After getting his degree in English: Creative Writing from Cal State University Long Beach in 2007, James moved to San Diego where he currently resides with his wife, daughters and dogs.
From 2009 until Fall 2012, James created and developed six properties through Keyleaf Comics, including MYTHOI, Sim-I, DUST, The Heaven’s, Drace Grey. The Undergrounds: Everything Exhumed collects both seasons of the critically acclaimed webcomic of the same name. A recent prose work was the short story collection Macabre Rising which features the six horror stories: Cosplay, Know Jack, Like It Or Not, Self Less, Snipe Hunt, and Stages. James has also written a few short films, including the award winning AMIRA, which he co-wrote with his brother.
James’s latest release is the non-fiction book, Chronicles of a Full-Time Father, and collects his musings after a year of being a stay-at-home dad.
What inspires you to write?
I’m fascinated by the question, “What if?” I was raised on Harryhausen films, classical Westerns, and Saturday morning cartoons. The first twenty years of my life was spent soaking up mythology, adventure, and hyper-realism. By the time I got to high school, I had trouble focusing on anything that seemed black and white–I wanted to know about the gray areas.
High school was spent drowning in punk music. Anything that defied expectations and challenged status quo was a winner. Bands like Face to Face, No Use For A Name, Lagwagon, and Strung Out were my sirens, calling me to revolt, though at the time I had no real reason to revolt. It was a movement of passion, not intelligence.
College gave me a bit more direction. I clung to the works of Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Burroughs. My degree in Creative Writing was heavily influenced by the Beatnik generation, which, in it’s warped honesty, simultaneously softened my aimless rebellion, and sharpened my need to understand the world around me.
I am inspired by questions, challenges and understanding. All of these aspects are fuel for my imagination.
When I was younger my mother posted a comic strip on our fridge that summed me up pretty well. It featured to people on a street corner. They were seated at tables, one on either side of the corner, with signs on their tables to reveal what they were selling. One read, “All of life’s questions, answered.” The other one, the one my mother lovingly wrote my name over, read, “All of life’s answer, questioned.”
Imagination. That really is it.
Tell us about your writing process.
I treat my writing the way I treat my tattoos. I sit on them, for about a year after inception, mulling them over and making notes day-to-day. If, after a year, I am still convinced it is a good idea, I move forward.
Outlining is key to my process.
I start with the big picture. I write a few high-concepts and over-arcing plot lines to make sure the story has direction. When I have settled on the grand scheme of the book, I move onto acts.
I typically work in three acts. I outline each one, always in the same order: First, Third, Second. This part of the process seemed to take the most time. Getting enough meat on these bones is not unlike our bodies–it takes time, work, and process. Once the three acts are satisfactorily outlined, I get to specifics.
I outline each chapter withing the acts. I outline each chapter individually. I run this detailed outline by some of my closest friends, get their feedback, and edit the narrative as a whole. Only after this do I actually begin to write.
The writing comes quickly. Words fill the framework I have erected with a bit of ease. For me, the hard work is already done. When I have completed a work, I edit and hide the story away for week or two. Then I edit again. Rinse, repeat. Over and over again.
Editors come next. Then more tweaking.
Beta-readers are after that. Then more tweaking.
Then, if I still love what I’ve done, I seek out publication.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Oh, man. I do this out loud.
There was a graphic novel I wrote, titled DUST. The antagonist of the piece was a character named Blue, a mercenary with no lips. I spent a great many hours in public places having full conversations with Blue. I would ask Blue a question, and then reply, as Blue, to myself. I’m sure I looked crazy enough just having a conversation with myself, but when one half of the dialogue was done with my lips tucked against my teeth, I amplified the insanity a great deal.
This happens with regular occasion.
What advice would you give other writers?
1. Write what you want to read.
2. If one person says there is a problem with your story, consider it. If two people make the same criticism, change it. Don’t be stubborn.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I’ve gone through publishers and, more recently, self-publishing. I think I prefer actual publishers, but I am learning more and more to appreciate aspects of self-publishing.
My recent work has been self-published, more as an exercise than anything else. I ten to work on multiple projects simultaneously–some for others to publish and some for me. The distinction, for me, tends to be the viability of a book to get the attention it deserves. If I believe a book has a particular level of marketability, I attempt to get it published. If a book seems less likely to get the attention it needs, I publish it myself.
I’m sure that will change, but it’s how things are going for now.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Digital AND print. There is a great deal of commotion about digital versus print. I believe the two can exist simultaneously.
I love books. I love the way they feel, the way they smell, and the way one can literally sink into the paper between the covers. Having said that, the common sense appeals of digital (cost, availability, reach, etc) are not lost on me.
In comic books, some independent publishers are making single issues digital, then collecting trade paperbacks as print offerings. That makes a lot of sense to me. For the rest of the publishing world, a healthy mix of both seems to be where things are headed.
What do you use?
Co-writer, Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
horror, science fiction, action/adventure, non-fiction, parenting
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print