Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our light James Chambers this Friday. He’ll be at our 65 James Street location on Saturday, January 7, from 3:00 – 5:00 PM to talk about his latest work, his research and writing adventures, and sign books. Besides being a friend of the book store through the horror community, James also happens to have written for the newest Kolchak: The Night Stalker graphic novel from Moonstone books—and even better, it’s a Poe themed work!
Kolchak The Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe is the latest release for James Chambers, who writes stories in many genres. He has published short fiction in many horror anthologies and magazines, such as Chiral Mad 2, Dark Hallows: Tales from the Witching Hour, Shadows Over Main Street and Allen K’s Inhuman, as well as tales of crime, fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, and even pulp fiction. He has written stories for The Avenger, The Green Hornet, and The Spider as well as for the award-winning anthology series Bad-Ass Faeries and Defending the Future. Dark Regions Press published his short fiction collection, Resurrection House, as well as his collection of four Lovecraftian novellas, The Engines of Sacrifice, which received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Working in comics, he edited Gene Roddenberry’s Lost Universe, Isaac Asmov’s I*BOTS, the From Dusk Till Dawn graphic novel adaptation, and Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals, of which he also wrote several issues including two in collaboration with Mr. Nimoy.
Thank you very much for the interview, James! What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
Research for Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe included three main research areas. The first, Carl Kolchak, required a thorough re-watching of The Night Stalker television movies and series and reading the original novels by Jeff Rice, the character’s creator. I needed to dive deep into the character’s voice, created by Darren McGavin, because Kolchak’s narration is an essential part of his stories. The second avenue covered Edgar Allan Poe. I spent hours re-reading Poe and reading some stories and poems for the first time. I also refreshed my knowledge about Poe’s life and death so I could echo certain themes in the story. Lastly, the most challenging part of my research regarded the setting: Baltimore. I’ve been to the city many times, which helped, but I relied heavily on Google Earth and image searches to get the geography right and to provide photo reference for my artists. I sent each artists a reference image folder that included pictures of locations and landmarks in Baltimore as well as artifacts and items for the stories, such as the lantern featured in chapter one. There are also a couple of visual references to classic Poe horror movies for sharp-eyed readers—and of course Baltimore’s favorite supernatural legend, Black Aggie!
During my Poe research, I became fascinated with the various theories surrounding his death. It’s commonly thought Poe died of alcoholism, but there is compelling evidence that other factors might have been the cause. Poe’s behavior and symptoms in his last days suggest he might have suffered from rabies. The mystery of the days he went missing also point to the possibility that he was being rolled for votes, a process by which political thugs kept people severely drunk and took them around to vote in different districts. I’d have liked to get into some of that in the graphic novel, but it didn’t fit the story.
What was the biggest challenge in writing and putting out The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe? How did you overcome that challenge?
The biggest challenges for The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe were getting Kolchak’s voice right as well as the story structure of a “Kolchak story,” being faithful to the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and presenting accurate details about Baltimore. The last was the easiest since I’ve visited the city many times and relied heavily on online research and images. But I really had no idea how to tackle the first two until I started writing and discovered something wonderful: Kolchak’s voice and Poe’s voice have a lot in common. Both come from a place that is dark, cynical, morbid, and troubled but they share an essential humanism that preserves hope as well as a dry, gallows humor. Both Kolchak and Poe see things in the world no one else sees. For Kolchak, it’s supernatural menaces. For Poe, it was the horrific side of existence. And both sought to express and escape it through writing. And both were newspapermen as well. Once I saw Kolchak as operating in the tradition of Poe, everything came together nicely.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
I’ve spent a lot of time beta-reading and mentoring new writers, and each writer is unique. Each writer must find his or her own voice and make their own journey as a writer. So there are really only three bits of advice I like to share with other writers in general.
The first is read. Read, read, read. Read anything and everything, fiction and non-fiction, books and magazines, poetry, essays, and comic books. Just read to expand your awareness of writing styles and formats and also your store of general knowledge. Read to understand what has come before. Read to understand your genre or to understand how others tell stories. Read outside your favorite genres and read writers from around the world. Writers don’t have to know everything, of course, but they do have to know how to research everything.
The second is write on a schedule. Write everyday if that works for you. Or write every weekend if that’s better. Or write every day until you finish a project. But make and stick to a schedule. When you do this, your brain tunes into it. In between writing sessions, your subconscious is working, creating, solving problems, and when you follow a schedule long enough, you may find you’ve trained yourself to be more and more productive each time you sit down at the keyboard.
The third and the one I’ve recently come to believe is the most important is have confidence in your creativity. Don’t be afraid of wild ideas. Don’t try fit your stories into someone else’s mold. Don’t chase commercial trends. If you weren’t creative you probably never would’ve started writing to begin with so keep that inspiration lit and follow wherever it leads. If your story leads you to a place you’ve seen before, pause and ask yourself where would you go with it that no one else has? Then go there no matter how crazy it seems. Not every chance you take will work, but the ones that do can help define you.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I have short stories accepted for publication in anthologies in 2017, including Shadows Over Main Street 2 and a few that haven’t yet been announced. Nothing else I can talk about in specifics yet, but I’m hoping to have some more comics-related news before too long.
What is one thing that most people don’t realize about you?
I write in multiple genres. I go to horror conventions and find people who know my stories from various horror anthologies or my books with Dark Regions Press. I go to science-fiction and fantasy conventions and find they know my stories from the Defending the Future anthologies or the steampunk anthologies for which I’ve written. Then there are comic books, which I’ve been writing in some form or another for more than twenty years. So my readers tend to know a small portion of my work and have a vague impression about the larger body of it. It’d be cool if more people realized my work spans many different fields.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?
Stick to your guns. Don’t give up on your writing or your goals. Everyone’s journey is different. Some writers find success fast. Others labor years to become an overnight success. Others write and publish steadily, building a body of work. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Chart your own course and be persistent.
Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?
I’ve gotten the most support and encouragement from two groups.
One is my beta-reading group, and I recommend writers find a small, trusted group of fellow writers with whom you can share your work, give and receive constructive criticism, brainstorm, and talk shop.
The other is the Horror Writers Association. Although the group is best known for administering the Bram Stoker Awards®, I’ve found its support for local horror-writing communities to be tremendously helpful. The HWA provides logistical and financial support for local chapters, enabling them to attend local conventions and literary events, to run readings, and other activities. In New York, we’ve built a very active chapter of local writers that does all these things and also hosts a critique group. We’ve grown into a tight-knit group that meets regularly to talk shop, help each other out, and share market news and info. Similar chapters exist in other states and cities as well as in the U.K. and Italy, and it’s fantastic to be tied into other writers around the world like that.
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
My books are generally available through most bookstores and online retailers as well as directly from the publishers. They can often be found on sale at conventions. Comic shops are the best place to look for my comic book and graphic novel work—or eBay for those elusive back issues.
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
My website is www.jameschambersonline.com. I post news, updates, covers, links, and lots of previews and excerpts from past and upcoming works. It also includes a full catalog of my published short and long fiction and comics. I’m easy to find on Facebook, and I’m on Twitter and Instagram as @mothman1313 and mothman1313.
Thank you, once again, for the great interview! We look forward to having you at the store this Saturday, January 7, from 3:00 – 5:00 PM!