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Author, Avid Tweeter & Blogger, Lover of books, Teacher of Maths & Swimming, Mother, Speaks Spanish, Friend to many...

Sunday, 10 February 2013

An interview with JAMES SMITH (Author, Teacher & Runner)

I have known James Smith for quite a few months now and we have become friends through the medium of Twitter.  It was whilst chatting (as people do in Twitter – no honestly, not all writers are just thrusting their books at you…) that the idea for this Shorts Stories Group was born.  I had never written short stories and saw it as a challenge.  We managed to find six other authors to join us for the first collection, Out of Darkness.

When James signed up for the BUPA Great North Run 2013 he asked whether the next collection could be in aid of Diabetes UK to help with his fundraising efforts. The run will take place on the 15th September 2013 and is taking place is Newcastle Upon Tyne – click on the Link to find out more… GREAT NORTH RUN

James is collecting donations via JUST GIVING or you can buy LOVE IS IN THE AIR (proceeds raised in Aid of Diabetes UK).

Anyway, I decided to interview him so that the rest of you could find out what a great guy he really is…But first a formal introduction (well, kind of – his son is cute, right?)

James Smith has been making up stories for as long as he can remember, but only recently decided to write them down.  He was born and bred in Derbyshire, before moving to Newcastle Upon Tyne to complete a degree in Genetics.  He still lives and works in the North East, having refused to move away from the area. 
He is currently a Secondary School Science Teacher and spends his days attempting to enlighten 11-18 year olds about the wonders of science.  It’s a tough job but someone has to do it…he would write a series about his experiences, but is afraid no one would believe him. When his imagination is not allowed to run riot he is a devoted, loving husband and taxi driver to three fantastic boys. 
James is a keen runner and has completed a number of charity runs. His most recent was to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation – having undergone open heart surgery, it was the least he could do.

What motivates you to run to raise money for charity?

Things like the Great North Run and the Blaydon Race have always been events I thought - next year I'll do that. Then one of my friends actually got organised enough to enter the Blaydon Race and when he suggested the Bupa Great North 10K I thought I'd give it a go.

I enjoyed the experience and since then have completed a few more runs. So motivation wise I enjoy it, it gives me a reason to maintain my fitness, it's a social thing (especially the rewarding beers after the run) and there is also a competitive edge to it all (my friends are yet to beat me over the line!).

Nothing wrong with a bit of "healthy" competition.

As a Teacher of Science, what do you find most rewarding about teaching the future leaders of tomorrow?

I think the most rewarding aspect is when you get that moment of clarity when the 'penny drops' and the student is excited that it makes sense. Obviously, students getting good results is a positive, but day to day it’s that moment.

As you know, I also used to be a Secondary School Teacher so I know what you mean. This leads me nicely on to your writing. Your stories also seem to have that moment of clarity. Is that important to you, to give the reader a message, something to take away with them?

I think that a good story has to contain questions and conflict to maintain the reader’s interest, so as these situations are resolved clarity appears. However it's not a conscious decision to tell stories that have a message, it’s just what comes out. I guess, as I only have short stories published at the moment, any potential message is more obvious.

Since we are working on a novel together I know you are able to stretch your writing beyond the realm of short stories. I don't want to give too much away on this yet, so we can leave readers hanging on this one for a moment.

Do you have any other stories you would like to write about, is there an author you aspire to emulate?

When I first started writing seriously I began with a fantasy adventure - instantly people will think of Tolkien, but the inspiration came more from computer games. I then started reading George R R Martins 'Song of Ice and Fire' series and it was so brilliant I was intimidated by it. Needless to say my fantasy adventure barely started. I never really thought I'd write about ordinary life (which most of my shorts are based around) but that's what came out in response to the themes I was writing for the seasonal short story books I have helped to produce. But as a result of these shorts I now have numerous ideas for other novels based around 'daily life'. Nothing started yet, I want to finish whatever our book will be called (otherwise I'll just have hard drives full of half finished manuscripts). But that doesn't really answer your question. Alongside George R R Martin, I admire Michael Connelly, Michael Crichton and Terry Pratchett, although I don't want to emulate them (apart from their sales figures) as I would feel I was trying to copy them.

Excellent answer, I know of these authors but have not read them... Will add them to my huge reading list!

You recently started a blog. How have you found it, do you think a blog is an essential tool for a writer?

I've found the blog therapeutic in some ways and I have discovered some useful information thanks to people responding to my ramblings. Essential? I'm not sure, first it's early days for my blog (only been a month), it has allowed me to network a bit more and hopefully in the future my work will get more exposure through this sort of thing (interviews, guest posts etc). I think, regardless of the tools we have (Facespace, twitter, blogs etc), it is the quality of the stories and the writing that carry you through. You can blog and tweet all day, but if the story is rubbish you'll never make it as a writer. Twitter has helped me connect with people who will be critical friends, blogging has just extended that, but at the moment not by much. That's a round about way of saying it’s useful, but not essential.

I find it is an outlet for a different type of writing. For many writers, the main problem is juggling the day job, other commitments and then finding time to write. Do you think writing helps you unwind, and would you recommend writing to people who have not tried it before?

For reasons I can't explain I've always wanted to write. But never found the time. Now I enjoy the process and find it stimulates my brain beyond the day job. I actually feel happy being able to discuss writing etc with people either in person or online (blog, twitter etc) so it does helps me relax. I would say to people if you're curious about whether you can/could write or simply think that you could do a better job, then give it a go - make the time. If you try and find it's not for you fine, but don't wonder what if.

Love the answer, I spent many years wanting to write but never taking the plunge, until a few years ago when I was inspired by another author. Do you think writing is an art, something that requires inspiration? If so, who or what inspires you? I once wrote an entire piece to rant after the frustrations of dealing with my son, is it just a way of saying what we would like to say via a story?

I believe story telling is an art; writing is something that can be taught/learnt, a means of communicating a story. Like I previously said, I was 'inspired' by great sweeping fantasy/sci fi works, but my work is now inspired more by observations, experiences, conversations or a job I am carrying out during (what I keep referring to as) daily life. My first published story was inspired by my experience of being a young child being marched up to the main street to wait for the queen. The first seasonal short story contribution was inspired by my youngest son asking about witches etc etc

So, why do you think a reader should choose to buy our short story collections? There are so many others out there, why should they read our collections?

There is the obvious over confident, obnoxious answer ha ha

Seriously, the reviews are positive for the previous two collections, the third 'Love is in the Air' has only been on sale for a few days. I would encourage people to buy because I think the books are reasonably priced and (unlike other books in the same price bracket) we, as a group, are happy to correct any errors which may have slipped through. They are also a great way to donate to charity. I run at least 10k to raise money for charities, by buying the books you donate and have something to enjoy rather than endure (hopefully!!).

Thank you for agreeing to share some of your thoughts with us.

No problem, it’s been fun.

Please check out James Smith further via his Blog 
Or chat to him on Twitter  

1 comment:

  1. Such a fantastic cause! I'm in awe of your fitness! I can't run!