a member of Pusan Lodge via the internet and went to my first meeting.
MT: Interesting age to seek something like that. So, with that background, tell us about your latest book In Remembrance of Things Lost.
JLN: I originally started it as a first person narrative written from the vantage point of Count St. Germaine but that story-line took a back seat to a third person narrative about Thad Gordon, a boy who becomes troubled after his family moves from Walpole, Massachusetts to East Hampton, New York. He is a bit self-defeating in his undertakings and sabotages several important relationships in university. He becomes totally disillusioned and moves to Korea to sort of drink himself to death. I don’t want to spoil the plot for anyone so I won’t go any further.
MT: You mentioned in your initial inquiry that that the protagonist meets a man that may, or may not, be the legendary Count St. Germain who leads him to find Freemasonry which later helps him put his life in order. Would you say this is more a story about the journey, the destination or both?
JLN: I’d say this story is more about the journey. In most tales I find the journey is the most interesting part of the story. For example I recently read a book about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, (The Devil in the White City) and while the fair was interesting the journey undertaken to bring it into existence was far more so.
MT: What inspired the book? What made you put pen to paper?
JLN: With all my books I try for three things; the reader learns something about the world at large, they relate to the characters and when the book is finished it stays with them, maybe even changes them in some small way. Ralph Waldo Emmerson said “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” I really believe that. Reading is such an intimate thing. It lets you occupy the same mental space as the author. For me there is nothing like finding an author I can really relate to. I guess at the end of the day that’s why I write.
My books usually start out as something completely different. I think the genesis of this one came years ago while I was reading Blood Meridian. The Judge Holden character leapt off the page. I loved the way Cormac McCarthy wrote him, how it was subtly suggested he may be immortal and have supernatural powers, but I didn’t like the way Holden, who was a real historical figure, represented the animalistic and base aspects of humankind. I wanted to create a similar character but make him more benevolent and nuanced. A few years later I was reading up on Count St. Germaine and I thought this guy is your Judge Holden.
Another aim I had in writing the book was to pique the curiosity of non-masons and get them interested in masonry.
MT: How so? What were some of the kernels of Masonry that you included?
JLN: First there are several images used, such as a description of a masonic ring. Thad picks up a thread with what may or may not have been the journal of CSM and follows it to his local lodge. He joins it then he joins the SR. I purposefully left the details sparse so if the readers’ interest was piqued they’d look for answers on their own.
MT: What was the hardest thing about writing this book?
JLN: For me the hardest part about writing in general are the endless revisions. When I finish a first draft of a book I let it sit for a bit and then go back and reread it. For the most part I usually really like it and actually often surprise myself like “oh wow I wrote that? I don’t even remember writing that!” I like that a lot. Then comes the hard part, rewrites and revisions. I’ll do several rewrites and revisions before I send it away to my agent for an initial read. He’ll send it back with suggestions. Several more rewrites later I’ll send it to my editor, then when it comes back rewrite it again. That process repeats several times.
By the time the book is ready, I’ve read the material so many times I’m sickened at the thought of having to read it again.
MT: I totally get that feeling. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to shoot from the hip, but unless you’re a dead-eye, you end up with some pretty wild grammar. Any future book plans?
JLN: This is my third book. My second, Wine Tasting is Bullshit, will be out in December of 2016. I am also finishing the first draft of a new one tentatively titled Hiraeth about a great cataclysm that brings civilization to its knees and the survivors who restart and preserve the knowledge of the past. I’m also working on a concept album and an accompanying book of short stories about the fictional character of John Melhern (1898- 1983). The album and stories are about his life. A lot of it is about war. The time he spent in Europe in WWI, losing one of his sons in WWII, and his grandson being drafted into the Vietnam War. It’s also about the passage of time and his inability to understand what the world has become.
And of course there are a few loves stories thrown in for good measure.
MT: Joshua, thanks so much for taking the time to share your work with us. It sounds like a non-traditional take on some old traditional themes.
You can find Joshua Lorenzo Newett’s book, In Remembrance of Things Lost, in print and as an epub on Amazon. And, you can follow more of Joshua Lorenzo Newett’s work at his website, joshua-lorenzo-newett.com.