Did you see yourself becoming a writer as a child? If not, what did you dream of being?
Always. It’s been a dream since 7th grade, probably earlier. Books slung me into other worlds and I wanted to try to do the same thing for others that had been done for me. But it took me a looooooong time to break through my fear and actually try to write a novel—let alone show it to anyone.
How long did you write before you sold your first book?
I got serious about writing a novel in 2003. Finished ROOMS in late 2005. Went to my first writing conference in spring of ’06 and sold ROOMS in early summer ’08. That sounds fast (and will seem to contradict the answer to your next question) but it isn’t. Yes, I sold the first novel I ever tried to write and hit the bestseller list with it, but my degree is in Broadcast Journalism and I’ve owned an ad agency since ’94 so I’d been writing professionally and working on my craft for fourteen years when I sold ROOMS.
Many of the people who follow our blog are aspiring writers themselves. Can you share your favorite writing tip with them?
Pretend for a moment you’ve never played guitar. But you decide to learn and two years from now you’re pretty good. You know most of the chords and can sing play five or six songs well enough that your family and friends enjoy hearing you.
But do you think if you recorded a CD people would be ready to plunk down $12 for your album? Probably not. Yet many writers feel after working on a novel for two or three years they’re ready to be published. Maybe this is because we all write from a young age. But being able to put together comprehendible sentences is vastly different from being able to craft a compelling story. That’s a long way of saying, if you’re serious about writing, then be willing to put in the time to become a true artist, just as you would if you were a painter or a sculptor or a singer.
Now for the readers…many times, it’s easy for them to connect with the characters in a book, but not so much the authors themselves. Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.
I live in the Pacific Northwest, and love watching my teenage sons step into their glory; their abilities, their destiny, the things they love. My oldest son, Taylor (18) is a songwriter, entertainer, Micah (15) could be the next Ryan Seacrest. He’s got natural speaking ability and is a people magnet. We water ski together, go dirt biking, and backpacking.
Almost twenty five years ago I married my dream girl and without her I would not be where I am today on my writing journey.
Now that you are published, do you still experience rejections? If so, how are these rejections different or similar to the ones you received before becoming published?
Great question! Huge rejection. An author friend of mine said, “You think getting published means smooth sailing ever after. But the rejections continue, maybe not from editors and/or agents, but from the harshest critics of all, the public.”
I have over 100 five star reviews on Amazon for ROOMS, but I also have over 80 one star reviews. Now most of the one star reviews come from atheists who downloaded a free Kindle version of ROOMS during a short promotional period; atheists who weren’t too keen on finding God in a novel, but still the scathing comments can sting.
Tell us a little about your latest release.
Here are the first few lines from the back cover:
“God’s Book of Days. A record of the past, present, and future of every soul. Some say it’s fable. Others are sure it’s real, hidden somewhere on Earth ... if Cameron Vaux can’t find it, he will lose everything.”
In late 2000 my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I began to live the great sadness of seeing my father slip into the chains of Alzheimer's, and watched his memories fade away. I wondered where they were going. Was God catching them as they escaped his mind? Would they one day be restored to him? When I read Psalm 139:16 I realized God had already written down every moment of my dad's life in His book.
After that I started to wonder—what if that book was on earth? And what if we could find it and see our past, and our future? And what if my protagonist had to find it to keep his own mind from slipping away? Out of those thoughts came BOOK OF DAYS.
If you could only share one line from BOOK OF DAYS, which one would you choose and why?
The last line of the book. I re-read it and even though I wrote it, I get inspired. (Elizabeth here...I did a double-take, read this line twice, and even searched through Jim's interview to make sure I hadn't cut anything and, no, he's not going to tell us what that last line is. LOL!)
Writers often put things in their books that are very personal—like a funny story that happened to them, a spiritual truth they learned through difficulty, or even just a character trait that is uniquely theirs. Is there something in BOOK OF DAYS that only people close to you know is about you or someone you know?
I do a ton of this! Computer geeks would call these Easter Eggs, little hidden things that only people close to me would know. For example my protagonist’s name is Cameron Vaux. Cameron is the last name of my critique partner who was a huge part of shaping BOOK OF DAYS. Vaux is the last name of one of my closest friends since ’79. The car in BOOK OF DAYS is a friend’s. I use lines that are in-jokes only friends will understand.
Readers often talk a lot about the hero and heroine of a story, but today I’d like to know something about your villain. Does he or she have a redeeming quality? Why or why not?
Passion. I think passion is the juice of life—without it nothing epic is ever created or discovered. So even though my villain is evil and his deep passion is twisted, I can respect his motivation.
What kind of research did you have to do for this book? Can you share some articles or website links you found particularly helpful?
Oh no, the truth is about to be revealed. I did very little research for ROOMS and for BOOK OF DAYS. I’ve vacationed for years in Cannon Beach, Oregon (the setting for ROOMS and I’ve vacationed in Central Oregon (the setting for BOOK OF DAYS) so most of the research was “done” years before I started the novels.
Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
I’m finishing edits on my third novel, THE CHAIR which is about a young antiques store owner who is forced to confront his greatest fears and greatest failure when he’s given an artifact that might be a legendary healing chair made by Jesus Christ.
I’ve started brainstorming on my fourth novel, BACKSPACE which will release summer 2012.
I’m developing a series of online marketing courses for novelist's who need to be more proficient and effective at marketing their novels.
And I’m working on an ancillary product tied into ROOMS that will release at the same time as THE CHAIR.
As you can probably guess, I’m not sleeping much these days. But I’m loving all the projects.
The most common thing I hear when people learned I’ve published a book is, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Faced with this statement, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in this business?
A woman once told world renowned violinist Isaac Stern, “I’d give my life to play like you.” He turned to her and said, “I did.”
It seems insurmountable—climbing the publishing mountain, but most people give up. They’re not willing to work like a maniac and put in exhausting hours learning the craft and the business, they’re not teachable, and they aren’t willing to throw their dreams out for the world to crush. So out of 400 aspiring authors at a conference only ten will still be slogging down the publishing path three or seven or ten years later. The ones that stay on the journey have a much greater chance of being published.
What is the one question you were afraid I would ask…and how would you answer?
What’s your greatest fear? Seeing my boys grow up. On one hand I’m thrilled to see them growing into amazing young men, but it’s bitter sweet to see them on the cusp of leaving home and losing that time of being under the same roof together. Yet when I think of the years to come and richness they will bring the fear vanishes and I am filled with joy and anticipation.
What a fun interview. Thank you so much for being with us today!
To learn more about James and his work, visit him at:
On Facebook: James L. Rubart
On Twitter: @jimrubart
James is giving away a copy of his book Book of Days. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!