James Jackson was born in Western Sydney, Australia in 1965 to an Australian mother and English father. When he was ten years old, the family moved to Rotherham, England and stayed there for almost two years. After this, they returned to Australia to live in Burnie, Tasmania. At fifteen, the family moved again, this time to Sydney. James married and had two great children, but, in 2001, left the place he called home. This was when he moved to Michigan, USA where, a little over a year later, he re-married. In 2010, he decided to revive an old dream and start writing, thus the Terran Chronicles saga was born.
James, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. What or who inspired you to write?
I started writing when I was very young, and dabbled with dozens of short stories that never went anywhere. Roll forward thirty plus years and I found myself with more time on my hands than I knew what to do with. In 2010, I literally sat down with pen and paper and began to make some notes. Thus the Terran Chronicles Universe was born.
What attracted you to write science fiction as opposed to any other genre?
I have been an avid sci-fi fan for many years. Mysteries and thrillers have always been a secondary love. I love the concept of galactic empires. For some reason, I draw parallels between this and the early 1800s when wooden sailing ships spent months at sea getting from port to port. I can imagine the captains of both types of ships staring across the vastness before them as they wonder what dangers and treasure lay in their paths.
Do you think we are alone in the universe, or do you believe there are other intelligent life forms out there?
I think that Carl Sagan said it best when he said, ‘If we are alone in the universe, it sure seems like an awful waste of space.’ I do feel that there is other life out there, intelligent life, and the fact that we have not found each other is both fortuitous and unfortunate at the same time.
Fortuitous in that, throughout history, when two civilizations meet, the lesser is lucky if it survives, and at the very least is irrevocably changed forever. We would undoubtedly be the lesser if such an encounter were to happen in the near future. However, I also believe that, should such an encounter occur, much of humanity would rally together for the common good.
Each series consists of five main novels, five short stories, and a varying number of journals. The first series is called the Initiation Series, while the second is called the Survival Series. Every book has its storyline plotted, with key elements already in place. This took much of 2010 to write down.
How long does it take to write each book?
As time goes by, my writing process is becoming more efficient. While I am writing one book, another is with one of the editors, or the proofreaders. Each main novel takes almost one year from when I move to my ‘Work in Progress’ folder to being complete.
Do you have a day job and, if so, what is it?
I do have a day job, sadly, like so many indie authors my sales are still too low to afford me the luxury of writing full time. I work for a tribal casino, which is, to say the least, an interesting experience. It is really cool when a customer recognizes me as the ‘Chronicles Dude’, as one fellow from New York did last year. Many customers visit me just to say hi; that part of the job is the best.
How do you cope with writing and juggling the demands of all your other commitments?
I am very fortunate with my schedule. I work days and my wife works evenings; each night, till around midnight to 1am, the house is dead quiet. Okay, we have two dogs and four cats, which keep me too busy at times, but I am still afforded a four-hour block of writing time each day. I manage to squeeze in my social media each morning before work. In the evenings, I do more as I cook some basic dinner before I sit down to write. By the time all this is done, it is around 8pm.
My wife has Monday & Tuesday as her weekend, while I have Tuesday & Wednesday. Thus we have Tuesday as our day together, which leaves from twelve to sixteen hours of writing time on Wednesday. So with little additional effort I have thirty hours per week when I can write.
What is your least favourite part of the creative process?
Revisions. Oh my. I can spend hours on a word or a paragraph. Sometimes whole sections get voided while I pull my hair out. I spend more time revising than the initial writing, that’s for sure.
What do you do when you are not writing?
My wife and I own motorbikes, no not Harleys; remember I still work for a living. I ride a Suzuki Boulevard C50T, which we bought new in 2007, and my wife rides a Yamaha vstar 650. I am looking at a Victory motorcycle and hope to buy one this year. Psst, buy my books please so I get one; they are an amazing ride.
Do you have any other creative outlets aside from writing?
I used to create game modules for various role playing games, but since then, other than a few computer games here and there, I spend virtually all of my time either writing or working with Jason on some new marketing strategy.
What is the most interesting lesson you’ve learnt about yourself through your writing?
I have a lot more patience than I ever used to have, or thought I had.
If you could go back and do anything differently with regards to writing and/or publishing, would you? If so, please elaborate.
I released my first book too early, and had to go back and re-write the opening. The second lesson for me was that I had too few people involved in the process. I now have a story line editor, two-three test/proofreaders and a finishing editor. This year, though, I plan to get a professional editor. This is a much needed, but expensive step, in the development of my writing as I attempt to move to being a professional writer.
There seem to be a lot of characters. Doesn’t this confuse readers?
This is a tough one. I shall use one of the core characters as an example. Radclyf leads a small team of elite combat veterans. When the story is focused on his team, all of his men are involved, but when the story focus shifts, his team is out of sight and out of mind. Radclyf’s counterpart, Hayato, leads another small team. Having two teams seems superfluous; however, as space is a dangerous place, no one ever really knows if either will survive each and every dangerous encounter. From time to time, the story line dictates that a core character dies. Will the next event eliminate one or both of these men? Eventually, and sadly, the Terran’s main crew will be reduced to a small number of hardened space veterans. But watch out, galaxy, for when this happens they will be a force to be reckoned with.
With so much uncertainty in their survival, can the readers connect to the characters?
Absolutely. In fact, the movie posters, okay, the fake movie posters, include an ‘Easter Egg’. The four names listed are main characters, as opposed to core characters. These folks are the backbone of the series, and are pretty safe. I am also very careful that, when a core character dies, they do so as part of the main story.
Which character did you most enjoy writing about, and why?
George is by far my favourite character. He begins the journey as a simple man working in his uncle’s furniture store. Events beyond his control propel him into being a key player in humanity’s destiny.
Do you draw any of your characters’ traits from friends or family?
Definitely. In the very beginning, when I drafted the list of main characters, I wrote down their individual traits. After doing this, I realized that I had modelled some of these people after those who had or have influenced me throughout my life.
How do you market your books?
Marketing? What is that? Just kidding. While writing occupies most of my time, the rest is spent working on ways to get my work discovered. I have a fantastic website, and no, I did not make it. Joint Plan created and maintains my site for me.
I have You Tube video clips, such as the Colony ebook reveal, for my ebooks. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are great ways to promote work. Don’t worry, though, I spend most of my time on Twitter promoting others; folks who follow me already know what I do, so there is little need to tweet my work.
I have been in the regional newspaper, and, thanks to Sarah Jones, I have become a regular feature in her mentions on her radio show on Salford City Radio.
Another strategy I have employed for marketing revolves around short stories. Each main novel has a code at the end of it. Entering these codes on the Terran Chronicles website unlocks the associated short story so that it can be read online. However, most people enjoy the convenience of adding these to their eReaders and simply paying the $.99 instead.
If you had a super power, what would it be and why?
Immortality. I want to be alive when we colonize our first world. Imagine stepping down a ramp and onto a new planet to breathe its air and smell the fragrance. To climb its mountains, sail its oceans, and fly across the landscape.
Is there a message or a lesson that you’d like to convey to your readers in your books?
Yes. I have a number of messages sprinkled throughout my works. Firstly, do not judge someone by their appearance. I truly believe that we are all people, and throw the phrase ‘humanity’ around a lot. We are the ones who add the boundaries of race, religion and more. This needs to stop if we ever hope to explore the stars.
Another concept that is more subtle is that we have one planet to live on, and if we keep going the way we are, we as a species are doomed. Our very survival depends on us being able to travel the stars.
Do you have any advice for writers?
Every time I am asked this, I say the same thing: ‘Don’t do it!’ Then I add, ‘Just kidding.’ Seriously, though, do not write for fame and fortune. Only a small percentage of writers even earn enough to be able to write full time. Fewer still see book or movie deals.
Any serious writer has to realize that they have begun a long journey. Be prepared for many years of obscurity, and, in some cases, negativity. Find your audience and write for them.
Also remember that every fan club starts with just one person.
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