James Matlack Raney grew up all over the world, in Europe, Latin America, and Africa, before winding up in the mysterious land of horses and bluegrass – Kentucky. Now he calls Southern California home, writing adventures and occasionally living a few of his own. Besides writing adventures about magical treasures, scheming thieves, and daring pirates, he also enjoys playing guitar, reading a great book by the pool or at the beach, and seeing his far-away friends and family whenever he has the chance.
The Wardrobe: What are your favorite types of books to read? Do you think an author should be extensively well-read in the genre he/she writes in? What is the title of the last book you read (or are currently reading)?
James Matlack Raney: I love reading fantasy, science fiction, and thrillers for the most part. But I also enjoy some good non-fiction on the side from time to time. I’m not sure how well read an author needs to be in a particular genre to give it a try, as long as the author reads good books in any genre, and as much as he or she can! The truth of the matter is, if you’re going to write, you need to read. But I certainly don’t feel you need, or even should, read only in the genre you wish to write. Read everything you can get your hands on! I’m a huge Stephen King fan, and so I’m reading his son, Joe Hill’s, horror/thriller NOS482 right now. It’s pretty chilling!
TW: When you were a child, what was your dream job? Did you want to go into traditional publishing first or did you always want to self-publish?
JMR: It certainly wasn’t to be a writer! When I was a kid, I wanted to be a jet pilot for the longest time, and then an FBI agent after that. It makes me smile to think about those days, because I would have been miserable in those jobs. I love writing more than I’ve ever enjoyed doing anything else, but I didn’t really discover that until my early twenties. As for the publishing, I still dream of being associated with a publishing house at some point. There’s so many advantages to that. But I’ve found Indie publishing to be more satisfying than I ever thought it would be, and I’ve made new fans that way. So, if that ends up being the only path to readers for me, so be it!
TW: Out of every book/story/graphic novel you’ve ever read, who is your all-time favorite character and why? Did this character inspire you in your writing? How?
JMR: Wow! What a hard question! But, since this magazine is called the Wardrobe, I will tell you that one of my favorite literary characters from early on was Edmund Pevensie, especially from the VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER. Here was this guy who had nearly ruined everything in Narnia, and had been a spoiled brat in the first novel, and also a bit of a second fiddle to his brother, Peter. But in this story, he comes into his own, and proves himself to be a hero in his own right, and is even able to help redeem another brat, Eustace. Great children’s literature that I still enjoy today.
TW: Is there any part of your journey to publishing that you wish you knew about beforehand?
JMR: There’s so much! It’s hard to put in a short paragraph everything I leaned since I began this journey into Indie publishing, and I wish I knew it all beforehand. But, perhaps most of all, because of how it impacts sales, I wish I would have known more about the science of cover design. I’ve been so fortunate to work with a wonderful artist named Lora Lee, who is just so creative and talented. But I wasn’t very helpful at the beginning, because I just didn’t have any idea how much things like branding, titling, framing, and flap copy mattered to attracting a buyer. It’s been fun to learn, though, and since one of the advantages to indie publishing is flexibility and the ability to quickly adapt and change course, it’s also been fun to implement. I can’t wait to share the new cover of JIM MORGAN AND THE PIRATES OF THE BLACK SKULL with the world.
TW Have you ever experienced writer’s block? Are there any methods you use to push beyond such difficulties?
JMR: I think writer’s block is just a phrase for temporary lack of confidence in oneself, like when a basketball player goes into shooting slump, or a baseball player goes into a hitting slump. But all the great sports players just kept shooting and swinging, and I think that’s what a writer has to keep doing. Keep writing. You’ll find your rhythm again.
TW: If you had to choose to like one movie made from a novel, which would you choose? Why?
JMR: It may be cliché, but the original Lord of the Rings movies are just so good. I thought Fellowship of the Ring, especially, was just the perfect interpretation of the novel, and I can’t imagine Middle Earth any other way since that version came to the screen. Brilliant.
TW: How many drafts did you complete on your stories? How did you know when they were finished and ready?
JMR: That might be another lesson I wish I had known before beginning as a writer – that writing IS rewriting! You must be willing to do as many drafts as necessary to get the story as good as it can be, and then know when to stop revising and share the story with the world. I think, at a bare minimum, you should be up for four drafts. A first, two major rewrites, and a polish. If you’ve done at least that, you’ve probably helped craft a solid piece. Just make sure you trust your writing circle to give you real, impactful feedback, and that you employ a professional editor to help you along the way.
To preview and buy James Matlack Raney’s book Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves, click HERE!
To preview and buy his second book, Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull, click HERE!
*Interview conducted by Ellie Benitez*