Name: James Garcia Jr.
Age: Just turned 46.
Where are you from? I am from the California central valley where we have no rain, if you watch the national news. It’s our fifth year of drought. *frowns* I live in a small Swedish-themed town just south of Fresno, called Kingsburg. Since Uncle Stevie (King) set many of his stories in Bangor, Maine, I went ahead and set most of mine here. I am a husband and father of two teen-aged boys. For my day job I am the Manager of a Cold Storage facility for Sun-Maid Growers of California. The lady on the little red box of raisins – that’s us.
My latest news: I am currently waiting on the editing on my fourth novel. It is the third novel in my crossover vampire “Dance on Fire” series. It is the series that explores whether a vampire can be redeemed.
When & why did you begin writing?
I discovered horror fiction as a teenager. I had also grown my hair long and thought I might pursue being a musician. Eventually, the song lyrics I had been writing began to grow longer. I soon realized that I needed more space to write what was in my head. I wrote short stories and novellas, and then eventually what would become Dance on Fire – twenty years later. *laughs* I stopped writing when it became too hard to do so after our second child was born. When I turned 38, I began to feel the regret I would have if I didn’t try one last time to finish that book. Now I’m working on book four.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
This is one of those questions that writers tend to struggle with. Sometimes we worry that we don’t qualify unless we’re bestsellers. Or we’re not authors until a large publisher signs us. I didn’t call myself a writer until after I had been doing it for a while. I still don’t really call myself an author. I guess I let other people call me that. I don’t really get hung up on it.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Hmm? Really, song lyrics begat short stories. The short stories eventually begat novellas, etc.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Even when I started writing Dance on Fire twenty-plus years ago I thought there were too many vampire stories. Little did I know! *laughs* Then I went through this period where I started going to church. I love what I call “smart” horror (I’m more of a Silence of the Lambs guy, than a Texas Chainsaw kind of guy). But I thought maybe I was supposed to write Christian stories, so I started to do that. Yet, I missed that roller-coaster rush of sitting on the edge of your seat with good scary fiction. I then decided to work on crossover fiction. It’s not Christian Fiction, just Christian-themed.
How did you come up with the title?
This is a great question. Very early on I came across the Dance on Fire idea. We all know about stop, drop and roll with fire; however, we all have that moment of panic. I liked the idea of standing back and watching all of these characters panic as the action and tension mounts. As I was writing the book, I really thought I would change the title at some point. Unfortunately, after twenty years it was the only title that made any sense. It became unchangeable. For my third book – a stand-alone paranormal with romance, where the main character is haunted by visible ghosts as well as the ghosts of his past – I called it Seeing Ghosts.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
You know, in the beginning I was more concerned with whether my story had a beginning, middle and end. *laughs* For my fifth novel which is currently simmering inside my head, I am playing around with some deep inner meaning, but I didn’t really have messages as a focus before. I love it when readers find them, however. That’s always very cool.
How much of the book is realistic?
The “Dance on Fire” series is set in my home town, as well as other real locations around California and Oregon. Everything other than house addresses is real. Of course the vampires are real…
What books have most influenced your life?
You know, as writers, I think we soak up everything like sponges. Everything influences us one way or another. Certainly that is true of me. I do enjoy telling people that my all time favorite book isn’t horror at all. It’s the great Pat Conroy’s epic novel Beach Music. That guy is a genius! If I could write half as well as Conroy, I’d die a happy man.
What book are you reading now?
My reading suffers. Historically I work a 12 hour day job. Being an indie author takes up so much time that there really isn’t time for anything else. Ask my wife and she’ll tell you how unbalanced I have been over the years. *sigh*I do read off and on. When I do, it tends to be a lot of Indie stuff. I am currently reading The Woman in Black – which I thought was a good film. I’m a sucker for a good haunted house story. I’m sure I’ll be back to Indie once I’m done. We’ll see.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
As I mentioned, I read a lot of indie, so, yes, there are so many great emerging authors out there. I read everything by Stant Litore. He writes what he calls the Zombie Bible series. I don’t care for zombies, but I love what he does with them. It’s fantastic. I love Richard Parker’s thrillers. Serial killer stuff, and so page-turning.
What are your current projects?
I’ll be releasing Dance on Fire: Infernal this spring. Because I work way too many hours at the day job, I try not to take on a project too often. “Infernal” was first written between November of 2013 and February of 2014. I’ll probably start working on an outline for the next book sometime later this summer.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members:
I would have to say that the writing community is critical. Family supports, but they also don’t understand why we do this, and they also tend to dislike the amount of work that it takes – especially since it robs us from them. Writers understand. They celebrate the successes and provide a shoulder for the dark times. Find writers and make friends. It doesn’t take much.
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, I do, even though there isn’t much money in it. Breaking even is all any of us can hope for, although some do skyrocket. For me, once again, it was regret that drove me. No matter how much I make off of these books, no one can say I didn’t try heard enough. The reviews have been good, so I can’t complain.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Seeing Ghosts is my latest. It was released in early 2014. It was my first shot at a paranormal with romance. It has quickly become a fan favorite, and I couldn’t be happier, because it came out like a dream. We could literally work on our novel forever and it would never see the light of day. Eventually, you have to let that baby out of the nest.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Just finding the time, you know? Thanks to the 12 hour day job, I was married to my laptop for a long time there. I’m trying to be better now, and actually sit next to my wife on the couch during the week. I used to blog, etc. That really helps, but I don’t have the time. I live off of my iPhone during the week and really try not to touch the trusty laptop until weekends. It’s been better for my family.
Who are your favorite authors and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I love Conroy, as I mentioned before. His prose is perfect. It’s smart, but as a reader you don’t find yourself tripping over his level of language. That’s not easy to do. Many, many others have failed and turned off readers very quickly. He also juggles so many plot-lines, but manages to tie them together when he’s done with the loveliest and most perfect little red bows. I also read everything by Michael Slade. That first book in the series Headhunter rocked my world. It is a must read. Slade writes about the Special X Division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He uses so much history to flavor the stories, and then often takes us across the world – much like a Bond film. It isn’t for the faint of heart, but very, very good.
Do you have to travel much concerning your books?
The great thing about it being 2015 isn’t just the ease at self-publishing, but research gets much easier as well. Basing my stories in California does make the writing easier to get correct. I have driven to some locations. Everything else is just internet study, Google Maps, etc.
Who designed your covers?
The great Maria Zannini has done all of the covers. She’s wonderful, and I am blessed to call her friend. She’s a writer and artist extraordinaire. I don’t think there’s anything that she can’t do.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Just that I have the talent to do it, I think. Notice I didn’t say I was great at it. I just said that I could put one together. Not everyone can even write a good paragraph. We should be very proud of these accomplishments. I let the reader tell me how well I’ve done.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Just keep writing. Have no regrets. And, of course, make yourself a part of the writing community. They are so very important.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Just a heartfelt thank you. The next thing would be to encourage readers to post reviews. I never beg anyone to do that. I feel that they have already done more than enough, having bought the book and read it. However, their reviews are so critical to our success. They are a great help.
Do you remember the first book you read?
The first book? I don’t know: Winnie the Pooh? I can tell you that the first book of consequence was probably The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson. Whether real or hoax, it’s still one of the most frightening books ever.
What makes you laugh/cry? Sadly, the news isn’t fun to watch, so I try not to watch too much of it, besides the National news. That’s where the real horror is, isn’t it? Laughter is indeed the best medicine. I try to laugh and play as often as I can. And music gets me through. I’d curl up and die without it.
Is there one person, past or present you would meet and why?
You know, we set ourselves up for disappointment when we ask to meet our heroes. There’s a very real chance we won’t like each other. I do, however, try and meet indie friends, and have had the pleasure of doing so on a couple of occasions. That has been very cool.
What do you want written on your headstone and why?
I just asked my wife and she said I’m being cremated. I told her either way I want a sign on the freeway and a statue in the middle of town. *laughs* Seriously, more important than the head stone is the size crowd at the funeral. That really tells the story, I think.
Other than writing, do you have any hobbies?
After the 12 hour day job AND being an indie author… Yeah, sleeping. *winks* I listen to a lot of music, I watch a film as often as I can and I live and die by my beloved Chicago Cubs and Dallas Cowboys sports teams. There isn’t time to much of anything else.
Favorite music? Don’t get me started. I love music. I never wanted to be one of those that claimed music dies in 1969 or whenever. I try to keep an open mind, and am constantly looking out for new artists. I have the big iPod that will never be filled in my lifetime. For the most part I listen to classic rock from the 60’s and 70’s and hair metal from the 80’s. I do listen to classical music, especially while writing. The pretty piano and violin stuff is okay, but I prefer loud powerful orchestras, much like film scores. I don’t care for country, but I do listen to some jazz and pop.
If you were not a writer, what else would you like to have done?
I am a Manager for Sun-Maid. I only write because I see entire movies playing in my head that I feel compelled to write down and share with others. *grins*
I do not have a website. I just use my blog for all of that until such time as I deem it finally necessary.
Thank you so much for offering to interview me, Fiona. It has been fun. Many thanks to all of your readers out there. Feel free to say hello. I always enjoy meeting new people and making new friends.