Today, Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest Jim Power. Jim is an internationally published writer having contributed articles to 60 magazines and newspapers, including the Smithsonian Institution (black history), as well as many top outdoors magazines in North America.
He has a long history of publishing fiction including dozens of short stories in New York magazines to seven novels in 2013. Jim studied Honors English at Saint Mary's University and majored in Russian Literature at Dalhousie University before becoming a writer. His recent novel, The End of the Line is, as he states, his most cherished piece of writing and he passionately wants people to read it, not only to see the world as it is, but to see the world as it could be.
Good day Jim and thanks for participating in our interview.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Norm, first of all,
thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be participating in this
interview with you.
I first considered myself a writer at around five
years old. Though I hadn't started to read or write at that point, I
distinctly remember - and my mother also remembers this - running out
of the woods behind our house one day and breathlessly telling her
that I had just seen a tiger. It had even chased me.
Living in Nova Scotia, Canada, this, of course, was positively ludicrous. She obviously didn't believe me. I instantly made up this ridiculous story about hearing on the radio that a traveling circus had one of its trucks slide off the road near our house and a tiger had escaped from the hold. That was the tiger I must have seen, I proudly proclaimed, convinced she would believe me. No such luck. She knew I was making it all up but that was the beginning of my writing life, because what is a fiction writer but someone who makes up a story and tries as hard as he or she can to make people believe it's real?
How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
I grew up in a fishing village where men and women normally adhered
to traditional roles. Becoming a writer was unusual, to say the
least. But I have a great respect for traditional male pursuits, such
as fishing and the trades. However, my father died of cancer at 28
and was buried in a bitter wind on Christmas Eve, 1956, leaving
behind two small children and a wife eight months pregnant with me.
My mother was the only parent I ever knew and I learned a certain degree of female sensitivity that many other boys did not have. I have always gravitated toward male activities such as sports, including rough sports like lacrosse, but I feel that being raised only by a mother imbued in me a degree of softness. Because of this, I feel equally comfortable writing a warm romance such as The End of the Line and my soon to be released brutal murder novel, The Black Princess Mystery.
What inspired you to write The End of the Line and how did you go about creating the characters of Latesha Thomas and Peter Elsworth?
The End of the Line
has a special history in my life. I originally wrote a short story
called The Matchmaker about a woman named Latesha Thomas setting up
three dates for a man named Peter Elsworth. It ended with them
deciding to have a date themselves.
A magazine group that published
multiple stories of mine in the past offered $250 for the story, but
wanted all rights. I loved the story so much that I just couldn't
sign it away forever. I insisted on one-time rights, the editor was
displeased, and that group never published another story of mine. I
added 85,000 words to The Matchmaker and it developed into The End of
During that process I researched and published a major
piece on black history and some of those elements informed the story.
I created Latesha to be the woman who most appealed to me, someone
with incredible integrity and honesty, and someone with a total
commitment to her family. Though it sounds absurd, I actually fell in
love with her, but please don't tell my wife of 29 years.
Peter was secondary, but as the novel took shape, he asserted himself and I grew to like him very much. It's amazing how characters become real in a writer's mind. In a way, that's essential, because if you don't believe they're real, how can you expect others to? They are like children in a way. You give them life and nurture them, but they soon begin to develop an individual consciousness. In time they are totally independent and you no longer have any control over them whatsoever. Like your own children, they eventually move out and live their own lives. I am writing a novel about this process, one in which the characters become indistinguishable from real people in a writer's life. The dream becomes the reality.
Can you share a little of The End of the Line with us?
This is how Latesha and Peter first meet:
She leaned back, took Romeo and Juliet out of her purse, and was just about to start reading when a white man in his mid-twenties suddenly walked around the corner. Tall and blond, he was strikingly handsome, the kind of man who stands out in any crowd. Much to her surprise, Latesha did a double take. She was instantly captivated by the stranger and could feel his presence as if an electric field was emanating off his body. Though she had never before been attracted to a white man, Latesha thought he was the nicest-looking man she had ever seen. He was athletic and muscular, but he also had a gentlemanly gait, and his beautiful blue eyes seemed to ignite something long dormant in her soul.
She stared at him for a split second and the man smiled. It was a smile like none she had ever seen. He had perfect teeth and his whole face lit up. His smile was disarming; it made her feel at ease, but she quickly turned away. Hoping he would soon pass, Latesha resumed reading the tragedy. She would not look at him again. He was just a ship passing in the night. The man’s mobile phone rang and he abruptly stopped. Latesha surreptitiously peeked at him as he stood sideways to her.
“I’m at the north side of the Student Union Building,” he told the caller, unaware that Latesha was studying his every move. “Yes, I can wait.” He put away the phone and unexpectedly turned to Latesha. “May I sit here, please?”
How much of the novel is realistic?
The novel is very realistic. It is set either in real locations or thinly disguised locations. The novel deal with racism, which is very real, and with love. It sets up a powerful conflict and mirrors Romeo and Juliet in its mindless bigotry. There is a debate on music which contains all real persons and numerous scenes that could easily happen in real life.
What purpose do you believe your story serves and what matters to you about the story?
The novel is unabashedly hopeful. A segment of the reading population
will consider it something of a fairy tale and criticize it for being
unrealistic, but I wanted to create positive energy and joy. We have
enough misery in the world as it is. I wanted to show the world not
only as it is, but as it could be.
There is room in literature for A Christmas Carol by Dickens, after all. Even Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, a novel about murder and the arrogance of man, ends on the hopeful note of humility and love, no matter how frail. I want readers to feel good, but I want to take them on a trip first, a trip where the mountains seem beyond reach.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned a lot from writing this novel. I learned how to superimpose humor with tragedy, love with hate, hopelessness with redemption. I learned to deeply feel what Latesha was feeling, even to the point of crying when she cried. More than anything I have ever written, I learned to make these characters and this story real in my world, and, hopefully, in the world of others. That would be the ultimate satisfaction: if someone thought this was, or could be, a true story. In my mind it is a movie which played in my head and waited for me to transcribe it to paper.
What would you say is the best reason to recommend someone to read The End of the Line?
Depth and joy. I think the novel's chief strength is its ability, at least for some, to go deeply into the worlds of these two leading characters. To see what they see, feel what they feel, fear what they fear. I also think it captures the joy we have all felt at the onset of a new and blossoming love. That giddy feeling, the powerful need to be with a special person, the inability to stop thinking about him or her - the feeling of falling in love is something I really tried to recall and record.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Some people may love
my writing, some people may hate it, and some may be indifferent. For
me, however, there is no challenge to writing itself. I could easily
write 100,000 words in 20 days.
When I write - and I write all the
time - my fingers cannot type fast enough to record the dialogue
happening between characters, and the various scenes, playing in my
mind. My mind is like a furnace. It roars full blast when I'm writing
and, for better or worse, produces what I produce.
I have a novel
coming out in a few weeks called Blaze under my pen name of Summer
Newman. That novel was written at a 5,000 words a day clip for three
weeks, with a few days to edit it back down to about 78,000 words.
The entire novel was written after I entered a chat group and asked
other writers what was currently hot. Someone mentioned westerns and
I immediately began writing Blaze. I wrote that novel with no outline
and absolutely refused to think about it between sessions. I merely
sat down every morning at 8:30 and wrote until lunch, then after
lunch until dinner time, then after dinner to bed time. Day in and
I allowed my mind to go on cruise control and whatever came into it ended up in the novel. I had no idea what was going to happen and it was almost a passive experience, like watching television. It was also a lot of fun and quite educational. It's amazing, but during the editorial process, very few changes were made.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My two favorites are
Fyodor Dostoevsky and Jane Austen. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
made me sick, literally quite ill. Leo Tolstoy said that great Art
should not affect the viewer, it should infect the viewer.
Prejudice had me in a cold sweat. I couldn't sleep, couldn't get it
out of my mind, could hardly function. That story will never be
surpassed. It is perfection. Dostoevsky is so special to me. I bought
a book of short stories by him when I was 15, read them through, and
then realized that I wanted to be a writer.
Being a writer is a humbling experience. People think of us as leading exciting lives, perhaps strolling the estate in between sessions, but being a writer is often all work with little reward. Everyone can write. What makes you or me so special? In a way, you have to be arrogant to be a writer: you have to believe you have something of value to say. It's a tough life, though, and when you tell others you're a writer, you are just as often pitied as applauded. But when I read Dostoevsky, the ground shook and the heavens opened. That was a visceral experience unmatched by anything in my life, except for Jane's immortal treasure. In the end, Dostoevsky gets the credit, or takes the blame, for me becoming a writer.
Where can our readers find out more about you and The End of the Line?
am a private person like many other writers, but I do have a Facebook
page where I list the novels I have written under my name and my pen
name of Summer Newman. Readers could say hello to me there directly
if they wish.
What is next for Jim Power?
My hero is Christopher Hitchens, the greatest speaker I have ever heard and a great writer, a man who lost his life to cancer, but never lost his dignity or his brutal honesty.
Like him, I believe fervently in the
freedom purchased for us by those who sacrificed their lives on
bloody beaches and in godforsaken hellholes. The chief freedom is
freedom of speech. I want to write whatever I want to write,
regardless of political correctness.
The End of the Line is a novel about anti-racism. That's an easy win for a writer. My novel, The Black Princess Mystery, deals with the gruesome murder of a handsome young priest. It's an intense novel, white hot, and some people will consider it sacrilegious. I would like to tackle hot button issues through fiction and have written a first draft for a novel called American Gun. I would like to write children's stories and horror novels. I could never be happy if confined to set parameters. The world is my playground.
As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Norm, you did a
terrific job with these challenging and innovative questions.
if I could have asked one more question, I would have posed this one:
"What gives you the greatest pleasure about your writing?"
Answer: Connecting with people, whether they like or hate me, so long
as they read what I have to say. A cage fighter named Ronda Rousey
recently mentioned after remaining undefeated in a title fight, that
she didn't care if people booed or cheered her so long as they were
loud. That's a good way of looking at things.
You accept the boos and cheers with stoicism because what's the option? Sitting alone in a room typing words no one will ever see? You meet a lot of fine people through writing and in that group I would like to include you, Norm. Thank you for this opportunity and the great questions. I have tried to be thorough and truthful....All the best.