I’m very excited for another Author Tuesday feature with the wonderfully talented James Bailey. I really enjoyed his novel Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed (see my review here), and it currently has a 4.1 star rating on Amazon so I know I’m not alone in liking it. In addition to a great interview James is generously giving away two copies of his book (print or Kindle); also the Kindle edition is on sale for only $0.99 through Saturday, August 8, 2015! Please leave a comment answering the author question – What makes you comment on a post?
The giveaway will be open until Monday, August 10, 2015 9:59 p.m. MST. I will then use Random.org to select the winners. So let’s get started! Giveaway closed. Congratulations to Matt and Wendy!
Interview with James Bailey –
A little about me and my writing. I’ve always been a big reader, way back to when I was a kid. I received a hardback copy of The Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White, for my sixth birthday, and I used to read it a little bit every day and tell my mom all about what I’d read. I was soon immersed in Hardy Boys mysteries, Encyclopedia Brown, Pippi Longstocking, and Ramona and Beezus, and whatever else I came across. By junior high I was into Sherlock Holmes and James Bond and the Tolkien books. I still have a lot of them. I packed a couple of the Lord of the Rings books to read on the plane when we flew to Hawaii for our honeymoon, and my wife still laughs about discovering the rather poorly drawn Rolling Stones lips/tongue on the back cover of The Fellowship of the Ring. So, apparently I was into the Stones enough at the time I read those the first time to deface the back of a book. It’s my handwriting. I can’t blame anyone else. Other than a few random short stories, though, I wasn’t much of a writer as a kid. I didn’t really start committing much time to writing fiction until my late 20s, and didn’t get really serious about it until about 10 years ago when I started on what turned into the first of my three novels, The Greatest Show on Dirt. It’s set at old Durham Athletic Park in the early 1990s, which coincides with the three summers I spent working for the Durham Bulls. I think people think it’s more autobiographical than it really is. The protagonist is nothing like me and all of his mishaps at the ballpark are either completely made up or borrowed from stories that happened to other people. I did work a few real-life ballpark characters in as minor characters in the book to give it proper flavor, and some people who have read it have written me about recognizing someone here or there. After I worked for the Bulls, I spent six years working at Baseball America magazine, mostly covering the minor leagues. I’ve always been a big baseball fan. And my second novel, Nine Bucks a Pound, was another baseball theme, this time about a player who is struggling in the minor leagues, knowing he’s so close to being released, when he decides he has nothing to lose and gives in to the temptation to try steroids. It works, but of course there are consequences, and, well, I won’t give too much away there. For my third book, I turned the focus in a completely different direction. But I’ll get to all that in a minute, because it looks like we’ll cover that in the first question.
1) Why should people read your book? Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed is a family story, about a really messed up family. Families seem to provide no shortage of drama, in real life and in literature. Jonathan Tropper has made quite a career out of family dysfunction. I love his stuff. I’ve seen a few reviewers make comments about how they thought mine sounded similar to This Is Where I Leave You. They’ve all also noted that it’s nothing like it once you get going. I’m flattered by any comparison to Tropper, but Sorry is quite different from all of his, apart from the general dysfunction at its heart. My protagonist, C.J. Neubauer, has spent the last ten years trying to avoid his family, living on the East Coast because it was as far as he could get away from his home in Seattle. Then one night, out of the blue, his dad calls, sounding somewhat nostalgic, knocking C.J. speechless at one point when he tells him he loves him, something he hasn’t said since C.J. was young. C.J. is woken up the next morning by another call, this time from his brother, breaking the news that their father was found dead in C.J.’s old car, having OD’d on carbon monoxide. So C.J. returns home with a huge chip on his shoulder and within 24 hours has pretty much re-pissed off everyone in his life, down to his high school girlfriend. I’ll be upfront here. C.J. is kind of a … well, let’s call him a chronic underachiever. He’s 32, works part-time in a coffee shop, and sponges off his girlfriend, with whom he’s almost constantly battling. He’s maybe not someone you’d want your daughter to date. Not because he’s malicious. It’s more of an immaturity thing, which is exacerbated by having to deal with his family again while they all come to terms with his father’s suicide. It may sound a bit bleak, but really there’s quite a bit of humor sprinkled throughout, and I don’t think it’s a depressing kind of a book at all, even if it might sound that way from the blurb.
2) Where is your favorite place to write? I do almost all of my writing down in my office, in the basement. We finished off the basement in our house about seven years ago, mostly in anticipation of a kid. He’s now 5 1/2 and he spends quite a lot of time playing video games on my computer. But after he goes to bed it’s all mine and I get to sit here and write. I’m surrounded by shelves full of baseball books (most of the other books are in the library, also in the basement), a rolltop desk my father made for me about 20 years ago, boxes, papers, and CDs. Most nights I have to crank up a space heater, because even during the summer it gets cool down here. But it’s where I do my best thinking, and I can play my music relatively loud late at night without waking anyone up.
3) What are you currently working on (new book, remodeling your home…)? I am in the very, very, very early stages of what I hope will be Book #4 (its working title). Like so early I’m still tweaking the character sketches. But I do think I’ve settled on a story after batting around four or five different possibilities since releasing Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed in May. I’ve spent too much of that time decompressing, but I’m finally ramping back up into productivity and it feels good.
4) What is your favorite comfort book (the book you re-read because of how it makes you think/feel)? I am definitely a re-reader. I have some books I’ve read three or four times and will certainly read again. I’ve done the Harry Potter books numerous times. It seemed like every time a new one came out I would go back and re-read the others. I went back through them all again a year or so ago. What I love about Harry Potter is it just takes me somewhere so far away I can really separate myself from my day and whatever happened at work (in an office, in Corporate America). I re-read different books for different reasons. Sometimes I’ll pick up an author I admire, like a Nick Hornby, and read back through just to focus on how he writes, how he creates characters, how he sets things up or creates tension. But if you want my all-time favorite, I think I’ve read A Confederacy of Dunces four times and I’ll read it many more. I’ve also given it as a gift multiple times. I would love to someday write a book half that brilliant.
5) What is the next book in your TBR (to be read) pile? I received 6-7 books for Christmas and have worked through all but one of them so far. The Cuckoo’s Calling is the last remaining one on my nightstand. It keeps getting bumped by others for various reasons, but it’s in that perpetual on-deck circle and I will get to it soon. I don’t read as much when I’m writing, because most nights I write until I’m tired and then I just go up and go straight to bed.
6) Turn on your music player and hit shuffle – what song/artist comes up first? I do have an mp3 player, but I still do a lot of CDs, or at least I listen to them digitally on the Amazon player on the computer as I work. With rare exception, almost the entire time I was working on Sorry, I had Coldplay going. Mostly A Rush of Blood to the Head, Viva La Vida, or X & Y. I was about 10 years late to the Coldplay party, mostly because I used to fall into that “they sound like U2” group. Which I don’t get listening to them now. They don’t. But anyway, they seem to work when I’m working, because the music slips into the background when I need to really think. This spring I worked the new Modest Mouse CD into the mix as well, just to freshen things up. I haven’t settled yet on a band for the fourth book.
7) What’s your random talent (balancing a spoon on your nose, saying the alphabet backwards…)? I can’t sing and I can’t draw, so aside from writing, you can categorically eliminate anything artistic. I can juggle well enough to entertain my son. Aside from that … hmmm, I can put a real hurt on a box of Cheez-It Grooves. Or better yet, M&Ms. I can make M&Ms wish they’d never been born. Does that qualify?
8) Ask the reviewer – what question have you always wanted to ask a book reviewer? Well, truth be told, I’ve done a fair bit of book reviewing myself. I reviewed baseball books for Baseball America and had my own review site (http://www.baileysbaseballbookreviews.com). I wound those down for the most part about two years ago, because it was taking too much time away from my own writing. And things were starting to run together. I got burned out on baseball books a bit. They get kind of formulaic in a way after a while. So with rare exception, my baseball book reviewing days are done. For now, at least. Who knows what the future holds. Anyway, what would I ask a reviewer … how about, what’s the biggest reaction, positive or negative, you’ve gotten from a review? I mean from readers, not the author/publisher, though that could provide some good (maybe better) stories as well. Of all the reviews I ever wrote, it seemed I rarely got any kind of a reaction from readers. Very few comments. It was almost like, taps the microphone, is this thing on? So what have you reviewed that has actually elicited some proof that your readers are out there and alive? – Laura – My biggest comments come from giveaway posts. I can see my site stats and know that 100 people came on that day but zero comments, but then I post a giveaway and I will have 200 readers and 10 comments. I think book reviewing is a difficult topic to get comments; unless someone has also read the book they don’t have much to say other than a generic “That looks interesting, I may have to add that to my list”.
Again for your chance to win one of one of two copies of his book (print or Kindle) please leave a comment answering the author question – What makes you comment on a post?
Connect with James – jamesbailey.us and follow him at @James_L_Bailey.