Tell us a little about yourself and your background? Where are you from?
Monday, June 2, 2014
Author Interview: James Paddock, novelist, writer of mystery and suspense
James Paddock, novelist, writer of mystery and suspense
Tell us a little about yourself and your background? Where are you from?
I was born and raised in the Big Sky Country of Montana. Once of age I joined the Navy and said goodbye to my home state, for places like Illinois, Rhode Island, Virginia, Florida, the North Atlantic, The Mediterranean, and a tour around South America, eventually marrying and settling in South Carolina. In 1985 I left the Navy, built a business and raised a family. It was from the little town of Goose Creek in the Low Country of South Carolina that I began playing with the notion of writing. Twenty-plus years and three states later I retired and settled in beautiful, sunny Florida, playing pool and golf, and of course, writing the next series of great American mysteries.
So, South Carolina is where you began writing. How did it evolve?
I think the notion of storytelling–making up stuff and sharing it with others–started way back. I am a daydreamer and apparently, from what I’ve been told, I was that way as a lad, running around the streets of Great Falls, Montana, making up stories for my cousins. For the next 30 years I continued to daydream, though as I got deeper into adulthood I stopped sharing. I thought something was wrong with me. In '82 and '83 I had duties aboard Navy Merchant Ships that provided me with a lot of free time, and a typewriter... yes, the old fashion kind with ribbons and a bottle of whiteout. I started a novel. Today I have rather foggy recollections of what it was about, not even sure it had an identifiable plot. When I returned to the states I let someone close to me read it, someone whose opinion I thought of highly. The facial expressions and lack of any verbal encouragement or criticism, told me all I needed to know. Forty or so pages of manuscript went into the trash and I figured that writing novels was not in my skill set.
Ten years later, 1992 to be exact, the notion resurfaced. Why, I don't remember, but I did enroll in a creative writing class at a community college. The final for the class was to submit a short story to a publisher. An anthology publisher shelled out $25.00 to publish my first story. It was like I’d won the lottery. That is truly where it all began. This year, 2014, marks my 22nd year learning the process of fiction writing. There is still a lot more learning to be done. I hope it will never stop.
I have nine novels at this point that span a variety of plot lines including:
· Terrorists entering the US through Canada with a WMD (weapon of mass destruction). Elkhorn Mountain Menace - previously titled Angels in the Mist
· The use of DNA to recreate Smilodon, the largest of the sabre-toothed cats. They find their calling in Montana in a trilogy. Smilodon, Sabre City, The Last Sabre
· An accidental time-travel. Imagine being pregnant in 1987 but giving birth in 1943, and then in book two finding the daughter 20 years later wanting to know what the hell happened. Before Anne After, Time Will Tell
· A suspenseful, heart-pounding story of twins separated and then looking for each other in LA 20+ years later. Lost & Forgotten
· A heart-warming and inspirational story of a young woman finding a new path for her life in the Nevada desert. Hot Roast Beef with Mustard
· A Tucson, Arizona ex-cop, now private investigator with family and relationship issues, winds up the prime suspect in a serial killing rampage. Deserving of Death
What inspired you to write these books?
I am inspired by my daydreams, or maybe some would call them nightmares. They usually pop up while walking the beach, the isles of Wal-Mart (think about the nightmares walking around Wal-Mart at night) or mountain trails. Sometimes, as in the case of Smilodon, the idea comes up after watching a TV program. It was a Discovery Channel special on the sabre-toothed cat that planted the seed that eventually built the trilogy. I'm not inspired to save the world or make a political statement. I simply want to entertain, take one away from the problems of the world, if only for a few hours.
Who are the primary readers of your books?
I'd like to think that my readers are anyone who enjoys fiction and a story full of suspense, edge of your seat twists and turns, with real world characters dealing with real world and in some cases, out of this world, challenges. Of course, real world characters are emotional, whether it be anger, love, fear, joy, or disappointment. If you like an emotionally charged story with lots of suspense, then you're my reader.
How did you come up with the titles?
Titles are one of the smaller stress points for an author. They, like the cover, have to be eye-catching and pertinent to the content. My first novel was titled, Angels in the Mist (can still be obtained in paperback) but it didn’t have anything to do with Angels. I just happened to use the phrase on the last page and at the time thought it was catchy. Angels confused people because it was about terrorism in Montana. One lady at a book signing went on about how she loved to read books about angels. I actually talked her out of purchasing Angels in the Mist. I have since republished it as Elkhorn Mountain Menace and am still stressing a bit over that title. It may get changed again.
Before Anne After and Time Will Tell have to do with time-travel. The first is about Anne, before and after her travel through time. The sequel, Time Will Tell, is about her daughter, Annie, nearly 20 years later. Annie has some issues that may or may not get resolved, but, of course, only Time Will Tell. Both of those titles were my wife’s inspiration.
The trilogy of sabre-toothed cats was easy to title. Smilodon is the big cat I brought back to life in Montana, Sabre City conjures up a vision of a city of sabre-toothed cats, and The Last Sabre brings to mind the possible demise of the cats.
Now, I like to think, my titles arise from the plot. With Deserving of Death, the title might have one considering who is deserving to die. Once you read it you'll realize how thought provoking the title is. Currently I have six titles listed for my work-in-progress. I keep them at the top of the first page of the Word document and periodically review them, deleting one or two and adding one or two more.
What was the hardest part in writing your books? How did you resolve it?
The hardest part about writing a novel is starting, except for maybe the starting the new chapter, which ranks right up there with the ending.
After that it’s the marketing that is probably the most challenging and the most stressful. Some would say that they hate the editing the most, that they’d rather get branded by a hot poker. For me the editing process is the most rewarding because I’ve already done all the hard work to get there; it’s the equivalent of a getting a second wind on the home stretch or going back with the touchup brush after painting the whole house. All I have to do is smooth it out, fix the typos and the she has red hair in chapter 6 and brown hair in chapter 18 kind of stuff.
What was the easiest part in writing your books?
See the last question. There is no easy part. Just when it seems like it is getting easy, another wall emerges and there I am, against the wall. There is hard and less hard. There is nothing I would call easy.
If it's not easy, why do you do it?
If we only did what was easy, we'd still be wearing tree branches for underwear while throwing long sticks with sharpened points at water buffalo because what they're wearing looks warmer than these dratted leaves. I wonder when they discovered poison ivy didn't work? We do the hard things because when we've succeeded we feel a lot more satisfaction, and pride, and a lot warmer, than if we only do the easy things.
Did you do research for your books?
I had a reader ask me one time if there really were sabre-toothed cats roaming the mountains of Montana. That made me feel good because it meant that the processes I presented to recreate the big cats must have had enough truth mixed in with my make believe world to make if feel real. That doesn't happen with magic. It happens as the result of painstaking research. For the time-travel series I researched Einstein, Kerr, Schwarzschild, Minkowski, Feynman, Gödel, Lorentz, Hawking and possibly a few more I've forgotten. Don't get the idea that I understood much of it. I only needed to be able to glean enough of their theories so that I could make the fiction I'm building believable, and in fiction believability is vitally important. If the reader (or viewer) doesn't believe it, the story loses its punch. We all know that a gigantic spaceship cannot suddenly jump to warp speed, but the writers of Star Trek made it sound as though it already existed and then the movie makers did it right before our eyes on the big screen. From my research of Einstein and the like, I created the Waring Triple Jump Deviation Theory, the Waring Four Dimensional Tube Theory, and the Hair Nuclear Tri-Generation Theory. Let’s not forget SMUDDWAGEN, Dr. Hair’s creation in Time Will Tell. Sorry, you’re not going to find those in any text book. If you do, I demand credit and royalties. I want my readers to put the book down and say, "Wow!" and then wonder if there really are people at MIT working on time-travel, or secret organizations in Montana growing Sabre-toothed cats in test-tubes.
Did you learn anything from writing your books and what was it?
Other than all the tidbits of trivia gathered in research, I've learned that persistence leads to results. Imagine getting up in the morning and writing 600 words. That’s not all that much when you really think about it. What if you did that every day for 6 months? That’s 108,000 words. Looks like a novel to me.
What writers do you read and who has most influenced your life?
Last question first... everything I read influences me in some way or another, but nothing stands out as saying, “This is the be all do all story that changed my life.” I’ve had books make me joyful, pleased about life, such as Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. That is one that few people have ever heard of but which I consider one of his best. It may have been psychological horror, but I felt good about reading it. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Earnest Hemingway (the audio version) left me angry and depressed for days. Stephen King’s The Green Mile is one which, after reading it, I went out and rented the movie so I could share it and discuss it with my wife. In non-fiction I’ve Recently read Married or… merry? By Kate Papas. I found it not only entertaining but a great trigger for some productive discussions with my wife. One that influenced my bucket list would have to be Dungda de Islan’ by Charles Dougherty, a true story of sailing the Eastern Caribbean for a year. I can't help but think about that story every time I see a map of the Caribbean.
Most of what I read is purely for entertainment, though everything teaches me how to be a better writer. I consciously watch what writers do right and what they do wrong and try to learn from both. Loaded in my “Now Reading” folder on my Kindle are: Siren Song: Book One of the Siren Song Trilogy by B.A. Blackwood, a humor-filled fantasy involving fallen angels interacting with normal humans; Married or… merry? by Kate Papas because I want to read it again; and Social Media Just for Writers by Frances Caballo because I really need to learn more about social media. Standing by in Hardback is David Baldacci's The Target. Can't wait to get into it.
What is a typical writing day for you? When are you most creative?
I am strictly a morning person when it comes to mental creativity. Before retiring from the pesky day job, I would spend approximately one hour each morning in my writing craft before going to work, writing, editing, researching, daydreaming. Weekends would range from two to five hours each morning. Of course I need to knock out vacations, mowing the lawn, the honey-do list, napping, colds & flu, staring at the flat screen, more daydreaming, just generally being lazy… well, you get the picture.
Are you a pantser or outliner?
I have to say I'm a pantser. I always wing the first draft, that is I write by the seat of my pants. There is no beginning outline or character profile, often times no more than a sketchy idea for a plot. For example: What if the sabre-toothed cat was brought back to life and then got loose in Montana? That was all I had when I started Smilodon. Character profiles are buit as I go, as they tell me who they are. The only character I create is the first one. He, or she, introduces me to the next few and then the story goes organic, heading off in directions I never anticipated with new characters I never saw coming. It’s kind of like life, or at least mine.
Do you have any advice you’d like to give to aspiring authors?
The exact same advice they’ll hear from most successful authors… WRITE. That is, write until the story is finished. Seems silly to say it that way, however, there are many who when they see they are within 10 or 20,000 words of the end, start rushing, leaving things hanging here, dangling there. Kind of like being served a great meal only to be presented with a dry, stale, tasteless cookie for desert. That cookie will be the last thing I remember and may keep me from returning to the restaurant for another meal. You want to leave your reader wanting to come back and sample all your other great titles; don’t leave them with the memory of a tasteless cookie ending.
The most important thing to do after finishing a story is edit it. Whether you pay a professional, sweet talk Aunt Sally or do it yourself, it has to be done and it has to be done correctly. If Aunt Sally’s going to hold back because she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings, or can’t see the typos because she hasn't cleaned her bi-focals, or simply gets lost in the story, she is doing you no favors. Great stories with typos and inconsistencies will be read only by relatives and friends. For everyone else it will get bad or no reviews and fall into the digital dustbins.
So, write, edit, publish, market.
For me it goes like this:
Sometimes following that there is:
Where can the readers find your books?
The best place to find me is at Desert Bookshelf Publishing - http://www.desertbookshelf.com or simply search for me by name at your favorite on-line eBook store.
Also, please feel free to look me up, or follow me, on:
IAN Social Network - http://iansocialnetwork.ning.com/profile/JamesPaddock
Twitter - https://twitter.com/jameswriter
*All data including images and videos for this interview was used with the permission of the author. They belong to the rightful owner and this blog claims no ownership.