Thank you James for taking the time to respond to an interview.
1. Why did you write this book? What initiated this particular burst of creativity?
This novel was an exercise that worked well. I had a character I'd used in a sketch (a small town cop) and I tried to put him in a horror story. I also wanted the story set in something besides the usual horror venues like the cemeteries, ancient mansions, and centuries-old spots we're used to. Oregon is relatively new in that respect. My horror novel turned into an urban fantasy, but everything else turned out well.
2. Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?
It differs from work to work. Especially in shorter stories I often know how the whole story will play out before I put a word on paper. With my novels, I am a much more organic writer. For Ni'il: The Awakening, I really had no idea of the concept of the ni'il beforehand. It grew out of the story.
3. Is your process to outline and then fill in the blanks or just sit down and start to tell a story or?
Yes. I usually have a general idea of where the story is going and even a few scenes, but not a lot of specifics. I have found often that the story will often ignore your outline in some surprising ways. However, it can be very inefficient, involving a lot of rewrites. If I do get stuck, I often use an outline to get me back to the core of the story.
4. Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why?
It's hard to write a novel, or series of novels if you don't really like your main character, so Dan Connor, the police chief hero has to be my favorite. He's a down to earth kind of guy who takes his job of protecting the citizens of Placerton very serious. I like his values (some would call old-fashioned) and his sense of humor and the fact that he doesn't think he's anything special, even though he clearly is.
5. What do you like most about writing?
I like it when everything is clicking and the story is flowing as fast as I can write it. It is an indescribable feeling, almost like a trance. It feels less like I'm writing the story than just channeling it from some higher source. I think it's the same thing as musicians call “being in the zone.”
6. Where do your new story ideas come from?
Wherever I can get them. And I can find them everywhere: the news, history books, conversations with my friends, overheard conversations among strangers, television, movies. I play “what if” a lot. The most insignificant thing can inspire a new idea. What if...? What if...? I already have way more ideas than I have lifetime to write.
7. What advice has helped the most in your writing?
Develop a thick skin. Writing is a tough gig, especially these days. There is much more criticism and rejection than there is praise. You have to believe in what you're doing, work at getting better every day and surround yourself with supportive friends. Don't let the world squash your dream.
8. This seems to be your first book, do you have something new in the works?
Actually, I have already released a sequel entitled Ni'il: The War Within and am now working on the third and final volume of the trilogy. If all goes well, the third volume will be released next winter. If you want to get technical, this is actually my third novel. The first two are just too awful to show anyone who is breathing. But they are important because I showed myself I could write a book-length story.
9. Who is your favorite author and why?
I don't know that I can name a single author as my favorite. The author I'm reading the most right now is Jim Butcher, namely The Dresden Files. I'm reading them primarily because they're a hoot. Fast paced, full of action and comedy, but serious all the same. It's a private eye novel with magic instead of gun play. They're a lot of fun. They're also in my genre.
10. What advice would you give for the want to be writer?
There are two things you absolutely need to do everyday. You need to write. It doesn't matter what you write or how much, but you need to get in the habit of writing everyday. The object is to make the act of putting together sentences and paragraphs as natural as possible. It's practice, just like a musician practices playing scales until it's second nature. You have to make the mechanics of writing second nature.
Second, read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read the classics. Read genre fiction. Read poetry. Read newspapers. Read the back of cereal boxes. Every time you read, you are exposing yourself to the way another writer put sentences and paragraphs together. How she organized her book. See what works and figure out why. See what doesn't and figure out why. Would you have handles it differently? Why? How?
Lastly, and maybe most important, develop a thick skin. Learn what you can from criticism of your work, but never let the naysayers crush your dream. If you truly want to be a writer, write.
James, thanks for the great answers. I am reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files as well. I find they compare favorably with Glen Cook’s Garret Files. Your advice to the want to be writer is also great. I have seen that advice from most of the successful authors I have interviewed. To be a writer you have to write.
Thanks again for the great interview.