Awesome newbie author Nick James was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions for us! His first book, Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars, hit shelves on Thursday September 8th, 2011. Click here for the Lytherus review.
1) Hi Nick, and thanks for joining us! Skyship Academy was a great book, and I really enjoyed reading it. Where did you get the idea for the unique premise?
It all started with that opening scene. I had it so vividly pictured in my mind, and the details really started coming from there on. I had been playing around with an Academy-in-the-sky idea for years prior to writing the book. It was just finding the story needed to make it all click. So much of the specific world-building came during revision, but the basic sequence of events were there from the beginning. A lot of the inspiration for the Fringes (a dry, desert-like setting where much of the action takes place), came from Central Washington, where I was living at the time of writing the first draft. In fact, the small town I lived in even features prominently toward the end of the book!
That came pretty early on, once I realized that the story was going to demand a shift in perspective to work. It was important to me that readers understood both sides of the world and related to both of the main characters. I wanted their chapters to be as different from each other as possible, which is where the tense/person switches came from. Jesse’s a lot more in your face with his thoughts and feelings, while Cassius is far more removed and methodical. Their characters really drove the writing style more than anything.
3) One of my favorite parts of the story was the internal struggles of both Cassius and Jesse, and how they each chose to deal with it in their own way. Without giving too much away for those who haven’t had the pleasure of reading this book, tell us about how you developed their internal struggle.
You’re right. Both characters start the story in vastly different states than they end it in. Without getting too specific, it’s almost a direct switch. As one character gains, the other loses. Given that Jesse and Cassius are so different, it really interested me how each would approach the problems thrown at them throughout the book. One of the book’s biggest themes is self-discovery and learning that you can’t rely on other people to dictate who you are as a person. Much of the internal struggle was focused to lead to this realization.
Once I had established the world of SKYSHIP, I really enjoyed playing around in it. It’s fun for me to hit as many different facets and places as I can. As far as characters, I really enjoyed writing Jesse’s portions of the book. He has such an honest, sarcastic way of narrating the story. It’s always fun to write comedic stuff like that. But of course, I love all my characters!
5) Do you think you’ll stay in the Sci-Fi genre for a while, or do you think you’ll dabble in fantasy, horror, or general fiction?
My work tends to mix genres. I personally love stories that contain elements of sci-fi, fantasy, horror and realistic fiction. I think everything I write in the near future will at least contain elements of sci-fi, but I don’t necessarily put limits on myself as far as genre.
6) All writers have their routines. What works for you? Take us through a typical writing day.
For me, there is no typical writing day. I have a day job, so most of my writing happens in the evenings and weekends. I like to go out to a coffee shop or book store, where I’m free from distractions. I’m very easily distracted! Some days I’ll come in with a word count goal, others I’ll just see how it goes. It gets done either way. I’m all about not making it stressful. Stress shows up in the writing.
7) How has the writing process developed for you over time? Did you just sit down one day and crank out Skyship Academy, or was there a trial an error process? Any classes, online info, or writing books you’ve studied to fine-tune your craft?
I’ve been writing novels for about a decade now. Four of those have been what I like to call “practice novels.” None were necessarily publishable, but they taught me a lot and helped me hone my craft. Like those early works, SKYSHIP began not because I thought, “ooh, I’m gonna get this baby published!” but because I really enjoyed writing as a hobby. I took some writing classes in college, but most of my instruction (especially during the querying process) came from online sources, forums and other people.
8 ) This is a question I enjoy asking all the authors I interview: outline or freestyle writing?
Freestyle, with a vague outline in my head or (sometimes) on paper. I bore too easily for super detailed outlines.
9) What’s on your reading shelf at the moment?
I just started Dragon’s Tooth by N. D. Wilson, and I’m really looking forward to The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
10 What projects are you working on now?
I’m adding the finishing touches to the SKYSHIP sequel, which will be out next year. The title will be revealed soon. Beyond that, I’ve got a secret, unrelated project that I’m very excited about.
thanks Nick! Want to know more about Nick James? Check him out here at www.nickjamesbooks.com.