Ghost in the Machine – James Maxey
1. What is the title of your newest book or short story? What’s it about? Where can readers find it?
Witchbreaker is my most recent novel. It’s the third book in my Dragon Apocalypse series. The second book introduced a young witch named Sorrow. She’s a materialist, which means she gains her powers by shaping special nails from various substances and driving them into her skull. She gains total mastery over a substance in this way. Since she has a nail of iron, she can shape iron with her hands like it’s nothing more than clay, and she can cause any iron she touches to rust and crumble with but a thought. In the second book, Hush, she expands her powers greatly when she encounters Rott, the primal dragon of decay, and steals a sliver of his tooth she uses to form a nail. Now, she has all of the dragon’s destructive powers. Unfortunately, the power is so great she’s losing control of it, and of her body. At the start of the novel, the lower half of her body is completely covered in thick black scales. Her physical changes only get more drastic the more she uses her powers. The novel follows her quest to learn all the lost secrets of witchcraft to regain control of her magic before she loses the last of her humanity.
2. What inspired your new book or story?
I actually had the plot of this novel in the back of my mind for years, but had very different characters in mind. When I introduced Sorrow in Hush, I kind of fell in love with her and knew she was going to be the hero of the next book, and felt like the plot was a natural outgrowth of her personality. Sorrow’s father was a famous judge—or perhaps I should say infamous, since he’s known far and wide as the man who ordered his own mother hanged for practicing witchcraft. Sorrow rebels against her father by actually becoming a witch, but she sees that her father isn’t the real source of injustice in the world, that he is just a product of the religious and legal institutions that have created him. So, she’s literally on a quest to change the world by destroying the Church of the Book, the dominant religion of the world, and bringing an end to the age of monarchs. I like her because she’s never lost her capacity for outrage. She’s never looked at any problem in the world and thought, “That’s not my problem.” She’s smart, confident, and fearless. Of course, she’s also walking the line between being a savior or a supervillain. I love characters who exist in moral gray areas.
3. What do you read for fun?
For 2013, I’ve made a commitment to read nothing but classics that I somehow have managed not to read up to now. I consider myself fairly well read, but the list of important books I have read is daunting. So far this year, I’ve read The Wizard of Oz, Pride and Prejudice, The Time Machine, and am currently half way through The Island of Dr. Moreau. Frankenstein, Dracula, and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea are in my reading queue. I know all of these stories from movies and other adaptations and derivative works, but have somehow managed to skip reading the actual source material. This is the year I remedy that. So far, I’m having a blast.
4. Was there a book you read in your childhood or teen years that changed your world? Tell us which book and how it made a difference for you.
Lots of them. But, if I had to point to one, I would say Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan. In it, he presents the scientific theories and evidence about the birth of the universe and our world, including the rise of mankind, and uses the Biblical story of creation as a framing device. Since I was raised a fundamentalist Christian, this book had a huge impact on me when I read it as a teenager, completely upending my supernatural world view and replacing it with a rationalistic one.
Write. It’s really just that simple. Writing is just like any other artistic skill. If you want to play piano, you have to sit in front of a piano pressing keys for years to master it. If you want to be a great artist, you have to fill up a lot of sketchpads. If you want to write, you’ve got to put your butt in the chair and tap out stories. You can gain advice from reading books or going to workshops, but you won’t actually learn to write until you’ve strung together many, many thousands of words into some sort of narrative structure. Quantity is the surest path to quality.
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