Interview by Devan Sagliani
Thanks for agreeing to do the interview with us James. Do us a favor and tell Bookie Monster readers a little bit about yourself.
Your Blood Soaked series from Permuted Press is getting a lot of attention. From fan reviews alone on Amazon it's clear you've found a loyal fan base. For those who don't know about it yet, how would you describe the series?
I once had a review that characterized the first book as being “too funny”. That’s probably a great place to start.
My “Blood Soaked” series is heavily influenced by British sci-fi and horror. That means you’re likely to have gore, something funny, and then your heartstrings plucked in the same paragraph. I am a snarky person, so you can be sure that my writing reflects my personality. I’m also an unrepentant geek and blade-snob.
The books themselves follow Frank Stewart, freelance zombie exterminator, and his unusually successful post-apocalyptic community, as they cope with sentient zombies. The reanimated corpses remember who they were before they died— revived optimized for hunting and combat—and they just don’t care.
Everything begins to go sideways for Frank when the military botches an attack on a large, organized, zombie group. Being practical, the revived government contractors move to an area they know very well, Arlington, Virginia, a reasonable walk from the neighborhood where Frank lives. They discover, pretty quickly, that the world isn’t big enough for peaceful coexistence… especially when one of Frank’s friends has something they need.
What kinds of challenges did you face when you were writing the series? What kind of research did you do when you were working on your novel?
The challenges I faced, mostly, were of my own creation. I was in denial about “Blood Soaked and Contagious” being a novel until I hit about 60k words. The story I told myself is that I’m not an author; I’m just messing around because creating the Man Scythe (Frank’s go-to weapon in the books) costs far too much to make.
So, I wandered into e-publishing unprepared, assuming that it was a grand experiment, and not a money-making enterprise where normal people become a profit center for titanic corporations. I won’t belabor the point, just Google my name, plus “Amazon Royalties”. I learned important things, the hard way, right out of the gate. (Always read the contracts you sign COMPLETELY.)
As far as research, I didn’t do anything unusual until I started writing “Blood Soaked and Invaded”. That’s when I began poking around websites for information about “top secret government facilities” as potential backdrops for the action.
Give us a few of your favorite quotes from your newest book Blood Soaked and Invaded
“How about that, honey? Our baby knows you already and she wants to come see you!” Mara looked down and nudged the baby with her foot. “Go give Daddy some love, sweetie cakes! I’ll be there in a minute, after I feed this false friend his man parts.”
“Snerk,” the newborn cackled and bounded across the grass like a squirrel playing “Lawn Dolphin”.
Do you feel that the Blood Soaked series has a specific message for readers and if so what is it?
Life is like a box of chocolates… No, seriously… Every time I read that question, it becomes harder to answer. Your family/family of choice/community are vital to your survival and the experience of being human. Laughter and love help us retain our humanity in the face of tragedy and horror. If I have messages to deliver, I think those two are good ones.
What's the hardest part about writing?
The hardest thing about writing is common to many things in our lives: the stories we tell ourselves about the value of what we do. Writing is seldom about monetary success, and we’re geared to accept money as the measure of success, validity, or authenticity. Whether or not you ever see a dime from your writing: you are a writer. Even if you never publish, you are still an author.
Value your craft, and value your place as a craftsperson among craftspeople.
What are some of the techniques you use to get past writer's block? Do you have a process for getting up and writing? What does it involve?
Taking a walk, or changing venue… those are the things that seem to work for me. I’ve also found that writing “ahead” in your storyline is useful, or putting the project down and doing something else. When I’m really stuck, I talk it out with a friend.
In the short time I've been your friend on Facebook I've seen you post a lot about weapons. What would you chose to fight your way out of a zombie attack?
Given no choice but to fight, I would like to have a few thousand rounds of ammo, a FN F2000 5.56mm bullpup, or a P90. I wouldn’t mind a naginata, and an assortment of closer-combat blades, as well.Um… grenades, too.
Who are your favorite writers? Whose writing do you feel influenced you the most as you developed your own voice?
Robert Heinlein. Spider Robinson. CJ Cherryh. Jim Butcher. Mario Acevedo. I think my writing voice is in the Richard Kadrey/Jim Butcher/Mario Acevedo spectrum.
What was it like getting picked up by Permuted Press? Can you share with us a little bit about the process of going from an indie writer to getting a publisher?
I wasn’t looking for a publisher when I was contacted by Permuted Press, but they were someone I’d been considering querying in the future. I did a little research, loved what I learned, and signed on.
Honestly, Devan, I’m still fumbling through the emotions surrounding being picked up by Permuted. I didn’t expect to be here, and tried really hard not to dream about seeing my work in print. Yet, here I am. It is cognitive dissonance, a sense of accomplishment, happiness, and a lingering feeling of having stepped out of the Tardis in an alternate universe.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to see themselves published one day?
DO NOT STOP. If you love it, keep doing it. There is no such thing as failure if everything is a learning experience. Ask questions with curiosity, and explore everything that looks interesting.
Do you have any plans to write in a different genre in the future?
Yes! I have an urban fantasy manuscript that I’m planning to shop after it has been edited. I’m still going around on the title, though.
What's next for you?
Well, I send the manuscript for the latest book in the “Blood Soaked” series to the publisher this morning. So, sometime in the near future, “Blood Soaked and Gone” will be available! (I may have started writing a fourth book in the series, too.)
Also, Audible is producing audio books for “Blood Soaked and Contagious” and “Blood Soaked and Gone”. I think they’ll be available later this year or early next.
How do fans reach you?