Jul 19, 2012

Author Interview: James Thomas - The Last Ride

James Thomas - The Last Ride

Pub Date: April 21, 2012
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services
Format: ebook, 415 pages
Age Range: Young Adult

Camelia is a recently orphaned teen who has to make it to her estranged grandparents' home in South Dakota or face foster care. But she's too young to travel alone, and she doesn't have enough money.

Bear is Camelia's neighbor, an aging biker with a terminal illness who is determined to make one last run to the big Harley riders' meet in Sturgis.

Camelia talks Bear into taking her along, since her grandparents live less than thirty miles from Sturgis.

Together with Bear's younger sister and a friend, they take off on Harleys, planning on going the long way and soaking up the scenery.

Things go well for a while, and it really is a dream vacation. Then people they meet start turning up dead. The group learns that a mass murderer known as the Northwest Killer is operating in the area. That's bad enough, but it soon becomes apparent that they are somehow psychically linked to the man.

For Camelia, it becomes less a matter of reaching her grandparents than of simply staying alive.

The Last Ride is a road novel, with death riding along. While it’s technically a young adult book because of Camelia's age (14), adults who don't require sex or four-letter words in their reading material should find it an interesting read.

Mickey: Hi there, James Thomas! Welcome to the blog. Please introduce yourself.
James: I live in San Jacinto, California, am retired, and busy myself with gardening (a joy), remodeling (a curse), and writing (a creative compulsion).

Mickey: Your YA novel, The Last Ride, is about a motorcycle journey. What made you write a YA novel like that? Where did you come up with the idea?
James: The story got its start when I realized that a lot of YA novels featured a dead parent or a dead sibling.  I’m not sure what the appeal is, but it apparently works, so I came up with two dead parents and a dead family dog.  Should be two and a half times better, right?

Anyway, the novel is really about death and the protagonist’s efforts to deal with it.  I’m familiar with traveling by motorcycle, so that part came easily enough.  I also committed to writing a series of novels about things paranormal.  By paranormal I mean phenomena that fit the original definition, which means things that are beyond the range of normal experience or scientific explanation, and for which there is some credible evidence.  Examples are telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis (moving an object with the mind), ghosts, reincarnation, that sort of thing.  Vampires, werewolves, and the like have nothing to do with paranormal.

In the case of The Last Ride, one of the characters is precognitive clairvoyant, which means she sometimes senses events before they happen.

Beyond these things, and how they fit into a short concept statement, there was no planning at all.  I don’t outline or plan ahead, but simply start writing.  I assume that when I sleep, my subconscious bangs out the next few chapters.

Mickey: There's a review for The Last Ride that starts like this: "First of all grab your tissues and everything you need for a long read. I couldn't put this book down." Does that inspire you to write more? Do you reach out to fans of the novel?
James:  I had two reviews that, in effect, labeled The Last Ride as a tearjerker, and I was somewhat surprised.  If I haven’t set out to write a sad story–The Last Ride has a happy ending, by the way–I don’t see the novel in that light.  The reader, on the other hand, is more apt to be emotionally impacted by the events in the story.  It’s gratifying to know that the novel does affect people.  Also gratifying to see that readers enjoyed the book.

I don’t have a blog–and don’t have time for a blog–so there’s really no way to communicate with fans.  It’s considered bad form for an author to respond to a review on Amazon, which leaves the social sites, and I’m not fond of that approach.

I have a number of novels written and waiting for my artist to create cover art, plus I’ve started work on a sort of bizarre romantic comedy set in India.  The title is Rats!  The girl gets her man and the rats win.  The inspiration was an article about an Indian politician urging his countrymen to snack on rats.  Can’t make stuff like that up.

Mickey: Is The Last Ride a stand alone novel, or will there be more books about Camelia?
James:  It’s a stand-alone novel.  I don’t believe in holding back on story or resolution in order to have material for a sequel or sequels.  I, personally, would rather read nine different novels than three novels with sequels.  Having said that, I do have two middle grade novels that will have sequels.  This is because the characters and the situation lend themselves to continuing adventures.  I think this is more natural for stories where the main character is a child, because there’s lots of room to grow.  No profession to restrict what they do next.

Mickey: What aspect of writing do you find the most difficult?
James: I don’t find writing difficult at all.  What’s difficult is getting visibility for a novel once it’s written, especially a novel that isn’t in a hot genre.  I find it ironic that something that was intended to organize books on the shelves of a bookstore (genre) for buyer (and seller) convenience now restricts the thinking of book buyers.  So promotion often becomes more important than the book itself.  Also, promotion can take up so much time that the writer has none left for writing.

Mickey: What plans do you have for writing more novels? Are you still going to focus on YA?
James:  I like writing YA and MG novels and will be uploading more to Amazon.  All are suitable for adult readers as long as they don’t require four-letter words and sex in their reading material.  But I have two adult novels–The Baby Game and To Dance Again–currently available at Amazon, and the new one I mentioned will be aimed at adults.  

Mickey: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
James:  I guess Hannibal Lecter, but I’m talking about the movie versions of the novels.  I require two things from a true villain: that he or she is more powerful than the protagonist, and that he or she has personality.  One or both of those is often missing.

Mickey: Thanks so much for being on the blog today, James! Any parting words?
James:  I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you and your followers about writing and my novels.

Giveaway Alert!!
You can win an ebook copy of The Last Ride!! Just comment below with a way to contact you to win. Easy peasy, right? It's an ebook, so it's international! Earn an extra entry by tweeting about it. Make that a separate comment, please. Ends 7/25/12. Thanks and good luck!!

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