There’s nothing we love more than helping AutoCrit members celebrate the release of their newest novels, and in this Elite member spotlight we turn the stage lights on to welcome author Nicholas B James.
With his thriller A Chance Murder making its way onto shelves, we caught up with Nicholas to talk about his work, his journey in publishing so far, and whether he thinks being an avid photographer helps when it comes to painting images with words.
Let’s start with a simple introduction. Tell us about yourself. Who is Nicholas B James, and how did he find his way into writing and publishing?
Have you ever driven through Texas? Along Route 10? I bought an RV after I retired, and my wife and I have made the cross country trip several times. From Arizona to New York to Florida and back. It’s a big country, and you have a lot of
time to think, especially on the open roads.
The question you asked is, “How did you find your way into writing?” On our road trips, I would come up with a skeleton of a story and share it with my wife. She would bat it back to me, and I’d be off and running.
Your recent novel, A Chance Murder, just arrived in May this year. Where did the inspiration for this particular story come from, and what do you think readers will get out of it? (There’s a very interesting inciting incident in this one, for sure!)
I like to research technology and new developments in science. The idea for the book A Chance Murder came from a short article I read on the web about using super sensitive devices to detect odors. I was amazed at how far this area of scientific instrumentation has advanced. I hope I not only entertain my readers with an exciting mystery but also help shine a light on emerging technology.
Early reviews have offered praise for your descriptive writing. Is that something you make a distinct effort to pay attention to during the writing and editing phases?
I wish I could say yes to your question about descriptive writing; that is, do I make a distinct effort. No. Without formal training in the art of language, I have to say I write as I speak. Now to editing, I need all the help I can find. AutoCrit and
Grammarly are my two go-to programs to keep me from going off the rails. Those and the support of my proofreaders.
You’re a keen photographer. Do you think your eye for composition and detail as part of that hobby has strengthened your ability to translate more vivid visuals from your imagination to the page?
I’ve been involved with photography for a long time. It wasn’t until I joined a program on the web called AWAKE – Living The Photo Artistic Life that I started to understand the complexity of photographic composition.
So yes, I think that using a base image for a photo composition is similar to using a core idea for a book, and then slowly, sometimes painfully, working on your image (or book) to bring it to life. In that respect, I find writing to be similar to working on an image.
Do you consciously draw any inspiration for your writing style from other authors in the thriller/crime field? Are there any authors that stand out as a particular favorite of yours, or have definitely influenced your approach to storytelling or story structure? Feel free to share any guide books or references you think could be beneficial to other authors out there.
I did a lot of research, reading, watching, and even more listening. Two references stand out. The first is the Masterclass by Dan Brown. He has so much practical information, not just about writing but publishing.
The second is from The Great Courses, How to Write Best Selling Fiction, by James Scott Bell. His course teaches you how to write a story, any story, by breaking it down into useful and practical parts.
We always have to ask: what do you think were the biggest core challenges you faced when making the journey from a story idea to a finished, published book? This could be something as simple as finding motivation, to the more conceptual problems of handling character arcs or being happy with pacing, for example. How did you conquer or work around those difficulties?
I think most writers have a compulsive personality. I’m no different. I can’t wait to get up each morning and continue writing the story.
When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about the story. Right now, I have three novels in the works.
For characters, I would call myself a pantser, not a plotter. I let the characters pull me along. I’m never sure where we are going from day to day.
The biggest challenge we all face is to believe in ourselves and to keep our heads down and keep working at our craft.
Writing a novel can be a tough time, personally. Do you have any personal strategies you would recommend that help keep you focused and in a positive mindset while you write or revise a new manuscript?
I have to go back to my photography. If it’s something you love and the people you share it with are encouraging and supportive, that makes all the difference. That’s your motivation.
My Awake photo group is a terrific example—people from around the world who enjoy creating and sharing art. I hope to develop the same type of community through my writing.
Everybody likes to use AutoCrit a little differently – whether it’s editing chapter by chapter as they create their early drafts, or all in one go once the first draft is complete. Some might stick only to a few specific reports instead of working through the entire range. What’s your process, and where do you think AutoCrit brought the most benefit to your work?
I have been using AutoCrit for a while now, and the Repeated Words feature is what I appreciate the most. I still use tense and point of view and most of the other features, but Repeated Words I find so helpful. I never realized I used the same words so many times. This feature has also helped me rewrite many sentences. It’s my favorite feature.
You’ve teased that another book is on the way soon. Let us know more. What can we expect from that?
I started on Deadly Cave over a year ago. It was on one of my RV trips crossing the country. Dr. James Jason, a microbiologist, is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime to the International Space Station. He doesn’t know it, but sabotage, murder, and a pandemic are what lie ahead. This book is in the final stages of edit, and I expect it to be out within a month.
Any final comments you’d like to share with all the writers, editors, and readers out there?
If you are a new author, like myself, listen. Have an open mind, embrace what the people you respect are telling you. I have added to and changed my story numerous times, and it’s better because I listened.
If you started or want to start writing, go for it. Expect a challenge, and enjoy bringing your vision to life.
Nicolas B James calls the mile-high city in northern Arizona home. He enjoys the four seasons of the year with his wife and their two adopted dogs, Sam and Ben.
When not writing, you can find Nicolas with his camera. He’ll be taking pictures of the beautiful landscapes of Arizona or back at his computer, making art from his image collection.
Catch up with Nicholas and his books today at Amazon.
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