Marce – Welcome James. Thank you for agreeing to interview with me and allowing my blogging friends to learn more about you. I am enjoying a cup of Earl Grey tea what would you like to drink?
James - I like this question. I’ll have green tea. I drink it often while I’m writing, so associate it with the creative process.
Marce – When did you decide to become an author, was it a childhood dream/goal?
James – In 1982 my father died after a twelve month struggle with lung cancer. I was practicing law then, but reading two or three novels a week, something I had been doing since I was thirteen. My response to my father’s sickness and death was to write a novel, which I titled That Archangels May Come In, (taken from an Emerson essay about change). The experience was cathartic of course, but the interesting thing to me, looking back, was that I chose to tell a long story (about a fictional young lawyer losing his father to lung cancer) as the means of that catharsis. Why write a novel? Because, I realized, novels had become as much a part of me as my skeletal system, they were the bones of my intellectual and imaginative life.
Archangels was badly written. One professional reviewer said that it was predictable and clichéd, and he was being kind. But it was a start. It got me thinking. I wanted to write a good novel, I wanted what was in my bones to appear on the printed page, the published printed page. That was the real beginning of my writing career.
Marce – How do you come up with the titles, is there 1 specific title you would like to discuss?
James – I think a book’s title should speak to its heart, should, in a perfect world, be iconic. My novels have highly romantic, almost Biblical themes, hence two of the titles are from the Bible. The third, A World I Never Made, is from a deceptively simple A.E. Housman poem that I believe perfectly matches the book’s theme and mood.
Here’s a passage from Agamemnon, written by the Greek tragedian, Aeschylus, over 2500 years ago.
He who learns must suffer,
And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget
Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
Until, in our own despair, against our will,
Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
Someday I’m going to write a novel titled, Drop By Drop Upon The Heart, my attempt to dramatize in modern terms what Aeschylus was talking about in this passage.
Marce – What is your usual response when you see the cover and how involved are you with the process? What is your opinion of UK and foreign covers of your book?
James - I think covers should also be iconic. My response to all my covers has been very positive. There is mystery and suspense in them. They were professionally done, which is very important. To those who are self publishing, I strongly recommend finding the money to get your book’s cover done by a professional. It is the first thing people see, the entrance, so to speak, into the soul of the book.
Marce – Who are your favourite authors? Please recommend a book to my followers that you think is a must read.
James – Cry The Beloved Country, by Alan Paton. I think this is the greatest novel of the 20th century.
Marce – What is your favourite book you have written?
James – My books are like my children. I love them all differently but to the same degree.
Marce – Do you have a Muse or get inspired by art for your stories?
James – I love good drama. I watched the movie, City Island, with Andy Garcia, a few nights ago and was incredibly moved. If the hearts of the people who read my novels are engaged the way mine was engaged in this movie, I will consider my work successful.
Marce – Any upcoming events that you would like to share with us?
James – I will be reading from Sons and Princes at Watchung Booksellers, 54 Fairfield Street, Montclair, New Jersey, on May 14 at 1:00PM.
Marce - What is on your bookshelf/ereader to read next?
James – Next up for me (on my Kindle) is In Revere by Roland Merullo.
Marce – Bloggers sometimes find themselves in reading slumps, do you ever have writing slumps or writing block?
James – I haven’t experienced writer’s block. Sometimes I struggle over coming up with a plot movement, especially a pivotal one, that meets my credibility standard.
Marce – Do you feel pressure on writing a book that could become a movie?
James – I think my novels are very visual, and will one day be made into great movies. I see them on the screen in my mind’s eye as I’m writing, but feel no pressure to write in a way that will result in a movie.
James, thank you for taking the time to visit and interview here at Tea Time with Marce, I appreciate it and wish you continued success in your writing career endeavours.