Some interviews go from contact to publication in two weeks. Others, like this one, started way back in January. So welcome, at LONG LAST, Brian James! My fellow Urban Fantasy writer has a word of caution for all you planning-to-publish writers out there!
Just a heads up to you Marvel fans... there will be no slap-fights at Operation Awesome...
1- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words
Relentlessly caffeinated stubborn extroverted hermit
2- What are the Kalamazoo Jaycees?
The Kalamazoo Jaycees is their junior chamber of commerce. I hate Ohio. Most of my disgust for that state is fueled by jealousy. Their Buckeyes are much better than my Wolverines and they have best collection of roller coasters on the planet. My petty side is entertained by the idea of the entire state burned to its bedrock by a group of profit-minded teenagers.
3- What ignited your passion for writing?
My passion for writing is the direct result of encouragement from my high school art history teacher. After a semester of reading my papers he believed there was a talent there that needed to be nurtured, so he encouraged me in much the same way that a football coach would cheer on and develop a promising quarterback.
4- How are the characters in your book similar to the pop-culture ones people currently know from the Marvel movies? How are they different?
My characters are not similar in the least to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s versions of Thor, Odin, and Loki. Marvel has taken the names of the Norse gods and then completely changed everything about them. It’s to the point where their Marvel’s versions should be considered a different set of characters that happen to share the same names as the Norse pantheon. They look different, behave differently, and are related to each other is completely different ways.
For example, Loki was never Thor’s adoptive brother in the myths. Loki was Odin’s best friend and blood brother. His relationship to Thor is more of a prankster/drinking buddy. Hela is not Odin’s first born, as she is in the films. She is the daughter of Loki. Another good example is Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. According to marvel, only someone worthy can lift it. In the myths, anyone can raise Mjolnir. In fact, there is a myth where a giant stole Thor’s hammer and Thor had to cross dress to get it back. When we come to Thor himself, the version we see on screen is a complete departure from the myth. The Chris Hemsworth version of Thor resembles the mythological version about as much as one of those creepy hairless cats resembles a snow leopard.
5- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?
Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” My short-term goal is to grow my audience so that I can continue to make a living doing what I love. My long-term goal is to create lasting works that succeed in entertaining the audience and giving them a temporary vacation from the insanity of real life.
6- Do any of your "black plague era" characters sing "Ring around the Rosie" in modern times, and do they know what the song means?
My characters don’t sing Ring around the Rosie. If they did, it would probably sound a lot like a Manowar cover of the song. Whether they sung or not, my character would have definitely known that the song referred to the particular rash that came with the plague. Many of the Norse gods were complete jerks. They may have found the markings, and the song that went with it, funny. Those who died from the plague would have went to Hel (purgatory) instead of Valhalla (heaven) because they did not die fighting or in a heroic fashion. Hela, Loki’s daughter and master of Hel, would have seen a near endless stream of plague victims, with their rosy rashes, entering her realm.
7- What is your favorite book (by someone else), and what do you love most about that book?
My favorite book is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The late Douglas Adams created a cast of characters that I found immediately relatable. He then built an odd, smart, and unique story around them. His theories on how time travel really works and the long term effects of it is the sort of thing that would cause Sheldon Cooper to spontaneously combust with jealousy. The other books in the series are just as good, but without The Hitchhiker’s Guide, the others don’t exist. The only exception is the book And Another Thing. This was written following Adams death in an ill-fated attempt to squeeze one last dime from the franchise. This book and everything associated with it should be killed with fire.
8- What's the most interesting thing you learned while working with the World Poker Tour?
The first thing I learned was that poker is the only game in a casino where the player has an honest shake at winning because it is the only game where the player isn’t playing against the casino itself. The most interesting thing I learned came from a feature on a player named Jennifer “Jennicide” Leigh. She described how she was winning in online casinos by simply bullying other players out of the pot. The cards didn’t matter as much choosing the right room to push around. There is obviously more to it than that, but aggression was as powerful a weapon as a good hand.
9- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?
The editor I worked with on this seemed to be a very enthusiastic fan of my work. He loved how I could weave humor into some very dark places allowing the user to chuckle, and then feel badly about chuckling.
10- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?
I want my readers to feel a range of emotions. I want them to invest in characters to the point where they feel betrayed if the character does not turn out to be who they thought they were. By the time they get through the climactic chapters and to the end I want them to feel spent.
11- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?
Like anything else, repetition. When working for a poker website and then later for the World Poker Tour, during World Series of Poker time I had to knock out up to twelve short articles per day. The world of online content development with its tight deadlines and high customer demand put the writers in a sink or swim atmosphere. All that writing helped me develop a style that connected with an audience. The great thing about online content is that the click numbers tell you when you’ve hit and when you’ve missed. This near instant feedback allows the writer to shape their style.
12- I see that you once published a book called "Ragnarok" with America Star Books, formerly PublishAmerica. The first hit Google gives me is a link to (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2017/08/lawsuits-liens-and-lost-urls-latest-on.html) Writer Beware, where the lawsuits against this allegedly fraudulent publisher can be found. I'm so sorry you and the hard work that is your book were caught up in this. Are there any tips or advice you could give to fellow authors so that they might avoid such a dilemma?
Like any other writer, the act of finding a publisher was a long and hard journey. With PublishAmerica, now AmericaStar, I made the blunder of mistaking any attention for good attention. Think of it as a desperate nerd who was 18 and not yet had their first kiss (I can speak from experience on that one). One day someone magically showed romantic interest in you. You ignore all the warning signs and ulterior motive red flags and go full speed ahead. This never leads to a good ending.
My advice would be when talking to a potential publisher, if they will not provide basic services (like editing) then they do not care about the quality of your book. If they don’t care about the quality of your book then they can’t expect it to sell. Obviously, this means they are not going to fill their pockets with the sales to consumers. If the publisher isn’t going after consumer’s money chances are pretty good they will be coming after yours.
There are so many good, small presses out there that the opportunities for talented writers are better today than at any other point in time. Keep submitting your manuscript until you find the right fit. When a publisher does show interest, find every review you can about the company. Don’t suspend disbelief in the face of negative information. If it walks like a skanky duck, swims like a skanky duck, quacks like a skanky duck, then it’s probably Ameristar Publishing.
13- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?
All of my characters share a common trait, beauty. That is very deliberate. They are gods, and they are all beautiful. That beauty masks how broken and screwed up they all are. Their physical appearances exist in contrast to all too human failings they all have.
14- https://diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks recognizes all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? Or what's your favorite book with a diverse main character?
The early Norse were extremely xenophobic, and using them as the base characters doesn’t allow a lot of room for diversity. A great book with a very diverse cast of main characters is the novel Broken Monsters. This book, set in Detroit, has characters that reflect the rich diversity of the Southeast Lower Michigan area.
15- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?
My favorite contradictory character is one named Dennis Syrdon. He is very affable, quirky, popular, a very good boss and unfortunately rotten to core.
16- Your Goodreads profile shows you've written no reviews. Do you feel that book reviews are valuable for authors?
I don’t like writing reviews because my review would only be relevant to someone who has my taste in books. Just because I didn’t like something doesn’t mean somebody else will see it the same way. I would hate to have something I wrote steer a reader away from a book they might adore. The Hunger Games books made me want to drink bleach until the pain stopped, but other people loved them.
17- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?
Free coffee at Starbucks for all writers would probably be a change most of us could get behind. Outside of that I think a comprehensive online repository of predatory “publishers” and “agents” would be extremely helpful.
18- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?
Suggestions from my friends carry a lot of weight. Someone in my social circle who knows what the term “Nat 20” means has a much better chance of nailing my taste in books then a someone with a soft, NPR, voice whose list of favorite books just parrots what’s on the NY Times Best Sellers list.
19- How will you measure your publishing performance?
In the end, sales will have to be the determining factor for performance. I have a sales number in my head for this book. When it hits that number, I can call it a success. The next book will need to beat that number, and so on and so on. With that said, it may not be the best way to determine success. Something tells me this is just the sort of thing that turned Rod Serling into a self-destructive chain smoker.
20- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
I decided to go small press after discussing the whole thing with someone who was higher up the food chain then I am. A small press didn’t require having to secure the services of a literary agent. Anyone who’s ever tried to find an agent will soon discover they would rather clean their ears with a shotgun then go through that process. Not having to find an agent was a huge selling point. Also a small press also comes with the credibility and support that comes with having a publisher. Self-publishing offers a lot of freedom, and the author keeps all of the money generated by their book, but there still seems to be a stigma attached to it. Plus the self-publisher doesn’t get the support services offered by a good small press.
21- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?
I believe social media has changed the landscape of book marketing. The best book marketing campaigns I have seen make aggressive and skillful use of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
22- Would you share a picture with us of you playing Guitar Hero while wearing a top hat, and tell us if Slash inspired the fashion choice?
I don’t think there is a picture of me playing Guitar Hero. Getting pictures of Sasquatch has proved easier than getting shots of me, but Slash was definitely the inspiration for the top hat. Who doesn’t love Slash?
23- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?
A great topic of discussion has been mythological Thor vs. Marvel comics Thor. Bringing this up at comic and gamer conventions almost started fistfights amongst the geeks. Well…slap fights.
24- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
Excerpts of the book can be found at http://norsehammer.com
FB profile: https://www.facebook.com/Mjolnir2017
Twitter handle: BrianJames1066
Mjolnir is Available at the following outlets:
Barnes and Nobles: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mjolnir-brian-james/1126864008
Apple iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/mjolnir/id1264640358