James A. Moore is the author of over twenty novels, inlcuding the critically acclaimed
Fireworks, Under the Overtree, Blood Red, Deeper, the Serenity Falls trilogy, Blind Shadows, and his most recent volume of the Seven Forges series, The Blasted Lands. He has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker award and spent three years as an officer in the Horror Writers Association, first as Secretary and later as Vice President. He cut his teeth in the industry writing for Marvel Comics and authoring over many role-playing supplements for White Wolf Games, including Berline by Night, Land of 1,000,000 Dreams and The Get of Fenris tribe. He also penned the White Wolf novels Vampire: House of Secrets and Werewolf: Hellstorm. He currently lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.
Hi James, welcome back to Bookwraiths and thank you for taking your time to answer these few questions.
Who is your favorite author in the fantasy genre?
That’s like asking what flavor of chocolate I like best. There really are a lot of variables. Current crop I’ll say Joe Abercrombie. Back in the day? Fritz Leiber with a healthy side of Michael Moorcock. Honorable mention goes to Lloyd Alexander.
What is your favorite fantasy book?
That’s easy. THIEVES WORLD, edited by George R. R. Martin. Great writing, great series, several strong voices united in one damned fine read.
The best book you have read this year is ________?
SNOWBLIND by Christopher Golden.
Having been a writing of comics and horror in your career, was there any particular reason you decided to write a fantasy series?
The idea wouldn’t leave me alone. I’ve said before and probably will straight through to my deathbed, that I don’t pick a genre. I write a story. The rest of it will sort itself out.
What was the inspiration behind the Seven Forges series?
I rather like the idea of an immovable object getting hit by an unstoppable force. I got it into my head one day while driving to work that it would be interesting to see the equivalent of knights in armor against people who had been trained in entirely different sorts of combat. I mean a truly alien assault from something that makes no sense to their way of thinking. The thought just sort of settled in and started whispering to me.
How long was the idea for book one, Seven Forges, floating around in your head before you actually put it down onto paper?
I made notes about this three years before I put word one down on paper. I was planning to work out something for it for a while but frankly personal issues got in the way for a spell and it was longer still before I could sit down and start the series proposal. That, by the way, is something I almost never do. I usually write the bloody book and then worry about the proposal. This was the exception to the rule for me.
Favorite horror movie of all time?
Family scares: POLTERGEIST.
Nostalgia kick: THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.
Flat out affective horror? DOG SOLDIERS.
What, if anything, was the seed for the Sa’ba Taaor and their mysterious culture?
I’d say I was trying to come up with something truly original, but you know when I talked to a few friends about concept they came back with, “Oh, so like the Spartans?”
So I guess it’s fair to say the Spartans were a part of it. But, honestly, I wanted a race that has no fear of pain or injury or death. I also wanted to justify that lack of fear. They have literally been hammered at until fear of pain and injury isn’t even a part of them any more.
I’ve read some reviewers who have hypothesized that the clash of the Sa’ba Taalor and the Fellein cultures in the novels is a metaphor to the clash between European explorers and Native Americans in the real world’s past. Any truth to this belief your work has this hidden message, or are those fans reading too much into the series?
Any hidden messages have been interpreted by someone else and not added by me. Again, though, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. If anything, that means I’m doing it right in my eyes. I want people to fill in any gaps they find and I want them to consider the possibilities. I have written about Native Americans and their conflicts with the Europeans who came into the area, but it certainly wasn’t my intent in this case. I can see the similarities. Like I said, the big thing for me was two cultures who are effectively completely alien to each other having to get into a bloody war.
I also need to emphasize that I really don’t plot out much of anything before I write, so it’s possible that there are a lot of factors getting into my head and adding themselves in without me consciously being aware of them.
How many books do you tentatively have planned in the Seven Forges?
I could easily see six or more in the series. For the first major war? Four. Two have been finished. Now I want to have fun wreaking havoc and watching what the characters do with what I throw at them.
Any desire to write a novel or series about what happened in this world’s shadowy past and caused the Blasted Lands?
I’d love to. Given the chance I might even get around to it. I think there’s a story there that’s worth telling but I also like the fact that most of that story is hidden in shadows and mist currently.
Did you draw a map of the world of the Sa’ba Taalor, or is it just in your head?
Just in my head. It’s very likely that I’m going to break down and draw a proper map in the near future.
Any intentions of putting a map into the books in the future?
And that would be the reason for drawing the map. I might even put up a few maps online if it comes to that because several different areas of the world will be explored in future books. Hell, we haven’t even seen the entire Taalor Valley as yet.
As a self-proclaimed bike lover, what type of motorcycle would be your dream ride?
Big damned Harley Davidson, of course. Maybe a Fat Bob.
Is there anything you cut from either Seven Forges or The Blasted Lands prior to publication that you now kick yourself for doing or is there something you later wished you would have done different in either book?
Nothing at all got cut from either book. As you know I added several stories on the side. None of the stories were integral to the novels, and I didn’t think they were necessary for the entire arc of the storyline, but I liked the notions and so I wrote them and sent them out at different sites so people could get a sample of the world and toy with whether or not they wanted to try out the bigger narratives.
That said, I think we have to go back to the map thing, because several people have grumbled about the lack of one on the books.
Also, there are always things I’d do different in the books I write. All of them. But once the piece is done I don’t let myself worry too much about it. They either sink or swim without any extra help from me. The good news is that Lee Harris did a brilliant job as an editor and so did Marc Gasciogne. They helped a great deal.
Which one of the characters in the series is most like you?
Probably Drask. He tends to study things before acting. I would rather weigh options for a while before I make a decision.
Nope. At least not consciously. Again, I had a few trusted friends suggest a link to the Spartans, but I think that’s mostly because of the exhaustive training the Sa’ba Taalor go through.
I’ve read you work at Starbucks, so why doesn’t coffee play more of a major role in all the characters life? I don’t recall Tuskandu sitting around the camp fire gently holding onto his cup of joe.
I have worked for Starbucks for several years now. I love their coffee, I love the company’s mentality on many things and the benefits rock. It also stops me from becoming a complete hermit. I’m fairly certain that the world where the Fellein and the Sa’ba Taalor live is not ready for a heavily caffeinated Tuskandru. It’s that sort of folly that likely lead to the creation of the Blasted Lands.
What is the hardest beverage order at Starbucks to remember and correctly concoct?
One of my regulars likes her drink very,very specifically: A grand, non-fat latte, steamed to 110 degrees, with one pump of mocha, two pumps of peppermint, stirred, in a vente cup, with whipped cream to the top and finished with caramel brulle toppings.
You try fitting all of that on the side of a cup.
Do you love, hate, or feel indifferent to the major role social media plays in the success of novels in this era?
It’s a double edges sword, really. On the one side I can interact with my peers, with my fans, with readers in general and I can promote my works with a much smaller amount of cash flow. That’s a good thing, as I haven’t exactly broken into the millionaire range yet. Having resources like Facebook and Goodreads out there are extremely beneficial.
On the other hand, yes, I work full time and I write full time and doing interviews, writing guest blogs, handling my presence on several different sites can drain a lot of time away. I think you to learn to balance them out properly and that can be a challenge.
And then there’s the online reviews. Now THAT is a double edged sword….
How did the publication process for Seven Forges go and how long did it take?
Well, I submitted the requested number of chapters and a simple outline. In this case that was five chapters, a quick synopsis and a more detailed outline, and then I promptly went on to other projects. I honestly didn’t expect to hear back any time soon and I had deadlines. Then the folks over at Angry Robot wanted to see the rest of the novel. That was a bit of a crunch because I hadn’t finished it. I sat down, ignored the social media for a few weeks and hammered out a first draft.
They made an offer a few weeks later. It was really a very pleasant experience for me.
I have had an absolute blast working with Angry Robot. I mean that. They’ve been delightful to work with on so many levels that it’s hard to define. That social media insanity? They make that easier. They actually send out review copies and they actually EDIT the manuscript. That all sounds mild, but it’s not. Charles L. Grant used to say that publishing houses liked to “advertise the Cadillacs,” meaning the only books they did any promotion for were the books that, ironically, needed the least help. Stephen King? George R. R. Martin? Sure! We got a budget for that! Let’s get some copies sold! Everyone else went to the curb. Every book Angry Robot puts out gets the same treatment or close enough that it doesn’t matter. They treat the books and the authors involved with respect. That’s as good as it gets. So, yeah, kind of loving them.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring fantasy authors – besides writing as much as possible?
Yes. FINISH THE DAMNED THING. Number one mistake new writers make, in my honest opinion, is trying to write too many things at once. Rather than finish that novel, they put the novel aside to write a screenplay, or they write a novella, or they move on to another novel. They get to chapter seven, realize they made a mistake in chapter three, go back and rewrite chapter three, which means that chapter five is now completely wrong, so they work on chapter five and eliminate half of what was so important in chapter four and go back and fix that but now the very first encounter between Character A and Character M no longer makes sense so that has to be mended which in turn leads to….
Just finish the damned thing. Listen, any edits should nbe done after the fact. Editing while you are writing slows down the creative process. Have a problem with chapter seven? Write yourself a note. MAKE A PASSAGE IN THE CHAPTER IN BOLD, ITALICS and UNDERLINED and then move on to chapter eight. The first draft is just that, the first draft. Trust me, you’re gonna be editing the bloody thing anyway, so save the changes for the editing process and keep the writing momentum going.
In mythology Sisyphus was condemned to rolling a boulder up a hill and having it roll down just as he reached the top, thus never letting him complete the task put before him. Stopping halfway through a first draft has the same effect on most people.
Weirdest thing a fan of your books has asked you to sign?
That would be a breast. The lady in question wanted my signature tattooed on her bosom. It was a flattering request. My wife said “No.” Pretty much put an end to that request. 😉