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James Jakins – Author Spotlight

James JakinsI discovered James Jakins and his work when I read an article about last year’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO). I’m always on the lookout for great indie and self-published authors to add to my massive TBR mountain. In this case, one book caught my attention above all. I know they say you should never judge a book by its cover, but when the cover in question features a giant orc in a suit, I knew I was at least going to give Jakins’ entry, Jack Bloodfist: Fixer a shot. I’ve read quite my share of urban fantasy over the years. It’s a genre with a reputation for lacking in originality with many authors accused of being derivative of the obvious massive forerunners. Jack Bloodfist, however, is a true original.

Jack, the novel’s main character (MC) is an orc who has taken on the task of “fixing” problems in the orc and goblin communities. He’s more or less a peacekeeper that’s not afraid to lay the smack down if things get crazy. When a paladin named Arthur Shield, with ties to Jack’s father, begins killing orcs, his job becomes a lot more intense.

Fixer (cover)What brings Jack’s story to the upper echelon of urban fantasy is Jakins’ ability to bring fourth-wall breaking humour to the forefront of the narrative. Much like Deadpool, Jack often talks to us like we’re part of the action, and his deadpan descriptions of other characters and integration of real life comparisons in the comedic narrative will have you hysterical all the way through. There is also a rather intense third person backstory that is told with a more epic style that works very well in tandem with Jack’s central story. If you enjoyed the humour in Nicholas Eames’ Kings of the Wyld you will definitely want to grab a pint with Jack.

I knew once I’d completed this book, that I was a massive fan of Jakins’ writing. I went on to devour his other published work Son of Thunder, the first in a planned trilogy entitled Thunder’s War, a completely different type of novel but equally as fun. This time we get a true epic fantasy that is unique in its use of magic and dragons, despite being set in a more modern world.

Son of Thunder,” says Jakins, “is actually set in the same world as the first epic fantasy novel I tried to write when I was 15. That one was the traditional classic fantasy, low-tech/high magic setting. Then I had the idea for the water festival and thought it might be fun to make it more of a tourist type of event. I realized the world I’d put on hold was actually the perfect setting for it and fast-forwarded the timeline a couple hundred years so it made more sense. After I made that decision the rest of the world that remained sort of nebulous before solidified a lot. The festival and the idea for electric dragons plugged directly into a city’s power grid came at almost the same time as well, so a more modern setting just felt natural.”

Son of Thunder (cover)The second book in the series, Lightning’s Price will be published next year, and Jakins promises raised stakes and even more intensity.

As I write this article, Jakins is about to release his third full length novel, Knights of the Dead God. It is set in the Jack Bloodfist universe, yet features a completely different MC, Mikaia Goretusk, who readers are introduced to in book one. Jakins considers Knights a spin off, and not an official sequel, as Jack Bloodfist: Freelancer (Jack 2) is next on Jakins’ publishing agenda. Jakins is hopeful that readers will be able to enjoy Knights without reading Jack.

“I hope it doesn’t require knowledge of the original but it is definitely enhanced by it,” says Jakins. “It’s like Better Call Saul to Jack’s Breaking Bad.”

All of James Jakins’ novels have been published under his own Robber’s Dog Pub imprint, which up until now has put out his own work exclusively. I got a chance to talk to James about his process of self-publishing:

“My publishing process starts,” says Jakins, “when I have a manuscript that I think has potential. I have a few readers I trust, and if they agree with my sentiments about a particular story then I get the ball rolling. I take any notes my readers give me, usually story, plot, or character stuff, and start my rewrites.

Knights of the Dead God (cover)“While working on rewrites I commission any artwork and play around with the formatting for the book. I usually have everything non-writing related ready to go before I’ve finished the final draft.

“Once the latest draft is done my readers get one more chance to warn me that this whole endeavor is a mistake. If they don’t have any reason to not pursue publishing the book I will make any final changes I feel are necessary, touch up the grammar, catch spelling mistakes, stuff like that, just in the vain hope of not completely disappointing my editor. Then I send it to my editor.

“Edits come back and I do what my editor tells me because they are smarter than I am. I get readers for one final proofread and it’s ready to go.”

Aside from working on sequels to Jack Bloodfist: Fixer, Son of Thunder, and Knights of The Dead God, Jakins is about to take a huge step with Robber’s Dog Pub with the release of a brand new anthology to help raise awareness for a very special cause.

“The theme of the anthology,” says Jakins, “is dragons. We decided on that because last year one of my best friends, Daniel Davis took his own life and he had a major love of anything and everything dragons. The majority of sales will be going toward Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We have 13-14 writers of all different genres. Poetry and prose, illustrations for every story. It’s been an awesome experience to work on it. If it goes well I’d love to make it a regular thing”

Jakins went on to mention that the anthology will be dedicated to Davis (of whom Knights of the Dead God was also dedicated to) who in fact designed the logo for his company, and that all three of the editors involved in the project as well as some of the authors have struggled with mental health related issues or suffered losses due to them, and that bringing this project to light is hugely cathartic.

First Fixer (cover)James Jakins writes excellent novels focused on fantastic character development, and great dialogue. A lover of indie film, he references The Big Lebowski in his work and has dreamed of a Wes Anderson adaptation of Son of Thunder. While he has not tried to reinvent the wheel with his writing, there is no doubt that he writes fun, infectious novels that will keep you turning pages and quickly have you bugging him for an ARC of his next book. (Sorry James.)

“I used to want to write a big, serious epic that really said something and made people think, but I never could,” says Jakins. “After I finished writing Fixer I realized I just wanted to write stories that were fun.”

“I love [Brandon] Sanderson’s stuff,” Jakins replies in response to a comparison of Son of Thunder to Sanderson’s Mistborn, “and I think I probably read a lot of the same stuff he did growing up, so the influences are there, but the one question I ask myself when I finish a book is, ‘Was this fun?’”

While I personally believe Jakins does in fact have that massive thought provoking epic still to come, I hope he never loses the sense of fun that has become his philosophy. Nevertheless I’ll be along for whatever comes next!

Join James Jakins and Robber’s Dog Pub for a drink and a story and there’s no doubt you’ll stick around until last call!

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