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James Jakins Interview – Knights of the Dead God

James JakinsToday we have the pleasure of interviewing one of SPFBO finalists from last year, James Jakins. His book, Jack Bloodfist: Fixer, was Lynn’s Books pick for 2017’s final ten. Its sequel, Jack Bloodfist: Freelancer, is due out around the end of the year. But urban fantasy is not all he has to offer. He currently has two other continuing series, the Thunder’s War Trilogy and the Mikaia Goretusk series, among other projects.

So without further ado, on with the interview!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was ten. We had an assignment in school to write a story. I think it was really just a way to keep us busy and quiet in the school’s little computer lab. I wrote a godawful story about two kids in a rollerblading race against monsters. It really was awful, but all the other kids in the class liked it, and the teachers praised me for it.

That was when I knew. I’m just chasing that high of everyone praising me for my silly little story. That’s all I want out of life.

Can you describe the journey to your first novel?

Since I was thirteen I’ve wanted to write one of those massive doorstopper fantasy novels and I’ve spent most of my writing life trying to do just that.

After a particularly long, and stressful, stretch of working on one attempt or another I decided I wanted to write something that was just fun. A “practice” novel was what I was calling it. It was going to be an attempt at teaching myself better pacing and a story where I gave myself permission to just write something light and fun.

I spent three days binging action-thriller movies and outlining a novel based on the tropes and character types found in that genre. After three days I had a complete outline and three weeks later I had the first draft of Jack Bloodfist: Fixer.

Fixer (cover)

Describe your experience as a self-published writer.

For the most part it’s been a very pleasant experience. Not even factoring in the craziness of being a SPFBO finalist. I knew when I made the decision to self-publish that it would be an uphill climb, so even during the periods of slow (or nonexistent) sales I’ve been happy with how my little stories have performed.

People have still taken the chance and bought my books. They’ve read them. And, for the most part, they’ve enjoyed them. Hearing from even one reader about how much they enjoyed one of my books makes everything worth it.

I also just love the whole process of creating the book. The formatting, the cover creation, I enjoy all of it. So that’s a bonus.

You’ve written two very different series debuts. Can you describe the basic concept of each series for new readers?

Fixer is the first of the Jack Bloodfist books. It’s an urban fantasy starring an orc in a small city in Virginia. My plan with this series is that the characters that are usually the villains get to be the heroes while the traditional heroes are the villains. Jack is an orc whose family was forced to flee their homeworld after their life of banditry caught up with them. Now, twenty years later, a paladin of a god of justice has found them on Earth.

I’ve tried to incorporate epic fantasy sensibilities into the pacing and tropes of the action-thriller. First and foremost, though, this series is just meant to be fun.

Son of Thunder is the start of my Thunder’s War Trilogy. It’s a secondary world fantasy. The world features early twentieth century technology, dragons farmed for electricity, magic assassins, and organized crime.

While still not one of those massive doorstoppers, this is the closest I’ve come to a more traditional epic fantasy. It features in-depth worldbuilding, several unique magic systems, and multiple POVs.

The first volume starts off small, with a dragon hunt, beach holidays, and kidnappings. The series will grow from there with each subsequent book raising the stakes.

Jack Bloodfist: Fixer is hilarious. I laughed out loud all the way through it. What influenced the humour in the book?

Son of Thunder (cover)I don’t know if I could specify any one influence, honestly. When I started writing Fixer I made the requirement for myself that I wasn’t going to self-edit Jack’s internal dialogue at all. I think that is part of the reason for the overall tone of the book. I just let Jack joke about whatever the hell he wanted and I think that started to bleed over into every other aspect of the story.

I had a reader tell me they felt like the book was a healthy mix of Chinatown and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. That is still one of my favorite statements anyone has made about the book. So, let’s just pretend that was my intent from the beginning.

Congratulations on being an SPFBO finalist! That must have been massive!

Thank you! It was incredible! I remember just compulsively checking for updates, like I’m sure every contestant was doing. I’d just taken my dog outside to take care of some personal business and pulled out my phone, fully expecting to find either no news or sad news (but happy news for someone else). My legs almost gave out right there when I saw Lynn’s announcement post. I then spent the rest of the day bragging to friends and family, most of whom couldn’t have cared less.

The whole experience was incredible. I’m so grateful to Mark Lawrence for setting this thing up and to every blog that participates. I hope this competition goes on for a while. I can’t wait to see all the amazing books that crop up this year.

What separates Jack from other urban fantasy main characters (MCs)? Why should a new reader choose Jack?

First Fixer (cover)Jack is a half-orc/half-goblin that likes to wear a suit. He fancies himself a Fixer who makes his living dealing with the everyday problems of his orc and goblin families. That’s probably the biggest thing that sets Jack apart from other urban fantasy heroes. The fact that a lot of them would probably spend their time killing goblins, not helping them.

To put it another way, the thing that really sets Jack apart from all those other, very capable MCs is that while they are all wizards, or druids, or necromancers, or whatever super-powerful magic user they might be, Jack is basically just a bard. He knows your there, reading his story, and he wants to tell you the most entertaining one he can.

Son of Thunder is beautifully written and quite the opposite of Jack. What inspired you to write an epic fantasy novel?

Thank you! I’m very proud of Son of Thunder. As I mentioned before, I’ve always wanted to write epic fantasy. As a reader it’s usually my first choice, so trying to write one felt like the natural choice.

I actually wrote the first draft of Son of Thunder before I wrote Fixer. It was finishing that draft that inspired me to try something other than epic fantasy.

After I finished Fixer I came back to Son of Thunder with a renewed excitement for the story and was able to bring some of the lessons I’d learned into the new draft.

What takes up most of your time when you are not writing?

If I have any say in the matter I’m rolling dice. I DM a regular D&D game and just started a new Call of Cthulhu campaign.

I do my best to make sure that every spare moment of my life is spent creating or consuming stories of one kind or another.

I wish I could say I had some awesome hobby outside of that, but it’s enough to keep me happy.

What’s next for you? I know you had a lot of projects on your plate that your readers are eagerly anticipating. What does 2018/19 hold?

Knights of the Dead God (cover)So many projects… After Knights of the Dead God, my next planned release is going to be Jack Bloodfist: Freelancer. I’m hoping for a December release, but failing that it will be next April. After that, I have a sequel for Knights of the Dead God that’s almost ready to go titled: Gods of the Broken Sea.

Then I’m hoping to have Son of Thunder’s sequel, Title still TBD, ready for a summer 2019 release.

I’d originally planned on having all of these ready earlier, but life gets in the way sometimes.

There are a lot of other project that I’m working on (some might say too many), but these are the ones I think most readers will care about the most.

What are you reading now in fantasy? Anything you can recommend?

Not that it needs me to recommend it anymore considering it just won the Morningstar, but I just finished Kings of the Wyld and absolutely loved it.

Other than that I am about halfway through Ruthanna Emrys’ Winter Tide. It checks a lot of my boxes, so I would definitely recommend it to anyone that loves Lovecraft, but maybe wants something a little less xenophobic. It gets bonus points for featuring a protagonist that would probably be a villain in any other writer’s story based purely on her heritage.

Jack Bloodfist vs Deadpool. Who wins? And why?

Fixer (detail)Oh man… Is this a one on one fight? One on one, probably Deadpool, I mean, he’s got that healing factor, and he actually knows what he’s doing. Not that Jack’s a pushover, but he eats a lot of greasy diner food and isn’t in the best shape.

But if Jack can bring a friend or two he might stand a chance. I actually think Detective Halldorson could give the merc with a mouth a good fight. She’s got those elven reflexes and everything. Not to mention everyone’s favorite OP wizard, Jackson Smith.

So… Jack would need a little help. Maybe give him a few books to level up before we schedule that fight?

But, if it’s a fourth wall breaking competition, it would be a tie.

We would like to thank James again for speaking with us today! To learn more about his many series you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

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