Jim Steele Interview
The Indie Book Butler Interview – Jim Steele
Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I’ve written for probably 30 plus years, but only in the last 4-5 kind of graduated into starting to learn how to craft a novel. On that topic, I’d say that I started trying to figure out how to write more than 4-5,000 words about 20 years ago. Little by little, I finally completed Ride My Highway in 2017. Ride is a rough and tumble story of a guy who is just out of control. Meanwhile, he’s driving an 18-wheeler cross country. But it also tells a lot of stories along the way: how he got to be the way he was, where he’s going, relationships ruined, lessons learned. For me, just to complete that first book was a pretty big accomplishment.
Then I got Just Across The Way in 2018. I’m finishing up Out Past Round Barns now, which is a prequel/sequel to Just Across The Way, both are just very messed up psychological Thrillers/Horror. The thing about those books is that they’re told in the first person, so they read like the journal of mad-man or something, which I think is pretty compelling. I use real places, hotels, towns, you name it. You could go to these places, and the story is right there in front of you. The first person is pretty much my favourite voice to write.
More than anything, I’m just wanting to complete the works I’ve already started, and then continue on with this business of writing books. I also enjoy short stories on occasion, and maybe even a bit of poetry if the mood hits me right. But, day to day, I’m pretty much focused on putting out books.
You’ve got 20 words to sell us on your work. Tempt us.
I write raw. My dialogue is real and conversational. No topic is off-limits. My stories are authentic and alive.
Were there any particular parts of the writing/publishing process that you struggled with?
Not selling very many books! Haha. But then again, I remind myself that I was never in it for the sales, even though that might be nice at some point. I have a day job that I enjoy, my family, kids, granddaughter, and our dogs. But at times, and this probably has a lot to do with being an Indie Author, there is nobody pushing me to do anything! If I start a work and then don’t finish it? Nobody cares. So for me, sometimes the grind of it all, putting the words down, and completing a book… when nobody is ASKING for it, that’s a tough thing to make yourself do sometimes. But, what can I say, I love it? So, I write.
Where do you like to write?
I take notes in my journal all day long. The majority of the time, I’ll do most of my actual writing at my desk, whether it’s in my home office or in a hotel, or on a plane. But, one of my favourite things to do is say– I’m sitting in a restaurant at night, and overhear a conversation… A lot of times, I’ll grab a napkin and start jotting down what’s being said. It sounds silly, but some of those notes from others on napkins have turned into great scenes for a story. Plus, the dialogue is already written! You’d be surprised what people talk about aloud in restaurants and bars. Just keep in mind, I might be over in the corner, listening!
Is there anything you must have in order to write?
Some level of quiet, or at least a private space. I need to be able to hear the voices of my characters, to watch them, to feel what they’re feeling? I rarely listen to music– except… if I’m in a really good part of the story, maybe a part that’s moving very fast. If that’s the case, I’ve been known to put my earbuds in and listen loud and write louder. But you won’t normally find me over at the local coffee shop, amid a crowd, pecking away at the keyboard.
What books have influenced you most, both as a person and as an author?
Anything by Steinbeck. His use of prose and dialogue has influenced me to a degree that I’m not sure I could explain it. My short stories remind me a little of his style, though I’m sure he would laugh me out of the room with some of my other stuff. Salinger was big when I was younger. I like Scott Fitzgerald. If you want to get into philosophical type stuff, I’ll break out a couple volumes of Voltaire.
What is the one thing that has helped you develop most as an author?
Learning to trust and be confident in my own voice. For a long time, I was scared to put anything out to print, I think that most people are at first. But, once you come to a realization that everyone’s style is different, and that you’re different too, then it’s o.k. I finally got to the point of saying, “Fuck It! Everyone’s not gonna like my stuff, but that “O.K.”, because… I LIKE IT.” Once I came to that point, where the only thing that mattered was the Craft… then it’s alright. Then you can start to put in some work.
What do you want to achieve most from your writing?
To be a bigger person, to live on, to leave some sort of legacy; and on some level, to be noticed. Let’s face it, everyone wants to be noticed for doing at least one thing well, and I’ve always felt like that for me, writing would somehow turn into that avenue for recognition. But, at the end of the day, I know that I’m doing something that makes me happy, and if nothing else, I’m a legend in my own mind. I sleep well at night, and I guess it’s because I know that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
Is there something specific you do to improve your writing?
I try – often unsuccessfully – to blog on some irregular basis. The thinking is that it keeps your mind moving. But guess what, if I’m taking a day or three break from a work in progress that’s already at 40-50,000 words, do I really need to work on keeping my mind moving? Maybe not. I don’t know. I guess I need to work on my punctuation and grammar, usages… stuff like that.
What is the ideal relationship between editor and author?
I don’t know. I’ve never really had an editor per se. The exception would be on some short stories that I’ve submitted for publish. On those, the publisher would act as an editor and say, “We need this cut by 300 words…”, or something like that. If I DID have a full-time editor that I worked with, I suppose the keyword would be honesty and trust? It’s difficult to accept criticism if it’s not coming from an honest source. So, there’s that.
If you had a direct line to someone who loves or hates your writing, what would you say?
I’m happy for you! If you love it, then please leave a review at Amazon or Goodreads or something. If you hate it, then I’m all like, “Have a great day!”
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Don’t stop trying. Don’t stop believing in yourself. The only thing that matters is, “Are you committed?” If you are, then you’ll continue, no matter what. I always like to tell people (speaking of things in general), that “It’ll either get better, or it won’t.” Either way, you can’t stop trying.
What does your writing future hold for you?
Lots. I’ve got some pretty cool projects coming up. One of them is just in the beginning stages but would put me in an awesome spot to really hop across some stepping stones. I’m not gonna say too much about it, except that it’ll be a learning experience for me.
How have you set about the task of creating enticing cover art?
I take my own photos, choose the font and so forth, and then just pick 3-4 of the ones I like, put it out there. I’ll ask people candidly which one grabs them. If I think it looks cool, then that’s good enough. That’s about it.
How often do you read? What genre?
I don’t read much, but when I do it’s usually a Pop Culture type thing or History, some True Crime, maybe a magazine article from the Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, maybe The Smithsonian or something. I don’t have a lot of time to read. At times, I’ll skim through a favourite chapter of a book… sometimes I’ll go back and read some of my own stuff, just so I don’t forget that I need to always get better. I’ll see a typo and be like, “Ooops, don’t do that again!” There, I came clean… I read my own stuff; I google myself. Anyone who says they don’t are either lying, or their stuff isn’t worth reading!
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Best of luck in the future.
For more on Jim and his work, please do check out any of the following links: