Tuesday, October 23, 2012

10 Questions with Fantasy Novelist James A. West (@JWestBooks)

This Author Spotlight features Fantasy novelist James A. West, author of THE GOD KING (see above).

When James was thirteen years old, he read The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub, and a seed of an idea was planted that someday he, too, would create different worlds and realities.

After a stint in the US Army, a year as a long-haul truck driver, and a couple as a log home builder, he enrolled at the University of Montana. There, he majored in Psychology and, by chance, took a creative writing course. Words started to flow, and worlds were born.

James lives in Montana with his wife and his bodyguard, a Mini-Schnauzer named Jonesy.

James is also the author of CROWN OF THE SETTING SUN, the second installment in the Heirs of the Fallen series...

and REAPER OF SORROWS, the first in the Songs of the Scorpion series.

1) How did you get into writing?
Reading was my gateway drug to writing. I started reading adult fiction in second grade, so I was exposed to genre fiction a little more exciting than Dick and Jane chasing Spot around. Sometime between then and my freshman year in high school, I moved from creating my version of comic books (I sucked at drawing), to writing what would be called flash fiction these days. 

As far as sitting down with the idea that I was going to write a novel, well, that took a lot longer. For whatever reason, it never crossed my mind that regular people could do such a thing. In the end (maybe I should say the beginning) a nightmare about a pack of ravening demon dogs set me on the writer’s path. That story, by the way, never went anywhere, but it was the first long work I’d ever written, which convinced me that I could write longer fiction.

2) What do you like best (or least) about writing? 
The best and worst thing about writing are the ideas. I love coming up with ideas, but I also hate it, because there is just not enough time in my life to ever write everything I would like to. 

What I struggle with is marketing—I would probably have a hard time giving away gold nuggets for free. But, whether you are traditionally published or an indie author, you have to get your work in front of people without being spammy. I don’t like spam any more than anyone else, so basically my marketing strategy is to write and publish, and then hope people stumble across my work and like it.

Recently The God King, my first novel in the epic fantasy series Heirs of the Fallen went free on Amazon through their price matching program—I’ve been waiting for this to happen so long I thought Amazon had blacklisted me! I know a lot of authors say they would never give their work away free, but in the last several days all those free copies of The God King have translated into more sales of the second book in the series, Crown of the Setting Sun, than I’ve had in the last several months. With that said, I’m sold on offering up some of your work for free. 

3) What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc? 
I have the basic idea about the story when I start it. I also have a chapter/paragraph form of outlining that I do, which basically guides me along. Most often, I end up re-writing those chapter/paragraphs three or four times, because the story ends up going where it wants to, leaving me to compensate. 

I try to average 1,000 words a day, 6-7 days a week. Usually, I do not meet this goal, as I tend to write slowly. That being said, the first draft of most everything I write generally ends up pretty close to where I want it. If it takes me say, three months to write an 80,000 word novel, it only takes about 4-5 days for me to edit it, so I’m slow on one end, fast on the other, and that’s a big time saver. 

4) Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?” 
This is a tough one to answer, because in answering I might end up sounding snobby or unenlightened, depending on who evaluates my response! Also, keep in mind that I personally read and write for entertainment and escapism. I don’t mind deep thoughts and questions about the human condition, but I prefer to gently touch on those matters when I read and write. 

Having said that, until recently I rarely read anything that was not commercially successful. With the whole independent author thing and acquiring a Kindle, I read many more unknown authors than before. I’m really enjoying the books I’m finding out there. However, I still go back to my favorites like Stephen King, Neil Giaman, Dean Koontz, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, Terry Brooks, just to name a few. 

5) Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes? 
Inside. Right or wrong, that is the way I learned to write punctuation when dealing with dialogue, and I’m sticking to that. If nothing else, I’ll be consistent in my wrongness. 

6) What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma? 
I usually stick to it for no other reason than that is how I learned to use the series comma. Lately, however, I’ve taken to excluding that third comma if it does not diminish the clarity of a given sentence. 

I have never been in league with the grammar police, and I prefer readability, which generally means proper grammar is a benefit. However (and I know a lot of people might cringe when I say this) with fiction, comma usage, and all grammar to a degree, is flexible. Think writing action scenes vs. descriptions. Action requires a staccato, abrupt delivery, sentences that drive the reader to read faster. Description, not so much. 

7) What is your book THE GOD KING about and how did it come to fruition? 
The God King is the first book of my epic fantasy series, Heirs of the Fallen. Book two, Crown of the Setting Sun, is also out. 

As to how it came about … well, as a fantasy fan myself, I always wanted to hear more about those mythical dark times, when things did not go well, when the good guys lost, and humanity was trying to bounce back from near extinction.

When I stared writing The God King, I decided to start off the story with the world getting ripped apart by the unleashing of godlike powers never meant for mortal hands. After that, it’s up to the heroes to survive and keep things from getting worse. Whether they achieve that goal is still in question, as I go into book three. 

8) What’s your current writing project? 
I recently finished Reaper of Sorrows, book one of the series, Songs of the Scorpion. I’ll go into more detail with your last question J 

What I’m writing at the moment is book three of my Heirs of the Fallen series. I’m hoping to finish this book and another Scorpion book by the end of the year.

9) What book(s) are you currently reading? 
I just finished American Gods by Neil Giaman, and have now jumped into Michael Moorcock’s books. I dig the fantastic, so I tend to stick with works that go beyond the reality of the world around me. I also crave good thrillers. 

10) Who or what inspires your writing? 
Any good story, whether it is told on the big screen, on TV, or in a book, really gets me going. Some might call me an escapist, and that suits me fine. 

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc. 
I am not giving away any spoilers, but Reaper of Sorrows, the first installment in my Songs of the Scorpion fantasy series came  out mid-September. This will be an ongoing series of stand-alone novels about Rathe Lahkurin, a battle-tested commander who has it all: fame, stunning battle skills, luck with the ladies … and an unshakable curse of ill-fortune that trumps all his blessings. Wherever this poor bastard goes, trouble chases after him, or is waiting for him with fangs bared at the end of a dark path. 

Essentially, I wanted to write some fantasy works reminiscent of the classic Sword and Sorcery stories written by men like Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock. 

There will be a lot of grit, badasses being badasses, pretty girls who pine for pretty swords and know how to use them, leprous beggars with rusty knives hidden up their sleeves, and anything else that fits the settings and plots of a world rife with sorcerers, necromancers, unspeakable monsters, and nefarious ne’er-do-wells. 

Reaper of Sorrows was an absolute blast to write, and I hope everyone enjoys it! 

For anyone interested in my stories, you can go to my blog here and click the book covers. That will take you to the Amazon link for each one. 

Thank you for reading, and thank you so much to my host Ryan! I really appreciate you having me here! 

You're very welcome, James. Your books look fantastic. Be sure to visit with us again when the next installments of your books are available.

Be sure to visit James' blog and follow him on Twitter.

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