Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Jim Melvin

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today we have another author interview, this time with fantasy writer Jim Melvin. Sit back, relax, and learn about his six-book series premiering in fall 2007, The Death Wizard Chronicles.

Hi Jim! Thanks for joining us today.

1. Can you tell us a little about your background?

I was born in New York state, but I spent most of my life in and around St. Petersburg, Florida, where I worked as a journalist (reporter, designer, editor, supervisor) at the St. Petersburg Times for 25 years. I wrote a horror novel in my early 20s called Sarah's Curse that was represented by an agent but never published. At the time, I wasn't overly concerned because I believed my second or third novel would be the one that hit it big. However, I got married, had kids, and began working 50-hour weeks -- and there never was a second novel. Until now. Three years ago, I finally became serious and began writing my series. Now I'm just a couple of months from completing all six books.

2. When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

I first began to write in my late teens. The trigger came when I began to seriously question what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I'm one of those people who is equally good at both language arts and mathematics. A friend of mine went on to be a nuclear engineer. I'm glad I chose writing instead.

3. Tell us about your upcoming publication.

The Death Wizard Chronicles is an action-packed, six-book epic fantasy that is adult in tone. If it were a movie, it would be R-rated. However, there is a lot going on between the lines, especially in terms of Asian philosophy. I am a Buddhist in the Theravada tradition and have spent many hours meditating. My protagonist is called a Death Wizard because he is able to meditate so deeply, his heartbeat stops and he enters the realm of death, where he feeds on death energy. I originally conceived the series in my early 20s, but did not starting writing it until my mid-40s. In some ways, I'm glad this happened. I'm much worldlier now than I was then. This is my time.

4. How do you go about developing your characters?

Before I write a single word, I play scenes and character interactions over and over in my head. I do this while driving, in the shower, before I fall asleep at night, etc. So by the time I start to write, I have a firm grasp on the traits of my characters. Still, that doesn't mean that they don't evolve. In any long work, your characters will grow in unexpected ways and directions.

5. Tell us about your promotion strategies. How do you plan on making Jim Melvin a household name?

I'm going to market myself online as much as I can. Experienced writers such as Chris Stevenson and Bob Andelman have been a big help to me, in this regard. And I do have one ace in the hole. I have a lot of friends in high places at the biggest newspapers in the United States. I'm going to call in some chips and get as many features/reviews as I can. Hopefully, this will build a groundswell.

6. What advice would you give to aspiring, unpublished writers?

You have to try to improve yourself -- at least a little bit -- every single day. You can do this in a variety of ways. Read fiction and nonfiction. Talk to as many other writers as you can. Interview experts who have the knowledge you lack. Ask yourself, "What is it that I don't know?" And then tirelessly find a way to know it.

7. What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

Fantasy is by far my favorite genre. Horror is second. Everything else a poor third. My favorite author is Tolkien. I've read LOTR at least 25 times. I also love Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, Steven Erikson, and Stephen Donaldson. John Updike is another personal favorite. But no one compares to Tolkien, in my opinion. Still, my style/content is closer to Erikson's than it is to Tolkien's.

8. What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

Most difficult? Describing settings of which I am unfamiliar. I had to read a lot of books on medieval architecture before I felt comfortable describing palaces, castles, etc.
Most exciting? That's easy. I love writing the ending. To me, that's what makes everything else worthwhile.

9. How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

Right now, I'm very lucky to be in the position of not having to work. But I am a house-husband with three young kids, so it's not like I'm not busy. I write and/or edit from 8 p.m. until midnight seven days a week, virtually without fail. TV? Forget it. I also try to squeeze in an hour or so during the day when the kids are in school or summer camp. On this schedule, I've been able to average about 40,000 words a month.

10. Can you tell us about your next writing project?

I live, eat, and breathe The Death Wizard Chronicles. When I'm finally done, there will be another project -- probably a standalone horror novel. But as of now, I have no idea what it will be about. That's not to say I won't be excited about it, when the time comes.

Interested in knowing more? Stop by Jim's blog. And thanks for joining us today!


Diane Craver said...

Writing 40,000 words in a month with 3 young children is impressive! I enjoyed the interview. Thanks Jim & Allie!

Jim Melvin said...

Diane, thanks much! I appreciate your reading the interview.