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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: James Phelan  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Photo by Tessa Ross
Scott: Thank you so much taking the time to chat with us here at The Fringe magazine. I’ve recently finished reading your latest novel Alone – Chasers, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  How has it been received it the market to date?

James: Better than expected – good reviews and a few reprints so far. When I wrote it I was worried that the themes might be perceived as to bleak for a teen audience, but both young and adult readers have embraced the book.

Scott: Your previous novels have been targeted at the Adult Audience, yet the new series is written for a YA market. Was this an intentional change in writing or just something that happened as you began writing The Alone series?

James: My third adult thriller in the Lachlan Fox series, titled BLOOD OIL, was a dark and angry book.  I wanted to write something that would appeal to younger readers, something I could still go and talk to school groups about.  I had some meeting with publishers and decided that what they all wanted was not something I had any interest in writing.  So I wrote the story of ALONE, realized it could be a trilogy, and it was well received.

Scott: How many books do you think there will be in the Alone series?

James: 3, although there was a point somewhere along the way where I was tempted to write more of the character and situation, perhaps even the same time frame of Jesse’s story but from another character’s view point. I’ve decided to let the trilogy be, to leave it alone while I still like it.

Scott: So are you a big zombie movie fan as well. What would you rate as your favorite zombie movies and novels?

James: Yes and no. I liked the Romero films when I’d seen them as a teen, and then more recently the comedic ones like SHAWN OF THE DEAD and Zac Snider’s DAWN OF THE DEAD, oh and ZOMBIELAND.  I also love post-apocalyptic films and books, like THE ROAD and I AM LEGEND.  Then there’s all the virus books and films, like 28 DAYS LATER, ANDROMEDA STRAIN, etc.  Originally I wanted to write the ALONE trilogy as a cross between SHAWN OF THE DEAD meets 28 DAYS LATER – but what I ended up with was more Anne Frank’s DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL meets I AM LEGEND.

Scott: A lot of new writers often ask about the amount of pages or words that a published author produces each day. How much time would you spend writing on a typical day, (if a typical day exists for a writer that is)?

James: I get up at the crack of noon and take it from there, perhaps having a breakfast of champions like a Johnnie Black on the rocks, light up a cigar, go through the overnight correspondence... Ok, only some of that is true.  I have no set routine other than writing every day.  I’ve not set an alarm for five or six years, I just wake when I’m meant to, go to a local café with my computer or notebook, and work through a few coffees, come home, do some more work, have dinner, do a little more and that’s it.  I probably average 3000 good words per day, but if pushed on deadline or if the creative juices are really flowing it’s closer to 5,000.

Scott: What sparked your interest in writing and did you start off by writing short stories or go straight to working on a novel? What markets did you send your short fiction to?

James: I’d written a few short stories at school, then wrote my first novel, FOX HUNT, at 20.  I think that was published before any short stories were published.  I think it’s far harder to write a good short story than a good novel.

Scott:  How do you approach your writing? Do you tend to develop a story in your mind and then proceed to conduct some research or is more of an organic method where you write the story first and research any technical aspects later?

James:  For my Fox thrillers, I plot and plan for a couple months, doing all the research etc, then I sit down and write the first draft over about three months.  For the ALONE books, I sat down and wrote without any planning, and each of the three novels took me 16 days to write.

Scott: As a writer it is interesting to hear what other writers read in their spare time. It is often surprising to hear the genres and variety of books other authors read. Can you tell us what are you reading at the moment and what you five favorite books are?

James:  Five fav’s: SIDDHARTHA, THE LITTLE PRINCE, BLOOD MERIDIAN, LOLITA, THE FIFTH COLUMN AND THE FIRST FORTY-NINE STORIES.

At the moment I’m reading GRAFFITI MOON by Cath Crowley, a couple of novels that publishers have sent me asking me to give a quote to put on the covers (I won’t mention titles as I probably not like them), Michael Connelly’s THE POET, and many magazines (my fav’s being Esquire and National Geographic).

Scott: There seems to be a lot more options available to authors to get published now compared to say a decade ago. What advice would you offer to unpublished writers in approaching publishers for the first time?

James: Best to get an agent, but at the end of the day, persistence is key. Keep reading and writing and you’ll eventually get what you deserve.

Scott: If you were stranded on a desert island, what five authors would you like to have as companions and why?

James:  Christopher Hitchens, because he’s brilliant.
Tina Fey, because she’s brilliant and I love her a little bit.
Michael Robotham and Andrew Hutchinson, because they’re two of my closest writer friends.
And number five... I should say Bear Grylls (I’m sure he has tie-in books published?) so that he could get us off the island, but instead maybe I’ll go for... Hemingway, because I would have loved to have hugn out with him.  This desert island has a beach-side bar, right?

Scott: Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to your next book.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 2:37 AM . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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