AP: Tell us a little about yourself and your pulp interests.
JP: Well, I live with my wife and two year-old daughter in Northeast Georgia. I have a BA in English, and I’ve loved science fiction my whole life. I grew up reading comic books and watching reruns of stuff like Star Trek and Lost in Space. I also read anything I could get my hands on, especially if it was SF-related. I didn’t find out about the pulps until my late teens, when I really got into SF fandom and the history of the genre, and found out there used to be hundreds of magazines published every month devoted to the stuff I loved. I started reading H.P. Lovecraft and, about two years ago, Robert E. Howard. I wanted to write these kinds of stories, but didn’t know of anyone still publishing them. Van Allen Plexico told me about the gang at the Pulp Factory, who extended me an invite, and the rest, as they say, is history!
AP: What does pulp mean to you?
JP: To me, pulp is more of an attitude than a name for the cheap paper the old magazines were printed on. It’s definitely more of a genre today. Pulp is action, thrills, adventure, and often means there is “no story to get in the way of the plot” as Joe Bob Briggs used to say. But just as often it rises above its own format to become Art with a capital A. More than that, it’s a nostalgic look back at a golden time when reading was a form of mass entertainment.
AP: By day you are a freelance copywriter and by night you write fiction. How are these styles of writing similar and different and does one style of writing impact the other?
JP: To me, they are very different. I feel like I’m using two different parts of my brain when writing one instead of the other. But they do use the same skills. Freelancing taught me the importance of sticking to deadlines, both self-imposed and those of your clients. Freelancing taught me to treat writing just like any other business. Freelancing also teaches you things like brevity, how to be clear and concise, and to create written works that are designed to produce certain effects in the reader (usually ‘buy this now!’). These are important skills in fiction writing as well.
AP: You have worked on short tales for Voices For The Cure (which you also edited) and Gideon Cain – Demon Hunter, and others. What draws you to these shorter tales?
JP: A short story is like a brief visit from an interesting stranger, while a novel is like a relative who moves in and stays a while. I like short works because they can come at you from out of nowhere, create a world in your head, and then leave. I think they are often harder to write than novels, and many professional novelists share this view, but since SF and the pulps share this tradition of short fiction, I think shorts are important to keep alive just for the form itself.
AP: You edited Voices For The Cure for White Rocket Books, which raised money for The American Diabetes Association. Tell us a bit about the book, the inspiration for it, and why this charity was chosen.
JP: I did this anthology two years ago, basically because I wanted to have something in print with my name on it in time for that year’s Dragon*Con. Their charity auction that year raised money for the American Diabetes Association, and my wife and her parents have Diabetes, so those two facts came together in my brain as the idea for the anthology. Another Dragon*Con attendee, a young writer named Davy Beauchamp, has done a few charity anthologies called Writers for Relief, which benefited Hurricane Katrina victims and some other worthwhile causes, so I knew there was a place for this type of anthology. The moment I thought of it, it just felt like a great idea.
I am still blown away by how neatly all of this came together. A photographer friend of mine did the cover, someone I found online donated the cover design, and I asked most of my favorite writers for stories. Word even got out that I was looking for stories and husband and wife authors Gary A. Braunbeck and Lucy Snyder contacted me asking to be included. I did the interior layout and editing and published it through Lulu. After Dragon*Con was over, Van Plexico contacted me about publishing it through his White Rocket Books (http://www.whiterocketbooks.com/) imprint, meaning it got it’s own ISBN number and can be ordered from bookstores and Amazon.com.
AP: Do you have a favorite genre in which to work or do you like to play the field and work in as many different genres as possible?
JP: I like a little bit of everything, but mostly SF. For my pulp stuff, I’ve been delving into fantasy and weird horror for some reason, but I really like to keep the H.P. Lovecraft/Robert E. Howard vibe going in my pulp stuff. I like creating homages to those guys. But my first love is science fiction, and I am striving to write mainstream short SF and novels. But even within one genre, I like blending different elements together to make something new.
AP: What, if any, existing characters would you like to try your hand at writing?
JP: I mostly like to make up my own characters, but I would love to write The Spider as well as Solomon Kane or Conan.
AP: Who are some of your creative influences?
JP: I have so many! My favorite writers include Alfred Bester, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Dan Simmons, Stephen King, Ernest Hogan, Robert J. Sawyer, Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, and of course H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. I grew up on 1980s Marvel and DC comics so there’s a lot of that buzzing around in the background as well.
AP: What does James Palmer do when he’s not writing?
JP: I don a mask and fedora and fight crime. Seriously though, I like to read, watch a little TV and movies, and spend time with my wife and daughter. Family is very important to me. If I didn’t have these wonderful women in my life, none of the writing stuff would matter.
AP: Where can readers learn more about you and your work?
JP: My official website is http://www.jamespalmerbooks.com/. I’m on Twitter as @palmerwriter and @jamespalmercopy (my copywriting business). They can also find me on Facebook.
AP: Any upcoming projects you would like to mention?
JP: I’m writing some series characters for Pro Se Productions. Next up for them is my second Lao Fang story “The Hand of Yogul”, which will appear in the January issue of Fantasy & Fear. I’m also writing a paranormal detective series for them called Sam Eldritch: Occult Investigator for Hire, but I’m still working on the first story. I have a story scheduled for the second Mars McCoy volume from Airship 27, alongside a story by Van Plexico. The first volume hasn’t even come out yet, so I have no idea when that one will see print. And I just volunteered to write a couple of stories for Pro Se’s new anthologies The Black Fedora and High Adventure History, as if I didn’t have enough on my plate already. Ha!
AP: Are there any upcoming convention appearances or signings coming up where fans can meet you?
JP: I love conventions, and would like to do more in the future. My next appearance will be at TimeGate (www.timegatecon.org) in Atlanta, Georgia May 27-29, 2011. I also hope to do Dragon*Con (www.dragoncon.org) again next Labor Day weekend September 2-5 2011.
AP: And finally, what advice would you give to anyone wanting to be a writer?
JP: First of all, don’t do it unless you can’t realistically see yourself doing anything else. It’s a tough business, especially if you want to make any money. Next, treat it like a business. Learn how to do the type of writing you want to do, and learn your market. Learn what sells, what doesn’t, and who the major players are. Learn how to properly query editors and agents! Harlan Ellison used to ask people, “Do you want to write, or do you want to have written?” I think that’s an important distinction to make going in. Ask yourself that question, and your honest and heartfelt answer will tell you what else you need to do.
AP: Thanks, James.