Welcome the superb writer James A. Moore! Specializing in strong protagonists and nonstop action, Moore has provided great contributions to the world of epic fantasy.
RLM: What first drew you to become a writer?
JM: I love telling stories. Initially I wanted to work as a comic book illustrator. I had neither the actual skill nor the talent, nor, frankly, the patience to learn them. But when I was showing an editor from Marvel Comics what I had illustrated he told me all that was wrong and suggested I try my hand at writing, because I was telling a good story, I just wasn’t drawing it very well.
RLM: How old were you when you decided this was what you wanted to do for a living?
RLM: You’ve recently ventured into writing YA. Has that affected the way you write? What drew you to start writing for a younger audience?
JM: The only difference, for me, between writing YA and writing more mature works is that I make sure I behave myself a little better. Less vulgarity and a slightly less graphic nature in the violence and carnage. And in the case of Subject Seven, the publishers felt it would be better put to use as a YA novel than as an adult one. There are a few serious differences actually, all kidding aside. But most of those are the length of the work and the nature of making sure you aren’t going overboard. In traditional publish, especially, you have to be aware of the length of the work. I mean, my first ever book was 170,000 words long. My third book was over 300,000 words. No YA publisher would consider a book that size unless your name is J.K. Rowling or you’ve already proven yourself. I was asked to keep my books under 70.000 words. Aside from that, I was asked to, for lack of a simpler way to explain it, keep the work around a PG-13 instead of an R rating.
RLM: Your work covers numerous genres, horror, dark fantasy, thrillers, graphic novels, and nonfiction. How does your approach change between genres?
JM: It doesn’t. Look, any genre has certain “tropes,” certain ideas that are almost supposed to be there. A western set in Victorian England won’t work quite the same as one set in unsettled Indian Territories where the railroad is being built, but the characters can potentially be the same in both tales. You can tell the same story. It’s the setting that changes in that sort of case. I have always believed in mixing genres a bit. Frankenstein is technically science fiction in one sense and horror in another. It’s also, no surprise, a gothic tale. For me the differences are only what the story wants to be. How I execute them is the same, give or take certain formatting requirements. I have a novella out called The Wild Hunt. I have a publisher that wants to make it into a graphic novel. For that I have to tell the tale in a different way. Otherwise, it’s the same tale. RLM: I’m always curious to hear about other writer’s work day. Tell me about your daily writing routine.
JM: I get up and go to the day job. I work around 40 hours a week at a coffee shop. Good benefits are a lovely thing and so is steady income. I come home do a little work-out regimen, then I go down and write. Normally for anywhere between three and six hours a day. Repeat as necessary.
RLM: If you had to pinpoint one element that differentiates good fantasy writing from bad fantasy writing, what would that element be? The same with horror writing.
JM: Storytelling. I know that sounds like a weak excuse but I mean it. Stories are about characters, plot, and pacing. If I read a fantasy story that sounds like someone reciting their last Dungeons & Dragons adventure, I’m bored. Give me characters I care about. Give me actions that have consequences and then show me those consequences. Let me see the characters evolve. Make me give a damn about what happens to them. Without that, you have bad stories, regardless of the genre.
RLM: There is a section on your website called “Dinner for One.” Tell me about that.
JM: Dinner for One started out on my LiveJournal not long after my wife passed away. Bonnie was sick and in declining health for most of a decade. That didn’t much matter to me, because I’m an old fashioned guy. I made a vow to my wife: In sickness and in health, for better or for worse, until Death do we part. I kept that vow. No matter what was happening I planned my life around the fact that I had married my one true love. And then, she died. It’s an experience that changes you. It’s exactly that simple. Because of who I am, I couldn’t just bottle it up forever and I wasn’t going to burden my friends and loved ones with my sorrows. So, instead, I wrote them out and examined them. Dinner for One is the end result. The only reason it’s still up for people to read is because I had several people write me and thank me for what I’d written. They said it helped them in some way, so I figure if there’s anything in my journey through my grief that’s helping other people, I’ll leave [it] there for them to find. Sooner or later I’ll see it in print.
RLM: If someone completely unfamiliar with your writing asked you which of your books they should read first, which would you suggest? Why that one?
RLM: Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
JM: Nope. I’ll write about anything. I’ve written about subjects that made me uncomfortable on several occasions.
RLM: Awesome! Then tell me what subject, in your opinion, has been mishandled by other writers and how do you think you would handle it?
JM: One subject I think is mishandled regularly is rape. Far too often people think of it as a sexual act and it’s not. It’s violence against another person. As far as I’m concerned it should never be written to titillate or excite. It should be written about as what it is: a dominance and power-play that, unfortunately, happens all too often in real life. If it must be written of (and I have written of it before and likely will again because often my writing deals with dark subjects) then I think the act itself should less significant than the emotional consequences of those actions.
RLM: What, in your opinion, is the responsibility of writers in today’s world?
JM: In fiction: to entertain and possibly enlighten. In non-fiction, to tell the truth while entertaining and possibly enlightening.
RLM: Snafu is your most recent project. Tell me about that.
JM: Snafu is a great anthology. It’s a series of war stories with a supernatural twist. And there is now a series of the anthologies. The notion is simple enough: tell a war story with monsters. Sometimes the monsters are human. Sometimes they are something else. Sometimes they are both.
RLM: You’ve worked with a number of different publishers over the course of your career. What, for you, is the most valuable asset a traditional publisher brings to the table?
JM: Experience. Listen, first and foremost I think traditional publishers are a testing ground. There are people who will, I have no doubt, hate me for this answer, but I think it’s important to know whether or not a story is well-written enough to get published. Sometimes, unfortunately, the answer is “no.” In those cases, a lot of people get upset. I prefer to look at what I’ve written and try to understand WHY the answer was no. It’s like any craft, you have to learn and you have to improve. If you fail at this, the fault is not with the publishers. It’s with you, the writer. Good editing, good direction, experience in formatting, layout, artwork, proofreading, and design are nearly priceless in this industry. You doubt me? Go look at a few hundred of the titles at Amazon where those aspects are noticeably lacking and then we can talk some more about it.