Greetings Otherworld travelers! Last week, we had the great joy of promoting the work of James David, a writer who has done a tremendous amount of work across multiple genres throughout the years. We focused on his sci-fi Vixen Grey series. It’s a cop drama mixed with android “they walk among us” fare that is absolutely spectacular. But that only just begins to scratch at the surface of who David is, and what he has accomplished. Join us in this interview as we learn more about what was behind the veil.
Tellest: Hello James! I wanted to thank you for taking the time to talk to me about your sci-fi crime book, Grey is the New Blue, in addition to the other books in your catalog, and a bit more about your process and what’s happening behind the scenes. You’re a bit of an enigma online, but that can be a bit deceptive, as you’ve got a lot of books that you’ve worked on over the years, and I’m excited to help introduce you to more of an audience!
James David: Yes, I can see where you get the enigma from, and you are quite right, I have written over 25 books, all of which I am now about to publish. I began writing (songs, mostly) in about 1974, but I needed to mature in my style, and to learn from my lessons, as I was still at school at the time. Amazingly enough it took me around 17 years to write that first book, and I rewrote it about 4 times. I never considered it quite good enough, until I added two more in the Maragar Series, and those two only took a combined two years, before I put them aside to concentrate on my music. When I got married, I read all three books to my wife, and she loved them.
In 2015 my wife was given just one month to live, she had contracted cancer in 1995, and went into remission in 2000. So, when she was told she had only 4 weeks, I asked her if there was anything I could do for her to keep the smile on her face for that month. She told me she wanted to hear one of my books and I asked her which one, and she said a new one, but not one of my Fantasy books. She would like some Science Fiction, and so I wrote Grey is the New Blue, and read it to her, all within that month, and even started on the second in the series. She said it was her favourite. She died before I had gotten book two completed.
At about the same time I began to go blind, and I knew it wasn’t going to get better. So rather than publish, over the next seven years, I wrote 24 more books, in case I lost my sight completely.
T: You’ve had a lot of challenges along the way, and it is very inspiring to your readers and fans that you continued to go on with your journey. In a way, that ties into the beginning of the interview, as one of the questions that I always ask on the onset of these interviews revolves around inspirations. Specifically, I want to know your origin story. What set you off on this journey of loving stories enough to want to write your own? Did you have a favorite author growing up, or was there an “aha moment” at some point where you realized this was something you wanted to commit to?
JD: Yes, to all of the above. Firstly, I love A.A. Milne and the Winnie the Pooh books. But in about 1968 I was a perfectly horrid little brat at school and was very bad tempered. I used to throw things around. The people that the school sent me to would tell my parents that I was acting out though frustration, of not being challenged enough by my lessons, and I was sent to a special class, one day per week. Whilst there I saw another student reading a story called Callan and his Rover 2000. Callan was a spy/crime show on TV. And I saw that story and thought, I can do that! In 1971 I went to boarding school, where I read The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, and I thought I can do that…and so I did. I began writing stories and read them to other students.
Then in July of 1977, I started to write that first book.
T: Did your parents end up seeing the sort of twist on how you ended up going from “ill-tempered brat” to a more creative type who was writing stories in his free time? How long did it take before they realized you were bound to be this prolific talespinner who created entire worlds?
JD: Both my parents knew I was writing, but neither of them read anything I had written. Back in the late ‘70s my mother, acting as my secretary, typed some of the early attempts at my first book. But she made no comment as to how good it was. Just as well really, it was pretty dire. It wasn’t until I read such authors as David Eddings, Stephen Donaldson, Raymond E Feist, and William Horwood, that my style began to mature.
T: By that time, did you have the opportunity to surprise them or other members of your family with how far you had come? We all start a little rough around the edges, and I think it can be eye-opening to see that there is some talent that is eventually cultivated. Did it begin to surprise when people reacted positively to your stories?
JD: It did. I would read some of my daily work to my brother, and he loved the story as it was early on. He doesn’t know the final version.
T: When you and I first spoke, we established that Grey is the New Blue would be the book that we used to introduce you to Tellest readers. This tale, about the first human cop in quite a long time, who joins an android police force, is a pretty fun crime story. Where did Grey come from, and what motivated you to tell that story?
JD: Whilst I was still in my music phase, I duetted with a young lady called Vicky Baker, and we got on so well, despite her being 25 years my junior. But she would insist people call her Vix. Well, it was about then I began to think of the main characters for the book my wife asked me to write. And I like to use people I like in my books etc., so Vix became Vixen, but it took such a long time to come up with a surname for her. I think I was almost halfway through the book when I came up with Grey. I remember something prompted me, but I can’t now remember what it was. And as I said earlier, my dying wife was my motivation. That series The Vixen Grey Series, now numbers six books and three prequels. Right now, it’s nine books in all, and I am planning another three.
T: It’s no big secret that authors will typically write what they know, and a lot of times that means folding in certain facets of the people that we know as well. But in this case, it seems pretty likely that Miss Baker would have learned pretty early on that she had inspired the character. How did she feel about being immortalized in fiction? What about any other people in your who had learned they were captured in a story in some way?
JD: Vicky was pleased, of course, but to name a character after somebody is pretty easy. She was more taken when after a chat, we used to talk about all sorts of things, she said something in passing, but it struck a chord in me, and from that brief chat I wrote book four of the Vixen Grey series, “Grey Haven, White House.” And I created a new character I have used since.
T: A big component of writing for a lot of authors is “writing what you know”, and eventually that cup runs a bit drier unless they willingly go looking for experiences. Those experiences are usually cultivated by bigger life changes, or by hardline research. Has that been your understanding as well?
JD: Absolutely. I have put so much of myself into my writing, Of course I changed some of the details to make them more readable, but in essence they’re still the same. But my friends do not escape this process either. We have long chats when we meet up, and something they say would fit one of the hundreds of characters I have created, and I use their experiences also.
I remember I was reading part of Grey is the New Blue to Brooke, a great friend, and suddenly she said, “Hey that’s me.” Then I had to explain how I work using other people’s experiences, and she loved that idea.
T: Grey is the New Blue also has a sequel that you’ve completed, but it’s getting a bit of a refresher before it releases on Amazon, right? When do you think that readers can expect to dive into that one, and do you have any other plans for that world?
JD: As I said there are nine books in total so far. The second, Shades of Grey (I thought of the name first) is due for release by the end of October, or the beginning of November. Thereafter I am planning on publishing one book per month. I have enough books ready to carry on with that rate of publication for about two years.
T: Alright, and now let’s dive into some of your other stories. While we’re introducing you to readers with sci-fi, that’s certainly not the only genre you dabble in. What are some of your favorites that you’ve worked on, and what can you tell us about them? Just how many books do you have waiting to see published?
JD: My main and favourite series in that one I began in 1977, is so far 4 books and is a fantasy series, the fifth I have recently started. It’s all Elves, Dwarves and Human against various dragons, trolls, giant bugs called the foul, goblins, Raahls, and Miaks. It takes us through the history of all these races, and more, and the wars they fight. But out of those wars rise one family of heroes.
Another series is the Credence series. Credence was born in 1684 and begins a quest in which she must walk to England, and she arrives beside the river Thames in London, in August 1967. She lives there until 2015, when she discovers some strange powers she has, and her quest takes to London’s Whitechapel in 1888, where she and friends begin their quest for real, and begin looking for Jack the Ripper. The follow-up to Credence is called Jack, and the third book planned will be George. These three books follow a fictitious theme, but 90% of the characters are (or were) real; historical documents mentioned or quoted are real, and locations are real, only the story interweaving all these historical facts is fictitious.
Then we have the Brooke series. Inspired by a dear friend of mine, this tells of a young British girl, hunted by Iraqi fanatics in the 1970’s after her family has all been killed by the terrorists. She and a number of partners make their way to Los Angeles to join the NSA and FBI and thence to do war against the Iraqi cell who killed her family. Two books in that series have been written so far.
Then the Zombie Series. Just started book 5. Book one begins with a 70-million-mile journey into space. Returning one year letter, Captain Jessica Donatez arrives back at Cape Canaveral, just in time to be attacked by the first wave of the undead. Jess and her crew then strike out to bring the Zombies down.
Then the Arcanium Series. So far only one book is written, suggested by my fried Brooke, who was the inspiration of the Brooke series, and it is a Harry Potter-type series. I didn’t think about its publication until I had it narrated by a reader on Fiverr. She told me how much she enjoyed it.
T: Let’s talk about your favorite! As a lover of fantasy, I’d love to hear about what sets your main one apart from the rest, both in your own catalog, and fantasy in general. I’m guessing that is your Books of Maragar series—one that I hope we hear a lot more about in the future.
JD: Maragar is the World in which the story takes place. (By the way pronounce the g in Maragar as an H—thus Marahar. The story starts in the year 38042, in that world, the dating system is very different from our own, but pretty soon, the telling begins to jump about through time. From the approximate year of 10,000 in the Elves Holm of Ara, then to other lands 10,000 years later, for the birth of other heroes and cities. All the while the battle again an evil enemy, from the ruling Elven family, continues in the present. But some of those ancient heroes and heroines, have not yet been born. I could talk about that series of books for hours, and probably will in the future. But I don’t want to spoil so many questions the books are supposed to make the reader ask. I love the idea of somebody reading book three, and something happens to answer a question about book 1. I also have the answer to quests and conundrums from book 4, answered in book 2. It all gets very involved.
T: I have noticed that the fantasy genre is often a bit of a storytelling engine. There are tremendous capabilities in fantasy to create new plot devices just by pulling at the smaller threads that might have been introduced earlier. Especially with all the lore that you’ve delved into, there are many directions that you could go. Do you ever hear the call from other characters or other parts of your timeline to tell a story that might be off the beaten path from the main series?
JD: Yes. In every one of the Maragar (fantasy) series of books, a character will introduce themselves to me, along with their back story. But I cannot see where to take them, so I often tell their entire story in a single chapter. Or split his story over a number of chapters, to see if he developed. I like these incidental side stories. I used one in Maragar 4 called “Twins” and he developed into a major character for half the book. I won’t say what happened to him, or what he did, but he is felt throughout the book.
T: You’ve had some unfortunate incidents occur in your life, not the least of which is the degradation of your sight. You’re still writing despite vision problems. How has your process changed, and how do you keep yourself enthusiastic about the process?
JD: Like I said earlier, I knew I had one or two books left in me. So, I had to get the written before I lost my sight completely. It is only now, 22 books later, that I have begun to slow down.
But right now, I have three books on the go where I am stuck, and I don’t know where to take them. Also, I have 5 or 6 on the go, just waiting for me to open them up again. Currently I am working mostly on Zombie 5: Zombie Vaccine.
T: While there are challenges with your vision, it also seems that you’re still keeping up with a good pace on writing new material as well. Surely the worry is that your vision might grow more impaired, but especially in this day and age, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you would have to stop telling stories—maybe just change the way you get words onto a page. Have you tested with things like a speech to text program, or any other sort of assistive technology that would help you out?
JD: To tell you the truth, I have slowed right down. My eye gives me a lot of trouble and pain, and I am currently finding it hard to write for days on end. But yes, I still managed so. As for getting my word onto the page later, I am very scared of going completely blind. My process of writing is to write an outline for every chapter, so I have a book of about 50 pages, then I read through what I have and flesh it out. It seems to be working for me just now. I couldn’t do that if I could not see what I have written. It might be possible if I was still married, my wife would be able to read it back to me and write what I then dictated. But unfortunately, she died of cancer in 2015. So, I have no one to help in that regard.
T: When you’re writing your books, are you often surprised by how the characters act, or by how a scene unfolds, or do you have a pretty steady handle on things, and guide the narrative thread without much ado?
JD: Ah…author’s secrets… To tell you the truth, after more than 50 years of writing, I am only just starting to make notes, or story guidelines to follow. And I have never kept to any of them. I turn to my Word document and begin to type, and the basics of the story are there at my fingers. I have found a way to write that works for me, and that is to write between one and five pages, then once that idea has run its course, I save it and come back to it another day. But I don’t stop writing, I write a few pages of the next chapter, and then the next. Doing this for most of the day or night, I stop until the next day, when I go back to the partially written chapters and see if I have anything to add to them. One thing I really do enjoy with my writing is character generation, and development. In the Vixen Grey series, I love the growth of the character Nyne Foster, an android FBI agent.
If nothing comes, I will go binge watch some TV programmes, or try one of the other books. If nothing comes, I do not force it. I have done that before, but then I came to hate what I have forced out of me. Best to rest my head for a day or two, and come back another day, fully refreshed.
T: What has been your experience with writing and releasing your books? Was it an easy rollout, or did you have some challenges and bottlenecks along the way? If you did, what sort of things held you up?
JD: I think all writers have a point where they are completely dry. I remember my first really bad dry spell. I used to write everything longhand, and ever so slowly the dry spell crept up on me… In the end, I hate the way my handwriting looked on the page. I used to love seeing page after page of my writing, filling the entire page. But even that had become a turn off for me.
Then I bought my first iPad, and the writing was so neat and tidy I was able to write again. But there are certain fonts I really don’t like, such as Helvetica, Ariel, Calibri, and the like, so I tried font after font, until I found Times New Roman, and I love it. For Arcanium, I used the Papyrus font. If the font looks pleasing to me, I can use it to write with.
I remember once I had writers block, because I had written my characters into a deadly trap they could not get out of. It was really getting me down, then my brother said to me that I should have a character that, if I get into this situation, he can do some really amazing things which to him are perfectly ordinary, and he can get people out of the traps. So that’s what I did. I created a little Demon called Oopak, and Oopak can do some really cool sorcery. So much so, he is now a major character in the series, and I am writing book 5 in the series, and it is called Oopak.
T: Sometimes a wandering mind is the best remedy for a blocked one. Have you ever decided to entertain other story ideas that might pop into your head besides your mainline series? Have you been tempted to tell short stories, or something else that might be outside the realm of your most popular releases in your catalog?
JD: Yes, indeed. That is why I write in so many genres, and I have written a few short stories, some of them are quite sad. Do you remember seeing the Bruce Willis film about speaking to dead people when the wedding ring falls to the floor at the end? It was a few seconds before I understood he was dead. Some of my stories are like that. They’re designed to make one think, oh that ended strangely… And then oh! I see. But all that said, I have not written enough to make a book out of them. Perhaps I could find somebody who is planning an anthology and try and get some stories in those.
T: As I mentioned earlier, you’re a bit of a mystery still, and I’d like to know more about you. I’m sure that your fans and readers would as well. Where could they go on the internet to discover more about James David?
JD: They can’t. What I mean to say is, I do not have a web site yet. But I am going to see a friend this week and get him to build me a kick-ass site. I just don’t have the time I am afraid. But if anybody would like to be kept informed on how that is going, they can just send me their Email address, and I will let them know as soon as it is up.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
T: James, I wanted to thank you for spending your time with us to talk about your books and your process. Time is so fleeting, and I’m sure with the vision problems you’re experiencing, it’s also a precious commodity. I hope that you are able to find some peace, and treatments that work for you that preserve your vision for as long as they are able to, and that you are able to see the new readers and fans that are bound to flock to your growing catalog of books.
JD: Thank you. I have really enjoyed this interview, it has reintroduced me to the passion I have for writing, not just because it is my job, but as an author and storyteller. Being a writer is who I am, whether that writing is my books, or my songs and music, it is just the same. I get so proud with what I have created, and especially when others invest their time to come into one of my worlds.
Once again, I’d like to thank James David for letting us into his worlds, whether it’s the one we all live in—in which we see a little bit of his corner of it—or the ones that are populated with his myriad of characters, strange and captivating events, or boundless lore. We at Tellest are very happy that we were given the opportunity to scratch the surface of those worlds, and we encourage you to learn more about them. You can start by looking at the Sci-Fi we promoted earlier. Check out Grey Is The New Blue: A science fiction book based on crime investigations and police with androids (The Vixen Grey Series 1) on Amazon today!
And below, you can see all the books that James has worked on.
Books to be Published
By James David
The Vixen Grey Series
Grey is the New Blue👍
Shades of Grey✌️
Grey Day in Orange County✌️
(Vixen Grey prequels 1 2 & 3)
Grey Haven, White House
(Vixen Grey prequel 4)
The Vixen Grey Prequel Series
Vixen Grey 3
(Vixen Grey series
The Zombie Series
The Book of Maragar Series
The Master of Destiny
The Legend of Ar’Aragen
The Credence Series
The Brooke Series
Arcanium; Annus Tertius
Arcanium: The Next Term
The James David Experiment…
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