Exclusive Interview with
James E. Sanford, Jr
When did you start writing?
I started writing very short stories as a young teenager. I think I just had an overactive imagination and needed an outlet. I sold a short story to DC Comics when I was fifteen.
What makes writing your passion?
Writing as an adult has always been cathartic. I don't worry about anything and I burn off negative energy when I'm engrossed in my writing. It doesn't matter if I'm writing a poem, a short story, or a novel, everything else is suspended for a short period of time.
How long have you been writing?
I would say I have been writing for fifty-six years. However, I didn't get serious about my writing until I got out of the military and started attending college. I wrote my first book, Baptism is Blood, while still in college.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
Elated and ripped off. The publisher was a co-worker who owned a small publishing company. He published the book with no intention of marketing it. It was simply a tax writeoff for him. I was angry but learned a valuable lesson about the publishing/marketing aspect of being a writer.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
I base the majority of my characters on people I have met or know. I bend or mold them to fit the storyline I am writing. In most cases, I don't have to do a lot to develop the character in my story.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
Writing is a love. A passion. I would write every day, even if it was never published or read. The annoyance comes in the publishing and marketing aspects. Finding publishers takes great patience and care. Keeping up with the marketing is a pain in the ass.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
I have always laughed at the term "Writer's Block". My response is I have Writer's Diarrhea. I can't stop writing or creating. If I reach a point in one piece that isn't working, I simply work on something else. Eventually, I finish what I started.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
Write. Write. Write. It is easy to make excuses not to write. Set a time or other goal for each day and sit down and write. I cannot write at the same time or place every day. I simply plan on writing two thousand or more words every day. Occasionally, I miss a day or two here and there, but rarely.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Stop procrastinating and making excuses. Get off your ass and do what needs to be done. Life is short and time is limited. Stop talking and start doing.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
When reading reviews of myself or other writers, I always start by considering the source. I can't be offended by someone who bought a book off Amazon and didn't like it. I listen to people who give constructive criticism and understand the writing process.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
A good review can be less helpful than a bad one, as it does not necessarily tell me how to improve. Positive strokes are great, but again, consider the source.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
There is always a little part of myself in my characters. How a character feels or reacts in a scene or situation comes from my experience. My book, Nuclear War Diary, came out of my thoughts and feelings after visiting the city of Hiroshima, Japan, and seeing the nuclear bomb memorial there.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
None of my characters is really based on me. There are traits, behaviors, and words that are based, in part, on me. My life experiences definitely influence the stories that I tell.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
The cover is the first thing a reader sees. Every book I've ever read grabbed me with the title. Color and pictures can be very effective, but readers look at words. The synopsis or introduction pages are what readers look at.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I love talking to people about my writing and writing in general. When I taught writing to high school, college, and incarcerated students, I found that they always had great ideas and different perspectives on various ideas and topics.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
Again, it is nice to receive positive strokes and be recognized for something you've achieved. It inspires me to write more and improve as a writer.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
I read everything Clive Cussler wrote. I always enjoyed his characters and the fast pace of his stories. I loved the way he wrapped his stories around real history. You sensed his love of history in his writing.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
For me, fame and glory are not my goals. Telling a really good story in the best possible way is always what I strive for. Being recognized as a good storyteller should be the dream of every writer.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
Hell, yes. I'd love to have the skills I have now and be able to rewrite my first three books. Though good stories, I lacked the writing skills to tell them properly.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
Mark Twain? John Steinbeck? Both were great writers and great storytellers. They lived incredibly interesting lives and wrote about the times in which they lived. However, I like the life I have and wouldn't want to trade with anyone else.
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
Again. Consider the source. I suffer fools very well. I can't control what others think, feel, or say. If I'm content with what I write, I am sufficiently happy. I don't give any power to "trolls" or sorry individuals I don't know.
What would you say to your readers?
Sit back in a comfortable chair. Sip a glass of your favorite adult beverage. Open one of my books and enjoy the ride. When you finish the book, tell me what you liked, didn't like, and why.
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I just moved from northern California to Minden, Nevada. I live with my wife Linda and my great-granddaughter Luna. We are remodeling a fantastic southwest style house in the Carson Valley, so we can entertain my two daughters and five grandchildren.
What is your day job if you have one?
After 42 years in education, I retired as an educational administrator. The last twenty years I worked in prisons, jails, and parole offices with incarcerated men and women and incredible teachers. Now I write, play with my great-granddaughter, and make custom jewelry.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I consider writing poetry a hobby. I also love photography, traveling, and making custom jewelry. I have several large collections, but my wife says I'm just a hoarder.
Did you have a happy childhood?
My father was career Army. I didn't meet him until I was almost 5. I grew up with five sisters. The hand me downs were a real drag. We were poor and moved a lot. I didn't know we were poor and always enjoyed being outdoors. I think my childhood was great.
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
In the beginning, it was a teacher named Mrs. Baker who encouraged me to write. After two combat tours with the Marine Corps in Vietnam, I used writing to heal my psyche. The writing process has always had a healing effect on me.
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
I am working on a book with my 8-year-old great-granddaughter called Walking to the Moon. It is about a man trying to get from Belize to California after a devastating earthquake, where his only living family member is.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
I was raised on the three R's. Schools are too busy teaching useless information and how to feel. We need to teach good basics in Math and English. Daily living skills and the US Constitution would be nice too.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
Wish number one: I want ten more wishes. Since I have everything I need, all my wishes would be for my family and friends.
What is your favorite music?
My music tastes are extremely eclectic. I listen to almost everything. I have XMS Sirius in both my cars and I hear a little bit of everything during the course of a day. I try to avoid hip-hop and rap, but having kids and grandkids interferes with that. I do love 50's and 60's rock.
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