Author's Bio: James Slater is a communications manager who works at the Washington Navy Yard. He does most of his writing while riding the bus on his way to work. He's addicted to writing, coffee, and his family. His younger brother, Rob is the author of the Deserted Lands sci-fi series. Friends stay in touch with him at www.jamesslaterbooks.com.
What inspired you to write your book?
JS: I think it was a number of things. I've always been an avid reader, and I grew up reading mystery and science fiction stories. Anything I could find at our local library. I think I always wanted to write a book, but I spent so much time at work, that when I get home, I'd have neither the energy or inspiration to write. In 2013, I was in the building during the Navy Yard shooting. I wasn't hurt, but I realized I wasn't getting any younger, and that if I wanted to write a book, then I should get busy. My brother had already published his first book, so I had a great sounding board for my ideas, and with today’s self-publishing opportunities, I thought the time was right.
To get myself motivated, I attended the Creatures, Crimes and Creativity (C3) writer's conference in 2014 to get some kind of inspiration, and one of the seminars was titled Extreme Writing. I heard examples of folks like me who were working full time and who still found time to write novels. One of them, Puja Guha, was a student who was supposed to be paying attention to her university studies. Another panelist related the story of a man who would ride the subway and write his manuscript on his phone while riding to and from work. While that was a bit extreme for me, I do ride a commuter bus into the city and decided that rather than reading books, I should start writing one.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
JS: I think there were a number of them. I was captivated by Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Hardy Boys mysteries. Probably my biggest influence was Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. This was the type of sci-fi I enjoyed. It wasn't about aliens or invasions. It was the story of man vs. man in a distant future. It was a story about people, their struggles and their interactions with one another as humans. I didn't think it necessary to invent new alien monsters. Humans served as those characters perfectly.
Is this your first book? How long did it take to start and finish your book?
JS: This is my first book. I wrote for an hour in the morning on the way to work and, if I had the energy or the plot had become so engaging that it wouldn't leave me alone, an hour in the evening on the way home. I started in November and finished up in July. I didn't do too many revisions but realized that since I'd opted to self-publish that I needed to have something more than just a book to populate a website, and I spent the next year developing companion material, blogs and short stories.
Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?
JS: Both, actually. The way it worked for me after I had the larger, overall concept in mind was to outline a number of scenes, then as I got into the scenes, I would let them flow. Some of my best work and ideas actually came during that flow. Unplanned actually. As the scenes unfolded, new ideas presented themselves and became a part of the story. As I work on subsequent books, I'm trying to be more deliberate about outlining the scenes. I find that I write faster when I have a good handle on what is supposed to happen next. If I get stuck, it usually means it's time to get back to outlining more scenes.
Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?
JS: No. No theme songs. I might listen to some music to get my energy level up, but when I write, I leave the headphones on and turn the music off. I'm still listening, but I'm listening to the characters. I'm hearing the dialogue as it might be spoken. I'm seeing the scenes unfold in my mind. That's where the magic happens. Music has a way of blurring these thoughts and images for me.
What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public?
JS: I'm actually still working on that one. Right now I'm focusing on continuing to write my trilogy. My intent is not to write a single book and spend the rest of my life marketing. Rather, to develop a body of writing that will encourage like-minded readers to continue to follow and read future works. At this point in my life, I have little “spare” time. So the time I do have, I’m investing in writing the stories I have to tell. I’m sure when the time is right, I’ll put a larger focus on the marketing aspect.
What advice would you give to new authors?
JS: I have friends who have been working on books. Some of them for years. And that's great. But I think if you want to be an author, you need to write and finish and write again. If you keep second-guessing yourself, perfecting and re-perfecting, you'll never finish. Finish the book and publish it. Don’t like it? Publish a better one. On top of that, it's really impossible to describe the feeling of accomplishment you get from publishing your own book. It's amazing.
How about sharing an excerpt from Claustrom.
JS: Absolutely. Let me set it up for you first. It’s set in the year 3,000 and centers on the crew and passengers of an executive transport ship, Raven. They’re on their return trip to Earth, but unforeseen trouble forces them to crash land on the prison planet, Claustrom. First, they have to face the hostile alien conditions, but they also have a traitor in their midst, so they’ve got to pool their collective talents if they hope to make it home again. In this scene, they’ve just crashed.
Guyal stepped back and watched as a green glow appeared around the cylinders, slowly at first, and then forming a bright green line that crept quickly around the hull of the ship. As the green line expanded its reach, the hull and ship’s interior dissolved to dust and then disappeared entirely. Within a minute the Raven was no more. Its structure reduced first to a green dust and then into nothing. All that remained was the displaced sand carved by their impromptu landing. Silence followed as the gravity of their situation sank in. No one spoke.
Finally, Truman broke the spell.
“Amazing. That’s a sight I’ve never seen before. I hope I never see it again. You’ll forgive me if I’m not my usual personable self, but I’ve just lost my two best friends.”
“Where are we?” asked Nik. “And why did we just disintegrate our only way out of here?”
All eyes turned to Truman, all ready for his answer.
“We’re on Claustrom, our famous prison planet,” he said. “And we’re in trouble.”
What’s next for you?
JS: Aside from finishing the Claustrom Trilogy, I’m writing a Psychological Thriller series based a character named Ray Bishop. It sounds like a man's name, but she's never mistaken for one once you meet her face-to-face. Corporate spreadsheet analyst. Game of Thrones nerd. Schizophrenic. To her dismay, she discovers that she takes on another personality at night and masquerades as a private investigator called "Bishop" who has a fondness for bourbon. Unlike the shy, well-mannered Ray, the Bishop half of her can't help but stick her nose where it doesn't belong. Can Ray, with the help of her friend Gabe and a pet rabbit named Paco, make sense of her dysfunctional world and put it--and herself--back together again? That’s the foundation. I plan seven separate installments, each one centered around one of the seven deadly sins. This one is called Bishop Takes Night, and it’s currently a free download at www.jamesslaterbooks.com.
Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)?
• Website: www.jamesslaterbooks.com
• Amazon Author Page:amazon.com/author/jamesslater
• Twitter: @jgsl8r
• Blog: www.jamesslaterbooks.com
• Book Buy Links: www.jamesslaterbooks.com
It’s been a pleasure having you here with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know you and your work.