Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Q&A with author James Litherland

Q ~ Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Alright, if it’s just a bit. I love reading and learning. I enjoyed school and I enjoy novels, especially genre fiction. I switched majors a number of times in college because I enjoyed taking a variety of classes and wasn’t concerned about what I’d do after I graduated. So I ended up with the degree I earned based on taking the classes I wanted – which was the incredibly (not) useful B.S. in international studies (with minor certification in Asian studies, because of a lot of Japanese courses.) After I graduated, I traveled to Japan (where I’d spent some time with my family) and stayed on my own, exploring, until I ran out of money. I spent a lot of time walking the streets of Kyoto and running around the mountains.

Q ~ What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Read, eat, and sleep. Does that sound too boring? I’m so busy with writing these days I don’t have time for much else. I only spend as much time reading as I do (about 3 novels a week) by using the excuse that it’s also work in its way. (And I feel I’ve already lived several exciting lifetimes, so boring isn’t bad.)

Q ~ If you were stuck in a dingy floating in the middle of the ocean, who and what would you want with you and why?

I’d rather be alone, with as many good books as the dingy will hold. And I’d want sunglasses – the glare off the water would interfere with reading. And a flashlight for at night.

Q ~ What is your favourite electronic gadget?

Like a lot science fiction writers, I tend to be a late adopter. Just last year I finally got one of those cell phone things everybody’s been talking about. Or does the computer count? I’ve been in love with computers since the day I first got my hands on a Commodore 64.

Q ~ How do you think people perceive authors?

I only know how I think of them, as a kind of telepathic voice whispering in my imagination from far away. Are you absolutely sure authors really exist?

Q ~ What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?

That would probably have to be “Faith, hope, and love abide. These three, but the greatest of these is love.” Because those words give grace, and if you don’t have love in your heart, you have nothing.

Q ~ What are you currently reading?

Mostly I’m making my way through Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver mysteries and Catherine Aird’s Detective Sloan series, and then I just read the first Mistborn book and have the next two in the trilogy queued up. I’m also reading Mori Hiroshi’s G-series mysteries, but it takes me more time and effort to get through books in Japanese, so that’s just a chapter here and there as I have time.

Q ~ Who are some of your favorite authors?

Where do I cut off the list? I’ll start with Agatha Christie and Isaac Asimov and continue with Carol O’Connell and Robert Jordan and Connie Willis and Rex Stout and Emma Lathen and Brandon Sanderson and Marion Zimmer Bradley and James D. Doss and Dorothy Gilman and Alan Bradley and Helen MacInnes and Georgette Heyer and Mori Hiroshi and Charlotte MacLeod/Alisa Craig and how much time do you have?

Q ~ How did you begin writing? Was there a single catalyst or a series of events?

I’d always loved reading, so I tried to write a novel myself and realized I had no idea how what I was doing. Then I started studying the craft of storytelling. That was over thirty years ago in junior high, and I think I’m finally learning something. It was the changes in the publishing industry and the opportunity to reach readers through the internet and self-publishing that made me start taking it seriously as a profession rather than just a hobby.

Q ~ Do you have any writing rituals that you follow? What is your go-to snack while writing?

My only ritual is to pray every time I sit down to work. I simply can’t do this without help, so I ask for whatever I need – inspiration, self-discipline, focus, etc. As for a snack, there’s nothing that can compete with peanut butter and chocolate and (depending on the weather) a cold glass or a hot mug of caramel milk to keep me going.

Q ~ When you write, do you lay out a solid outline before beginning, or start writing and iron out the kinks later?

I’ve tried doing a detailed outline, but that doesn’t work for me. I need to discover the story as I go to keep my momentum through the first draft. I start by developing the background to the basic idea. Once I know the setting and the rules for how things work, once I know who the characters are and what big challenges they’ll face, I just start the story from where things look to be getting really interesting. And I keep going to the end – by then I understand the characters and how the tale needs to be told, and I enjoy the process of rewriting and revising and editing as I try to make it the best I can.

Q ~ When you write, do you try to reach a specific word count or simply write until you are done?
As long as I’m sitting down at the computer and actually writing, I don’t worry about how much I get done. But the words need to keep coming. I pause when I’m not sure what happens next or how to handle it. Then I take a catnap or exercise or have that snack while my mind works it out. I stop when I’m simply too tired to do any more.

Q ~ Were you involved in the cover design process for your novels? Can you tell us a bit about it?

I’ve created my own covers. I don’t have any training in art or design, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted either, and it showed in my original covers (which you can find on goodreads.) Then I had a revelation of what the right covers for my books should look like, and everything fell into place. Even without knowing what I was doing, all I had to do was figure out how to make a graphic that would look like what I saw in my head. And I’m really happy with how the new covers turned out. No doubt a proper artist could do better, but these suit my stories, and I like dealing with all the little details myself.

Q ~ What inspired you to write the Slowpocalypse series? The Watchbearers series?

Reading a lot of news and worrying about what’s going on in the world is what got me started on Slowpocalypse. I wondered what if, instead of some gigantic calamity, our modern civilization suffered a death by a thousand cuts? Would people notice how bad things were really getting before it became too late to do something about it? I spent years making notes and developing the background of how our society might slowly disintegrate past the point of no return and how people would react. I imagined lots of people heroically but futilely trying to stem the tide of destruction and decided I didn’t want to tell their stories – I wanted to see what happened when certain people gave up on our current civilization and began to build for the future, to prepare for a new society to rise from the ashes of the old.

With Watchbearers, I liked the idea of seeing our modern world through the eyes of people from the future who’ve come to study us. The question then was what that future was like, since it would inform who those characters were and how they viewed us – and I decided to look to a far future I imagined would result from what will be shaping up in the Slowpocalypse series. That gives me something to work toward for the one series at the same time as it gives me background for the other. (Since I did all that work developing the future history of the Slowpocalypse, why waste it?) And it gave me a broad scope for telling diverse kinds of stories with characters in various time periods – though those characters have pretty much taken over and are doing what they want.

Q ~ You’ve written and published multiple works. Which is your favourite and what inspired you to write it?

I have to say Millennium Crash, because of how the details of the different plotlines with the different characters in separate times and places ended up intricately intertwining. I didn’t plan it that way, but everything fit together so nicely I had a hard time believing it. I was inspired by how I see the nature of time, which I can’t explain, but I thought I might be able to show it. I suppose it’s no surprise the story structure worked out so serendipitously.

Q ~ What is your process for choosing character names?

Ha, this will probably sound insane, but these characters are like real people in my mind. I don’t choose their names – they already have their own, and I just have to find out what they are.

Q ~ What characters did you find yourself especially drawn to and why?

Kat (from Slowpocalypse) and Nye (from Watchbearers) are the most fun for me to write, because I find them fascinating and want to get to know them better. Trying to understand what makes a character tick is what draws me into their heads – what I find (or don’t find) there is what will (or won’t) keep me coming back to discover more.

Q ~ Do you have anything in the works at the moment? Care to give us a hint about it?

As I’m finishing Watchbearers book 3, which is my first stab at a straight whodunit, I’m starting work on the first book of a new series set in a future Japan. It’ll be a bit dystopian but will still be fundamentally optimistic. After that it’s back to the Slowpocalypse. There’s a Kat and Tony story I want to tell in the aftermath of book 3 (Compromised Inside) and another novel with a new cast of characters in a different setting. (And people paying attention to the prologue of Certain Hypothetical can probably guess where.)

Q ~ If you could give aspiring authors one piece of advice, what would it be?

There’s no substitute for sitting down and just writing. It doesn’t matter how good it is, the practice is what’s important. You can delete it all or go back and rewrite it so it’s unrecognizable, but working with words needs to become something you’re doing all the time, like breathing. I wasted a lot of years only writing when I was in ‘the zone’ or the ‘right space’. Now I’m committed to putting in the time every day and writing no matter how I feel. My secret is to only write what excites me enough to get the words flowing. If you don’t find a story or a scene so fascinating that you just have to get it down, why write it? (And why would anyone be interested in reading it?) So I no longer worry about that big blank space. I just start thinking on the page and pretty soon an hour has passed and I’ve got a thousand words or so and I’m ready for that peanut butter and chocolate snack.

About the author:

James Litherland is a graduate of the University of South Florida who now resides as a Virtual Hermit in the wilds of West Tennessee.

He's lived various places and done a number of jobs - he's been an office worker and done hard manual labor, worked (briefly) in the retail and service sectors, and he's been an instructor. But through all that, he's always been a writer.

He's a Christian who tries to walk the walk (and not talk much.)

Visit James Litherland's blog/website Outpost Stories and signup to receive Outpost Alerts or subscribe to get the blog by email. And stop by his Amazon Author page or Goodreads profile to say hi or ask a question.

EVERYTHING changes when FURC Director Jonathan Miles seals the fourteen square mile compound home to the Federal University and Research Complex and the community that supports it, cutting them all off from the slowly crumbling civilization on the outside—and making them a target of those who want the facilities for themselves.

The director’s daughter Katherine returns to work for FURC Security with a promotion because of the crisis, eager to face any challenge—but as tensions among the residents rise, she encounters greater peril than she had imagined.

David Belue gives up his classes to help install additional defenses, but his curiosity leads him to discover a threat inside the community, endangering his life—because an enemy within waits for just the right moment to betray them all.

EVERYTHING goes wrong when the first research expedition from the future lands in New York City in the summer of 2000. Instead of arriving together, the time-travelers are separated and scattered across the ancient metropolis. Even worse, the professor in charge of the expedition is killed when he materializes in the middle of a busy street—and the device he carries to take them back home is destroyed in the accident. Their project in a shambles before they have even started, now they find themselves stranded in the past—and their troubles are only beginning.

After seeing her mentor die right before her eyes, Team Leader Anya attempts to salvage something from the disaster, starting with rounding up the rest of the travelers. She doesn’t know it yet, but even that much has already become an impossible task.

Research Assistant Samantha finds her own team leader just in time to witness one of her colleagues stab him to death. The only witness to the killing, she chases the culprit through the city—but the murderer has the perfect plan for escaping justice.

Dazed and disoriented in East Harlem, Team Leader Page is being mugged when graduate student Matt Walker runs to her rescue—but playing the white knight will plunge him into improbable peril and lead him into a trap from which there is no escape.

Enter to win with James Litherland and his 2 fantastic series.

3 lucky winners will have their choice of an ecopy (mobi or epub) of the 1st 3 novels in the Watchbearers series (Millenium Crash, Centenary Separation, and Uncertain Murder) OR the 1st 3 novels in the Slowpocalypse series (Certain Hypothetical, Threat Multiplication, Compromised Inside).

Contest is open internationally, where applicable by law.
Entries close at 11:59pm May 1/15.
Winners will be drawn May 2/15.
Winners will be notified via email to the email provided to the giveaway and will have 72h to claim their prize or another winner will be drawn.

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