Joshua Graham interviews New York Times Bestselling Author James Rollins
In life, we are blessed once in a while to meet an accomplished person in the same field who generously gives of their time and attention to help you along the way. Such was the case for me when I met James Rollins. Not only did he give me a kind blurb for my novel TERMINUS–which is featured in a collection of 12 Thriller novels called DEADLY DOZEN, he agreed to do an interview on this blog even before being my recent guest on Thriller Radio. It’s such an honor for me to call this man a colleague and friend.
So without further ado, it’s my pleasure to welcome to my blog for the first time ever, James Rollins!
JG: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, it’s great to connect with you! Let’s start with your writing process. Could you tell us what a typical James Rollins work day looks like?
JR: As a general rule, I obligate myself to write 5 new pages during the workweek (yes, I take my weekends off). So it depends on how industrious I am about getting my butt in front of the computer. If I start early enough, I can get done early and maybe catch a late matinee or do some zombie killing on Xbox. If I procrastinate (check email, goof off on Facebook), then I may be up to midnight finishing that final page. I’m not that regimented on when I work as I am about sticking to those 5 completed pages.
JG: You’ve been creating stories since you were quite young. How did the thriller become your genre of choice?
JR: I grew up reading across a wide gamut of genres, though mostly those of the speculative variety: scifi/fantasy, thrillers with an edge, mysteries that had a paranormal edge to them, action/adventure at the cutting edge of science or delving into historical mysteries. And if you read my stuff, you’ll see elements of all those genres I read as a kid.
JG: What do you consider must haves for a great thriller?
JR: It’s pretty simple: a compelling character, high stakes, and an antagonist strong enough to go toe-to-toe with the hero (someone who can put up roadblocks and obstacles of ever escalating ingenuity and danger). But most important of all: never be boring.
JG: Do you have any influences in your writing?
JR: Probably the biggest influence was the old pulp novels of the thirties and forties: Doc Savage, the Avenger, the Spider, the Shadow. They were reprinted in paperback format during my junior and high school years. The books met all my criteria as their stories mixed speculative science, mystery, and adventure. Pretty much what I write today is a modern polish on those old pulp novels of my youth.
JG: Who are some of your favorite authors and books?
JR: I can go on and on. I still read across a wide range of subjects and genres, and I have favorites in all genres. Probably one of my favorite authors was Michael Crichton. His loss at such a young age is a tragedy. In fact, I had a copy of Jurassic Park sitting above my desk when I wrote my first novel (Subterranean). I used that book as a template on how to tell a story and build a novel.
JG: If you even have time for it, what do you enjoy doing on your time off?
JR: Since so much time is spent in front of a computer, when I have a good block of time, I get myself out of the house. I live up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so that means hiking, kayaking, skiing. Anything to get me out in nature and getting the heart pumping.
JG: What’s the scariest place you’ve ever visited?
JR: I spent time caving during college in Missouri, which is cave central, especially for those seeking “wild,” non-show caves to explore. And this can sometimes lead to trouble, like getting stuck in a tight squeeze during an ascent out of a cave that left me stranded and pinned on my rope for a couple hours until I was eventually able to shimmy and wriggle free (I think my eventual freedom had a lot to do with the lubrication from the amount of sweat I was exuding while hanging there).
JG: I’ve noticed that your books are some of the first of those published by the Big Six to be competitively priced. Why is that, and did you have any say in that?
JR: I did advocate for this. As a storyteller, my goal is to get my stories into as many hands as possible, so the cheaper the price, the more copies end up in those hands. Maybe it goes back to my love of those old dime pulp novels. I think it’s a winning strategy. Also I know when I buy a CD that I have the option of stripping songs onto my various digital music players. I always thought (and posited this to my agent years ago) that when you buy a physical book you should be able to get an e-copy for free. And now some of the retailers are beginning to package books that way. It’s certainly a new world, and in this paradigm, you sink or swim depending on your ability to innovate and keep abreast of these changes in the marketplace.
JG: Is there anything exciting coming up in your books that you can tell us about?
JR: Coming out in April/May, I have the first in a new series debuting, titled The Kill Switch, cowritten with a good friend of mine, Grant Blackwood. It’s somewhat of a spin-off from my main Sigma series, as I ripped a pair of characters from those books for a series of solo adventures of their own. I especially love these characters: one is a former Army Ranger (Captain Tucker Wayne); the other is his military working dog (Kane). I was inspired to create this duo after doing a USO tour to Iraq and Kuwait, where I got to witness such unique partnerships in the field. Plus with my background as a veterinarian, it gave me the chance to write scenes from a dog’s POV. The pair debuted in my novel Bloodline, but I enjoyed writing them so much, I had to recruit them into their own series. The Kill Switch is their first solo outing.
JG: Thanks again for your time, Jim. And best wishes on your new releases. Looking forward to watching your titles skyrocket to the top of the bestseller lists!
Joshua Graham is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, winner of the International Book Award and Forward National Literature Award. His thrillers include DARKROOM, LATENT IMAGE and BEYOND JUSTICE, and TERMINUS. Graham's works have been characterized as thought-provoking page-turners.
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