James tackled the works of Stephen King and Michael Crichton when he was in the sixth grade. His influential young mind now twisted by science fiction, fantasy, and horror James did what any respectable young would. He began writing.
Years later, all that work has paid off. Having crossed paths with Burning Willow Press, LLC he has published three books and three short stories with the publisher.
When he isn’t writing books and other stories, James is a mild-mannered editor for a weekly county newspaper in Northern Indiana. You can find out more about him at www.james-master.com.
James, thank you for agreeing to this interview. You started early reading Stephen King and Michael Crichton. What was it about their stories that kept your attention over the years? Are there certain elements you like to mirror in your own books?
I’ve been reading King since the sixth grade starting with IT and Gerald’s Game. That was back in 1995-1996… a long time ago. Since then, I’ve read almost every one of his books. Both King and Crichton have this ability to take themes and run with them. Examples of those themes include: Good vs Evil, the innocence of children, Man vs Nature, etc. They also have the ability to write in just about every genre. Crichton’s last book (after he passed) was Dragon Teeth in historical fiction, but his most famous is science fiction in Jurassic Park. Of course, then he also had a pirate story in Pirate Latitudes.
I don’t really know if there are certain elements of either author I purposely mirror. I like to think that every author picks and chooses from the authors they read and utilize them in their own works.
Your book The Book of Roland kicks off The Soul Eater Chronicles, introducing a zombie apocalypse including a katana-wielding monk and demons. What inspired you to write about the walking dead? What will readers discover in your series that separates it from other zombie stories?
Good zombie literature and film isn’t truly about the zombies. It’s all about the conflict that is created when the undead. Check out Night of the Living Dead (1968). Sure, the zombies are the obvious threat, but it’s the power struggle between Ben and Mr. Cooper. The same could be said about Max Brook’s World War Z.
In The Book of Roland, I take the same approach. While the zombies are a real threat to the characters, there’s something a bit more demonic they need to be worried about.
The second book in your series, The Book of Mark, continues the story with several new characters. Mixing horror, the supernatural, and suspense must have been a challenging experience. How did you blend these genres together and maintain a sense of realism for the reader?
That’s a tricky problem when blending genres. Especially in a real-world setting. If the story takes place in a fantasy world, realism can be loosely interpreted like a balloon on a windy day. If the story takes place in the real world, the story needs to be anchored. The balloon needs a string and tied to the bench. In my books there is always some supernatural elements (the wind), but there is also the human element (the string) in the form of the title characters. Roland, Mark, and Ashley all serve as that anchor. They are the focus of the story and readers experience the story through them. If I do my job right, then the balloon doesn’t blow away.
You recently released The Book of Ashley. Does the story wrap up The Soul Eater Chronicles or should readers expect more to come? What tools did you use to organize the three books and keep your details straight?
I am contracted with Burning Willow Press for a total of seven books. With The Book of Ashley being the third, I have four more books to tell the story of Timothy and his fight against the Soul Eaters. The Soul Eaters are demons that personify a Deadly Sin: Gluttony, Lust, Wrath, Envy, Greed, Sloth, and Pride all will make appearances in the series.
When I first signed the contract with BWP, I only had the first two fully written. This being my first time at this publishing game, I was a wee bit overwhelmed. At the half way mark, I’m still feeling a little bit overwhelmed, but it gets easier with each release. In order to get through that, I’ve set strict rules for each book. I don’t really do plots, but these rules shape the Soul Eaters and how they can break free onto the mortal realm. They just can’t go free. They have to follow a strict ritual. Souls must be consumed, monsters have to cause chaos. You know, that sort of thing.
When dealing with the supernatural, magical or anything else you have to have some structure to it. Magical creatures, demonic spirits, even vampires have to follow certain rules. Having those rules helps me keep organized.
Do you have a muse for your stories? If not, what do you do to be inspired to keep writing?
I did have a muse for my stories. Her name was Deanna. We were married for nine years. When I had dropped out of college (I failed at being a computer science major) she was there to pick up the pieces and suggest that I go back for creative writing. Like all good husbands (we weren’t married then, so technically fiancée) I did what I was told. Even though she refused to read my stories, she was confident that I’d get published. Without her love and support, I wouldn’t be on your website and I wouldn’t be on Writer Imperfect. I’d probably still be working at my hometown’s only gas station as a cashier.
All good things end eventually as did our marriage in 2018. We’d been separated for two years prior to that. In that limbo period of separation, I didn’t do much writing.
The one good thing about my divorce was the revelation that I didn’t need Deanna to write. Sure, her love and support is what started it all, but she only fanned the flames. The fire to write was always inside me. I should really change my first name to Dumbo because I didn’t need the feather to fly.
Hmmm, on second thought, I’ll keep my name as is. Dumbo Master is just too weird.
What can we expect from you in 2019? Anything else you would like to add?
You can read my first venture into science fiction when Crossroads in the Dark V: Beyond the Borders when it releases in April. My short story All Aboard the Starship P.C. explores how political correctness in the future.
Thank you for taking the time to interview me. It’s weird because as a newspaper editor and writer, I’m typically the one asking the questions!
It has been a pleasure, James! Please tell us where fans can find you online or in the upcoming year at events.
You can find my weekly column (I lovingly nickname them rants), Mastering the Craft, at www.james-master.com. I’m also on Twitter (@JamesTheMaster), Instagram (jamesmaster_author), Facebook (@jimmastertheauthor), Tumblr, Amazon, and Goodreads. Just search for James Master.