“Country” James is a pen name. My pen name…one of them. Under it, I write “country”–good country novels starring somebody “country” or somebody “city” who’s trying to “go country.” Key words there are “good” and “country.” In other words, I write about people of rural America, where rugged individualism is fostered and celebrated, where integrity counts, and truth and honor are paramount. Think ranch, farm, homestead, western, Midwestern, rural, small town, cowboy and trucker, think “country,” and you get what I’m talking about. Better, think of your favorite Country Western song–its hero, its heroine, its story …and the story behind that story. That’s what I write as C. J.
I’ll start releasing some of my “Country” James novels this year…if my editors let me, that is.
And to the question, am I really “country” myself or just a pretender–a drugstore variety, city-slicker wannabe? Well, I was put on a horse at a year-and-a-half in New Mexico, and once they let me go it alone, I never got off.
I’ve hazed cattle, roped with the hands, and taken my knocks with the best and the worst of them. Taken under the wing of one of the best wranglers of the bunch, a man who was a legend even in his own time, I learned the tricks and the secrets of gentling a horse, and even of busting rank broncs. I even learned to braid my own black snake, then fill it with shot, as well as to shoe my own horse, building the shoes myself from blanks.
I’m good with a rope and a tractor, can string fence and castrate a calf, a hog, and just about anything “livestock”, though I never did master the art of making good biscuits and gravy over a campfire. I’ve wrangled horses, mules, Herefords and Longhorns, wrestled hogs, and out-maneuvered mean dairy bulls. So, generally-speaking, and even specifically, yeah, I’m “country” and love it.
(Q) Thank you for joining us today. Before we begin, please tell our readers where they can find you.
Well, I’m actually all over the Net, but, specifically as C. J. “Country” James, you’ll find me on my Country James website, CountryJames.com and on ReadingCountry.com. For those who actually want to meet the ‘mug’ behind the pen name, you’ll find me mostly on G+, but I’m also on Facebook and Twitter.
(Q) Tell everyone a bit about your books including buy links.
Well, of my self-published books, which are the only ones I’ll talk about, we have some SF, but let’s not go there. Let’s move onto the interrelated books written by E. J. Ruek and C. J. “Country” James.
As E. J. Ruek, I’ve published two books, To Inherit a Murderer (Book I, The Ward) and Old Hickory Lane. To Inherit a Murderer can be encapsulated with ‘She thinks he’s a murderer…and he is.’ Old Hickory Lane‘s story can be summed up with ‘Raised white, half Native, a young veterinarian struggles to survive rural North Idaho amid poverty and prejudice.’ There are two books each that follow both those titles, and all of them are interconnected. Deborah Rheinhart of To Inherit a Murderer appears in Old Hickory Lane, Warren Jeffries, D.V.M., of Old Hickory Lane, appears in To Inherit a Murderer, Books 2 and 3, and also in books by C. J. including this novel, Through Better & Worse.
As C. J. “Country” James, this is the first novel of a series that will cover years of the Jarvis family saga, mostly love stories and continuing love stories, including those of their friends and relatives…and, yes, I know the last two to three scenes of the very last book in the series, and it’s a heart-warming tear-jerker that will choke you up. It did me when I saw it in my head in living 3D, full panaoramic mind-video. And, yes, I wrote it down.
Through Better & Worse, a Montana Love Story is the first book, with (probably) To Have & to Hold next.
The link to the eBook, presently on pre-order with a release date of August 25 (2015), is: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B013AUZTCK/ There’s also a print (dead tree) and an audio version being prepped for imminent release, the audio to be available on Podiobooks.com and on my website, www.CountryJames.com for download at a very reasonable price with a solid portion of it offered for free.
(Q) Where did the concept for the book (or books) come about?
Life. Just like Old Hickory Lane and To Inherit a Murderer did. I’ve personally lived firsthand, a lot of the incidents in Old Hickory Lane, and I know the woman who inherited the murderous child portrayed in To Inherit a Murderer. (And, of course, Myrrh in the book was my beloved campaigner.)
In Through Better & Worse, the main family portrayed is based on the family of a rancher who, in the novel, is Franklin Jarvis, the grandfather. I spent many months of my life on his ranch and love him dearly.
(Q) How long did it take you to finish, from concept to final product?
Well, concept is dated April 4th. Life interfered—rather dramatically—so I began the scene mapping on May 4th. I actually started writing the book on June 4th, and completed the draft June 30th. Actual time logged to write the novel covered a span of 18 days and just over 105 actual hours of typing. It was a very intense write, almost the fastest I’ve ever written a novel.
It was an easy story to write, because, as Nathan Lowell said, “Awww, Yeahh. Know these guys.”
I know these people…because I grew up around them for part of my life, then, later, returned and sought them out because I find them wonderful—the good guys in the story, anyway. Today, I live around then…am one of them.
(Q) Which authors have most influenced your own writing?
Conrad Richter, first and foremost. Also Keith Laumer, Alexandre Dumas, Gerald Durrell, Thomas B. Costain, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, T. H. White, Evangeline Walton, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and, of course Marva Dasef. There are others, but you get the idea.
(Q) What do you do for fun other than writing?
Fun? Fix fences, fix barns, clean stalls—all things livestock. I’m also a martial artist, and I’m married to the love of my life, dream guy, babe, so life is…busy. I’m also a graphic artist and web designer, though I’m trying my best to extract myself from those disciplines. It’s my goal to spend at least eight hours a day writing, editing, and recording books henceforth in my life. I’ve postponed ‘me’ way, way too long.
(Q) Do you have any favorite place where you feel your Muse is more apt to come and play while you write? Or perhaps you listen to music? If so, what do you listen to?
Life is my muse and he’s always at play in my life, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. Won’t leave me alone…even to sleep.
As to music, well, I gathered up a few songs for writing this book, but I didn’t use them. This story was so natural, so known to me, that I just sat down and wrote it. With books in other genres I write, like SF, I do use music. A lot. However, I write in The Zone, so, in essence, once I’m “in”, I don’t hear or sense anything except the story within which I’m participating, scene-by-scene, as I write it…kind of like being there as part of the story while simultaneously watching it, while simultaneously and completely being unaware of oneself, having one’s fingers type it at speed on a sort of autopilot. <–How’s that for a run-on sentence! 😀 When I finally “pop” out of The Zone, I’m startled to find the pages that have appeared. I once “popped out” to find I’d written over ten hours straight without even a bathroom break and had written over 10,000 words. My coffee was ice cold and I about broke the world record for sprinting getting to the bathroom in time. (Wish that would happen more often, but, again, life now gets in the way a lot more.)
(Q) Answer the following:
– Do you secretly want to write another genre, but don’t think you can do it?
No. I write multiple genres, already. The book I want to write, though—something completely cross-over with, well, let’s call them strange elements and enigma at its heart—keeps eluding capture. 😀 It’s going to be a hell of a book, though. It’s inside. I keep seeing it. Just can’t get it to come out into The Zone and swallow me, yet.
– In your ideal world, put in order those of most value to you: true love, family, success at writing, world peace, clean air and water, other.
– What are your writing strengths? Weaknesses?
Simultaneously both strengths and weaknesses are my self-critic and my self-assuredness as a writer, which battle one another constantly.
– Coffee or tea?
Gallons of coffee—gallons. And, yes, it’s caffeinated, not that other “stuff.”
(Q) Do you have any new projects that you are working on? If so, what are they?
I’m working on the two books which follow this one, and haven’t decided which will actually be number 2 or if it really will come out this year. I am also working on Come-Back Road, the book that follows Old Hickory Lane, written under my E. J. Ruek pen name. I want to release it sometime late fall or early winter.
(Q) How about an excerpt to tantalize the readers?
You bet. And I almost shared a scene from one of the next books—a sex scene—but decided, no. (Not even sure I’m keeping it. Might have to fade to black or release two versions, the one with no sex and the one with the sex left in.) Anyway, here ya go:
From Chapter 43 of
Through Better & Worse, a Montana Love Story
DREE BRAVED IT when they were on the final leg home. “This running back and forth to the ranch takes a whole half out of our work day.”
“The house is almost livable.”
She saw him nod, but his face didn’t give her any clues. Darned Jarvis genes. “You should have all been poker players,” she snapped.
He glanced her way. “What? Where’d that come from? What’d I do?”
She laughed. “It’s not you. It’s the whole male side of your clan. I’m trying to feel you out, and you’re not helping, as usual.”
He shifted his eyes sideways for half a second, then put his attention back on the road.
So she’d just say it: “Can I hire you? I’ll pay you a good salary.”
He was silent to that all the way up the climb to the house. He pulled into the garage, then shut the truck off and, finally, turned his face to her. “Nope.”
Stunned, she couldn’t believe he’d just done exactly what her dad used to do, just said ‘no’.
“You can marry me.”
HE COULD HAVE SHOT HIMSELF. The look on her face—maybe what people called ‘dismay’. He hadn’t meant to. His mouth had just blurted it out—stupid.
She turned away from him, sat a moment, then abruptly opened the cab door, her hands fumbling.
“Dree!” He reached to grab her, but she was out of the cab that fast, slipped from his fingers to disappear around the corner of Franklin’s new truck, her head bowed, her footsteps quick, almost running.
Damn it! He knew better. He knew better with her, anyway. You had to really work things out ahead of time—prepare. You had to ‘court’ and ‘woo’ like the olden days—lull her into relaxing her guard, into smiles and laughter, into liking you over and over, again, because she stopped liking you, or, maybe, went back to guarding against you, not trusting your motives or your meaning right afterward.
He’d never worked so hard in his life for a woman, and he’d never had so little to show for it. And, now, he’d gone and ruined it all. But, damn it, he loved her. He loved the way she smelled, the way she laughed, the way she cared for things…about things, the way her eyes shone when she saw the sunrise or the stars, the way she got joy out of little things, and, yes, the way, when she finally got mad or hurt, she fought back—like a horse pushed too hard, like a mother cow who got fed up with you messing with her calf. Dree was tame as a nanny horse and fierce as an angry cougar.