KENT HOLLOWAY: I first learned of James Somers this week actually...as I was preparing for an incredible event from Seven Realms Publishing. You see, soon, Seven Realms will be hosting the INDEPENDENCE DAY in NOVEMBER. On November 24, we will be featuring independent authors of all kinds and genres right on the 7R website (www.sevenrealmspublishing.com/independence_day.html). The idea is that we hope that you, the readers, might discover your new favorite author! After all, indie films and underground bands are all the rage today...so we wondered, why not indy authors too? Well, James Somers responded to this event and sent me info on his latest Kindle release "Percival Strange and the Lonely Manor." I started reading up on this young adult fantasy adventure and immediately became hooked. I downloaded the book and am absolutely loving it. And I knew I had to share it with you as well.
At the moment, Percival Strange and the Lonely Manor is only available for the Kindle (we'll have to talk to James about that, won't we?!). And though it's marketed as a young adult (tween/teen) novel...it really is fun for kids of all ages!! I'm 39, going on 38 after all, and am having a blast reading it.
Anyway, here's the product description for it to give you a better idea of just what Percival Strange is up to:
The Lonely Manor has many secrets, and it guards them well...so why is the House beckoning Percival Strange to enter? Is the Manor House as terrifying as it seems or has its greatest secret remained undiscovered? There's only one way to find out...
Percival Strange was only curious when he took his best friend to investigate the scary things happening at the old abandoned manor house out in the middle of the woods. He had no idea the House would kidnap her, no idea she'd be ransomed in exchange for his cooperation with the deadly trials he would have to survive in order to satisfy the creepy denizens of the Imaginative Worlds dwelling there. Some of them seek his help; others his life.
Zombies, Sorcerers, Knights, Wizards, Werewolves, and all sorts of strange creatures face-off as the battle for control of the gateway to our world hangs in the balance. Percival's only hope for survival? Master the awesome powers of Creation within the Imagined Worlds before it's too late for everyone!
Sounds, good, huh? Well, James is extremely prolific! Not only has he written this great YA novel, but he's got tons of other books to consider for every age range (as long as you like high-flying adventure and action)!
1) Tell us a little bit about Percival Strange and the Lonely Manor. In your own words, kind of describe what its about. What are its themes? Who will enjoy this book?
Percival Strange has stumbled upon an old manor house deep in the woods where he witnesses some terrifying things happen. However, what he doesn’t realize is that this house is actually a gateway between our world and the Imagined Realms beyond. Having been created in the image of The Creator, man is also a creative being. We love to make things…but what if the characters, monsters and such that man imagines took on lives of their own? What would they do? Would they regard their creators with awe or envy? Percival is going to find that many of these imagined beings desire to enter our world and take it over for themselves! The novels places two Christian characters, Percival and his best childhood friend Violet, in situations they don’t understand, having to walk by faith. They are willing to sacrifice their own safety in order to help those imagined creatures who desire to maintain peace and separation between our worlds. Percival Strange would be enjoyed by nearly any age, so long as you love action adventure and fantasy on the creepy side with a little humor thrown in for good measure.
2) Having read it, I'm reminded of a great number of childhood favorites. I'm curious as to what helped inspire this book. What influences have you drawn from? Where, ultimately, did you get the idea?
One of my main influences for Percival Strange was the Oz Chronicles, by R.W. Ridley. The stories are completely different, but his series just has this really creepy vibe to it. I wanted to capture some of that “creepiness” in some of my YA fiction and Percival Strange has plenty of it. Another cool series that probably helped inspire Percival Strange would have to be the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. The tongue in cheek humor running through Bartimaeus’ narrative is wonderful. I hope Percival Strange is able to deliver some of that same humor: a dynamic adventure, but never too busy to be lighthearted at the right moments…it’s a nice goal anyway.
3) Now as a Christian, you seem to be really adept at blending tenets of the Christian faith perfectly with the adventures you write. They don't seem to be unnecessary intrusions into the story...but rather, helps to really round the stories out. Helps to give your stories depth. Is this deliberate? Can you give us a little insight into how you are able to do this so well?
I tend to limit ideas I’m serious about pursuing…so that I don’t find myself in territory that would cross scriptural boundaries. On the other hand, if I think I got something cool to work with, I’ll see how I can frame it so that I can use Christian characters…meaning characters whose faith is in Jesus Christ. Believers face the same problems other people do, but it’s our reactions to those problems that will be different. For instance: Percival Strange is a young Christian character. He reacts to indecision by praying, or to unanswerable questions by simple faith that God is still in control of the situation. The fantasy elements like zombies, ghosts, werewolves, etc that are involved in the story are framed in such a way that they don’t violate scripture. Do these things really exist? Of course not. So I couldn’t frame it that way and be scriptural. However, I was able to frame these elements as imagined beings and places since man did imagine all of these things in books and movies and so forth. Man is the creator of these things, but what if these beings were a bit more tangible and wanted to cast off their creators as mankind—created in the image of THE CREATOR—sought to do. Well, now you’ve got a good allegory with a good lesson too. I wish there was a good formula, but I’m really just shooting from the hip. I can’t pretend to be so brainy on the front-end of coming up with these things.
4) As I've already shared in the main portion of my blog, you're extremely prolific. Tell us a bit about your writing career. How did you first decide you wanted to write professionally? What has your journey been like? What would you like to see happen in your writing endeavors?
While in college I took up creative writing just to relieve stress, and the story I was working on kept getting longer and longer until I realized I had a novel on my hands. I kept working on it and began looking into the possibility of submitting it for publication. As I began to go through “proper channels” to accomplish this—and gaining my pile of rejection letters—I began to sense that I had two problems on my hands as a Christian writer. First, secular publishers really weren’t interested in the religious elements of my work. Second, many Christian publishers did seem interested in the fantasy elements. But to be fair, there are Christian publishers who publish fantasy novels, and maybe my particular stories just didn’t appeal. The plain fact is that it’s tough to get published—period. However, I contacted a self published author, Jeremy Robinson, who seemed to be gaining a nice following and doing well on his own. He agreed to read and review my novel, “The Chronicles of Soone: Heir to the King,” (a very Star Wars styled novel). After giving COS a great review, he approached me about publication with his start-up “Breakneck Books Publishing.” Since I was having no luck anywhere else, I gave it a whirl and my first novel was published through Breakneck Books. Following some of Jeremy’s promotional techniques, I saw pretty decent sales for an unknown author on Amazon—even before Kindle came about. Breakneck later was sold to Variance Publishing and COS is still on the list with some bestselling authors like Steve Alten of MEG fame.
Since that time, I’ve tried to get my foot into the door at some of the larger publishers, but with little success, even with a literary agent. So, frustrated again, I discovered the new Kindle from Amazon and the ability to self publish my novels in that format. Having worked closely with Jeremy Robinson on the formatting and cover work for COS I’d gained some knowledge and did everything myself—I’m a closet control freak anyway—then put out my novels on Kindle. I found even greater success with Kindle, selling my wares for a $1.00, receiving .35 cents per download. I managed to sell thousands of copies this way, even as an unknown…mostly because I assumed people would be willing to pay a buck for an interesting sounding story, whether they had heard of me or not. From there, I was approached by Trilogus Media Publishing, who contracted with me to re-release all of my Kindle novels in paperback and new Kindle books—complete with new cover work, re-edits, and some awesome interior design.
As for where I like to see it go from here: I’d love to sell millions of copies just like anyone else would, but I’m satisfied with whatever opportunities the Lord throws my way. I’d still write my novels if no one bought them…it’s too much fun!
5) Okay. Besides Percival Strange, if a reader wanted to pick up one of your books to see what you're all about, which one book would you recommend? Why would you recommend it above all your others?
Hmm…that’s a tough choice. I like all of them. But I would recommend the Realm Shift Trilogy, if I could only choose one…or is that three? Well, it’s a package deal and totally exemplifies my writing style: tons of action, cool bad-guys, a protagonist with special abilities trying to discern the right and wrongs of their abilities, epic battles, how to walk by faith even when you don’t see what good it will do, etc….Besides, it will soon come out in paperback and a new Kindle version, so anyone could read it.
6) Besides writing, what other things do you enjoy doing? Hobbies? Interests?
Well, I’m also the Pastor of Ozone Baptist Church in Rockwood, TN…I work as a Surgical Technologist doing mainly Eye Surgery. Besides spending time with my wife and children, I enjoy music: playing guitar and several other instruments.
7) I have a number of aspiring authors who read this blog. If you could offer only one piece of advice to them, what would it be?
Keep writing—don’t stop. You might get discouraged with the industry, but more and more things are changing so that authors can rely on themselves more. If big publishers aren’t interested, then try smaller ones, self publish, whatever. But don’t ever quit. Being creative is rewarding in of itself! I’ve been plenty discouraged at times, but I’m glad I kept trying.
Thanks James, for taking the time to talk to me about your passion for Christ and writing! I look forward to hearing more about your stuff in the future.