Interview | James Matlack Raney Talks To Us About Lord Of The Wolves, Finding Inspiration From Experience, & Subduing Writer’s Doubt (With Tips For Beginner Writers!)

Interview | James Matlack Raney Talks To Us About Lord Of The Wolves, Finding Inspiration From Experience, & Subduing Writer's Doubt (With Tips For Beginner Writers!) | The Black Lion Journal | The Black Lion | Black Lion

James Matlack Raney’s work spans 4 published novels to date and countless of fans and both adult and young audiences alike. His stories touch on the essence of childhood entering the cusp of maturity and are often boiled down to the journey of bildungsroman, not unlike the Harry Potter series. Full of magic and wonder, his work captivates readers and takes them on a fantastic journey of fictional experience.

I was first introduced to James’s work and his person at a publishing salon hosted by the managing editor of Poetry International at San Diego State University. I was an undergraduate student then studying Social Science and English and was (I can say now) extremely naïve about the business side of publishing. I had dabbled in storytelling and book making since I first learned how to use a Compaq computer operating on the then state-of-the art Windows ’95. I played with the paint program and made children’s books about learning and some about adventures. So when James talked about how he loved stories for young people, I totally understood and connected with his love for words as any writer would with another writer.

He talked to us about his journey with writing and in being a published author while also giving us advice on book promotion and events. His experience growning up in Europe, Latin America, and in Africa has expressed itself throughout his writing. James is the winner of the 2015 Writer’s Digest Book Award for YA/Middle Grade Fiction and holds the title of two-time Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalist for Juvenile Fiction for Jim Morgan of the King of Thieves.

I asked James if he would take some time from his busy schedule for an interview with The Black Lion Journal to talk about what he’s been up to so far and his transition from the Jim Morgan series to Lord of The Wolves.

 
CHRISTINA LYDIA
Hi James! I’m truly excited to have you on board with an interview. Thank you for taking your time to humor me with a few answers to my questions. It’s been a while! I last saw you when you came to visit my class for Jenny’s publishing salon (although, I hear you often make the trip to visit her students!). At that time, you were promoting your debut, Jim Morgan and The King of Thieves, and were talking to us about your start with writing. You’ve been on a role since then with the completion of the Jim Morgan series (books 1-3), winning book awards, writing short fiction — one being “And They Entered The Ark” where, according to your agent website, it was published on Hello Horror (I too have a horror story published with So Say We All’s Black Candies!) — and, of course, writing and promoting Lord of the Wolves. Wow! Can I ask you how you’ve been so far? How do you make time to do what you love to do?

JAMES MATLACK RANEY
Hi there and thanks so much for having me back. It’s great to talk to you again after so much time. I’ve been doing well, just balancing on that tightrope between having a blast and going off the deep end (but mostly a blast.) I think for a writer making time is the biggest and most difficult key to building a career and a body of work, so I still follow my two oldest rules: give yourself a daily word count and find a work place that’s just for work, whether it be an office, a room in your place, or the coffee shop down the street.

Interview | James Matlack Raney Talks To Us About Lord Of The Wolves, Finding Inspiration From Experience, & Subduing Writer's Doubt (With Tips For Beginner Writers!) | The Black Lion Journal | The Black Lion | Black Lion
“I think for a writer making time is the biggest and most difficult key to building a career and a body of work, so I still follow my two oldest rules: give yourself a daily word count and find a work place that’s just for work, whether it be an office, a room in your place, or the coffee shop down the street.” | James M. Raney Talking To University Students At San Diego State University

 
CHRISTINA LYDIA
What you’ve accomplished so far is definitely something to look up to. For new writers and authors out there, what are a few tips that you have learned that you wish you knew starting off?

JAMES MATLACK RANEY
There’s not room here to write about all the mistakes I’ve made and hard lessons I’ve learned. And I’m still learning! But I’ll give a couple. The first is to take your time and spend the budget you have available to get your project as perfect as you can before you send it to agents or publish it yourself. It’s so easy to get excited or trust wholly in that beautiful story you’ve written to carry the day, but minding the details about editing, cover art, revisions, flap copy, reviews, etc, can make or break your book. Also, keep reading! It’s so easy to get caught up in your own material that you forget to read, to see what’s new, discover great techniques and styles, be inspired, or just remember why you love literature in the first place.

 
CHRISTINA LYDIA
All of your efforts and dedication to your passion has shown up with the Jim Morgan series and now with Lord of the Wolves. Lord of the Wolves is a beautiful book both outside and inside, with an aesthetically pleasing cover and a memorable message of strength from the story. How did you decide to move forward with Lord of the Wolves, with respect to your work with the Jim Morgan series? Is this a story that you always knew you would write? Did it end up changing or did it stay the same (more or less)?

JAMES MATLACK RANEY
Thank you so much for the kind words. Lord of the Wolves was one of those rare books that just sort of “popped in there.” Though the book isn’t an allegory, many of the emotions came from some very real life experiences for me, both times when I felt on top of the world and times when I felt totally insignificant and unworthy. I honestly can’t say why all of that came out in a world of talking wolves, owls, and deer, but if felt right that way. Nature is so unforgiving and raw, so I never felt the need to pull emotional punches when writing through that lens. It was also one of those rare writes for me in that not much changed from a story standpoint as I went along. It certainly grew more polished, but the core elements were always there. That’s not normal!

Interview | James Matlack Raney Talks To Us About Lord Of The Wolves, Finding Inspiration From Experience, & Subduing Writer's Doubt (With Tips For Beginner Writers!) | The Black Lion Journal | The Black Lion | Black Lion
“There are times in our lives when we feel strong enough to put the world on our shoulders, and there are others when we barely have the courage or strength to climb out of bed. Some people live more or almost all of their lives under that latter cloud, and remembering those times from our own experiences enables us to relate and find compassion, which the world needs now as much as ever.”

 
CHRISTINA LYDIA
What I loved the most about Lord of the Wolves was the message. We learn that strength comes in all shapes, sizes, and abilities and that there is more than one kind of strength to be valued. Without giving too much away, I thought this was beautifully delivered with Watcher as the eyes and ears that we perceive the story from. I’m a strong advocate for inclusivity and diversity in all spaces, especially literature; and it’s my mission to reflect that message in everything that I’m passionate about. What about you? What moved you to have Lord of the Wolves approach ability and strength in the way that you did?

JAMES MATLACK RANEY
I hope this doesn’t sound cheesy, but I really do believe that there’s a Watcher and an Orion in all of us. That’s important I think, because that’s how we can generate empathy for just about every person on earth, whether they appear (from our perspective anyway) to be advantaged or disadvantaged. There are times in our lives when we feel strong enough to put the world on our shoulders, and there are others when we barely have the courage or strength to climb out of bed. Some people live more or almost all of their lives under that latter cloud, and remembering those times from our own experiences enables us to relate and find compassion, which the world needs now as much as ever.

 
CHRISTINA LYDIA
Sometimes us writers are known for being plagued with self-doubt, with pressure to create our best work, and/or with fear of not meeting certain expectations. How different was the act of writing Lord of the Wolves compared to the act of writing the Jim Morgan series? Did you ever encounter pressure to outshine your previous successes and if so, how did you alleviate that pressure? What advice can you tell writers and authors out there who may encounter these issues?

Interview | James Matlack Raney Talks To Us About Lord Of The Wolves, Finding Inspiration From Experience, & Subduing Writer's Doubt (With Tips For Beginner Writers!) | The Black Lion Journal | The Black Lion | Black Lion
James M. Raney Speaking At California Virtual Academies

JAMES MATLACK RANEY
I’ve probably experienced that pressure more since I wrote LOTW and started on my next project. I enjoyed LOTW so much and felt so proud of it when I typed “The End” that it was really difficult to find my way into the next story. I’m not sure I have much advice for facing that sort of pressure except to keep living and keep reading and keep writing. All of my books begin in my mind with an emotional experience, so if you keep your mind and your heart open long enough, another one of those will come along that will jog that storytelling nerve in your brain and spark another new story. Then the love of writing will just take over again.

 
CHRISTINA LYDIA
This time, I felt that the story was written for a mature reader when compared to the Jim Morgan series; it truly did carry the weight of a story aimed for older readers. Literacy is important for young readers — and in this way, Lord of the Wolves challenges them in a good way. My point being that you’re making a difference here! What are a few of your thoughts about creating books that challenge young readers toward better literacy?

JAMES MATLACK RANEY
At the end of the day, I always remember what Neil Gaiman and CS Lewis and others have said about this topic, and basically it’s that even though we grow up, that child we were is still the person we are. So I just try to write what’s true to me in the moment and trust that kids can handle it. The more I’ve visited schools and students the more I’ve been reminded how deeply young people are capable of thinking and feeling and comprehending. While I avoid certain mature subject matter and language, I’ve begun to shy less away from blunting emotional or intellectual impact, and hopefully that works out!

 
CHRISTINA LYDIA
I’ve been a great fan of your work and I look forward to seeing what you have next! What are your plans for the future? Are you going to keep writing or take a break? Will you move towards other genres of interest?

JAMES MATLACK RANEY
Thank you so much! I’ve been working on my next book for the last year or so, and I can confidently say that it’s been the most difficult project for me so far. So maybe I’ll take a break once it’s done. But I really do love telling stories, so I don’t imagine I’ll wait too long before trying my hand at the next one.

 
CHRISTINA LYDIA
What about film, TV, comics/graphic novels? Might we see your work in other mediums sometime in the future? (Is that something you would like?)

JAMES MATLACK RANEY
Anything like that would be a dream come true. Right now I’m feeling lucky to have had my first audiobook produced and released. I was so fortunate to work with the amazing Patrick Conn, who is a true voice acting professional. Whenever I share the chapter sample with someone, their eyes pop open when they hear Patrick’s voice. It’s an incredible feeling. So if any other projects like that became available I would jump at the opportunity.

CHRISTINA LYDIA
James, you’re a kind and generous person! Thank you for the review copy and thank you for taking some time from your busy schedule to answer my (sometimes pesky) questions!

 
On behalf of The Black Lion Journal, thank you for reading! You can catch James Matlack Raney on Twitter and Facebook. For updates on his work, take a look at his website. You can buy Lord Of The Wolves here.

Interview | James Matlack Raney Talks To Us About Lord Of The Wolves, Finding Inspiration From Experience, & Subduing Writer's Doubt (With Tips For Beginner Writers!) | The Black Lion Journal | The Black Lion | Black Lion

 

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¡PSST! Interview ©2016 The Black Lion Journal. Images found on James M. Raney’s Facebook.

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