Bestselling author Steven James is one of the nation’s most innovative storytellers. He has written more than twenty books and is a full-time speaker, having appeared more than 1,500 times throughout North America, Europe and Asia since 1996. With a Master’s Degree in Storytelling, he shares his unique blend of drama, comedy, and inspirational storytelling at events across the country. His debut novel of psychological suspense, The Pawn, reached #10 on the CBA fiction bestsellers list and is a finalist for the 2008 Christy Awards. In addition, he has written numerous critically acclaimed nonfiction books and hundreds of articles and stories that have appeared in more than 80 different publications.
Steven: The books are science thrillers that deal with sweeping conspiracies and the unforeseen consequences of wholeheartedly embracing emerging technology without thinking through the moral or ethical basis for that. Whew. I know that sounds a little deep—but really the books are fast-paced thrillers that have that searching, questioning backdrop. It’s been a blast working on them.
Josh: I’m interested in the scope of series. How many books are planned?
Steven: I was originally planning three books, but for now the third has been put on hold while I’m working on some other projects. I’m hoping to return to the series in the near future.
Josh: What’s behind the title? What does Singularity mean?
Steven: Well, it’s a little hard to define, as there are a number of interwoven aspects to it, but I’ll take a stab at it: the Singularity is a hypothetical moment in the future when machines become self-aware—and the inevitable but unpredictable consequences of that tipping point.
Josh: Both Jevin Banks novels have explored the moral dilemmas and terrifying and intriguing future of technology. What sort of research went into Singularity?
Steven: I had to do a ton of research—both readings on my own and interviews with people involved in emerging technology. Nearly every day I keep an eye on news of inventions and innovations in technology and medicine, and then I try to anticipate where things will be in a year or so when the book actually releases. It’s intriguing and exciting—but also challenging, because you need to be a bit prophetic but also root your story in actual science and discoveries.
Josh: You seem to be drawing a comparison between Jevin’s illusions and the advances made in science. What is your point there?
Steven: Truthfully, I don’t dwell a whole lot in symbolism when I’m writing. I just dive in and try to tell the best story I can. It’s interesting to see what people draw out of the stories—sometimes it makes sense to me, sometimes I just wonder, “Where in the world did that come from?” I like your observation, though. I just wish I was smart enough to have noticed before you did.
Josh: I’m curious about the name “Jevin.” Where did it come from? Were you going to name him “Kevin” but your finger slipped?
Steven: Actually, I have a cousin named Jevin, so when I was looking for a name I ended up thinking of him. I’d never heard it for anyone else and I liked it. Coming up with names is always a bit of a chore for me, but this one seemed like a natural fit and I just decided to go with it.
Josh: You do an excellent job of creating characters in the series and one of my favorites is Fionna, the homeschooling hacker mom with her cadre of whiz kids. Now, as a homeschool graduate myself, I have to ask, is the character based on anyone you know or completely made up?
Steven: I like Fionna a lot as well, however, she’s not based on anyone. I don’t base characters in my books on people in real life. Instead, my characters sort of emerge as I work on a book and I like to give them quirks and inconsistencies, which, at least to me, makes them seem more real and lifelike.
Josh: Now, to switch topics a bit to your other books, beginning with The Bowers Files. What can we expect from that series? I believe you’re currently writing Checkmate, the final volume, correct? What’s left for Patrick Bowers?
Steven: Interesting question. Yes, Checkmate is the last of the chess piece novels featuring FBI Agent Patrick Bowers. (For your readers who aren’t familiar with the books, this is the eighth one in the series after Opening Moves, The Pawn, all the way up through The Queen and The King.) It’s been a challenge writing Checkmate—since there are so many characters and promises from the previous seven books that I needed to weave in—that I was really stumped coming up with an ending until I’d worked on the book for nearly a year. As far as the future, I’m planning to do a couple books featuring him in a prequel series. It’ll be interesting to start over with him, introducing fresh characters and not abandoning him forever.
Josh: Also, I know you have a number of future projects in the works, from a YA novel called Blur to a book on storytelling. What can you tell us about those? Are there any other secret projects you can share?
Steven: Yes, over the last couple years I’ve worked on a number of unique projects, including Blur, which is a tense, twist-filled mystery, and Story Trumps Structure, which is the first-ever book (that I know of) on organic fiction writing. I’m working on a sequel to Blur called Fury. It’ll be out next year. As far as secret projects, you’ll have to wait on that. There’s always something brewing on my computer somewhere.
Josh: You’re known for your fiction, but what our readers may not know is that you also teach the art of Story. So I have to ask you a few questions…What’s the hardest part about being a writer?
Steven: For me it tends to be the sporadic pay-schedule. Essentially, we get paid only a couple of times a year and it’s hard to predict how much income you’ll get at those times. So, the business portion of it is hard.
Josh: What does your writing day look like?
Steven: I like to write / edit in the morning, take a break in the afternoon and get out of my basement office, and then go back at it in the evening. It really depends on whether or not I’m trying to meet a deadline—it goes in seasons as deadlines come and go. I try to get outside and run or at least sneak in a little exercise in the afternoons. I’m not very balanced—instead I dive headfirst into everything I do and then jump into the next project. I’m a little manic that way. I’m just not a halfway kind of guy.
Josh: How do you make the jump from wannabe writer to actually writing?
Steven: In her lifetime, Emily Dickinson only had seven poems published—and each one of them was altered by an editor. Was she a poet? I would say that yes, she was, even though she didn’t find financial success from her work. If you’re a wannabe writer who is serious about his work and produces stories of quality, I believe you’re a writer, even if you don’t get paid to do it. Of course, all of us want that recognition and compensation for our time, and that mostly comes from persistence with a touch of luck thrown in there.
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