James Hershey Jr.
Where were you born/where did you grow up, did you have an easy childhood?
I was born in Woodstock Virginia and spent the first few years of my life in my hometown of Strasburg Virginia. My father joined the air force when I was very young and I grew up on air bases all over the world. We moved every four years so I was able to experience many different cultures and meet all kinds of interesting people. I would say that I had an amazing childhood.
Give some background information about yourself, are you generally an optimistic person or pessimistic?
I am 40 years old married with a daughter. I write horror novels and teach self defense. I am generally an optimistic person and I truly believe that there is nothing in this world you cannot achieve if you believe in yourself and are willing to work hard enough to make it happen.
Francis: Tell us your latest news, what are your current projects?
My new horror novel I AM LEGION is available on kindle and in paperback on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and Books a Million websites. My upcoming novel Call Of The Wind Spirits will be released before Christmas and will be available on the same sites.
Francis: When and why did you begin writing? How does your present day work compare to what you wrote then?
I have been writing stories for as long as I can remember. Reading was always a big deal in my house and I learned very young. I remember reading Dr. Seuss and The Bernstein Bears in kindergarden when the other kids hadn’t even learned their letters yet. By the time I had reached first grade I was already enjoying the adventures of Huckleberry Fin and Tom Sawyer. I began writing shortly after I began reading. Writing was always an escape for me and a way to live out the adventures that I had always dreamt of. My present novels are leaps and bounds ahead of the stories I would write as a young child.
Francis : What genre do you consider books to be? Have you ever thought of writing in another genre, for example if you wrote a Children’s book, how would it turn out?
My books are horror but also contain a lot of action and suspense as well as plenty of drama and humor. If you had to call my work only one genre I guess it would be horror but my novels contain influences from all genres and that tends to blur the lines a little. I have written in several different genres and have actually written 3 children’s books that I haven’t published yet. I think the genre I write in doesn’t matter as much as the story I am telling because no matter what genre it is telling a story is still telling a story.
Francis: Have you ever been flattered by a comparison to a well-known author or by a review?
The short answer is absolutely. I am always flattered and grateful when someone reads my works and has nice things to say about it. The idea that something I wrote, something that came from my head has the power to affect someone else’s life and move them in a very real way is a powerful responsibility and a great honor. I work very hard to make my novels the very best that I can possibly produce. My job is to allow my readers to forget about the real world and escape all of their problems while they are reading. During the time they spend in my novels they can leave reality behind and live in my world where the rent is not due or the phone bill is not late or whatever problem is killing their joy. I want the experience to be that real for my readers and when I read a review or comment that tells me I have been successful in that goal it is a very gratifying thing for me.
Francis: What inspired you to write your first book?
It has always been my dream to write books for a living. For most of my life I was held back by an overwhelming fear that I would not be able to ever write a full novel. One day I was talking to my daughter and telling her how there was nothing that she couldn’t do if she believed in herself and worked hard enough and it just clicked in my head. I realized that I had not been practicing what I was preaching. I decided to put it to the test and see if I actually could do it if I believed and worked hard enough. What I discovered was that the fear was way harder to overcome that the task of actually writing the novel. Once I realized that I was fully capable of writing a novel and it was only the false fear that had been holding me back I was off to the races.
Francis : Do you have a trademark writing style, what makes your work recognizable?
My books have a lot of intensity in them. My work is different from other books because my process for creating them is so different. I do not sit and try to think of a good idea for a book. All of my stories come directly from my dreams. I dream a different scene of the book every night until I have the basic skeleton of the story. I know I have the whole skeleton because the dreams begin repeating themselves. Once I have the skeleton I sit down and begin to write. I don’t plan out what I am going to write or do any real planning of any kind. I sit down to a blank screen and blinking cursor and just surrender myself to whatever it is that compels me to tell these stories. I don’t consciously follow the skeleton from my dreams when I am writing I only keep it in the back of my mind and just let the story do what it wants to do. I am just as surprised as my readers as I am writing my novels because I honestly don’t know what is going to happen until I see it on my computer screen.
Francis : Do you write short stories? If so how do they differ to your novels?
Yes I have a novella called The Cage on Amazon now. It is different from my novels only by length. Obviously with a short story you cannot go into as much detail as you can in a full length novel but I believe the spirit is still the same in both.
Francis: How did you come up with the titles of your books?
The titles of my books come to me while I am writing the book. I don’t try and come up with a good title I just let it come to me naturally while I write.
Francis: Are there any messages in your novels, if so what?
My novels are full of messages ranging from the duality of man and the different shades of grey that exist between good and evil to the real power of hope and love. Some of my favorite messages are not everything is always as it seems and love truly does conquer all.
Francis: How much of your books are based on reality, how much are based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My books come directly from my dreams but they are influenced by my own experiences and life. I have never consciously tried to base a character on a real person from my life but after I have finished a book I can see bits and pieces of people I know in real life in my characters. I have heard from some of my readers that they see pieces of themselves or people they know in my characters as well. That is a good thing because it makes your characters relatable.
Francis : What books have most influenced your life the most? Are some of these books, different to your own genre of writing?
I have a wide variety of influences that not only span genres but leap from fiction to non-fiction as well. My life and the way I see the world has been greatly influenced by the bible, books by masters in my own genre like King and Koontz, as well as history books, and my guilty obsession is dragon lance books. I just can’t put them down lol.
Francis: Are you sometimes shocked by some of your own writing/ideas?
Oh absolutely. As I said before I experience my novels in much the same way my readers do so the moments in my novels that shock my readers have a tendency to shock me as well. There have been many times when I finished writing a paragraph and just stopped and said “wow, I can’t believe that just happened.”
Francis: Do you see writing as a career?
Writing has always been my dream so yes I definitely see this as a career and something I dedicate my life to doing. I feel like there is no real choice for me. I feel like I have to write like I am compelled to write. I would describe it more as a calling than a career.
Francis : Is there a character in one of your books that really stands out for you? Could he or she be compared to any well-known literature character?
My favorite character so far is Heather from my new Horror novel I AM LEGION. She has the perfect combination of fun, danger, and just don’t give a damn that I love in a character. I can’t really think of anyone to compare her too because it is not usually a woman that is a main character in a serial killer novel. For some reason it is men that dominate that particular type of novel. I think women would have the sassiness and could be every bit as scary as men. Not only did I make a woman my main killer character but she is my favorite character I have ever had.
Francis: Were your parents avid readers, have your family played a part in your writing career? How do they feel about your work?
My whole family loves to read. My mother read to my brother and I from the time we were still in the womb until we started reading for ourselves. I remember times when the power would go out and we would all be sitting around reading our books with candles burning and the shades open for light. The rest of the neighborhood was losing it’s mind from boredom but we were all off on our own adventures thanks to our books.
Francis: What makes you proud of your books/life as a writer?
My proudest moments as a writer have been when I hear directly from one of my readers that my book helped them get through something emotionally tough in their lives, by providing a distraction and a much needed escape from reality.
Francis: How do you come up with the initial concept of a book?
I get the basic skeleton of my story from my dreams and I write them down in my dream journals. Once the dreams start repeating themselves I know I have the whole basic skeleton. At that point I try and put all the basic scenes into chronological order. Once that is done I have the basic storyline and I read the whole basic skeleton to get a feeling for how the story will flow. Once I am familiar with the storyline I don’t look at it again. I then open up a blank word document and surrender myself to whatever it is that causes my dreams and begin writing. I have the basic story in my head but I allow the story to flow and to go wherever it is that it wants to go. I have the basic storyline in the back of my head but I make no conscious effort to follow it. I write day after day until it is done. Then comes the dreaded reread and editing where I polish the story.
Francis: Who is your favorite author and what is it about them that you admire?
I actually have many favorite authors but I will talk about two of my favorites in my genre and why I like them. The first is the king in name and in deed. Stephen King can draw you in with great characters and has a laid back way of telling a story that reminds me of my favorite grandpa sitting down to tell me a story. The ability to make the reader really get invested and care about the characters is what I admire most about the king. My second favorite is Dean Koontz. The thing I love about his work is the fast paced intense storytelling. Once I start one of his books I cannot put it down until I finish it.
Francis: Who designed the covers for your books, were you happy with result?
All my cover designs are done by myself and my wife. I love my book covers.
Francis: What was the hardest part of being a writer?
The hardest part of being a writer for me is the promotion. I find actually writing the books very enjoyable but the countless hours that I have to spend to promote my books takes time away from actually writing which is what I love to do.
Francis: Do you have any advice for other writers?
The best piece of advice I can give to other writers is to remember what it is you do. Too many writers get caught up in the idea that they are high and mighty authors and they forget that what we really are is a storyteller. All the fancy grammar and expansive vocabulary means nothing without a good story to tell. If you spend your time making sure you have an amazing story and you tell it in a way that makes the readers forget they are reading and instead feel like they are experiencing the story then you will not only be successful but you will be loved by your readers.
Francis: Other than writing do you have any other interests, do they connect up with your writing?
In addition to writing I teach self defense. My martial arts training and teaching self defense has caused me to see situations much different than normal people see them. As a writer and a martial artist I assess a room and notice many details that most people never pay attention to. I think that has made me a better writer and given me a different perspective for action scenes.
Francis: Are there any films that have influenced your writing? What kind of films do you like?
My two favorite types of films are comedies and adventure movies which have a treasure map or some kind of quest. I like horror films as well but I feel that most horror films do not have enough of a plot to keep me very interested. I try to bring a much better storyline and deeper characters to my horror novels. I want my readers to not only be scared but also to be entertained and drawn in to the story and take a journey along with me. After all the twists and turns my readers will come to the end of that journey with much more than a fright. My job is to give them a book they can lose themselves in and for a little while forget all the stuff that makes real life so tedious and tough. I want them to come to the end of my book and wish that there were a couple hundred more pages so the story wouldn’t have to end. When that happens I know I have done my job.
Francis: If your books were adapted into being films, which director dead or alive would you want to direct them? Which actors would you like in the films? What would be the overriding mood of the film?
I love the work of Rob Zombie and I could see him directing I AM LEGION. My work is very intense and action packed so the actors would have to be able to not only give great dramatic performances but also be able to handle the action scenes. I think that someone like Woody Harrelson could definitely do justice to the character Darrion. For the main role of Heather it would have to be an actress that could be psychotic and bad ass but also play scared and desperate and incredible grief. I think Angelina Jolie has the acting ability to really nail the role. Michelle Rodriguez or Ruby Rose could really be great as Heather as well.
Francis: Do you socialize with other writers or creative people? Do you know any obscure or up and coming authors/or perhaps other creative people who deserve recognition?
I talk to several other writers and musicians. I am reading a book by one of my friends right now that I am really enjoying. His name is Sean Kidd and his books are a lot of fun.
Francis: which theme (for example death, misery, and torture) is most prevalent in your stories?
All three are prevalent in my stories along with hope, love, and how enduring the human spirit really is.
Francis:Which method of death would you choose out of the following
A being ripped apart by lions
B facing a firing squad made up by shadowy figures, who you suspect you have had major altercations with, during the course of your life.
C you find yourself in a hospital, in a country far from home, with doctors and nurses you can’t communicate with, attached to devices that indicate you are in a critical condition. You don’t know how you got to the hospital/country. Death is inevitable however.
I would choose B because it seems like the most interesting way to die.
Francis: Do you have a blog/website? Or other important links?