Monday, April 8, 2013

For Gods and Men by James R Johnson: Interview: Orangeberry Tour Stop


When and why did you begin writing? I seriously started writing after college.  My situation forced me to leave New York and move back to my hometown.  That destroyed me.  So I wrote.  It wasn’t anything structured, no story arcs, no character development.  It was slice of life and just described experiences.  Mainly it was about a man who sought redemption and restoration (hmm).  For years I thought of nothing but returning to NYC.  I found relief in writing narrative.
How long have you been writing? Technically you could say I’ve been writing for all of my adult life.  But I didn’t start paying attention to the fundamentals of writing until about 1997 when I wrote my first screenplay.  Man, what a piece of trash that was.  But, we all have to start somewhere.
What genre are you most comfortable writing? I’m a researcher at heart.  I study like mad to make sure that whatever I’m creating is as authentic as possible.  So, there really isn’t a single genre that I have an affinity for.  However, with that said, I refuse to tackle comedy.  That is something you either have or you don’t.  You can’t research it, learn it, fake it, whatever.  Comedy is a talent that is built up.  And I ain’t got it.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? The hardest part for me in writing anything is staring at the blank screen.  I can do all the research I possibly can.  I can structure the story to the most minute detail.  I can know the psychological makeup of each character to the deepest depths.  But writing that first paragraph is like sitting through a tax seminar.  No offense to my tax professional friends!  Getting the ball rolling is the toughest part for me.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it? The book is set in ancient Rome.  I have a real appreciation for history and that culture excites me anyway.  But I was a far cry from an expert on that period in history (still a far cry).  There was a great deal of research I had to do in order to make the characters believable, the culture tangible, and the setting authentic.  The biggest hurdle was getting into the mind of Romans in a world where life was cheap and morals were of little value.  It really was a different world back then.  Managing the culture of the day and make the characters accessible to the audience took some maneuvering.
How did you come up with the title? Actually, the title was a compromise with the publisher.  I knew that my preferred title wasn’t commercially suitable, but I loved it and fought for it.  The publisher said no one would buy a book called The Verisimilitude of Gods and Men.  I knew I couldn’t keep it, but like Castimus, I fought for what I wanted.  The final title I think still keeps the meaning I originally envisioned of a veiled reality while striking interest in the story instead of fear in pronouncing the title.
Can you tell us about your main character? Marcus Tegerius Castimus is a relatively noble kind of guy.  His family is wealthy, but they have lost the clout they once enjoyed as contributing members of Roman society.  Castimus wants to serve in public office, work in politics, restore his family name.  He longs for the mob’s adoration for serving them well.  For all intents and purposes, Castimus isn’t all that different from young people today; he wants fame and power.  The problem with Castimus is that he wants others to give him what he wants.  He is always looking for that angle, rubbing elbows with the powerful who can say a word and grant his desires.  Castimus is a pretty green guy.  Naïve only scratches the surface.  Shallow would be a good term to use if you took away the negative connotation.  He has a long road to travel… and a lot to learn about himself and his place in the world.
How did you develop your plot and characters? As I researched story structure and such, I came across a wonderful resource called Dramatica.  The book is very detailed and breaks down the elements quite comprehensively.  I recommend it to anyone looking to understand the components of story.  So, I worked almost eight months just on plot, character makeup, themes, issues, etc.  It was a lot of work up front, but by the time I came to actually write the text, it was a piece of cake since all the heavy lifting was already done.
What is your favorite quality about yourself? The quality I like the most about myself is my ability to empathize.  I have always had this knack to know what people were feeling, and sometimes why.  I turned into that friend that everyone felt comfortable talking to about their problems and issues.  Many times I would counsel my friends through their tough spots, other times I would just listen and understand.  Of course, this talent also lends itself to spotting lies.  Many a time I utilized that skill in dealing with salesmen.  It’s a good skill to have in buying a car!
What is your least favorite quality about yourself? I wish I had a fashion sense!  My wardrobe for many years consisted of jeans and Dave Matthews Band tour t-shirts.  I hated wearing ties and button-up shirts.  And the worst was sweater vests.  Then my compassionate wife took pity on me and spent a great deal of time trying to teach me style, color coordination, shoe choice, etc.  It was so overwhelming!  We have worked out a system over the years.  She pairs items together and lets me know what I can and can’t wear together.  Yes, my wife dresses me.
How much of the book is realistic? Well, if you can get past the immortals, the werewolves, and the vampires, yes, the book is realistic.  It is realistic in terms of character.  The way people are behaving and reacting to their circumstances and situations is true to life.  Of course those situations are a bit fantastic.  Then there is the actual location.  I attempted to portray Rome and Alexandria, Egypt, as authentically as I could.  I wanted the reader to feel the pressure of everyday life, the solace people turn to in that day, and the society they faced.

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Urban Fantasy
Rating – PG13

This bold new story written on an epic scale vibrates with its unique setting and time frame. Trapped in an alternate universe, the memorable characters set off on a quest to overcome nearly insurmountable odds.

The setting: 98 BC Rome. The story: Marcus Tegerius Castimus has just learned he is immortal. Together with an unlikely alliance that includes a vexed Vestal Virgin, he is the only hope to save the world from a trap that the Lifebloods had set centuries before. Pursued by two factions, Castimus can choose to help the Lifebloods and live in luxury and power, or he can fight them to save the human race from extinction. But doing the right thing is not always easy, and Marcus stubmles into the snare that the Lifebloods laid for him - a trap that has been centuries in the making and from which there is no escape. Or nearly none.


After graduating from American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, James stayed in Manhattan and pursued the call of the starving artist. Working full time and attending open "cattle calls", he tried to make a name for himself. Unfortunately, open auditions brought hundreds of actors that looked just like him.
James R. Johnson realized that he had a talent for work behind the camera as well as in front. He started directing and producing his own short films. He also helmed projects brought to him by colleagues in the Virginia Beach film community.  Still lacking enough projects to fill his time, he began writing his own material. He wrote several short scripts before moving on to features. James now has many feature scripts in various stages of production.
When the opportunity presented itself to write novels, James R. Johnson jumped at the chance. Always looking for another adventure, another challenge to conquer, he developed the story of the Lifeblood Saga in a short time. He then set to writing the first volume, For Gods and For Men.

Connect with James R Johnson on Facebook & Twitter & GoodReads

Next Stops
9th April – Book Review & Guest Post at Quality Reads UK
10th April – Book Review at Bits & Bobs
11th April – Author Interview at Keeping Sane with Books
12th April – Guest Post at Creating Imaginations
13th April – Book Review & Author Interview at Book Lover’s Dream

No comments: