For those of us who love books, or simply to read, understanding words and their meanings is something of great importance. What about the people who write these words, though? When does their story enter consideration? As far as E.H. James -- author of fourteen fiction books spanning many different genres -- is concerned, the answer is "right now." Here is a bit in the author's own words:
E. H. James has always been fascinated by the unexplained. Wanting to delve deeper into the unknown, James has read and researched in the areas of parapsychology and metaphysics, for the past 40 years.
Taking those first hand experiences, involving the unexplained, James has woven the real and imaginary together into stories of the strange and bizarre
James' stories range from the paranormal and horror, to fantasy and science fiction, from short stories and novellas, to 100K+ novels.
James, the cover of whose latest book -- The Demon Series Compendium-- can be seen to your right, recently spoke with the SFRB about the facts behind a career in fiction.
Joseph Ford Cotto:What inspired you to become an author?
E.H. James: Now that is a good question. I wouldn’t say I felt inspired, necessarily. It was something that was always there.
There has always been a creative urge to express verbally. Ideas are constantly coming to me for stories, and I find myself excited about bringing those characters to life and for a world to evolve around them.
Cotto:What draws you to the realm of fiction as opposed to real-life literature?
James: There would be a number of reasons. In fiction, you have control over all that happens. It can have a happy ending, it can be sad. You choose what happens and when. I can create worlds that don't exist, and take people to places outside of their everyday lives, so they can forget who and what they are, if even for a moment. Fiction allows limitless possibilities. Your story can be short and sweet, or it can be epic and sprawling, it can be simple or incredibly complex.
I like that I am behind the steering wheel, but perhaps another valid reason would be too many times real life is quite depressing. To write a real-life story I have to have experienced it, or find someone who has. I do find stories that are more real to sometimes be something I don't want to think about or be reminded of. I want to escape that when I read.
Another reason would be they are much easier to write. I can create whatever I wish and don't have to spend weeks researching what happened, and worry I may have an inaccurate source. That's not to say I shy away from research, far from it. Even in my fictional stories, I've done a lot of research to slip in the odd real-life bit to go with the story. In my series The Darkening, I did a good amount of research to get a lot of facts as accurate as possible. And then there's how to make it palatable to the reader, if it deals with unpleasant real-life facts.
Cotto:Why do you think readers find your books to be worth reading?
James: That you would have to ask the readers. I try to write a story that excites me, something I can really delve into. To me the characters are as if alive. I know they are fictional, but I come to know them intimately, their every thought and desire, their quirks, their personalities. To me they are living in this fictional world I’ve created.
It’s as if I know them personally. So when a character is killed, I literally react as if a live person I’ve come to know and love is gone. There is a literal grieving process. I had to stop for quite a while, one time, and cry hard at their death. I know I am not alone in this. There are many who become attached to the characters, and I’ve had readers comment on how I’ve tugged at their heartstrings and they have become teary-eyed or misty from reading my stories. And I’ve had readers say they wanted to strangle some of my characters. It bothered them so much it made them hate the story.
Those characters were meant to be loathed and detested. They were supposed to be shocked or hate what was happening. That is exactly the effect the story was supposed to have. It was supposed to reach inside the reader and wrench at their emotions, whether good or bad. So if that is the way you are left feeling about those characters then I must be doing my job as a writer.
Perhaps that is what engages readers. Readers have told me my characters are relatable, and that my description helps to create a mood, a feeling, that it makes a scene come alive in their minds.
Cotto:Explain a bit of your life story. What about it might readers find particularly intriguing?
James: There’s not much to tell, really. I’m your average person who went to school and had a myriad of jobs. I’ve studied a variety of things, nothing special. I’m a red belt in Tae Kwon Do, I was a figure skater, I’m an artist, I’m a cake decorator, I’ve done a little bit of acting such as local plays, and I was an extra in a movie. I’ve studied the paranormal for many years and have experienced some very strange things that if I were to tell you, you wouldn’t believe. And you’d be surprised how much of what I put into my stories is true, that they happened to me, or were told to me first hand. Very surprised…