Friday, June 15, 2012

Q&A with James A. West

Q&A with James A. West:

I’d like to introduce you to an amazing new author! James A. West has written two novels in his Heirs of the Fallen series. I have begun reading the first book of the series, The God King, and am seriously impressed. Don’t miss out on reading West’s books! Read the following Q&A for a glimpse of his writing style and general amazingness. Seriously, you won’t regret it.

First, can you tell us a little about yourself?
My family moved around a lot when I was growing up. I spent time in Northern California and all over Oregon. I lived in southeast Alaska for several years, as well as North and South Carolina, and also Florida. After marrying my high school sweetheart, I joined the Army and was stationed in Hawaii, which allowed me to spend some time in Australia and Haiti.
After I left the military, my wife and I decided to earn some extra college money by driving eighteen-wheelers. Logging close to 1,000 miles a day as a team, we drove over nearly every mile of interstate America has to offer, before settling in Montana to go back to school. After graduation, we spent a year in New Mexico, before finally coming back to Montana.
As far as hobbies I enjoy woodworking, fly-fishing, and Halo! My wife and I have what we call battle weekends, where we play Halo together on the Xbox. And, of course, I love reading. I started reading what most would consider adult fiction by the time I was 8 or 9 years old. I’d pick up Louis L’Amour, Tom Clancy, any number of romance books, and whatever else was around the house. When I was 13, my aunt introduced me to The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub, and that book changed my life. I always liked fantastical movies, but had never read any fantasy. In a very real sense, The Talisman, and other works by Stephen King, opened a door for me to explore not just the real world, but completely different worlds born from dreams, desires, and fears.   
When writing a novel, how do you approach it? Do you plan it out first or do you just sit down and write it?
I usually do a rough outline, with bullet points serving as guideposts. Having said that, the story always ends up taking over. Experience has taught me to keep a light but steady hand on the reins. If I give the story its head it will gallop off, turning an otherwise tight story into a rambling series of events that fail to drive the plot. If I am too firm my writing loses vitality, color, becomes formulaic. The cool thing is that if I end up somewhere really interesting that does not fit with the story, I can cut it, then explore that idea/place/person in depth in another story. In that way, I do a lot of recycling :)

What kind of research do you do for your novels, if any?
Reading, pure and simple, though it’s rare that I perform research specific to a given novel. If I find something even remotely interesting, be it fiction, nonfiction, and anything between, I read it, absorb it, then let all those ideas blend together until they become a kind of mutated stew sloshing around inside my skull. After that, I add a dash of imagination (that glorious What if? question) and see what happens.

What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
At the risk of sounding off my rocker, when I am writing, my fictional worlds become real to me. When I’m really steaming along, what I see outside the window becomes the false reality. I’ve gotten used to that, but when I first began writing, I found it unnerving to go to places like the grocery store after a long stretch at the keyboard. I’d get the strong impression the people picking over fruit and vegetables were not people at all, but holograms. As a writer, the challenge for me is pulling back long enough to live my real life. So far, I’ve always managed to get back to our world, safe and sound ;)

When you finished your first novel, how did you feel?
Awesome! To be sure, there’s always worry that I did not adequately translate into words the vision I had of the story in my mind, but in finishing a novel, despite any reservations I might have about the project, it means I get to begin again.

What, in your opinion, makes a great story?
I like stories that take me away, show me things in ways I had never looked at them. I also like strong characters. Whether they are a character I really hate, or really love, I need to feel that to get into the story. If I don’t care about the characters, I find I lose interest in the story.

What inspires you to write?
Life. There is no way around it. I see and hear things every day that make me wonder What if? Within that simple question awaits worlds ripe for exploration

Do you have a specific thing you do when you write? Anything you just NEED to help you write better?
Music. Heavy Metal drives me through the first draft of all my novels. First off, I write early, starting around 4:30 a.m. and I don’t have time to wait around for the coffee to kick in. A hard driving song throws me into a writing frenzy. After that first draft, the volume comes down and I’ll seek out mood music for various chapters. On my last draft, absolute solitude and quiet become my best friends—at this point, the story is there, and it needs my full, undivided attention.

What is your favorite genre of reading and who is your favorite author?
I tend to read just about any genre, though I always come back to the weird and fantastical. Some people call this escapism. I call it exploration.
As far as a favorite author, Stephen King will always hold a special place in my heart. For me, he’s one of those rare authors who could write a compelling story about anything, be it a bowl of apples or a kid delivering newspapers. I dare say he could entertain me with a tale about drying paint.

Do you have any last thoughts or comments you would like to add for the readers? Any advice for writers?
Readers, I thank you! It’s humbling and absolutely amazing to be able to share my visions with you all. I truly hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed creating them.  
Writers have all heard they need to read in order to write. I agree. However, I think writing is more crucial to the craft. Reading allows a writer to pick up some dandy tips and tricks, but writing is pure invention and creativity. Long before I could read, I created satisfying worlds and games to amuse myself. Most of us did. By the process of writing, even if it turns out to be drivel, you begin to flex a muscle that started atrophying during adolescence. Keep writing and working that muscle, force it to grow. By all means nourish it by reading, but write and write, and never stop!

Smashwords Bio:
Author page of anti-fantasy epic fantasy writer James A. West! If you like leaner, fast-paced anti-fantasy, you've come to the right place. What is anti-fantasy you ask? It's the new fantasy! Shorter stand-alone books that go somewhere, no elves, dwarves, or dragons, and definitely no heroes or orphaned farm boys that save the day at the last minute. 

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 that allowed him to revisit that old seed of an idea of creating worlds. Words started to flow, and worlds were born. 

After college, he started a small woodworking business with the express purpose of using it to fund his writing journey. 

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

Impressed yet??
Check out James A. West’s blog or follow him on Twitter.

Want to read his work??

Buy The God King at Smashwords or Amazon

Buy Crown of the Setting Sun at Smashwords or Amazon

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Template by In Between Design Studio