Today I’m happy to host a good friend, author James Clay
1. Greetings and welcome! You have a lot of experience in the publishing business. Can you share with us a little about your background?
Thanks for allowing me to clutter your blog with my self-serving prattle, Tell. And thanks for referring to me as your friend. A man who works as an agent is a bit like a gunfighter in a western novel, not many pals.
The turning point in my career came when I was making the transition from being a struggling young writer to being a struggling middle-aged writer. I met Howard Pelham, a literary agent who also wrote westerns. I went to work for the Pelham Literary Agency and Howard persuaded me to try writing westerns. I am embarrassed to admit that, while I have always loved sage brush sagas, I had avoided writing them because the market was so limited, or seemed to be.
Howard taught me an important lesson: write in a genre about which you have a passion.
2. A lot has changed in the publishing business these past few years. From your experience, what do you think will be the challenges new writers face in the future?
The internet is such a vast, untamed frontier that writers will have a problem getting noticed. There is so much stuff out there! I hate to say this, Tell, but the current situation favors those writers who have a gift for self-promotion. That is a shame, because the skills that make one a good writer aren’t much help with selling a book.
Of course, promoting a book has never been easy. I like to think of my awkward efforts as making a vital philosophical point. I have so many vivid memories of sitting alone at a table in a bookstore, smiling lamely over unsold stacks of my tomes. People would walk by pretending they didn’t see me. Anyone who witnessed this pathetic spectacle would realize immediately that John Donne got it wrong; one man CAN be an island.
3. You write westerns, as I do. Do you think westerns are making a comeback?
If by a comeback you mean will westerns regain the popularity they had in the first seventy years of the20thCentury,the answer is no. But I think westerns are doing better now than they did in the last two decades of the 20th Century when it appears that Louis L’Amour single handedly kept the genre alive. The western is finding a better reception in the post 9/11 world than it did in the post -Vietnam era.
Western movies are finding a new audience on cable TV. But western fans will have to be alert to catch everything that is going on in the genre. For example, some interesting developments are taking place in that very under the radar medium, radio. Imagination Theater is a nationally syndicated radio drama. On the first week of the month, they present a western series, Powder River. PR is on hiatus at the present time but it will return in September. This program is worth checking out: go to harrynile.com.
Harry Nile is a private detective and the main character in Imagination Theater’s most popular series. All the usual disclaimers apply here. I have no financial interest in the show, no relatives or friends are involved. But, hey, I am a tad sentimental and would like to think that two troubled art forms, the radio drama and the western, are making a modest comeback together.
4. Tell us some about your books. I’ve read your first three, and I enjoyed them all. Where can we buy them?
I thought you’d NEVER get around to that question!
I have written three novels: Boyd Matheson, Matheson’s Legacy and Dusty Barnett. All three are traditional westerns. I believe the traditional western allows for much more variety in plotting and character development than many critics contend.
I try to give readers all of the excitement and suspense of a traditional western and a little more besides. I try to present scenes and characters that will stay with a reader when the plot begins to fade from memory. All of my books are available on Amazon.
5. If you had to rate your books PG, PG-13 or R, which would it be and why?
I am so ancient, I can remember when authors felt compelled to explain themselves if they had “R” material in their novels or short stories. Today, you have to defend yourself if you don’t have any explicit sex. Someone is always accusing you of being represssedor…well…no need to go on.
My western novels are PG. I am most comfortable writing that way and prefer to read westerns that are PG or…gasp!…even “G.” I believe a wholesome approach is best when writing western fiction.
There are some very talented western writers who disagree with me on this issue. I respect and admire their work.
6. Do you plot ahead of time, or do you let the plot emerge as you write?
I have a general idea of where I am going when I begin a novel but there are many changes and detours along the way. The plot doesn’t always “emerge” sometimes it must be painstakingly extracted.
7. What’s next for you?
With my agent days behind me, I am enjoying being a full time western writer. My next novel, Reverend Colt, will be published early in 2014 by Robert Hale. I also enjoy reading western novels by a new crop of talented young writers who are entering the genre. Tell Cotton is at the top of that list. Confessions of a Gunfighter is a major achievement and I am looking forward to reading Entwined Paths.