Interview with an Author: James M. Jackson

james-m-jacksonIt’s my pleasure to welcome James M. (Jim) Jackson, author of the Seamus McCree mysteries. Not only am I a huge fan of the series, I have Jim to thank for telling me about Barking Rain Press.

We first meet Seamus (pronounced Shaymus) McCree in Bad Policy. We learn he was a top stock market analyst who quit the profession because he couldn’t stomach the corporate duplicity of changing one of his reports. Later, he moves to Cincinnati and begins working for the Criminal Investigation Group as a private financial crimes investigator.

Seamus was born and brought up in Boston. His father was a police officer, killed in the line of duty. His mother worked at home, trying to keep Seamus out of trouble. He has an older sister. He’s divorced and has a son, Paddy (Patrick to everyone else).

And now, we get to meet the man behind Seamus McCree.

Judy: I know from posts on your blog, My Two Cents Worth (Before Inflation), that you have a financial background, so we know you have that much in common with Seamus. I also know that you’re both runners. But I’m guessing you’re not independently wealthy (as Seamus is) and that you’ve never worked as a financial investigator. How did you come up with the idea, and how long did it take you to write that first novel?

Jim: I have a knack (or bad habit depending on your perspective) for looking at any financial transaction and figuring out how a devious person could pervert the system to their advantage. Writing mysteries allows me to explore financial crimes in a way that doesn’t subject me to arrest!

The thirty years I spent working as a financial consultant to large corporations and governments provides great background material for my novels, but I needed a protagonist who would be credible investigating financial crimes. Seamus and I do share a few characteristics, but compared to me he is taller, faster, smarter, richer, younger and has all his hair.

It took me about a year to write the first draft of the first novel. Then I spent several years rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. As I submitted that novel to agents, I started Bad Policy, which became the first published Seamus McCree novel. While working on Bad Policy I secured a publishing contract for a bridge book for intermediate players. Master Point Press published One Trick at a Time: How to start winning at bridge in 2012. Barking Rain Press published Bad Policy in 2013.

Bad-Policy-CoverJudy: You followed up Bad Policy with Cabin Fever. In this novel, you move from Cincinnati to Seamus’ family cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His plans for a quiet, contemplative winter are shattered when he discovers a naked woman on his porch during a blizzard. How much easier—or more difficult—was it to write the next book in the series? And what prompted you to select such a remote setting? CabinFever-Cover

Jim: Writing One Trick at a Time interrupted my work on Bad Policy for almost two years. Since Bad Policy was the second Seamus McCree novel I wrote, I had an easier time writing the Seamus and Paddy characters because I knew them so well. Because I thought Bad Policy would be the second in the series, I had to deal with a new wrinkle: how to introduce characters for a second time. [When it became the first published book, I had to reverse course!]

At the end of Bad Policy, I left Seamus physically and emotionally beaten up. I wanted to send him somewhere remote to recover, and since I am currently a resident of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I had ready material for just such a place.

In a flash of inspiration I realized that I could use the U.P. weather to mirror Seamus’s mental state: from isolated and frozen at the beginning of the story, to warming, but muddled as the story ends during “mud season” when frost comes out of the ground and everything is sloppy.

Writing Cabin Fever had the advantages that I knew my characters and location well, but I still had to figure out how to write them so new readers would not be lost and old readers not bored by repetition. My writing process had become more sophisticated, requiring fewer rewrites to perfect the story.

Judy: Both Bad Policy and Cabin Fever are published by Barking Rain Press. For the prequel, Ant Farm, you chose to go with Kindle Scout. What prompted that decision?Ant Farm Cover

Jim: Remember that first novel? Last year I reread it. The story had good bones, but even though it had received a representation offer from an agent, it was not sufficiently well written to be published. I completely rewrote it while retaining the bones to become Ant Farm.

I am fortunate that people who read my novels enjoy the characters and the stories and want more. My biggest current concern for the Seamus McCree novels is to cultivate more readers. I initially decided to self-publish Ant Farm.as a prequel to the series so I could control promotional opportunities and pricing decisions to grow series readership.

The Kindle Scout program appeared as I was completing Ant Farm’s final edits. I decided I could better grow a reader base by trading the freedom of self-publishing for Amazon’s marketing prowess for the ebook version. I’ve written about that process in this blog.

Judy: My readers love to hear about an author’s writing process. What’s a typical day for James M. Jackson? What’s next?

Jim: Gosh, I am terrible to ask about typical days. I do not have them.

Some days I spend twelve hours on my writing; other days I do nothing. In part that is because I have many other interests (such as playing tournament level bridge) that preclude writing at the same time. Consequently, I compartmentalize my time.

I am most productive in the morning and get up early to have hours of quiet time before others get up. The middle of the day is a mental muddle for me, but I become creatively alive again later in the evening. I try to plan writing days to concentrate my efforts during my productive periods. I prefer to write in quiet: no Stephen King blasting rock and roll for me. If external noise is a problem, I put on headphones and listen to new age music without words. If a song has words, I start singing along and there goes my writing.

I am in the rewrite process for Doubtful Relations, the next Seamus McCree novel. Seamus’s ex-wife’s husband goes missing, and she connives to get Seamus to help find out what happened. Soon everyone’s relations are involved. Whenever families are in crisis, unresolved issues present themselves, probably making us all doubtful relations.

Thank you, Jim.

You can find James M. Jackson at http://jamesmjackson.com/index.html.

Thanks so much for having me, Judy.

Thanks for reading!

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23 responses to “Interview with an Author: James M. Jackson

  1. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks for stopping by again, Sheri. Always good to hear from a fellow BRP author!

  2. eightpawswriting

    Hi Jim and Judy,I thought I had read this interview, but don’t see my comment. A very fun conversation and interview. Jim, I have read your books in order and enjoyed them. I have also read Judy’s. Loved it and will be waiting for the sequel. It is nice to get to know our fellow writers with BRP!

  3. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Kaye!

  4. I finally got over here to read this. The link I reposted got messed up and I couldn’t find this. Very nice interview. Glad I made it. Thanks, Judy and Jim.

  5. A very interesting interview, Judy and Jim. Judy I appreciate the ping back to my blog! 🙂

  6. jmjackson054

    And I do very much appreciate your efforts at getting me better known.

  7. Judy Penz Sheluk

    I just want folks to discover your books! And Carol’s blog, which is excellent.

  8. jmjackson054

    Yes, an embarrassment of riches in terms of blog timing — sometimes you think everything is spread out okay and one thing or another has to move and poof two blogs in one day. The other is just a little quickly blog that Carol does — Judy’s interview is MUCH more complete 🙂

  9. jmjackson054

    Judy — true, for you Ant Farm will truly be a prequel (you can find out how Seamus and Abigail met, for example). But all the novels can be read as standalones.

  10. jmjackson054

    Grace — thanks so much. We’ll see over the summer what the effect of the other books in the series are. Of course, if I don’t get back to my rewrite of Doubtful Relations, there won’t be a book 4!

  11. jmjackson054

    Kathleen — I think the actual rules are that to be eligible you would need a U.S. tax number, which some Canadians have if they have ever worked in the States. In addition, you would need a U.S. bank account. I suspect if Kindle Scout does very well for Amazon in the U.S. they will open it up elsewhere. We’ll see.

  12. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Grace, if you haven’t read Jim’s books, you’re in for a treat!

  13. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Kathleen. Kindle Scout isn’t available to Canadian writers but it sounds like a great option. Consider following Jim’s blog. He’s very honest about his publishing journey and statistics.

  14. Judy Penz Sheluk

    I started with Bad Policy, which was his first book, but now he has Ant Farm, which is a prequel. Would be fun to read them in the “new” order.

  15. Grace Topping

    Hi, Jim — It was interesting to hear how your series progressed–kind of like backing into it. Good tip about using the Kindle Scout program to introduce readers to your series. I hope it brings you many more fans.

  16. Nice interview, Judy and Jim. It really gave me something to think about. Writers today have so many publishing options.

  17. Kristina Stanley

    I haven’t read James Jackson before, but now I’m intrigued. Excellent interview.

  18. jmjackson054

    Susan — I wonder what Stephen King’s books would have been like if he had had quiet instead of loud rock and roll.

  19. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Susan! Rec’d the proof galley yesterday 🙂

  20. Sounds like you are on a roll, Jim. I am with you on the quiet while I write. Good luck with “Ant Farm,” and Judy, I will be watching for your launch.

  21. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Jim! It was my pleasure to do the interview.

  22. Judy — Thanks so much for interviewing me. I’ll bet you are getting anxious to see your book in print — and I can’t wait to read it.

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