Wednesday, April 18, 2012

James Palmer and the Love for the Stories

I met James Palmer in the pages of the wonderful Blackthorn: Thunder on Mars available from White Rocket Books. I was so intrigued by his story that I had to get to know him better.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

I have two short stories that were recently published. My story "The Hand of Yogul" is the cover story in the most recent issue of Pro Se Presents, and I have a story called "Indestinguishable from Magic" in Van Allen Plexico's anthology Blackthorn: Thunder on Mars.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

What makes a hero heroic, and how to be heroic in the face of incredible odds. I also want my work to remind readers that we are much more powerful than we give ourselves credit for.

What would be your dream project?

I would love to write a far-reaching SF novel. As far as franchise characters, I would love to write The Spider or a Cthulhu Mythos story. I'd also like to write a comic one of these days, just to see if I can do it. Despite growing up reading and collecting comics, writing them was never really something I wanted to try my hand at until recently.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

I think every writer looks back on some of their past work and cringes. It's just part of the process. Everything you write makes you a little better, so it gets hard to look back at the old stuff without seeing something you wish you had done better. But if I could pick one story in particular, it would be the first Lao Fang story I wrote for Pro Se Presents (then Fantasy and Fear). I friend read it and suggested that the hero should get the girl, so if I could do it over again I would make that happen for the protagonist.

What inspires you to write?

Reading something really well-written and exciting always makes me want to run off and go write and create something that makes someone else feel the way that book or story made me feel.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

I've learned so much from so many writers, and it depends on what type of writing I'm doing. For my pulp stuff, it's definitely Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft. I love the big ideas and world building of Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross. I love the characters and themes of Robert J. Sawyer. Other writers I admire include Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and Dan Simmons. All of them have built complete worlds in my head, and I try to do that with each and every story I write.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

I think it's definitely a little of both. Writing is an art and a craft. The art can't be taught, the craft part can. With writing there are some skills you are good at and others you are not, but you can work on the stuff you're not good at by practicing, reading books, going to workshops and getting critiques.

But there are still elements of art, those parts of writing that are like painting or music. Music is a great example. A prevalent music gene seems to run in my family. I didn't get it, but it's there. I took guitar lessons for a while, and can play parts of a few songs if they're very, very simple. My brother, on the other hand, can play anything that makes noise, and does so seemingly without much effort at all. I could practice all day every day for years and never be a third as good as he is. I think it's that way with writing to a certain extent. There are people who just know how to make the words and stories flow, like Howard or King or Simmons. Fortunately, one doesn't have to be Howard, King or Simmons to get published, but you do have to work on the stuff people tell you needs work.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

I am in the beginning stages of a novel pitting two classic monsters against each other that have never appeared together before. I've just started writing it, but I can promise it will have a heroic mad scientist, a beautiful female spy, science, magic and Nazis. Lots of Nazis. I'm also working on a series of stories featuring a character I created called Sam Eldritch: Occult Investigator for Hire, about a former cop in 1930s Chicago who is trying to track down the Chinese demon that killed his partner and gave him a knack for seeing the strange and secret things that lie just beyond the normal world we know.  I hope to have at least one of these out by the middle of the year. I'm also going to write a story for Pulp Obscura for a possible December 2012 publication. I'm working on a couple of things for Airship 27 too. Then there's all the SF and steampunk stuff I want to do. I always have a lot of irons in the fire.

For more information about James and his writing, visit his blog at