JAMES MASTER author of The Book of Roland, The Book of Mark
The Burning Willow Press authors wish to help you celebrate the best month of the year, October. How you may ask? By giving you a different author from the ranks each day with in-depth answers to questions that our staff has decided to ask them. Many will be generic, others not so much. Let’s get to know the authors of BWP! Oh, and did we forget to mention… the staff there are all authors too so they have decided to chime in with some answers of their own.
TBK: So first, when did you realize that the voices in your head were telling you to write stories or go mad with all that stuck in your head?
JM: It really started when I was in fourth or fifth grade. A buddy of mine and I would sit on the playground equipment during recess coming up with stories instead of playing with others. It’s probably a good thing I don’t have any of those. But it didn’t really become a reality until I quit college and started writing a book about zombies (which would become The Book of Roland). My wife (at the time) suggested I go back to college to better my writing. As husbands know, when your wife says to do something the only real response is “yes ma’am.”
TBK: I know many writers who jump in all different genres, so what is your favorite to write?
JM: Horror. And the reason being is that we’re all afraid of something. Even Chuck Norris. Humans read the genre because they want to feel scared without any risk of bodily harm. There’re so many avenues to scare your reader too. It’s also a great way to write the good vs evil trope which I enjoy.
TBK: Currently, there are over a million books that I want to read… and some I have in the past I wish I had written myself, do you have any that you read that you thought about and said, I wish I had written that book?
JM: No, not really. I’m pretty critical of my own writing so if I read something that I enjoy, I know that I couldn’t have written it that well. If anything, I’ll dismantle some of the elements or ideas of the book and save them for a later work. That’s what’s so essential for an author. You must do two things if you want to be a writer: read a lot and write a lot. Stephen King said something to that effect.
TBK: What is your favorite book not written by you? See that question is not the same as the other one above… to follow up, what was your favorite book that you wrote?
JM: I love everything by Stephen King and Michael Crichton. However, my favorite book would have to be Shades Children by Garth Nix. That book introduced me to a post-apocalyptic fiction. My favorite book written by myself is The Second Book of Timothy, but that isn’t out yet.
TBK: What is the one thing that you must do to get into a writing mood? For me, it is listening to 80’s hair metal.
JM: Brew a pot of coffee and listen to some Weird Al Yankovic. Listen to Word Crimes and tell me that isn’t pure magic.
TBK: Is editing your story just part of the job or does it literally kill a part of you to “kill your children” as it has been said? What about making revisions?
JM: Editing is like cleaning your room when you’re a child. You might not want to but your parents (publisher) will punish you if you don’t do it. Same goes with revisions.
TBK: When you read a book by another author do you ever look at it and criticize it or edit it in your head as the way you would have done it yourself?
JM: Never, if when reading it for enjoyment. Each author has their own style. If the author is doing a good job, there isn’t a reason for me to wonder about what I’d do. If they’re doing a bad job, I quit reading. If I’m editing a book or reading submissions… then, yes.
TBK: What would you like to be chiseled into your headstone?
JM: “Death is but a door. Time is but a window. I’ll be back.” -Prince Vigo the Carpathian
TBK: What was your favorite candy to get at Halloween as a kid?
JM: Fifth Avenues
TBK: What is your favorite Halloween ritual? And if you do not do that… what is your favorite Halloween movie?
JM: When my parents were still together we all lived in this big house on Main Street in North Liberty, Indiana (real small town). And we would decorate our house like some people decorate for Christmas. We had cobwebs, a graveyard, fog machine, and even robotic dummies my dad called “bloody men” that he built. Then afterward, we would sit on the porch and drink hot chocolate. Good times.
TBK: Beach, Mountains, Country, City? And follow up… favorite season… just a hint here… you should say, Autumn.
JM: I prefer a small city around 10,000 people. Big enough to get lost in, but small enough you run into people you know. And yes, autumn is my favorite season. I hate summer.
TBK: I know my “To Be Read” list is never ending and grows daily… how is yours? And do you prefer paperbacks or e-books? Notice I did not ask about audio?
JM: I’ll read anything in any format. I’m trying to go digital because I’m trying to cut the clutter in my house. Lately, I’ve started listening to audiobooks on my drive to and from work.
TBK: If you could not be an author then what would you be?
JM: Realistically, if I wasn’t an author and I had ignored my wife when she told me to go back to college then I’d probably be managing a gas station somewhere in Northern Indiana.
TBK: What was your childhood ideal job to be as an adult?
JM: Author, archeologist, paleontologist, and ghostbuster.
TBK: Advice in one sentence to a new author who is not published yet?
JM: Don’t pay a publisher to publish your book.
TBK: Do your siblings or other family members support your choice to write horror? Fantasy? Erotica… if you do? SCI-FI? Other genres?
JM: Yes, as far as I know. My family is very supportive of me. I love them all for it.
TBK: Do you ever use writing as an excuse to get out of doing things with the family… especially the in-laws?
JM: Since I’m no longer married, I can admit that I would hide in my bedroom and write. I rented a tiny two bedroom/one bathroom/one story home. It was meant to only house myself and my wife. It would soon be occupied by myself, my wife, her two parents, her brother, and their three dogs. So, most days, I would close the door to my bedroom and write. I got a lot written.
TBK: If you had written a sex scene in your book, would you be embarrassed to have your mom read it?
JM: I have written one in The Book of Roland and The Book of Mark. Yes, I’m embarrassed but that’s where the story went and I’m simply the one that writes it down.
TBK: Beta Readers, Proofers, Editors… all are important to produce a better work of literature. So, who would you say is the most important in your team? Or do you not have those in place and are working on that?
JM: I would say, my editors; Ashlee Pruitt, and Edd Sowder. They are like the dreamcatcher of my books. All the good stuff comes through but the typos and continuity errors get caught. All three groups are important, but good editors are hard to find these days. I’ve found mine.
TBK: Do you ever get to travel as an author? Do conventions? What have you learned in those endeavors?
JM: I would like to eventually. Right now, I’m the editor of a weekly newspaper so finding time to do that is tough. I did attend AWP in 2013 with some other writer friends. It was amazing. Every night they had a dance party with free alcohol. I learned that drunk authors do not equate to good dancers. [Conventions/book signings are] a necessary evil because in this day and age you have to pimp your book out as much as possible and wherever possible. Back in the day, you could be an introvert, but not today.
TBK: What do you have coming out in the next year and who is producing it?
JM: Burning Willow Press is publishing a story of mine in their anthology Crossroads in the Dark IV: Ghosts. It’s a story about a haunted seminary and is loosely based on real events. That anthology releases in December. The Book of Ashley will be coming out from BWP early next year.
TBK: In the book, Misery by Stephen King, his main character celebrates the end of the Misery books series by smoking a cigar and drinking a scotch so, how do you celebrate a finished story?
JM: I print the book out and set it in a desk drawer. Weird I know, but there’s something about printing it out that makes it final. A few weeks later, I pull it out and start editing it.
TBK: Ideas come from all over. I get mine everywhere… so my question is what was the inspiration for the last (or upcoming) book you released?
JM: My series (The Soul Eater Chronicles) is centered around the Seven Deadly Sins. It started with gluttony in The Book of Roland. The Book of Ashley (coming up next year) is about the sin of wrath. As I write the books, I reflect on how I’m affected by that particular sin. Hopefully, by the end of the series, I’ll come out of it a well-balanced member of society.
TBK: Who would you compare your work to and would love to have them read and give you a review of or even better, a tweet and post about it?
JM: Ted Dekker. He’s a religious horror writer and I would love to see what he thinks of my books.
TBK: Are there any horror or thriller novelist that you admired when you were younger?
JM: Stephen King. I read IT and Gerald’s Game in sixth grade and since then I’ve read everything of his. I’m not sure I should have read those at that age, but at least I was a winner of Book-It every month.
TBK: Have you ever had any supernatural experiences? If so, have you ever used it as source material?
JM: I had one, but it could have just been my imagination. I was walking through my apartment and I heard someone say “Hey!” Like any other Hoosier, I grabbed a gun and cleared the apartment. No one was in there but myself. The voice sounded too clear to have come from outside.
TBK: Have you ever seen a movie that was better than the book? If so, what was it and why?
JM: I’m going to catch so much hell for this but The Shining was sooooo much better than the book. Why? Two words: Jack and Nicholson.
TBK: Do you ever base characters on people that you know? If so, do you ever kill said characters and feel bad?
JM: The character of Ashley in my books are loosely based on a friend by the same name. I wouldn’t cry if the character was killed off. I also wouldn’t cry if the friend was killed off either so…… haha just kidding Ashley if you’re reading this. Please don’t hurt me.
TBK: As a reader, what are some ways that I can discover new independent authors and novels?
JM: Walk around a bookstore and just pick up books you might not have picked up otherwise. Go to Amazon and look for 99 cent sales and just purchase a few
TBK: What is your ideal writing space?
JM: The Courtside Café at Indiana University South Bend after hours. When I managed it, there were times when I had to wait for the bus or times when I got to work too early. During those times I’d let myself into the café, sit in the corner with the lights off and write. The only noises were the hum of the vending machines. I loved that perk of the job. It’s one that I miss dearly.
TBK: Do you ever feel that your characters have a mind of their own and change the course of the planned storyline?
JM: They do! I consider myself a pantser type of writer, writing from the seat of my pants. I hate writing plots because when I do, the story never goes in that direction. Stephen King once wrote that a story is like a buried fossil and plot is like a jackhammer. You have to finesse the story gently and nudge it here and there. For me, allowing my characters the freedom to do what they will is part of the fun of writing.
Jim is a staff member at not only TBK but also BWP so we decided to ask him a few more questions that would pertain to his duties at BWP. Enjoy…
TBK: What is your actual role at BWP? Okay now that you have answered that… what else does Edd make you do daily?
JM: I am a submission reader. Meaning that I read submissions and give my opinions to Edd. However, since submissions have been [temporarily] closed I’ve been given one or two books to edit.
TBK: How did you get your position there? Is it worth it? (Realistically, we are not going to tell them. Haha.)
JM: I got my position by talking to Edd over the phone and actively participating with the other BWP writers. Plus, I wanted to help out in whatever capacity I could. It is worth it because experience is… experience.
TBK: We hear that Edd can be a pain in the ass at times so that being said, he treats us pretty good but what’s he really like?
JM: Edd is only an ass to those that deserve it. Moral of the story is, don’t get on his bad side.
TBK: Does he bug you with changes, process or otherwise, new schedule updates, calls when you wish to not talk, email overload like he does us?
JM: Nah, Edd knows that we all have day jobs so if we don’t answer we will call back when possible. He’s cool like that.
TBK: What future works are you doing for BWP that you are really enjoying? (We checked with Edd it is safe to name them here).
JM: I love the Crossroads in the Dark anthologies because it gets me to write in genres where I might not have before.
TBK: Name three things on your bucket list and why.
JM: Write a bucket list. Do the things on the list. Burn the list.
TBK: Where do you see the position you have at BWP leading you to in let’s say five to ten years?
JM: Ideally, I want to work in a big publishing company.
TBK: We know that BWP has staff members all over the world so we want to know, where are you located in the world?
JM: Plymouth, Indiana home of the Marshall County Blueberry Festival.
TBK: Would you ever want to take over if Edd and Kindra decided to retire to an island in the middle of nowhere?
JM: Umm, no. I’m not sure I could fill their shoes.
TBK: So, when the post was made about doing this interview, you wanted in. Can we ask why you wanted to do it?
JM: I like to pimp myself and my works whenever and wherever possible.
TBK: What is the best part about this interview… (we will accept that it is over as an answer)?
JM: Seeing what I’ll answer with.
TBK: Where can we stalk you at? Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Twitter, website?