The Page a Day Writers Group

The My Writing Process blog tour with guest blogger James Rhodes

Posted on: June 16, 2014

Q & A with James Rhodes

Hello Page a Day readers! Give a warm welcome to our author tour guest blogger and friend from across the Atlantic, British author James Rhodes.

1) What am I working on?

I am currently working on a summer special of the Hettford Witch Hunt series. Hettford is my tribute to the small English villages that I grew up in and around and the small minded self-importance of “special-interest” groups. I started the series mostly out of my own frustration with extremely long novels with extremely thin plots that dominated fantasy and horror in the mid 2000s, and as a failed attempted to merge my two favourite formats (short novels and sitcoms) thereby coining the term “litcom.” A term which I have failed to mention on any of my marketing material and that has resolutely failed to catch on.  I wanted to write something short, snappy, fun and escapist for my own benefit as much as anyone else’s. Hettford is very much character driven and writing it is a lot like spending time with my imaginary friends. It should be available in early July.

(Note: you can start reading the Hettford series for free via Kindle! Just click to download.)

I am also working on a series called The Days of Mr Thomas which is my attempt at creating dirty three chord punk songs in the shape of loosely connected flash fictions. This runs weekly on the Schlock webzine. It’s a difficult format and it doesn’t always work out but there have been some great installments and I have a lot of fun spewing bile into it.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

A not entirely favourable review of Hettford criticised its approach to horror for not being shocking and ‘scary’ enough. Whilst this wasn’t entirely a compliment, it is exactly what I was trying to accomplish. I am a British writer and one thing the British don’t do well is big budget spectacle; my favourite horror writers are M.R. James, Nigel Kneale and Kingsley Amis. I grew up on the supernatural psychological thriller. The Omen, The Medusa Touch and The Night of the Demon where always scarier to me than Halloween or Driller Killer (the other films I was watching at 9 years of age). This is perhaps because I also spent quite a bit of my childhood walking around unlit country roads and being told ghost stories. That’s the feel I want from my work, the subtle horror that could be waiting anywhere and that can’t be beaten because it can’t be touched.

As a child I was a devout Catholic and to me the Devil was a corporeal being that might appear in your bedroom at any given moment; especially if you were foolish enough to have a mirror in there. When I was about 8, I took an orange from the fruit bowl without asking. I had never seen a blood orange before and when on peeling it I discovered it to be the colour of blood, I assumed it was a sign that Satan had seen my sin. I spent the majority of the night clutching a set of rosary beads to ward off the coming evil. This is the kind of experience I want to convey in my work; a childish and irrational fear of the dark will always be more unsettling than a perfectly reasonable fear of physical danger.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I think I started writing with the idea that one day people would read my stuff and say “OK, that bloke isn’t as stupid as he looks.” However, a good two decades have passed since then and my efforts to write incredibly clever fiction have fallen flat on their faces and it is painfully apparent that I am, if anything, more stupid than I look. So now I write to enjoy myself because I love reading and I love escaping in to the fantasy world that books provided and the type of brief psychological fantasies I love reading are so hard to find these days.

4) How does my writing process work?

I start with characters. I used to just base them on people I know or, if they got to have sex, on myself. These days I like to start by building them a personal history (a technique I nicked from Stanislavski’s theatre practice) and using their personal history to dictate how they would respond in certain situations. I have some idea of where I want them to end up and then I put them in situations to see how they react. I generally need to map out the whole book before I start writing and then to map it out a few more times as I’m going along; the characters often ignore my direction and do more interesting things than I had planned for them. Or the plot that I had written turns out to be a bit boring.

I realised in my third novel that I had a classic Doctor Who reference in everything I’ve written and that’s something I’ve continued with. My most consistent process is that I come up with an idea that I think people will really love, work at it violently for a couple of months, realise it’s crap and then hide it for the rest of forever. I think that’s why Hettford has been as successful as it is because it was never intended to be great; it was always just intended to be enjoyable.

Next week (June 23), drop by the blog of Paul Melhuish, author of ironic anti-heroes and malevolent beasties, to learn about his writing process. paulmelhuish.wordpress.com.

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1 Response to "The My Writing Process blog tour with guest blogger James Rhodes"

Thanks for expanding our blog to include the writing lives of other interesting authors!

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Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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