Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Get to Know Author James Conway

Howdy readers!
Today we have author James Conway here for a Q&A, and talk about his book, The Vagabond King.


The Vagabond King is a coming of age story that weaves mythology, astronomy, religion and the histories of Hungary, Africa and ancient Mesopotamia into a metaphysical mystery. When the main character, Chris’s, mother dies and he discovers the man he believed was his father is not, the sixteen year old is haunted by a mysterious apparition that forces him to question his pampered existence and embark upon a quest to find himself. Hoping she will “make a man of him”, he seeks sanctuary in the home of Magda, a middle aged waitress with a penchant for sex, only to discover she lives with her father, a cigarette smoking, beer swilling immigrant.
Chris hates his shabby new surroundings at the end of the street and the shabby old man at the end of his life who spends his days listening to old blues records and making Chris fetch him fresh cans of beer. But, when the old man tells tales of Communism, torture, escape and the mysterious medallion he wears, Chris learns that, like the old man’s skipping records, history repeats itself and the roles we play have been played many times before.

Kindle Edition: 308 KB
ASIN: B005MGEQ2K


Who or what inspires your writing?
I am inspired by writers who have a powerful command of the language and can use it to stir deep emotions in their readers. I was first inspired to become a writer after reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The heroic language he uses can awaken and inspire the slumbering greatness in people. I have the same opinion about Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf. I also love the work of Isaak Dinesen and love her Seven Gothic Tales.
But, in terms of what inspires me I would say that, for me, writing is a medium of discovery. It is a way for me to discover things about myself and the world around me and craft it into new way to view the world and which I then present to the reader.

When did you know you would be a writer?
As I mentioned above it was Tolkien who first inspired me to become a writer when I was an adolescent. Around that same time I was younger I would take long walks with my Uncle Paul, who was a very literate man, and he would talk about various writers and the things that made them important. So I always had an idea of some sort floating around in my head that I would become a writer, but didn’t really believe it. Back then the only thing I wrote was bad poetry and I was plagued by uncertainty and doubted my ability. It was only when I went to Ripon College and met some friends who were musicians and planning to start a career in music that I actually thought I could do it.

How long did it take you to write your first novel?
I don’t know if I’m embarrassed or proud to state that The Vagabond King took me about 20 years to complete. This is because of the various things life requires from you like raising a family and paying the bills etc. But, when I left Ripon College I was bound and determined to write something of lasting quality, a masterpiece. I was a terrible writer when I first started but, I’ve heard it said, anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first. I wrote The Vagabond King in the nooks and crannies of my day. Many times it felt like I was trying to build a book out of a crossword puzzle. But, the nice thing is that writing is not a performance art. No one has to see the multitude of bad drafts, just the one that counts.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?
As I said before, writing is a medium of discovery for me. With The Vagabond King the most difficult part was the fact that I didn’t know where I was going. I had an internal desire to get there but didn’t know exactly where there was. That is different with my work in progress which I’m calling The Mythological History of Chicago. I know where I want to go and what I want to do. The main problem now is just time.
Also, now that I’m published and my words are free to be read by my family, friends and anyone else I have come to realize that the hardest thing about being a writer is that now I am open to criticism and attack. It feels like walking around naked. Criticism and attack are fine though. I took my time with The Vagabond King so it would be god and strong enough to stand on its own.

Do you have any writing rituals?
I don’t know if they are rituals but I do have some definite habits. Have a wooden puzzle board that I was given as a child. It fits perfectly in my lap and I place a college ruled legal tablet on it to write when I’m sitting down. I find that writing at night is better for creativity and coming up with things and writing during the day is better for editing.

Have you written anything else?
As I mentioned before I have written a lot of bad poems. But, I’ve also written some good poems, a few of which I included in The Vagabond King. Perhaps I have a natural tendency toward poetry, maybe that is why the style of The Vagabond King is so musical.

Any advice to aspiring writers?
Stick with it! Every life has a purpose and if you feel that this is your purpose follow through with it. Your life will be empty and meaningless if you don’t.

Who are your favorite Authors?
While I’m not a fan of the Fantasy Genre I do love Tolkien. As I mentioned above I love Dinesen’s Seven Gothic Tales. I’m also a big Fan of Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred years of Solitude. And then there is Italo Calvino. I’ve got to say that I like the idea of Italo Cavino more than I like the actual writing. His Baron in the Trees is great. And the rest of his writing, while I don’t like it as much, is incredibly creative and imaginative.

What are your favorite books, or which book has impacted you the most?
This may sound arrogant but I don’t mean that way. The Vagabond King is my favorite book simply because it is the book I wanted to read but no one had written it.

What are you currently reading?
While I have a library of a few thousand books, surprisingly I’m not reading any of them currently. I’m just two busy building a buzz for The Vagabond King.

How do readers find out more about you?
Well, they can buy The Vagabond King on Amazon for .99, that would be a great way to get to know me first : ) But, they can also find me on Facebook by typing in my e-mail thevagabondking@myluckymail.com


A PERSONAL NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
I was born on the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. I lived there all of a month before moving thirteen times before I was nine years old. As a child my mother was frequently in the hospital and, because my father was in the navy, he was frequently at sea. Consequently, I lived for periods of time with both sets of grandparents. Because I moved so frequently I was always the new kid at school, sometimes more than once in the same year. I didn’t have a lot of friends as a child so I read voraciously. The first book that caused me to realize the power that language has over people was The Lord of The Rings by JRR Tolkien. It was this book that inspired me to eventually become a writer. My family eventually moved to the Chicago area where I spent my formative years. It was in Chicago that I became very interested in Blues music. I went to Ripon College in Wisconsin which is also the Alma Mater of Harrison Ford. While there I studied English Literature and history and made the decision to dedicate my life to writing. I started collecting notes for the novel that would eventually become The Vagabond King at Ripon. Shortly before I graduated I was married and shortly after I was a father. I took a job driving a forklift for 12 hours a night from 7 pm to 7 am in order to have time to raise my son, write and teach myself Russian. I was only getting an hour or two of sleep a day and so this was a very difficult time for me. It was then that I began to realize the power of Blues music to sustain the human soul in the most adverse of conditions and I tried to imbue The Vagabond King with a sense of this through the musicality of the language.

The Blues. Boom. The Blues cut like a back alley knife and, tormented and tortured, with all the unrestrained rage of a field holler, those old bluesmen sang of lives lived in dissatisfaction and despair. Oh, I was there man. I was there and, with every dip and slur of the slide guitar, they conjured up images of unfaithful lovers, crying in the rain and standing at the crossroads, frozen in time like lovers on a Grecian urn, and forever trying to flag a ride.

I am currently working on a project I’m calling The Mythological History of Chicago. It’s a noir mystery narrated by a trickster god and combines my interests in Quantum Physics, Taoist philosophy, history and how the human mind perceives reality.

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