Interview with T.James
Next on my list of great writers to take over my blog is T. James. He not only has a great book out, the touching and moving My Mirror Self, and I, but he also interviewed me way back in April, which some named as the funniest interview they’d ever read. You can go here to read it in all it’s glory.
My Mirror Self, and I has been given some wonderful reviews: ““The central character is sympathetic and all too human while the depiction of depression rings scarily true.”
Here’s the blurb to My Mirror Self, and I:
Intimate and real, this is a story about finding courage in the face of adversity. Cassie is a young woman struggling to keep herself, and everything else, from falling apart as she tries to deal with breast cancer and depression. Can she find the strength she needs to rescue her marriage and reclaim her life?
And a short excerpt:
“A couple of claustrophobic and disconnected weeks followed before David left for another week away. I drove to see my parents back in my hometown of Topeka, where I stayed until a couple of days before David was due to return. The change of scene was wonderful, and it was so lovely to see them. For a brief time I felt like I had a home somewhere again. This was despite the suitcases left abandoned randomly in several rooms through the house; like flower centers surrounded by a corona of petals, each suitcase was decorated with its own crown of scattered clothes.
Mom had always been awful at packing, but adamantly refused help from anyone. This time it was even worse; in two weeks they were off on their ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe as Pop called it – bus trips around England, France, Spain and Italy, followed by a month-long cruise around the Mediterranean. They’d literally been saving for decades for this, their once-in-a-lifetime retirement dream – so I couldn’t talk to either of them about David, being unemployed, or hating Atlanta. I wasn’t going to ruin this for them and so I acted as if everything was fine. I thought I deserved an Oscar.
David called every day – at least things had calmed to a civil exchange of words. All marriages had their ruts, right? I had to be content with waiting, figuring that we could mend things when we got a bit more perspective on them. However, Marjorie overheard one of our calls and she wasn’t the waiting type.
Marjorie was one of my oldest friends, and the only one left still living nearby. We had gone to Malone’s, our favorite bar, which was now Chantrey’s American Bistro, and paid five times the price for drinks than we used to. The food was good though, and we were having a great night. Marjorie was always outrageous but now she was divorcing Jerry, her second husband, she was unstoppable. After two hours I knew more about their defunct love-life, Jerry’s birthmarks and the funny sound he made in the back of his nose when he panted than I ever wanted to. The phone rang and I pulled it eagerly from my bag – despite the tension between us, it was still great to hear David’s voice. He sounded happy enough, if a little distracted, and we chatted briefly about inconsequential things. He said he loved me and he was looking forward to seeing me again in a few days.
With a serial divorcee’s unerring instinct for spotting holes in someone else’s relationship, Marjorie asked if David and I were still having sex before the phone was even back in my bag. I really did not want to talk to her about that. Just because she felt comfortable going through a position-by-position debrief didn’t mean I did. I tried to evade the question, but Marjorie was drunk and simply wouldn’t let it go. Where did David go in the evenings? Did he still buy me gifts and, if so, what and when? Were we still planning a family?
I remember blushing and beginning to fume inside, but it wasn’t until Marjorie asked if I had been through his things, and checked his pockets, his address book and his phone contacts, that I finally understood what she was driving at. I threw my drink in her face and stormed out of the bistro, leaving my so-called ‘friend’ to find her own way home. I blamed Marjorie for being drunk and soured by two failed marriages. She was bound to suspect the worst. The hot feeling of shame buried somewhere inside told me that I doubted David too; I’d been through his things hadn’t I?”
And now for the interview:
1. So, why don’t you tell us all a bit about yourself?
I’m a dad and husband, living in the UK. Depending on who you talk to, I’m an old crusty the wrong side of forty, or my life began just over a year ago. I’ve trained as a scientist and therapist and I’ve been writing formally, at work, for most of my life. I started writing creatively in February 2011, the first time since I left school. I started with no clue, no confidence and an abandoned attempt at writing a fantasy novel. Since then I’ve turned my hand to poetry, short fiction, and blogging.
2. Can you tell us a bit more about your book? Where did the idea come from? How long did it take to write?
My Mirror Self, And I (MMSaI) tells the story of a young American woman, Cassie, and her struggle with depression, breast cancer, unemployment, and a failing marriage. It’s a story about finding the courage to go on living, no matter what the odds stacked against you.
The ideas came from a few places: various members of my family have faced what Cassie faces in the book; the courage of the people I used to treat; and my wife’s ongoing involvement in breast cancer research.
MMSaI took around six months to write, and several more for beta reading and editing. Although it is only novella length, the subjects are extremely emotive and it took me a long time to work out how to handle them within the context of a story—although it is fictional I wanted Cassie’s experiences to feel as real as possible. It also took several tries to find a tone, viewpoint, and style that I felt happy with. Partly this was down to my inexperience, which meant multiple rewrites. That was frustrating, but it was a great learning experience for me as a writer.
3. How did you come up with the title?
I can’t remember which song it was, but I heard the phrase, “me myself and I,” in the lyrics. That stuck with me and I started to play around with the wording until I felt it fitted some of the themes of the story: our identity and how we define it.
4. What made you decide to self-publish?
I’m not against traditional publishing, but for this novella it was a straightforward decision: the shorter format, unusual writing style, and the topics of cancer and depression were never likely to appeal to an agent or a mainstream publisher. It was either self-publication or abandonment.
I was also excited by the prospect of being able to get into the design and presentation side of book production—something only self-publication allows you to do.
5. What has been your favourite part of this writing/publishing experience? The scariest?
Writing anything, especially when it’s self-published, leaves you feeling quite exposed as I think something of yourself always goes into what you create. It’s like being at school again and waiting for your essay to come back from the teacher—covered in red pen and with, “See me,” written at the bottom—except this time your writing is applauded or criticised by a lot more people.
The exchanges I’ve had with writers and readers so far have been challenging and rewarding in equal measure, but something I’ve really grown to value. My other “best bit” is the feeling of satisfaction I get when I see the finished product. I will leave it to others to personally rate the quality of what I do, but for me the point is that I did it, and to the best of my ability.
6. Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
I’m very much in an experimental phase at the moment, wanting to try different genres and styles of writing to find out what my limits are. Life is a mix of both tragedy and comedy, and as a writer I want to explore both. My new projects are a lot less serious: a YA parody and a satirical writer’s how-not-to guide.
7. What do you do for fun when you’re not writing?
The thing is, writing is fun. I’ve always had an overdeveloped sense of curiosity and writing gives me a great excuse to find out all kinds of oddities and obscure facts—did you know you’re not supposed to hot wash hemp underwear?
As a person I’m quite passionate and my free time is limited so if I was going to give writing a decent go then something else had to give. I used to watch anything and everything on television and play loads of computer games—now, not so much. I don’t miss them as much as I thought I would as I get more of a kick from creating than I do from consuming. I still watch TV and films with my wife and there’s reading, of course. Otherwise life is about letting my son spray me with water and jump on me as often as possible.
8. What was the last movie you went to see?
Avengers Assemble. It was fun: excellent action sequences and cheesy one-liners, Loki in a dress, Thor with the intellectual capacity of a bison, Ironman with his toys, Captain America in a gimp mask, the Black Widow in her itchy cat suit, and a Large Green Angry Man. Great cinema.
9. What’s your favourite comedy Monty Python film/sketch?
Of the films it has to be Monty Python And The Holy Grail:
The Knights Who Say Ni: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTQfGd3G6dg&feature=related
The Black Knight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKhEw7nD9C4&feature=related
French Taunting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9DCAFUerzs&feature=fvst
It’s the Monty Python team at their funniest, but personally I found the ending a bit of a let-down.
The Parrot Sketch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npjOSLCR2hE
Fresh Fruit Self-Defense: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piWCBOsJr-w
Ministry Of Silly Walks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZlBUglE6Hc&feature=relmfu
I know these are everyone’s favourites, but they’ve become classics for a reason.
10. What makes you laugh on TV?
Well, it was a while ago, but I always enjoyed the anarchy of The Young Ones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPDa8gZ75vw&feature=related
Um, Steve? Steve…? Was I that dull? Maybe he’s just working his way through all those YouTube clips…
*An even longer uncomfortable silence*
Well, I guess that must have been his last question. I don’t know, does he do this a lot? It’s his blog and everything, but it’s a bit off isn’t it? To anyone reading this, I guess Steve will be back soon with another post. I apologise on his behalf for leaving you all hanging…
*Mutters on the way out* Maybe it was a technical fault…? Maybe writing Nate’s got to him, and he’s now delusional and trying to kill people by dropping cars on them with the power of his mind…? Maybe one of his daughters needed Daddy for something? Maybe he hasn’t done the dishes, and his wife found out? Maybe…
(Steve – Everyone just remain quiet, it might be cruel, but it’s the only way to get him to go home.)
If you’d like to read more of TJ’s musings (and that should probably come with a health warning of some kind), or want to read his incredible book, click on the links below.
EBOOK FOR KINDLE (readable on almost any mobile device with the Kindle App) available from:
T. James Blog: thewordonthe.net