Monday, February 18, 2013

WICKED (NEW)MAN IN THE MADHOUSE

 
PATIENT: JAMES NEWMAN
ILLNESS: WRITER
 
 
When did you start writing? Why did you pick the genre you write in?
According to my parents, I've been making up stories as long as I could hold a pen. And -- surprise, surprise -- most of them were "spooky stuff". I've always been infatuated with monsters and madmen. I remember when I was growing up my Mom and Dad were fans of a good horror film, and they were never too protective about what they'd let my sister and I watch (my mom was the one who recommended RE-ANIMATOR to me when I was just 15 or 16, for God's sake!), so I guess that's what warped me. Once I discovered Stephen King not long after that, there was no turning back.
 
Where do you get your ideas? Do you journal at all?
I subscribe to a very, very expensive service that not many folks know about. A sealed black envelope is delivered to my house once a month when the moon is full. It's stuffed fat with ideas for struggling writers. It gives me what I need, although it takes so much in return...

Seriously though? I have no idea. Life. The things I see around me every day. The horrible things people do to one another. I guess those are all valid answers to the question, "Where do you get your ideas."

I don't journal, although occasionally I'll pull out a spiral notebook and scribble something-anything- in it just to get myself in the "zone." It's a great way to break writer's block.
 
What’s a normal (writing) day like for you?
Scattershot. I have no real "routine". I admit that I don't even write every day. I just squeeze it in whenever I can, between my day job and family. I wish I were more prolific, but that's what works for me.
 
Favorite author or book? Who are you currently reading?
My favorite writer is Joe R. Lansdale. My all-time favorite book is Robert R. McCammon's BOY'S LIFE.
    
At the moment I'm reading a ton of stuff. I always read too much at one time. That's probably why it takes me forever to finish anything these days. I'll never learn.
Anyway, here's what's in my "Currently Reading" stack right now: GIRL TROUBLE by Holly Goddard Jones, THE SECRET OF ANATOMY by Mark Morris, THE FEVER KILL by Tom Picirrilli, THE CIRCLE by Bentley Little, FLIGHTS OF FEAR by Graham Masterton, and BLACKBIRDS by Chuck Wendig.
     
Yeah.
 
Do you prefer writing poetry or prose? Why one over the other?
Definitely prose. I've never been a poetry fan at all. Except for the work of Stephanie Wytovich, of course. :)
 
Do you write in silence or with noise (tv, movies, music)?
It depends on my mood. When I'm editing I don't really care what's on in the background but when creating new words I prefer either silence or movie-soundtrack stuff. I usually listen to hard rock or heavy metal any other time, but I find it a little too distracting when I'm writing. I prefer something moody, instrumental. A few favorites include the soundtrack to THE TERMINATOR, John Carpenter's CHRISTINE, and Trent Reznor's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. I recently picked up the scores for SINISTER and THE BOOK OF ELI. Good stuff.
 
Do you have any weird habits when it comes to writing? Do you type or write longhand?
No weird habits. Chewing my nails, maybe. But I do that all the time. Such a nasty habit. I'd strongly advise against anyone picking it up.
     
I type 99% of the the time. However, I've found that writing longhand -- as I said before -- can be a great way to beat writer's block (and stay away from the Internet!). I've struggled for weeks at a time with plot points, stuff that I can't seem to work out and it feels like I've painted myself into a corner . . . but then I pick up a pen and start scribbling in a spiral notebook, and I can't even remember why it was so daunting. The scenes just pour right out of me. So I do enjoy longhand for "problem-solving". I've heard other writers say the same thing, that a change in medium can really "unclog the pipes", so to speak.
 
Would you consider yourself a Plotter or a Pancer?
I'm usually a plotter. I don't really "outline", per se -- for the most part, I just put together a loose bullet-points list of scenes from start to finish, but the details are subject to change at any time.
    
There are always exceptions, though. I didn't do a lot of that with the novel I'm wrapping up now. I wanted to try this one with no safety belt, just start writing and see where the characters led me. It's been a little scary, but it hasn't killed me yet. Although I do think it might be the main reason this novel has taken me about five times longer to write than most.
 
What do you think is the hardest aspect of the craft?
I'm a perfectionist. I agonize over every word, every turn of phrase, every sentence. And then I agonize some more. It's not rare for me to spend days laboring over a single page. Obviously, that's a problem. These days, it's gotten to the point where I'm sure it's holding me back. Slowing things down. Killing any momentum I might have built up not only in the current project I'm working on but also my career as a whole.
     
I'm desperately trying to figure out how to fix that. I haven't yet.
 
Current projects?
I'm putting the finishing touches on a novel called UGLY AS SIN. I can't wait to unleash this one upon the world. It's been the most fun I've had with anything I've ever written, so if it's half as fun for my fans to read then I've done my job.
    
UGLY AS SIN is a tale of "white trash noir" in the vein of Joe R. Lansdale, a story about a former professional wrestler who is horribly disfigured after two psychotic rednecks kidnap and torture him because they believe his "heel" persona is real. And that's just the first 10 pages. ;)
 
How do you balance being a writer and being a family man?
It's not always easy. Like I said, I don't write every day. I wish I could say I did. I probably write more with the sound of my 3-year-old pitching a fit in the background than I write to peace and quiet. I should have mentioned that before, instead of the movie scores -- my 3-year-old's temper tantrums are the soundtrack to my writing time, more often than not.
All joking aside, my family is very supportive. My wife puts up with a lot from me, God bless her. She'll usually tend to the toddler as long as she knows I'm hard at work actually WRITING, and not wasting time on FaceTwitter.
 
What do you think people expect from you with your writing?
I'd like to think they just expect a good story. Nothing fancy, and pretension-free. That's me.
Remember how Stephen King used to say his work was the "literary equivalent of a Big Mac", or something to that effect? I reckon that'd make mine a few greasy chili-fries.
 
Advice for aspiring writers?
Never give up. Grow a thick skin. Not everybody is gonna love your work. Some will actually hate it. Decide -- to keep yourself sane -- that those who don't like it must have their heads screwed on wrong. That's not necessarily true, of course, but it doesn't stop you from thinking it. Nobody has to know. Edit. Tighten. Trim the fat. Don't ever be BORING. Read your work ALOUD before you release it upon the world -- trust me, you'll be glad you did.
 
List your most recent publication(s).
 
 
 
My novels THE WICKED and MIDNIGHT RAIN are now available in trade paperback, from Shock Totem Publications and Evil Jester Press, respectively. Check 'em out, please, and I always love to hear from readers: newmanjam@gmail.com
 
 
 
BIO: James Newman's published works include the novels MIDNIGHT RAIN, THE WICKED, and ANIMOSITY, and the collection PEOPLE ARE STRANGE. A short film adaptation is currently in the works for his fan-favorite novella "Holy Rollers".
When James isn't writing, he enjoys listening to loud rock n' roll and watching Tar Heels basketball. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Glenda, and their two sons. One is a toddler, the other a teenager . . . and you think you know horror?