An Interview with James M. Jackson

 

Tell us about your new book.

Financial crimes investigator Seamus McCree has wife problems, and Lizzie’s not even his wife anymore. Her current husband disappeared on a business trip to Savannah. Was he kidnapped? Dispatched by his hedge fund partners? Or did he run off with another woman? Police assume he’s AWOL, and Lizzie turns to Seamus for help.DR Cover 480x300

Seamus has no desire to be sucked into Lizzie’s drama again, but her angst is also affecting their son, Paddy. Seamus agrees to help discover the truth, a quest that soon involves the entire extended family. Long buried secrets surface and each member must confront the question, “How far can you trust your family?”

Equal parts road trip, who done what, and domestic thriller, book four in the Seamus McCree series takes psychological suspense to a new level. Seamus McCree fans and newcomers alike will delight in this fast-paced novel that leaves no one in the family unchanged and keeps you guessing until the very end.

What inspired you to write it?

I wanted to explore the question of how well we really know other people, especially family members with secrets—and we all have them, don’t we?

When I start a book, I honestly have no idea where it might go. I have an issue or idea I’d like to explore, an inciting incident to kick off the story, and the cast of characters who populate the Seamus McCree series to bring the story to life. I open myself to the possibilities and let the characters take it from there.

How did you get started writing?

I retired early and gave myself six months to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. After working my way through books like Zen and the Art of Making a Living, what came up time and again was a desire to write. I loved reading crime fiction, and so that is what I decided to write.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about the writing process?

While I very much enjoy meeting people in person at events, I do not enjoy online marketing and sales activities. I was brought up with that firm Protestant understanding that I should not toot my own horn. A battle rages in me between that internalized belief and the realities of the current publishing business where creating a market is imperative.

How long have you been writing?

I made the decision to become a writer by the end of 2002. My first major publication credit was a nonfiction book One Trick at a Time: How to start winning at bridge. It was published in 2012, nearly a decade after my decision. The Seamus McCree series has included a book a year starting in 2013.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started out?

If someone had told me it would take ten years before I would be published, I would not have been a bit dismayed because I knew it would take many years of effort to become a good writer. However, I wished I had understood better the marketing requirements of the modern publishing business.

Has that changed the way you write or market your books?

It has not changed the way I choose to write my books. I write the story I want to write and will not chase a market. However, in retrospect, I would have created a nonfiction platform to support the financial crime themes of my novels. That would have provided more in-person sales opportunities. Also, I should have taken much of the money I spent at conferences and instead invested in marketing efforts for the first book in the series.

What do you think makes a good story?

I enjoy book clubs and through them I have learned that there are as many perceptions of which stories are “good” as there are readers. Books I’ve loved, others thought were crap and vice versa. So, I can only speak about what fiction I enjoy. I want to care about at least one character and a problem she must resolve. I don’t want to notice the language. (It may be beautiful or utilitarian, just don’t take me out of the story by noticing it.) I want the world to be believable (even if fantastic!), want the author to keep my interest, and I want a satisfing ending. If I learn something along the way, that’s a nice bonus, but not required.

From that description, you can tell I generally prefer genre rather than “literature.”

How do you incorporate that into your books?

Given I write the Seamus McCree series, I hope people find they care about Seamus. If not, the series is not for them! I prefer a generally spare writing style. If I get flowery or my characters start navel-gazing, it’s time for a rewrite. My approach to keep the reader’s interest is to maintain tension by always having multiple open questions for the reader to worry about. I incorporate real places into my stories because I enjoy reading about places I know. With crime novels, I want the reader to feel justice has (mostly) been served by the end of the story.

Seamus McCree is a wonderful character, you know he was excellent at his former job and he brings the same attention to detail to his role as reluctant sleuth. It takes a bit to get him involved, but when he takes the case, the reader knows he’ll come to the correct, and ethical, conclusion. Is he based on you?

Thanks. I like to think of Seamus as a flawed mensch. I have the flawed part down; I’ll need a reincarnation or two to get the mensch part. Seamus and I have different financial backgrounds but we’re both a bit geeky. He’s younger, stronger, smarter, and richer than I, and he has all of his hair. We do have the same droll sense of humor and share many general interests including the outdoors, birdwatching, music.

Would Seamus like you for a friend? Dish the details here.

This is a question I have never contemplated. My immediate reaction was sure, who wouldn’t like me for a friend? But then I considered how our personalities would work together. We both like to win. A lot. And we are both a bit shy, so someone (probably Paddy) would have to bring us together. We share many interests, but at almost everything, he’s better than I am. The question might become, could I remain friends with someone who outshines me all the time? It would be a growth opportunity for me, so perhaps we’d be friendly rivals rather than bosom-buddy friends.

What advice would you like to give Seamus?

Seamus, you’ll kill yourself (or someone will kill you) if you keep trying to be responsible for righting every wrong in the world. We love you for taking up the battle, but we’ll still love you when you can come to terms with being responsible for your reactions, not other people’s actions.

What advice would he give you?

Get over it, old man. I’m fictional, you’re real, and you’re worried about competing? Fix yourself, Mr. Author and stop worrying about the way I deal with the world.

You’ve been with small press and indie through Amazon Scout. How do they differ?

The major differences are three: For ebooks, Amazon Scout requires sale only through Amazon worldwide. Barking Rain Press (BRP) distributed across all platforms. Amazon Scout does not handle print, which BRP does. Amazon can promote a book and almost guarantee significant sales (not that they do for all books, but they can); BRP doesn’t have the budget or market presence to materially affect book sales.

In most other regards there are more similarities than differences. Both publishers set prices, determine price promotions, provide editing, and are overwhelmed by the amount of work they have.

Tell us about the Amazon Scout process. How does it work, is it worth the effort and nail-biting?

A complete answer is long. I’ve written several blogs answering these questions, and there is excellent information available online from many of the 150+ winners. Some Kindle Scout winners have experienced more success with Amazon than they have ever had before; for others the negatives have so far outweighed the positives. I chose not to go through the Kindle Scout process with Doubtful Relations because I wanted more marketing control to promote the entire series.

If you couldn’t write, what would you do?

I choose to write because I (mostly) enjoy the process. I’m not someone who couldn’t live with himself if he couldn’t write. I’d spend more time in nature with binoculars and camera in hand. I’d spend more time at the bridge tables. I still find time to teach bridge, but I’ve almost given up playing competitive bridge because without constant play I can’t stay sharp and that isn’t fair to my partners or teammates.

Where do you see yourself in five years – this is the time to dream big!

As long as we’re dreaming and not putting probability figures around the outcomes, I’ll tell you my dream. In five years I will be an “overnight” success with my second series (first book published in 2019!).

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Oh hell, I’m boring, but my books aren’t. Read them; forget about me.

Is there a question, or questions you want asked that aren’t covered here? What would yojames-m-jackson (1660x2497)u like us to know, either about Jim Jackson, his writing, his books, or his literary legacy.

This will cover all four things, Jim Jackson, his writing, his books & his literary legacy:

  1. What should I do if I find an error in one of your books?
  2. Please let me know! Whether it’s a typo, homonym hiding in plane site (er, plain sight), grammar mistake, or factual error, I hate them in my books. If I learn what snuck in, I can fix it in the next version. My email is jmj@jamesmjackson.com.

About Doubtful Relations:

Financial crimes investigator Seamus McCree has wife problems, and Lizzie’s not even his wife anymore. Her current husband disappeared on a business trip to Savannah. Was he kidnapped? Dispatched by his hedge fund partners? Or did he run off with another woman? Police assume he’s AWOL, and Lizzie turns to Seamus for help.

Seamus has no desire to be sucked into Lizzie’s drama again, but her angst is also affecting their son, Paddy. Seamus agrees to help discover the truth, a quest that soon involves the entire extended family. Long buried secrets surface and each member must confront the question, “How far can you trust your family?”

Equal parts road trip, who done what, and domestic thriller, book four in the Seamus McCree series takes psychological suspense to a new level. Seamus McCree fans and newcomers alike will delight in this fast-paced novel that leaves no one in the family unchanged and keeps you guessing until the very end.

Praise for Doubtful Relations

James M. Jackson has once again proven himself a skilled storyteller with this highly entertaining page turner that takes the reader into the heart and soul of Seamus McCree’s often dysfunctional family. Doubtful Relations is a rollercoaster ride of missing persons, drug cartels, crime lords, shady stock market dealings, car crashes and shoot-em-ups that left me breathless—and not quite knowing who to trust—until the very end. ~ Annette Dashofy, USA Today bestselling author of the two-time Agatha nominated Zoe Chambers mysteries.

“I love Seamus McCree.” ~ Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony, Daphne, Macavity, and Mary Higgins Clark Award winner

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree mystery series. ANT FARM, BAD POLICY, CABIN FEVER, and DOUBTFUL RELATIONS (8/23/16). Jim also published an acclaimed book on contract bridge, ONE TRICK AT A TIME: How to start winning at bridge, as well as numerous short stories and essays. He is the president of the 600-member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. He splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the open spaces of Georgia’s Lowcountry.

You can find more information about Jim (including social media links) and his writing (including purchase links) at his website http://jamesmjackson.com.

 

 

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9 thoughts on “An Interview with James M. Jackson

  1. Kait — Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to share a bit about myself with your readers. I’ll check back to respond to any questions or comments. [On release day, I’m like a kid on Christmas who woke up early and couldn’t go back to sleep — unlike that kid, I’ll probably have to take a nap later this afternoon!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kait, Jim, I loved this interview it was really fun. Nice conversation between author and character!!
    I agree about the marketing, it is hard to “toot” your horn if you were taught not to. Relatives and relations are always a good topic and they do have some amazing secrets. Best wishes with this book and all the ones to come! Thank you both for entertaining me. I also learned some things and as you say Jim, that is always a positive. Or usually it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. MJ — thanks for your comments — and you are right, there is some knowledge we wish we didn’t have, but I like to think that caveat does not apply to anything I write or say or do. 🙂

      Like

  3. Very nice interview, Kait. Have you ever thought of becoming a reporter? Jim, thank you for being with us here on MMO. What an interesting, flawed character Seamus McCree appears to be. And what an intriguing plot premise! I’ve got to get this book and get to know this character better. Wait, it’s a series. Think I’ll start with Bad Policy and go from there! 🙂
    –Michael

    Like

    1. Thanks for your kind comments, Michael. If you want to start with the beginning of the series, the first to read is actually Ant Farm — although it was published #3, chronologically it is the first.

      Like

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