Name I write using the pen name J. C. Michael. Where were you born/where did you grow up, did you have an easy childhood? I was born and raised in Ryedale, a rural part of North Yorkshire
Give some background information about yourself, are you generally an optimistic person or pessimistic? I'm definitely a pessimist! What's the sense in having a life full of disappointment when you can expect the worst, and be prepared for it if it does happen, but also be pleasantly surprised when something does go well for a change.
Francis: Tell us your latest news, what are your current projects? James: I recently received a rejection from a certain anthology that I had hoped to feature in, but since the submission call is still open I'm toying with the idea of having another crack at it. I tend to have phases of writing nothing, but thinking up all kinds of ideas and trying to find one that sticks, and then phases of actually writing out those ideas that have developed a little. At the moment I'm very much in the "thinking up ideas" phase.
Francis: When and why did you begin writing? How does your present day work compare to what you wrote then? James: I've always been a critical bugger, and would often watch a movie, or read a book, and then harp on about how it could have been better. Eventually my wife turned tired of this and said that if I was so bloody clever I should write a story for her. The end result was a 90,000 word plus horror novel. As for how my writing has changed I've mellowed, a little, after becoming a father, and I think that shows in my writing. I'm a bit more thoughtful now, and less outright aggressive.
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? James: I write horror, although I do like the term "chiller", and I think that as my writing develops it may well expand into other areas f what could in general terms be called "dark fiction". I have written a bizarre piece which was quite good fun, but I have absolutely no idea if it's any good or not and I'm waiting on feedback from a publisher I've dealt with previously. If I wrote a children's book it would undoubtedly be dark in tone, and I've actually threatened on a number of occasions to write a pantomime. My wife appears in the local one each year and I hate panto, so I keep telling her that one day I'll write one purely so that one exists which I don't find excruciatingly annoying.
Francis: Have you ever been flattered by a comparison to a well-known author or by a review? James: I've had some good reviews and it's always nice to get them. I was also flattered to be compared favourably with Stephen King, who is my own personal favourite, but I'm quite aware that it was a comment tainted by kindness.
Francis : Do you have a trademark writing style, what makes your work recognizable? James: I wouldn't say that there's anything particularly unique, but there is a dark humour there which is very dry and sarcastic.
Francis : Do you write short stories? If so how do they differ to your novels? James: Short stories are what I've concentrated on recently as I haven't the time to write a novel at present. I find novel writing a very intensive process, and it isn't something I can do with a three year old constantly nipping at my heels! Fortunately I've done quite well at getting my short stories accepted into a number of anthologies, including Suspended in Dusk which has been a bestseller on Amazon over recent months. As far as differences go I put a lot less character and plot development into my short pieces as you need to keep an eye on the word count and can't afford to put too much in which isn't essential to the story.
Francis: Are there any messages in your novels, if so what? James: I put quite a few messages in there, but they are very well hidden! I mainly put them in for the benefit of certain people rather than readers in general. It's actually quite interesting to see how people interpret what you write and how they find messages and meaning when really I've just made up a story as a piece of entertainment. I've had Discoredia described as both pro and anti drugs when it isn't actually intended to be either.
Francis: How much of your books are based on reality, how much are based on someone you know, or events in your own life? James: In order to write with any degree of authenticity I think you have to write what you know. As such you've got to draw upon your own experiences and people you know. Having said that you then exaggerate those elements and, when writing horror, place them into a fantastical situation. With Discoredia I drew on the fact that I went to a lot of raves in my youth, but I never went to one where a batch of dodgy pills resulted in numerous murders (as far as I'm aware).
Francis : What books have most influenced your life the most? Are some of these books, different to your own genre of writing? James: I've always read a lot, and when I was young read the classic Greek and Roman myths as well as the Norse legends. It was probably reading these, which started with the Ladybird book of Greek Myths, that led to my love of horror as there are some pretty horrific themes covered in those stories!
Francis: Are you sometimes shocked by some of your own writing/ideas? James: I don't mind writing scenes which are pretty brutal, but I'm not a big fan of pushing things too far purely for the sake of it. If I wanted to I'm sure I could write some very extreme things, but I don't really want to have that as part of me, or something my son may read one day. I can't say exactly where "the line" is, but whereas I'm happy enough to watch most horror movies I've no interest in watching things like The Human Centipede or A Serbian Film.
Francis: Do you see writing as a career? No. There's not enough money in it at the level I'm currently operating at. It's a nice hobby, and nice to get a few quid that might pay for a meal out when I sell a story, but that's as far as it goes.
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?
Hector Woodrose, the antagonist in Discoredia. He's the same kind of character as Leyland Gaunt, or Randall Flagg, and I had a lot of fun writing him as a real nasty piece of work, but also very charismatic.
Francis: Were your parents avid readers, have your family played a part in your writing career? How do they feel about your work? My parents always encouraged me to read, but didn't seem to read a lot more than the daily paper when I was young. They haven't read any of my work, and only have a very sketchy knowledge that I've even had anything published! My brother however has read, and enjoyed, my books. At least that's what he tells me.
Francis: What makes you proud of your books/life as a writer? James: It's nice to have some kind of "legacy" as my day job is very functional and doesn't really create anything. Processing a days income and collating weekly graphs doesn't have the same kind of lasting impact that being a published author does. I also think that it shows that even if you have a job like I do you can still do something creative outside of that which is completely different from the day job.
Francis: How do you come up with the initial concept of a book? Ideas can come from anywhere; an item on the news, a piece of music, a dream, or even another book.
Francis: Who is your favorite author and what is it about them that you admire? Stephen King is my clear favourite author. He can write anything from short stories to multi-volume epics and has been doing so for years. He can write horror, but also fantasy and science-fiction. I genuinely feel that he's in a class of his own and it would be a dream come true if he ever read anything of mine.
Francis: What was the hardest part of being a writer? James: Finding the time to devote to writing is the biggest issue I face. It wasn't a problem when I wrote Discoredia as my wife was busy studying for her degree, I had a less intensive job, and there was just the two of us, but things are different now. Writing takes a long time, and that's why I sometimes feel that the effort that is put in is undervalued. Even a short story takes a good few hours work, yet you can find yourself getting $25 for it, and then see it on sale for 99 cents / 77 pence. I know for a fact that writing doesn't pay the minimum wage!
Francis: Do you have any advice for other writers? James: Write because you want to, and because you enjoy it. Don't expect to make millions like J K Rowling, just enjoy any success that may come your way and don't get too worked up about not achieving more. You need a hell of a lot of luck, as well as skill, to do well, and even then only a very small minority will actually "make it".
Francis: Other than writing do you have any other interests, do they connect up with your writing? James: Music, reading, movies, football. Nothing out of the ordinary I'm afraid, and any of which may influence something I write.
Francis: Are there any films that have influenced your writing? What kind of films do you like?
James: From Dusk 'Til Dawn is the movie I always cite as being influential where Discoredia is concerned. I don't mind horror movies, but I'm just as likely to watch an action flick and grew up watching Schwarzenegger films with my dad. I also like a good gangster movie, things like Goodfella's and The Departed. 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?
James: Have you ever visited the If List website? It's quite good fun to think about this question and the site pulls together the opinions of your readers on this very topic. Director wise I'd go with Neil Marshall as I loved Dog Soldiers, and would rather see Discoredia done as a British film rather than go the Hollywood route. In all honesty I'd be more interested in which D.J's I could have involved in the soundtrack than any particular actors.
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?
James: I've "met" a lot of other writers through Authonomy, my publisher, and social media. As for who deserves recognition it's hard to single out some and leave out others so I'll leave it with suggesting that people look at some of the other recent releases from my publisher, Books of The Dead Press.
Francis: which theme (for example death, misery, and torture) is most prevalent in your stories?
James: Death. My wife says that the theme of death having a physical form and walking amongst us is a common theme found in my work.
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
James: I'd be annoyed and frustrated by the situation in C, and wouldn't want anyone to get the better of me as in B, so it would have to be the lions. They'd also be able to eat me so at least they'd get something out of it.