Before I started my journal The Black Lion, I was taking an undergraduate course on publishing and editing; and here, I learned what would become the beginnings of online journal management. I’ve since documented my overall journey to where I am now, including what I did during my graduate years, when I was researching digital communications.
For the undergraduate course, I was part of a team of seven and we had a genre fiction journal called Parallaxed Journal. We’ve all since disbanded to greater things, but for that journal, I interviewed author James Matlack Raney about his expertise and experience in self-publishing, and about his debut Jim Morgan And The King of Thieves.
JM Raney is a marvelously talented and intelligent person — how could I let his words be hidden? His knowledge is too much to pass up. Below is the interview dubbed the “self-Publishing Guide.” For part 1 of the interview, where JM Raney talks about self-publishing, click here.
— Christina Lydia
Interview With James Matlack Raney, Author Of Jim Morgan And The King Of Thieves
Why do you want to be a writer?
I suppose the simplest reason is that I love writing! I find so much joy in taking the pictures and thoughts in my mind and making them real through the power of words. I guess if I were talk about why I want to write as a profession though, I would say it would simply be for the chance to add my voice to the human conversation – a small voice, granted, but a tiny part of the chorus nevertheless.
What is the first thing that you wrote that made you feel and think that writing is what you want to do?
Well, the first piece I ever wrote with the intention of actually doing something “real” with it was a screenplay that may have been the most horrid screenplay ever to grace Microsoft Word (I didn’t even know what Final Draft was back then!) My first novel wasn’t much better to be honest, but I still enjoyed the journey from the first word to “The End” so much that I knew I was hooked for life.
How important to you is self-discipline in writing?
It’s nearly everything! Truthfully, it may even be more important than talent. To begin with, you must have the patience to sit down and write 80,000 words the first time, which is a challenge for a beginner, I can assure you! Then you must be willing to go back and write over those same 80,000 words again, and again…and again – until your story says just what you want it to say. That takes discipline, but, as hard as it is, I think that’s the part I’ve come to enjoy the most.
When you came into our class you mentioned how Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves is a very special and personal story, one that you really wanted to tell. What advice can you tell writers about sticking to a story they want to tell?
Know what you want to say. I think it’s fairly easy to come up with the type of story you want to tell: action, adventure, historical, romance, etc. But what gives those stories their meaning and their heart is what you want to say through your plot and characters. It doesn’t have to be deep or even especially unique, nor does it necessarily need to be any sort of political or religious message to beat people over the heads with – but I believe at least some meaning needs to be there.
How close is Jim Morgan’s character to your personality? What are five attributes you can find from his character that reflects your personal philosophy?
Wow, that’s a tough one! Jim is a character in transition, so really he possesses a lot of the characteristics I’ve had throughout my life (even the bad ones!) At the start he’s very naïve, selfish, and overly sensitive, but as the adventure goes on, Jim finds a real love for his friends and the courage to stand up for them. While I’m not so proud of the first three, I like to think I have some of the latter two in me as well.
I know that Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves is classified as a middle-grade novel. Yet there are very grown-up moments that young adults and adults can understand perfectly. For your sequel, who is your potential audience going to be? Will you still aim for a middle-grade novel?
When I write, I usually just try to create the best novel I can for any reader. Certainly, I’m trying to write the type of novel I loved when I was a boy, so I won’t stray too far from that audience. But the sequel does grow a bit darker and has quite a bit more action, so I’m hoping to keep the audience engaged as they grow up and perhaps even reel in older readers as the series progresses.
What will readers look forward to in the sequel of Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves? Will we know more about Jim’s father and Captain Dread Steele? Is Jim Morgan going to be older or about the same age?
About a year has passed between the first novel and the start of the sequel, so Jim is almost thirteen. If I were to use one word to describe the next book it would be “more:” more pirates, more magic, more adventure! However, I’m especially excited for this novel because I think I’ve been able to include all of that fun, popcorn stuff and yet still keep the emotional center intact, and those are really the best kind of stories.
In less than 5 sentences, how would you tell your readers what Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves is about?
I think I can do it one! Jim Morgan is the story of a young boy who loses his father, yet still tries as hard as he can to grow up into a man of whom his father would have been proud. That’s the story; everything else is just for fun!
What advice would you give people who would want to grasp the skill of writing?
Well, first start by reading as much as you can! You won’t even know what you want your writing to sound like until you’ve read that first novel or short story or poem that’s whisked you off into its own world. Read, read, read! But for the writing part I suggest this: you need to write, but start small. Start with short stories to get warmed up and then work your way slowly toward longer and longer pieces. Learn about story structure and the art and craft of writing! There are so many books out there on those subjects. You don’t have to read them all, but give yourself at least a basic education! And lastly, find a group of trusted reviewers that will give you BRUTALLY HONEST feedback. Then take that feedback to heart and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite!
¡PSST! Interview © 2013 Christina Lydia