Thursday, October 1, 2015

Spotlight on Author Eric F. James


SOUL LIBERTY by Author Eric F. James

Think you know Jesse James? Wait until you meet his family. Rooted in the struggle of the Jesse James family to outrun the stigma of an outlaw reputation, Soul Liberty is the saga of a family destroyed by silence and torn apart by self-inflicted anonymity. Drawing upon long hidden letters, memoirs, and personal interviews, author Eric F. James recaptures the family who turned on its own. In this epic pageant of personalities and events, the core behavior, character, and soul of the James family emerges – the selfsame character and soul of their outlaws that has eluded historians for more than a century. Jesse James Soul Liberty reveals the James family in all of their paradoxical identity: • As rebel preachers of Colonial Virginia in the War of the Revolution • As sharpshooting defenders of faith and freedom on the Kentucky frontier • As politicians of an emerging nation • As millionaire merchants of the American heartland • As cultural combatants and feminist challengers to the politics of the status quo The James are community builders, preachers, politicians, financiers, educators, writers, and poets. Equally, they are pariahs, outcasts, and outlaws. Jesse James Soul Liberty extracts the compelling powers possessed by the James family. Their compulsive force for personal freedom, with religious and political liberty, ever fronts the endemic ability of the James to confound expectation. As the Jesse James family uncovers the history lost to them, they finally answer the question no one else can. Why does Jesse James endure as a cultural American icon?
Back Story Author, Eric F. James, says, “Jesse James' great grandson, Judge James R. Ross, sentenced me to 10 years of hard labor.” "Why don't you write about the James family?” the judge complained. “Everyone writes about Frank & Jesse. No one ever writes about our family." The problem was...behind the James family's wall of silence, the Jesse James family had lost its identity and all of its history. What followed was a decade of intense and costly research which took the author into countless county court houses, libraries, and research institutions across the breadth of America. He met with the cousins and relatives of the James family, plus claimants who wanted to be related to the outlaw, and those who had no idea they were part of the Jesse James family at all. “Always standing behind me was Judge Ross,” the author asserts, “persistently asking, ‘What evidence do you have?’." Now, the author’s personal interviews with members of the Jesse James family; the family’s own long hidden writings, letters, and memoirs; plus 10 years of research recaptures the family who turned on its own. Breaking 130 years of silence, the James family itself finally recaptures their lost identity in their own words and deeds to illustrate what no historian has been able to define - the very character and soul of the James family, which also belonged to the family's outlaws. From generation through generation, the Jesse James family itself reveals why Jesse James endures as a cultural American icon.

About the Author 

ERIC F. JAMES co-founded the James Preservation Trust with Judge James R. Ross, Jesse’s great grandson. Eric also is the archivist of the Joan Beamis Research Archive that produced the first genealogy of the Jesse James family, Background of a Bandit, published by the Kentucky Historical Society. Recently, Eric supervised the exhumation of Jesse’s twin children, Gould and Montgomery James, reuniting them with their parents per the wishes of their mother, Zee Mimms-James. Since 1997, Eric writes and publishes the official web site for the Jesse James family, Stray Leaves and the family blog, Leaves of Gas. Formerly as a writer, Eric’s weekly newspaper column “Remarkable Real Estate” appeared for several years in California’s Daily “Law” Journal publications. He also was a contributing editor and writer for California Real Estate, the trade publication of the California Association of Realtors. Eric is retired from two business careers. For over 30 years he managed and operated international real estate brokerage firms. In a prior career, he was an actor for 13 years in regional theatre, the Broadway stage, and national television. For nearly a decade, he served his local community of Dana Point, California, as a city commissioner. Eric F. James resides in Danville, Kentucky near Pulaski County, founded by his 4th great grandfather, John M. James. He has two sons, Christian and Malcolm James who live in California, and two former wives: his first wife Delia Sheen, niece of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and mother of his children, and his second wife Broadway producer Susan Bagley-Bloom, granddaughter of tobacco scion R. J. Reynolds.
SHORT FORM ERIC F. JAMES co-founded the James Preservation Trust with Judge James R. Ross, Jesse’s great grandson. Eric also is the archivist of the Joan Beamis Research Archive that produced the first genealogy of the Jesse James family, Background of a Bandit, published by the Kentucky Historical Society. Recently, Eric supervised the exhumation of Jesse’s twin children, Gould & Montgomery James, reuniting them with their parents per the wishes of their mother, Zee Mimms-James. Since 1997, Eric writes & publishes the official web site for the Jesse James family, Stray Leaves and the family blog, Leaves of Gas.

INTERVIEW:
 
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? 
I was 9 years old. I ran away from home with my only possession, a typewriter I got for Christmas. I intended to go to New York to join the Beatnik writer Jack Kerouac. My paper route money took me only as far as Nashville on an overnight Greyhound bus. I arrived penniless. The morning cold and drizzle that January let me know I acted with short sight. I hitchhiked overnight through a blizzard back to Chicago. I called a girl I knew before school started to borrow some money. She told me to stay where I was. A police car circled me several times, and then it stopped. The girl turned me in. I was captured, cuffed, and returned to the prison of my youth.

How long does it take you to write a book?
Writing non-fiction history takes as long as it takes. My physical writing averages 1,000 words per day, if I am not distracted also writing elsewhere. My books average 150,000 words. Research, editing, fact checking, index creation, bibliography, are my time suckers.
 
What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
My day begins from midnight to 2 am when I fall into bed. Before sleep, I program my subconscious to address issues I want to solve in my writing. When I wake at 5-7 am, I am ready to go. I write to noon. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I never write a book title until I am finished. I let the book write the title. After all, the book has written itself.
 
How are your books published?
During my show business career, the William Morris Agency represented me. That included literary representation. I parted ways with the agency about 1972 when I left the business. When I sought representation again, I wasted two years trying to get an agent, or a publishing contract. Approaching age 70, I was too old to waste time on that nonsense. I formed my own publishing house. Since my publishing unit and books will be handed off to my progeny sometime in the next 30 years, we have cut out all the middlemen, and intervening annoyances, nuisances, and theft of profit. I would urge any new writer today to do the same. If you are good, you will be discovered. The harpies will all come running to knock down your door. Then, you write your own ticket.
 
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I am a right-brained creative. I am naturally curious, about everything. I suffer from too many ideas. Jesuits educated me to practice critical thinking. I am a skeptic and disagree with much I encounter, until I have educated myself. I feed myself more and more. My thoughts often are at conflict with my external world. I have too many ideas to write too many books. The idea I ride is the one most likely to last well beyond me after it is written and after I expire.
 
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Call me a slow starter. I have practiced, practiced, practiced writing all my life. First poem at 6. First published poetry magazine at 15. (It is still publishing.) First love poem at 15. (I got a wife and mother of my children out of that at 21.) First playwriting comedy in my early to mid-twenties. First story and business articles beginning about age 27. First magazine contributing editor position in my 30s. First international publications in my 40s. First weekly column for a “law” journal in my early 40s. (I am not a lawyer. From my writing, people just think I am.) First website in my 50s. First blogging in my 60s. First book published at age 69. Next book coming in 2016. Seven more book in the works. 

What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Suck up culture. Books, magazines, news, editorials, commentary, movies, art, performance art, politics, design, fashion, architecture, conversation, argument, and ideas. Anything that is new. I thrive in the library I created and live in. How can I write if I do not know everything that I need to know?
 
What does your family think of your writing?
I know they like it. I am not sure they understand it. I write for them, but they are too busy to read it all and to take advantage of it. Few grasp the depth of meaning inherent in my writing. My book not only resides on its surface. What I really have to say resides in sub-layers the deeper a reader reads. I write truly for my family who is yet unborn. I know someday they will discover me. 

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Women love my work. Women are my audience and my readers. I never expected that. I now am convinced of what women know about men. By nature, men orient themselves to the visual, just not to words. Few men read, unless it is a comic book. Men like action movies and video games. I am looking at transmedia, and how to create comic books, video games, and film work for men from my writing that women love. 

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
In my show biz days, I performed in a new play every week. That was exhilarating. I loved it. In my Broadway plays, I often was stuck in the same performance every night for almost a year. I found that suffocating. I have written only one book. Two, if you count the one about to be published. I have three others partially written and two more outlined. My favorite book always is the one I have not yet written. Right now, that favorite is a fiction book with the working title of Purgatory. It is about a Catholic priest, accused of being a pedophile. He waits in limbo as his archbishop freezes and does nothing to resolve the issues for himself, the priest, the victims, or the church. The book is based on 20+ actual clerical pedophile cases I have studied.
 
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
The most important thing for any creative talent is to recognize one’s own ability and the limits of one’s capability. You will only know that by constantly testing all the limits to see where you fit. Success can come at any level, but it never will come in a meaningful way until you have a voice of your own and are confident of it. Then you will have something special to offer an audience. 

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
When I hear from my readers, it usually is when they bring some new information to my attention. Or it can be something, they are not sure about. My readers are proud of being extensions of my writing. They consider themselves my collaborators. I have come to expect my readers to bring something to the table. Passive readers miss much of the feast. I am grateful for what my readers provide. So often, they lead me, though I do not think they know that. Do you like to create books for adults? I find age entirely irrelevant. I do not write to age. I write to intelligence, emotion, and personal enlightenment. That can come at any age.
 
What do you think makes a good story?
I abhor story formula. Yet I know, certain storytelling elements must exist to insure interest. Breaking the rules excites me. Most great tales have broken the rules. A story that breaks the rules is the best story for me.
 
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I applied to the Merchant Marine Academy; only to learn at the time they did not accept candidates who wore glasses. I entered the Catholic seminary; only to learn how to offer loopholes for sinners. I became a professional actor; only to learn show biz is a crazy moon occupied by crazy people more than by true artists and insightful talents. I had a long career as an international real estate brokerage owner; only to learn that people in the straight business world are just as crazy as people in show business. By default, I remain the writer I once was at age 9. Like the boy in Nashville, I am still looking for everyone to get out of my way so I can be heard.
 
WEBSITES of Eric F. James
Stray Leaves – www.ericjames.org
Leaves of Gas - http://ericjames.org/wordpress/
Book - http://jessejamessoulliberty.ericjames.org/
Book, Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/JesseJamesSoulLiberty
Media Kit - http://www.ericjames.org/pdf/mediakit.pdf
Eric F. James, Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/strayleaves
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/user/strayleave
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/ericfjames/
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/pub/eric-f-james/28/166/5

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