Interview with James Baxter

James Baxter

Interview Date: 6/11/2012


James Baxter (known to friends simply as "Baxter") is the author of the Victor Nelson Adventures, a series of pulp horror adventures chronicling the escapades of an English paranormal expert and adventurer. Baxter was born and raised in Oxford, UK, and is never knowingly serious about anything. You can follow him on Twitter @Bax81 or through his blog

World of Dark and Light, a Victor Nelson Adventure
The Fool, a Victor Nelson Adventure
My Amazon author page

When did you start writing, and was there a significant event that prompted you to do so?

I've always written, mainly to amuse myself, and it's only recently that I was convinced that others may enjoy my stories. Self publishing via Amazon seemed a good a way as any to share and reach out to potential readers.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? (Assuming said power would be reasonably "powerful."

(Thinks very hard) I would say "Invisibility", but knowing my luck I'd be hit by a passing car because the driver didn't see me... So I will cross that off the list. It would be very cool to be able to fly, in actual fact I quite often dream that I can hover about 6 inches from the ground. I don't know what psychological analysis of that desire would reveal about me!
I'm probably the last person who should be granted a superpower as I really couldn't promise that I wouldn't abuse my abilities - I would use them to help myself rather than others! More supervillain than superhero!

Kev's response: Just remember, I have first dibs on those minions!

Do you have a favorite superhero from novels, comics, or movies?

The Phantom is my favorite superhero. I like my heroes to be very straightforward and moral, so the Phantom fits this bill perfectly. Lee Falk is a very underrated writer, I feel, more deserving of praise than someone like Stan Lee who seems to be universally adored and recognized, but this is just my opinion. I even enjoyed the Billy Zane movie, though I often feel like I'm the only one!
At the other end of the comic book spectrum, and totally ignoring what I just said about liking heroes to be straightforward and moral, John Constantine from Hellblazer is also a favorite. Though not the Keanu Reeves film.
I do have some standards.

Kev's response: I enjoyed the movie as well, but I watch and read most things with an eye toward what they were trying to present (and how), not how I think it ought to have been done.

Where do you get your inspiration for writing? What motivates you?

I love old-fashioned horror/action/adventure. I like stories that are funny as well as scary, plots that are fun, and heroes that are uncomplicated. I'm a massive fan of adventurers like the Saint, James Bond, but also a lover of bad horror films, war films etc. I rarely find this cocktail of elements in books, so I have to produce such stories for myself! World of Dark and Light, the first title in The Victor Nelson adventures, which I'm currently releasing through the Amazon Kindle store, has been described as a good depiction of how Night of the Living Dead would have turned out if Roger Moore had starred in it. I like that description!
I'm also a MASSIVE fan of Doctor Who, and was even a fan 15 years ago when it really wasn't cool... I'd love to refine my abilities until they are good enough for me to get a shot at writing for that show, or the spin-off novels and audiobooks. To be able to contribute something to that fictional universe - that's an aspiration.

Kev's response: Doctor Who has always been cool in a way! (A campy, old-school sci-fi way, but still....)

Do you pre-plan your stories, or are you a by-the-seat-of-the-pants style writer?

I start with a general idea of what I want to achieve in a story, then force myself to break it down into chapters or story "beats". But this is deliberately left very loose so I give myself plenty of room to "play" when writing. I don't think I could complete a manuscript if it was simply expanding on a plot I'd already set in stone, but I appreciate some authors disagree with this approach. As well as suiting the way I work, I think this makes for a better story in the end as things are fluid enough to change if I find a better way of expressing a character or plot point. The negative for me is that the first draft needs an awful lot of work so that everything gels.

Do you write only when inspired, or do you have a set schedule where you sit down to write?

I force myself to write for 2 to 3 hours after I finish my day job. I am fortunate in that I finish work quite early so have part of the day free. I don't find it hard to follow this schedule, in actual fact I find writing is an essential way to let off steam. Some days I just produce total junk though, but I keep going, and delete it the next day when I read it back and see how awful it is.

Do you have a favorite genre to write in? To read?

I'd describe my books as pulp horror adventure, and I have not written extensively in any other genre than that. I would certainly like to try to write a spy thriller, and also - just to see if I could do it, a very normal story of normal people and normal events (that is to say, no zombies, secret agents etc). But I think I would struggle with that! In reading, I'm also as limited, I'm afraid. I enjoy raiding second hand stores for tatty old pulp novels - thrillers and horrors. The yellower the pages and more tears down the spine, the better!
You know, this question has made me feel I should broaden my literary horizons a little... I don't want you to think I haven't read all the classics - I have - I just don't find any non-genre stuff that interesting. I want escapism in my reading, not real-life problems or - worse - a lecture! I think my books demonstrate this!

Kev's response: I've never been a fan of "popular" classics just because they are labeled that. A herd of lemmings can make anything popular and claim it is epic or classic.

What do you enjoy the most about writing?

Finishing a story, being happy that it doesn't need any more editing! Then there is the pleasure, and the honor, of finding that others have taken the time to read it. That's enough for me - If they liked it too, that's a bonus.
I don't ever want to stop feeling fortunate that a reader takes the time to look at what I've created.

Is there any part of writing that you don't enjoy?

All of it apart from getting the idea and writing the first draft: Editing! Rewrites! Also when my friends who I get to read it before I publish point out a VERY obvious and elementary mistake I have made!

Can you tell me something odd about yourself?

Although I write about decapitation in my stories... I think I'm pretty average and ordinary really.

Kev's response: Except for the floating thing....

Do you write one story at a time, or do you have several novels in the works at one time?

Generally I have two or three stories on the boil at any time. This means if I lose focus or get stuck then I have another to turn to until I think my way out of the corner I have painted myself into. I have no problem coming up with ideas for new novels - transcribing those ideas, making them readable - that's the hard part!

Where do you see the future as far as paper books versus digital e-books?

I know that my preference will always be for hard copy books (sorry!). There's just something about holding a book, the smell of it (no really!) the feel of the pages - that e-books do not provide. Does that sound weird?
I also feel that the boom in e-books at very low prices somewhat undervalues the value of the written word. Books are special, to be treated with respect and retained, but e-books are seen as disposable and transient (I feel). That being said, my titles are available mainly in e-book format, so I'd better shut up now! Any format is good if it works for the reader!

Kev's response: So ... you're suggesting a new version of the Kindle that sprays out a fragrance reminiscent of "old book?" >;P

What are your current projects?

Another Victor Nelson Adventure is nearly complete, another is about 50% there, and a further title is in the advanced planning stages. I'm keeping busy.

Do you have any advice for others about self-publishing?

Read the small print, especially the boring stuff about formatting. Assume nothing. Reach out to others who have been successful.
The piece of advice I kept getting was - research your audience, find out what is popular and write something similar. I couldn't entirely bring myself to do that, I'm afraid. Don't be afraid to do your own thing, your own way - that's what I'm trying to say! At least then if you aren't lucky enough to be commercially successful, at least you've produced something you can be proud of.

Kev's response: Aye, I write my story. If it happens to be similar to someone else's work (that I haven't written), so be it. But I have difficulty with the idea of writing just to fit into X category. (Otherwise I'd just look at the top 20 novels and mimic them....)

Do you have any online sites where readers can find out more about you (and your books)?

I would welcome anyone to visit or follow me on Twitter @Bax81 where I occasionally make half sensible comments. Follow me and I'll guarantee a follow back!

Kev's response: James, thank you for joining me. I wish you good fortune on the books in progress, and your future work!

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