James A. West is the bestselling author of the epic fantasy series Heirs of the Fallen, and the heroic fantasy series Songs of the Scorpion.
Between gritty quests, you can find him playing Halo or Splinter Cell on his Xbox, woodworking, or fly-fishing.
He often works for chips and salsa :)
Halloween marks the winding down of the year’s clockwork, a
slowing of the blood through veins. Leaves turn and begin to fall, the sunlight
struggles to warm the day, and cold north winds hoot and howl around the eaves.
Disembodied things start going bump-bumpity-bump in the night, and voices rise
up from the other side of the veil to whisper freaky stuff in your ear when no
else one is around—don’t lie, I know
you’ve heard them, and that’s okay … except when it’s not … and then you’d
This is also the season when I go into full-on reading mode,
and what better way to pay homage to the Great Reading Spirits than by putting
all my novels on sale for .99 cents?
Okay, I know I’m a fantasy writer, but in my fantasies
demons wear the skins of men, sorcerers weave the blackest spells when the
light of day perishes, and monsters and other assorted creepy-crawlies stalk
shadows that never die. Did I mention insane cannibals and soul-hungry wights?
You’ll find a few of those in my tales, as well.
Recently I have been doing a blog series about myself. I realize that may seem
a bit narcissistic, but I promise my only intention was to help new readers get
to know my writing style a bit better! This is the last post in that series,
and if you are interested in the other ones you can read them here, here, and
here. One is about my dog, and honestly out of the two of us he is the cooler one :)
who is James A. West?
short, I’m a relatively new fantasy
author, but lately I’ve started branching out. In fantasy, I prefer to
write plots heavy with emotional and physical conflict, rather than endless
recitations of food, clothing, and court intrigue. Those things have their
place in any good tale, and I’m not saying I’ll never go there, but bottom-line,
I like a story to move forward. I enjoy writing grittier characters who get
tangled in dire situations. Some folks call that Grimdark. Until recently, I’d never heard the term, but once I
found out what it meant, I realized that best describes my writing style.
a brief overview of my work.
epic fantasy series Heirs of the Fallenis complete at four novels (the last book
is still with my editor, and my cover artist is also hard at work). Songs of the Scorpion, on the other hand, is not a fantasy series in the
regular sense, but rather a continuing sequence of adventures with recurring
characters—more on that in a minute.
played a big part in writing Wrath of the Fallen, the fourth and
last installment of my epic fantasy series Heirs of the Fallen. Not that I
tried to inject any super-secret wisdom or life affirming lessons into the
novel, but the end result had to stay true to the storyline, and yet still allow
me to more fully embrace my natural writing style. All this without upsetting
the three or four fans of the series by not going full-bore Grimdark, as is my
… honesty in writing.
my last post I talked about settling for what feels safe and comfortable in
writing, and why that is hazardous for me. The problem is that cozy gets
boring. When I’m bored, I often find myself doing anything I can to avoid the
task of creating stories. Dusting the ceiling fans in my house (even my
neighbor’s, if they’d let me) becomes a quest for the Holy Grail and El Dorado,
all in one. Scrubbing the toilet bowl is like grabbing a trident and standing
tall next to Poseidon. Picking up dog poo? Well, now, that is akin to curing
every disease known to humankind—you didn’t really expect me to make a landmine
joke, did you?
Before I get to the nut of this post, I
want to give you a heads up that what follows is long, and maybe soul-suckingly
boring. I hope not. I just wanted to reveal some of my recent experiences and
epiphanies as a writer and a human, all of which segues into a non-fantasy book
reveal that I never intended to publish for fear of rejection.
I’ve been writing for twenty-plus years. In the beginning, my stories revolved
around horror, and evolved to thriller/dystopian science fiction. About ten
years ago, I settled on epic fantasy. Settled
is the word I want to focus on, and why most people shouldn’t.
for a lot of reasons, but mainly because fantasy is comfortable and safe for me,
probably because I’ve always found ancient history interesting. Fantasy gave me
some wiggle room to invent new worlds, but had definite boundaries. Heroes with
swords, damsels in distress, horses, armies, a little magic, a dash of romance,
a pinch of danger—actually, there’s a lot of danger in my writing.
problem is, I’m not much of a guideline and boundary person when it comes to anything,
let alone writing. But I gave in to self-doubt, got caught up in writing fantasy
the way I thought I was supposed to write it, and forced myself into an
artificial mold. There are a lot of problems with this approach, first and
foremost being ... I’m not really a contemporary fantasy fan.
sheep-shit, an imposter!” you say, and I duck my head in shame. Before you pull
out the long knives and eviscerate me, let me back up a bit and explain myself.
Actually Jonesy is my dog’s name :)He is one of the most important members of my
family, next to my wife (gotta stay out of the doghouse…sorry, couldn’t
resist!). Since he is the coolest dog ever, I really want everyone to meet him.
But he doesn’t play well with others, so I decided the best way for you to do
that was to interview him. Hey, I figure if we authors can interview our
characters, surely we can interview our pets ;)
Ready? Here we go!
Tell us a little bit
about yourself. Where you’re from, how you got such an interesting name, etc.
Hmmm, let’s see. Well, I’m 63 years old and, oh wait, I need
to convert that to people years. Okay, I’m 9 years old and I’m a
Mini-Schnauzer. At least, that is what humans call my breed. I refer to myself
as Wolf Beast, but whatever works for you guys. I’m a native of Montana, and I
live here with you and Julie, who I call Omega. I’m named after the boxer
(person, not dog) Roy Jones Jr. I like that, because he is a warrior like me.
What are some of your
hobbies and interests?
I really like games. My favorite is Schnauzer Soccer. It’s a
pretty rough game. Basically, I take my favorite toy, which right now is my
Angry Bird, and I hold it in my mouth. Then, I kick a tennis ball around the
house with my paw (I’m a leftie). I have pretty good aim, and can kick the ball
really hard. Once the ball rolls away, I chase it or jump over it while I shake
my Angry Bird at it in a threatening manner. It’s a real manly game.
That sounds fun. Who
taught you to play Schnauzer Soccer?
It is fun! I taught it to myself. Sometimes I mix it up and
grab a different toy, but Angry Bird is the best.
It is a cool game. I
posted a video of you playing Schnauzer Soccer right here. I’m not the best with computers, so it has no sound, but I sure hope
people watch the whole video. You have one really good kick of the ball towards
W-what? What do you mean you posted a video of me? Was I
recently groomed? You know how fluffy I get when my hair grows, but it’s all
muscle under there.
I’m sure you look
fine. Now, what is your favorite food?
Bananas, paws down. You know how much I love those things!
You are always trying to sneak them so I can’t have any, but my wolf hearing
picks up the sound of the peel. As soon as I hear you, I do a huge leap off the
bed, sofa, or wherever I am guarding the perimeter, and I slide into the
kitchen! Although, it’s usually just in time to see you hogging it all and
swallowing the last bite.
My brain. Sorry, couldn’t resist! Actually I got the idea
for this series 10 years ago. I love epic fantasy, but one day I thought to
myself wouldn’t it be cool if the hero failed at saving the day? Or, even
better, what if the world ends right at the beginning and there isn’t even a
chance to save it? I have always been fascinated by survival situations. How
would people survive? How would they cope with a destroyed world, and the
aftermath that ensues? So, I started writing Heirs of the Fallen.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Epic fantasy, because fantasy is awesome.
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your
characters in a movie rendition?
This is the hardest question! I honestly don’t know. I will
give it my best shot…
Leitos – I think Taylor Kitsch would be a good choice. Leitos
is a warrior, and after seeing John Carter and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I don’t think
Taylor Kitsch would have any problem at all playing a warrior.
Honsouj (because he is an amazing actor who can play any character!)
Belina – For Belina, the criteria is dark-haired,
strong-willed, and feminine. She is beautiful, but also powerful and not afraid
to speak her mind. I think Selma Blair would be great!
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Former slave Leitos Valara has spent the last year in hiding,
training for vengeance, but now destiny has forced him onto a treacherous path
of shadow and steel; and the Faceless One is waiting.
6. Who is publishing your books?
That would be me! All of my books are self-published. I like
taking the adventurous road in life, although some would say another name for
that is doing things the hard way :)
I don’t regret going the non-traditional way at all. I am
having too much fun!
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the
It took 2 days and 15 cans of Red Bull. Just kidding! My
brain would explode if I tried something like that. Shadow and Steel is about
70,000 words. It took me about 6 weeks, but that is just the first draft.
8. What other books would you compare this story to in your
I tried really hard to make the setting and plot
as different from other epic fantasy as possible. I mean no disrespect to
“traditional” epic fantasy, I love that stuff! But I wanted something
different.Instead of the medieval
setting, mine has more of an ancient Mediterranean feel. There are no
dwarves, dragons, elves or heroes that save the day. In terms of writing style,
I’ve had people tell me it is similar to A Game of Thrones, and the Sword of
Truth series. I hope that is true, because I love George R.R. Martin and Terry
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
In some ways a lot of my inspiration comes from Stephen
King. I read The Talisman when I was 13, and it blew my mind! I wanted to write
a series that dealt with an apocalypse, but I
also wanted to capture the humanity of that struggle. How people cope, act,
treat each other, etc. Stephen King does that so well in his stories.
10. What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest?
I am hoping to pique the interest of people that are looking
for something a little bit different. It is fast-paced fantasy. The book is shorter
than most epic fantasy books, but there is a lot going on. It is non-stop
action. I wanted to write something almost like an action/adventure story but
mixed with fantasy. I hope people enjoy it!
Shadow and Steel is available now, so I invite you to give it a try. It just received a 5-star review on Amazon, which made my day :) I'm also excited to say this is now a best-selling epic fantasy series!
Finally, I am pleased to introduce the two writers I tagged for the Next Big Thing Blog Meme:
First, author Tom Bielawski.
Tom is an extremely talented science fiction and fantasy author.
I am currently reading A Tide of Shadows, and I am enjoying this book immensely. I am really looking forward to reading more of his work.
Please go visit his blog to learn more about him and his work, and check out his Next Big Thing Blog Meme!
Last, but definitely not least, I tagged writer Wanda P. Smith.
Wanda is an exciting up and coming novelist, and Summer Winds is her debut.
I enjoyed reading about Sunshine, and I know you will as well.
Please go visit her blog to learn more about her, and be sure to check out her work!
Thank you so much everyone for taking the time to stop by! I hope to see you again soon.