James Nettles has a thirty-year career consulting for dozens of clients from startups to Fortune 100’s, media contributor, speaker on privacy, futurism, coming disruptive technologies and their impact on businesses and individual daily lives, and is a science fiction and fantasy author. He is also a founding partner for Author Essentials.
In addition, having started writing in media and journalism, he has contributed to and written hundreds of articles and now develops content and materials for personal and professional development, technology, privacy issues, and Artificial Intelligence. He also is a science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary fiction author, using his background in cultural anthropology and sociology. His current series are the Home Summonings and Longbow Initiative urban fantasy series, and soon to be released technothriller series under the name James P. McDonald.
James, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Before jumping into your collection of novels, let’s talk a bit about your work in consultation and business. I am curious about how your experience has helped or hindered you in the publishing industry. What have been the pros and cons?
I got started in high school and sold my first little system (a stack of spreadsheets in Lotus 123 version 1, yeah, I’m a dinosaur) and at the same time had my first work published (pictures in the school paper, and a couple of articles).
From a career standpoint, I’ve been lucky and cursed to have traveled to a lot of places and met a lot of people in North and South America, Europe, and even a little into Asia. I’ve worked with teams in China, India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and throughout Indonesia. If nothing else, I’ve got enough characters to last me a lifetime. Living in airports and hotels, and working with everything from startups to Fortune 500s, you get to see almost everything in humanity. Success, failure, good and bad relationships, it’s like Game of Thrones without all the bodies hitting the floor.
The big challenge is time. If you’re working 80, 90, 100 weeks, and you want to be creative to keep your sanity, it’s all about time management. If you ever utter the phrase “I don’t have time,” What you’re really saying is “This isn’t a priority.” Each of us has to decide what our priorities are, and they will change over time.
At the end of it all, being a consultant means having a mercenary mindset. Publishing is a business, no matter how much people try to pretend it’s not. Except for the largest media outlets and publishing houses, every author, editor, agent, publisher is a small business trying to keep the lights on. As an author, I’m just one small business trying to work with others.
Author Essentials is the culmination of years of work, inspiration, and perspiration. It started years ago when friends of mine in the creative space started asking business questions, and after a while, I began turning those into articles. It was easier to answer it once, and have something I could update as need be. In 2015, I started up The Writers Mind as a place to post these in a centralized place, and a number of people asked when I’d turn it into a book. I had the first draft in 2016, and with the help of a lot of friends in the business, I hammered it down to a business fundamentals book. At the same time, in talking to John, we were discussing his workshop and some of the ones I teach, and thus AE was born. We started the formal rollout in August 2018 with his Path to Publication workshop. We’re currently editing Evernote, and developing the Business Essentials for Writers Workshop.
The current services are books and workshops, and in partnership with Melissa McArthur and other partners, we are ramping up author services, including editing, book covers, and marketing. We’re also moving into providing other branding and tech services as well, more to come on that front.
Imagine Harry Dresden thrown into the world of American Gods on a bad day. He’s an early twenties wizard whose powers are bound, and he’s been sent on a walkabout to clear his name, or more likely, be executed for something that he’s not even sure if he committed. As a teenager, something happened, and a lot of his village was killed in the process.
It’s half set in the modern world, with the old gods running around as corporate heads and political fixers, or sometimes just a beach bum with a horn o’plenty looking to kill time. The other half is set in the lands of myth and legend where angels, demons, demigods and mythological creatures are just outside human reality.
He’s just a kid who grew up not realizing not everyone’s guardian angel is an angel they can call on and have them show up with (usually bad) help.
You have indicated that the Home Summonings Series is a dark comedy. For unaware readers, what elements must you include in the story to place it in the genre of dark comedy? What inspiration or other literary works fostered your interest in this genre?
I’m a huge fan of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and had been reading the Dresden Files. I hadn’t written in the Urban Fantasy space before, and Good Omens is one of my favorite books. I hadn’t read American Gods at the time, or I probably wouldn’t have written the series the same way, if at all.
I read across a lot of genres from fiction, non-fic, science, tech, and even minored in anthropology. The first inspiration for me was asking the question, what would happen to a teenage Harry Dresden running into an old god, stumbling out of the remnants of the Babylon Working, or walking by as a demon blew up Jack Parson’s lab for a deal gone wrong.
I went with the dark comedic elements, which is mostly looking at life through an absurd light, because I have a pretty gallows sense of humor. I believe we all have to find the laugh or joy in the darkest situation because if we can’t laugh at it, someone else will do it for us. It’s in those moments we give someone else our strength and personal power, if we choose to.
My hero’s guardian angel wants to undo the universe because the sky isn’t purple. It was an error in the calculations. But he won’t do it because he’s a pop culture junkie. He’s a huge John Malkovich Fan, and a follower of Dudism.
The Djinn own the bars and restaurants frequented by the veiled peoples and humans that want to dabble in that world.
In many ways, it’s the modern image of Odysseus’ journey home, where LA is more like walking through Milton’s Paradise Lost. It’s seeing everyone is flawed, and in that, learning to live with our own faults.
Plus, I love to blow up Los Angeles.
Gnomebody’s Business was published in 2015, becoming your second Longbow Initiative story after Spirits of the Season. What should readers expect from Gnomebody’s Business? Do you have any themes you are hoping readers pick up on?
I’m working on the third and fourth novellas in the Longbow series. The next one is another gnome themed book and is a heist novel.
The Longbow series is set in the same world and is a spin-off with the main characters featuring in the Home Summonings universe. I have a really ineffectual law enforcement agency, the US agents are on loan from the FBI, DEA, and other domestic agencies. Usually, they’ve screwed up some way and reported something the shouldn’t have seen.
It’s about presenting humanity’s view on discovering that there’s a truth in all the old myths and legends, and how they deal with it. Working with gnomes and dealers in powerful antiques of legend is a way of bridging the gap of thousands of years ago, and showing that people and civilization really haven’t come that far in many ways, other than to deny the spiritual and esoteric parts of life, and in that we seem to have lost some of the wonder.
For the ancient Greeks, they looked at the people living outside the cities as barbarians and feared anything not part of the “civilized” world. We aren’t so different ourselves. Comparing to classic literature, the themes, and heart of the stories is about people facing experiences they don’t understand, and developing to find new realities.
And bitchy gnomes.
What can we expect from you in 2019? Anything else you would like to add?
I’ve only had a few short stories out the last year and a half or so in working on launching Authors Essentials and getting the Business Essentials for authors book out the door, but I’ve still been writing. Expect to see at least one and maybe two Longbow Novellas this year, the first of a new technothriller series, and the first novella of a holiday horror series, it’s set to launch in October.
Book 4 in Home Summonings I’d like to have out late this year, but the calendar looks like Q1 of 2020.
I’m on the road doing a lot of appearances and teaching workshops, and if you’re interested, please shoot me an email or hit me up on ye olde social media!
It has been a pleasure, James! Please tell us where fans can find you online.
I’m all over the place, but I’m working to get all of my social media under the same few identities again, but until then, here’s where you can find me:
Join the AuthorEssentials Mailing List!
Short stories, new releases, and more can be found at: http://www.jim-mcdonald.net/
And join my author mailing list!