Interview With James Siewert

Today James Siewert takes our interview hot seat.

Hi James thanks for taking time out to chat with us.

Do you ever base your characters on real people? If so, what are the pitfalls you’ve run into doing so?

I base some of my character’s aspects on real people, but never a carbon-copy of them.  Primarily, their physical attributes, more so than their personality, but every now and then some of their real-life quirks will come seeping into the character.  I try and stamp that out as fast as possible; I want my characters to be their own selves, with their own reactions, and that means making them as unique as possible.  Also, I’d be embarrassed beyond measure if one of my friends ‘found’ themselves in my story – I mean I do put my characters through rather a lot, some of which is on the risqué side, and having that conversation with my friend would redefine the word ‘awkward’.

How long do you write each day?

I’m like a wonky fire-hose: some days I gush, some days I trickle, some days I’m a geyser and others I’m as dry as a bone.  Ideally, I’d love to be able to write a minimum of four hours a day, but as I am a part-time author (and part-time office drone), my day-job often gets the better of me.  I try not to worry about it too much; writing for me is a rewarding, enjoyable experience at this point, and not how I pay the bills. One day, perhaps.

I do fantasise about my life as a full-time author: wake up at 7:00am, go to the gym for an hour, sit back and chill with coffee until 10, head to the beach until 3, write from 3 to 7, have dinner, read until bedtime.  Lather, rinse, repeat for all eternity.

Do you reward yourself for writing, or punish yourself for failing to do so? How?

As cheesy as this answer is, the writing itself is my reward. I love going back and re-reading what I’ve got, often enjoying it as though it was the first time encountering it. And no, I don’t punish myself for failing to write – I’ve got lots of responsibilities and they all need attending to just as much as my writing does.  Sometimes those responsibilities win out and that’s what they call ‘life’.  And there’s no time to punish yourself – others will do that for you if you’re not too careful.

Editing, however, does get a proper treat – my husband and I sip hot chocolate as we go through the story, editing and correcting line-by-line.  We often stop to have conversations about what the characters are doing and why, and that helps me to flesh out the story even more so.  During the cold months especially, we both eagerly look forward to editing, as it’s a lovely way to wind the evening down.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Yes, I read my books’ reviews, good and bad. It’s a way for me to improve my work, finding out what people liked or what they didn’t, and discovering that I’ve made an impact on another person is, of course, monumentally valuable for me.  For ‘good’ reviews, it just means so much to me on a personal level that someone else got a kick out of the story I wrote, and I am so grateful to the reviewer for taking the time to share their thoughts and ideas.  For ‘bad’ reviews, I chalk it up to ‘no one is perfect’, and to listen to the feedback that’s been given.  Sometime, the ‘bad’ reviews are people who just don’t get what I am trying to give, and that’s totally cool – nothing is for everyone, each to their own.  I try not to take it personally but, frustratingly, I am human, so sometimes my feelings do get a little trodden on – but that’s on me in that case – people are entitled to their opinions, good or bad, and you gotta learn to take the lumps with the praise.  In the end, I will keep writing my stories, and that’s what matters the most.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

That’s a question with multiple answers, depending on your viewpoint.   I will often think of stories for months, if not years, before the first word is ever even written.  Other times, the ideas come quickly and I’m immediately at the keyboard, typing a way furiously.  For example, my first novel, Allure of Oartheca, took eight months, conception to the final word, but the sequel, Barons of Oartheca, with that universe still fresh in my mind, only took half the time, start to finish.  The story I have kicking around about a mind-controlling alien during the Napoleonic wars is what … three decades in the conception stage, without a single word on paper?

Also, the amount of time it takes is subject to my work availability; when things get crazy at my day-job, my writing gets put on hold (the very last thing I want to do after a tough day is look at a computer screen for another four hours), and I’m pretty cool with that, for now.  I’d love to be able to dedicate my life to writing full-time, but that’s a dream for another day.

What do you do if you get a brilliant idea at a bad time?

The answer I want to give is ‘take notes’, or ‘make a voice recording’, or some other totally professional response that shows I’m a dedicated artist that has it all under control, but sadly, the answer is most often ‘I forget’, and I guess I gotta live with that.  The way I see it is that if the idea is truly brilliant, then I’ll remember it, as I often get a rush of excitement, especially if I’ve figured out a way around a plot hole, or a stumbling block, or a juicy bit of detail that will really make the story sing. If I forget, then well, maybe it wasn’t the best idea to begin with, and maybe it’s a good thing I’ve forgotten it.

Thank you so much for popping into the cafe and chatting with us.

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