Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Jim Towns, age 45.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I’m from Pittsburgh, PA, now living in Los Angeles.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I grew up with a single mom, and was always artistic- drawing, making movies on VHS… but now I realize what I was really doing was learning to create stories, even as a kid.
I went to Savannah College of Art & Design, graduating with a BFA in sequential art, which covers storyboarding, animation design and graphic novel illustration. I worked in NYC for a while before coming back to Pittsburgh and beginning to show my art in galleries. Around this time I began getting back into filmmaking. That led to my first feature being shot locally in PA, and then to me moving out to Los Angeles 14 years ago to pursue making movies as a career. Once my film career was going pretty strong, I returned to fiction writing, and over the last few years have lately been getting published in a lot of anthologies. The whole thing was really roundabout, but life and drama are both circular, so it shouldn’t be that surprising.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
There’s a lot going on, I have two short stories releasing soon- The Grave will be coming out in Hellbound Books anthology “Devil’s Hour”, and Switchblade Magazine will be including my apocalyptic noir story Bad Coffee and the Bomb in one of their issues later this year. I’m in negotiations with a publisher to release my first novel sometime in 2020, and I also have a feature film I wrote & directed calledState of Desolationcoming out at the end of this year.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Again I think I was creating stories from a very early age, taking my Incredible Hulk action figure on month-long odysseys, or writing new Star Wars films with my action figures. I now see that was a kind of oral storytelling I was practicing. As I got older, I was lucky enough to be encouraged by several teachers to develop my narrative writing, and my writings won some contests and prizes and stuff. But it was probably around age 12 or so that my friends and I started making little films, and I started writing the (what can only loosely be called) screenplays for those little films. That was an important step because I had to be able to write something that was capable of being filmed, so I had to lean to incorporate limited locations or characters, but still make those elements work into a narrative context which made sense. Later on I dabbled in playwriting, and did some writing for comics as well.
Aside from the basic mechanics of the page layout, I don’t think screenwriting or playwriting are all that different from prose writing. It’s all character and setting, dialogue and action, pacing and payoff, just in a different format.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s hard to say. Weirdly I don’t know if even do now? I call myself a creator, or if I’m feeling cocky maybe a ‘storyteller’. To me the title of ‘writer’ denotes a certain lifestyle that I’m not sure I fit.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
There are stories I want to tell which I realized would be very difficult if not impossible to tell on screen. Some are too small, some are just too abstract and some of them- while being palatable in print- would be un-releasable if visualized (or at the very least get me in a boatload of trouble). So the prose writing really evolved out of me really wanting to tell these stories, and looking for a better format in which to do that.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Like a lot of authors, I think I evolved out of imitating the writers who influenced me, until I found my own voice. For fiction I kind of have two modes: there’s a more formal, antique voice that came from reading lots of Tolkien and Poe as a kid and then later on other vintage writers like Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer &Robert E. Howard. It serves well for period stories and ones that delve more into myth and legend. Then some of the writing I do has a more contemporary vibe and vernacular.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I feel like everything one writes needs to be based to some degree on something the writer has experienced (hey, I just called myself a ‘writer’). That inspiration doesn’t have to be a one-to-one ratio—for example, my story Mile Swim: I’ve never been attacked by an entirefrenzy of hammerhead sharks, but I was in Boy Scouts, so while the actual events in that story are entirely fictional and fantastic, the characters and the dynamics for how the group reacts to the emergency are based on my own experience, so there’s at least a certain amount of reality to it.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I don’t need to physically travel to write- most of the travelling happens internally. But continuing from my point in the last question, sometimes places I visit will inspire a story. A story I’m working on right now is based on someplace I visited in France last year, so the place itself was the catalyst for the idea. Everything beyond that is just research on Wikipedia.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I do most of my own cover design for my short publications, which I find both easier and more affordable.
Fiona: Is there a message that you want readers to grasp?
I think if there are overall messages in my work then it’s that a) our futures are self-determined, b) we are,each one of us, our own greatest enemy, and c) finding ways to work together always makes obstacles easier to surmount.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I’m not reading a lot of new fiction right now- as research for a current film project, I’m very focused on the lesser-known works of one particular famous 19th century author who also happens to be one of my favorites- but I can’t say who just now.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
My cats. They’d much rather me be at home writing in my office all day than out on location somewhere filming something for 16 hours.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Writing has been taking care of me and keeping me from having to have a real job for a few years now, so that’s a big yes. But I don’t think someone needs to be doing it full time to consider it their career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
My new novel was originally a screenplay I wrote in 2013, which I’m now adapting into a novel. So if I were to change anything I’d probably write the thing as prose in the first place in order to skip this very arduous reformatting stage. Honestly it’s way harder than writing the actual story was.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned a lot about how the penal system functioned during the Great Depression.That should be a big hit at parties.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
That part is already cast- hopefully people will like the book and the studios will want me to adapt it as a film— luckily I’ll have it ready for reading.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
People say write what you know- I say write about something you like. Any serious creative endeavour isn’t a sprint- it’s a marathon. It’ll take you longer than you expected, and at various points you’ll end up hating what you’re doing before you once again rediscover your love for it. You’ll be confronted by naysayers, unenthusiastic publishers and critics all along the journey from page one to publication- and during that time you’ll be provided every excuse to quit that life can serve up (and some of them will be really good excuses). Through all of that you have to maintain your belief in yourself and the value of the work you’re creating—so make sure you really really like what you’re writing.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I appreciate all sixteen of you.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m actually reading a nonfiction book about famous hauntings in Savannah that I picked up when I was back there to visit last fall. I’m also reading the omnibus ofSock Monkey comics by Tony Millionaire, which are two steps beyond brilliant. And sometimes at night my wife and I read from a book of Charles Bukowski’s collected cat poems.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
It was a young adult version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that I bought at a school book sale. I wish I still had it.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
There’s way too many to name, so I’ll just say Bela Lugosi.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Well I kind of took my hobbies and made them my career, so I’m very fortunate because what I get to do for a living- writing, making movies, creating art- is both my pastime and my profession.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I watch A LOT of stuff, since it’s also basically research. But as to what I most enjoy… I’ve been a classic horror fan from very early on so if it’s in black and white and has a monster in it, I’m there.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Sushi, Yakitori and almost any Japanese cuisine are all my favorites. Black is and always has been my default color. Musically, I’m into anything from Black Sabbath to Social Distortion to Sisters of Mercy to Concrete Blonde to Johnny Cash. It’s more about the mood and the content for me, I guess.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Surrounded by the people who are most important to me.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Just a name and a date. Let what I’ve created tell the rest.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
People can keep up with my literary and cinematic shenanigans at https://www.facebook.com/jimtownsfilms
Amazon authors page USA https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Towns/e/B01NAR72WP