Q&A with James

[WARNING: The post may contain spoilers.]

On this Easter Sunday, I present an interview with James. James is best known for his stories Sons of Mir, Fire House, and The Centurion Cycle.

Q. Tell me a little about yourself.

Was born in Kansas but was raised in Texas. Other than a friendly y’all I have pretty much stuck to down to earth Kansas roots. Went to college in Texas and earned a degree in Biochemistry and entered grad school in. It was I felt a lot of family pressure into it and wish I hadn’t. When applying I had gotten into Carnegie Mellon’s social science program where I think I would have been much happier. I’ve always had a love for history. Not following my heart on that is something I still regret.

Q. What inspires you to write?

Like above, trying to work out at lot of things from my past. You can think of it as self therapy sort of the old adage Doctor heal thyself. Which for me is closer to the mark than I would like to admit.

As for my focus on Science Fiction and Fantasy I have always loved the genre from as early as I can remember. The first book that got me hooked on the subject was actually a work of nonfiction, a short book describing the nine planets of the solar system. (That was way before Pluto lost its status as one). I was four at the time. In first grade I read a youth’s version of King Aurthur and the Knights of the Round Table. That was the first real Fantasy book I remember reading. I guess you might say it was also the first erotic book as well. (the whole Lancelot/Guinevere thing).

I think what got me writing the most, however, was my love of creating entire worlds and mythologies from scratch. It might be very time consuming and I am known to dwell on it for months before writing the actual story its often the funnest part of the creation process.

Q. What are your favourite books?

I would have to say anything written by Harry Turtledove, George RR Martian, Larry Niven David Drake, and Brandon Sanderson. Loved the earlier David Eddings books but after a while they got too repetitive. Have gotten into the the Luck in the Shadows series where the two male main characters are lovers. If it has a good plot, fresh characters, and especially intriguing worlds to explore I’m in.

Q. What is the most thoughtful feedback you have received from a reader?

I don’t know if I can really come up with one. Most of what I’ve gotten has been one or two sentence responses saying they either hate or love it. I would love to get deeper feedback so I can learn from it. But oh well, can’t have everything.

Q. Do your characters represent anyone in your life?

I guess you might say they represent both the different sides of me, who I am and who I might wish to be. That is especially in the Centurion Cycle where bits and pieces of me are scattered across an entire cast of characters. A lot of me is in Jason and Alex while Philip’s confidence and bravado is something I wish I had at times. All the other characters in the Centurion Cycle are is some way are a collection of jigsaw pieces of people I have come to know in life. While not biographical they contain some sort of symbolic value in a fable meant to explore the nature of the modern gay man.

Q. What is on your favourite iPod play list?

Would have to say my collection of audio books, esp. the Graphic Audio ones. For some reason the books keep my mind focused while music tends to play havoc with my concentration. Weird, I know.

Q. Are you married or single?

Sadly single but that’s probably because I’m not really looking hard enough.

Q. What do you feel is the best part of having a Japanese heritage? Worst part?

Being Japanese I would have to say the sense of community you find within the group that makes up the strongest part. On the negative side it would have to be keeping up a 24-hour state of complete stoicism no matter how you feel inside.

Q. Is there another gay online author to whom you look up to, and if so, why?

Not really. When I started writing I pretty much stopped reading. There is only so many hours in a day. The gems out there tend to be few and far between and I’ve pretty much moved on from the sex focused one both in the stories I read and write.

Q. If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?

People would probably hate this but if I had that much money now I probably invest most of it, gobbling up under valued stocks while they’re still cheap. As for what I would do if the investments paid off I probably give away much of it to charity, not the big major ones where the money won’t make much of a difference (Have become quite disenchanted with HRC and their $100,000+ salaries) I would much rather put the money into small local ones that would see that the money helps the people it is intended for. Money can’t buy happiness but it can help others achieve a better life.

Q. Does anyone in your every-day life know that you write?

Friends and my younger brother and mother do. Actually got the first three Centurion books published by a small company but that turned into a real nightmare last year so fought and got the rights back. For now at least I don’t think I’ll risk trying to get published again. There is only a few copies left for sale(copies I won’t see a dime from) so I will feel actually relieved when it is finally off the market, surprisingly. (What can I say other than it was just that bad of an experience)

Q. What are the top 5 reasons you started writing specifically gay stories, when there are several other kinds of stories to write?

Well first I’m gay and when I first started writing it was to come to terms with that the only way I knew how which was to write about it. As before, writing for me is a bit like therapy.

The second one would be is that I can’t bring myself to write a real long tale (which most of mine have been) without some sort of romantic element if not conflict. I guess that is because I’m a romantic at heart. So I write what I know, or at least fantasize about. Really can’t see myself swimming with the fishes so to speak, let alone have any desire to imagine it. j/k

While nearly all my main character have been gay I am trying to stretch my horizons a little with one of my most recent projects (Sons of Mir) Its right now going through a final (and hopefully) last revision and includes a whole variety of characters with as many sexualities as personality quirks.

Third (and I’m really struggling to come up with one) I like the genre, or at least I tend to have the most fun with it. Like with the strange relationship between Centurions and Legatio in the Cycles I feel I have managed to create a world that goes against the grain found in the larger Scifi/Fantasy genre and within the gay genre as well. (at least I would like to think I have).

Finally, I have a love and passion for it that has kept me occupied and entertained for seven years now. Over those years I feel my writing has slowly been improving (not grammatically speak which still tends to be quite horrid) but as a story teller. I could not have written the nine parts that make up the Centurion Cycle if I hadn’t enjoyed it. And with the Mir Series, the first ‘book’ would not now be over 800 pages longif I got no joy from it.

I guess one can say that its from the joy I gain from writing,that I have never been any good in the short story genre. When I create a new worlds as with both Sons of Mir and the Centurion Cycle they are not ones that can be described easily with a few thousand words, or over a half million where the Centurion Cycle is concerned. There’s just so much to tell and explore that the deeper I dig into it the more I have found to write on.

Unlike most online author I have never written by the chapter but with entire books or series in mind. I have found important advantages in that. First it saves me the problem of creating and ending complete story lines in each chapter with a sex scene in each one.. That lets me create and flesh out longer scoped plots and be able to interweave them into a complex tapestry that can be spread throughout the length of the series so when something major does happen it gives me, and I hope the reader, a greater sense of accomplishment.

Q. What do you do for a living?

Lab rat. To most outside the field it might seem seem dull and tame job but add in upmanship, petty university politics it can be quite cut throat if not nerve-racking . One of the reasons I regret having entered the field but one has to pay the bills (and college loans) somehow

Q. What do you think of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer?

I have no idea. Have not read the books or seen the movies. Never taken much of an interest in vampire romances though that was the first genre I every wrote and posted on. Except in a few rare cases like with Ann Rice what I have read tends to stick too much to a set formula. Girl meets Vampire. Girl is drawn in by his dark brooding persona, Girl and Vampire fall in love, Girl seen as threat by other vampires,Vampire saves Girl, and finally Girl becomes a vampire (or half vampire, whatever the case may be). That, at least, seems to be the back cover summary I have found in nine our of ten of such books.

The vampire series I wrote was not much different, (Boy gets saved by Vampire, Boy becomes a Man, Man meets Vampire again, Vampire falls in love with Man, Vampires fight over Man, and finally Man saves Vampire and all is well with the world or side by side coffins j/k.

It was a first attempt on my part so writing in that genre was pretty safe. The last two books of the Centurion series include vampire like creatures but they’re in no way romantic or alluring.

It’s in the early planning stages right now so I don’t think I’ll be posting any part of it this year but I am begun creating the world where the Second Cycle will take place which will dig deeper into these nightmarish creatures. First though I need to finish Sons of Mir and a few other project that have been sitting in my to do box for way too long.

Q. When do you feel most out of your comfort zone?

Oh that’s an easy one. When I’m in a large crowd with people I don’t know anything about. I’ve just never been much good in starting a conversation. As a result I tend to sit around like a fake house plant bored out of my mind and completely uncomfortable.

Q. Do you have any little quirks when you are writing?

I have a few quirks. One of them is that I can’t have any sort of distraction which is why I guess I listen to audio books when i do most of my writing. The ones I have I tend to know word for word so listening to them takes away none of my focus.

Another one would be is that I tend to lose all track of time. On the weekends I can start around nine AM and not stop until midnight without missing a beat. That might let me do around a hundred pages on a good night but it also tends to leave me pretty burned out by Monday.

Q. Who do you think you are?

I really can’t say. I’m not sure if anyone can honestly.

Q. What is your favourite cereal?

Any cereal with loads of cinnamon in it.

Q. Have you ever thought when a hearse goes by that you might be the next to die?

Not really. That would be too depressing.

Q. If you could have one wish, would you give it to me?

I don’t think I would give it to you per say but for a friend or family member in need of a wish coming true I would not hesitate.