Meghan: Hi, James! Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
James L. Steele: I grew up as a military child. My father told me to stay out of the military, so that’s why I never joined, and it’s probably why I took up something more creative. Had I joined the Army, I might have had the creativity stamped out of me.
Meghan: What is something most people don’t know about you?
James L. Steele: You wouldn’t know it from my most recent social media posts, but I only just recently got into wine, and I had never been a drinker. It took deliberate effort to get into it. Why would I do that? Apart from finally finding a drink I enjoyed, I thought I was boring and needed a reason to leave the house.
Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?
Meghan: What are you reading now?
James L. Steele: I just finished reading The Tin Drum by Günter Grass. Someone in a writing group mentioned it, and I saw a copy in a local bookstore, so I bought it on a whim. Not casual reading, and probably the longest work of fiction I’ve tackled in years.
Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?
Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?
James L. Steele: I’ve been writing in some form or another since grade school. I imagined I’d get into television and write my own series. I began writing synopses for various film and TV series I imagined, as well as video games. Usually the video game stories came first, and then I imagined the games would do so well they’d become a film series and finally a TV series. Sometime after High School, I decided to sit down and write more than the synopses. Then one day, shortly after my parents split up, I had to make a choice between pursuing writing or computer programming. I chose the one I enjoyed more.
Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?
James L. Steele: My bedroom is hardly special. I don’t know how people can write in cafes, let alone coding.
Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?
James L. Steele: When I was a kid, whenever we got a major assignment, I would ignore it for a day, and then I would begin researching and outlining. I still do that. When I get a new idea, I sit on it for a while, ignoring it, and then I begin. Creating that initial distance keeps me from panicking and starting off wrong.
Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
James L. Steele: Writing used to be hard. Having been doing it for so many years, now publishing is the hard part. Getting people interested in reading my published work is harder still, and convincing people to pay money to read my stuff is the hardest task in the world.
Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?
James L. Steele: Recently I wrote an idea that had been germinating in my head since the mid-90s. The idea ended up becoming a 6-book series, collectively called the Archeons series. Taking any idea and translating it into something others can understand has been the most satisfying feeling I can chase, and I think I got the biggest rush from making my oldest idea real.
Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?
James L. Steele: I am most inspired by the classic science fiction writers of yesteryear (namely Clarke). Apart from them, masterful worldbuilders are high on my list (Orwell, Lewis Carroll). I think that’s what I enjoyed most. Worldbuilding.
Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?
James L. Steele: The best stories make us forget we are reading. I yearn to create something which does that.
Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?
James L. Steele: I don’t like to place such strict boundaries on characters, this one you’re supposed to love, and this one you’re supposed to hate, and this one you’re supposed to identify with. I believe to love a character is to understand them. I prefer readers understand my characters, and that allows them to choose which ones they’ll love.
Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?
James L. Steele: All of my characters have a little bit of me in them, so it’s hard to choose. I think I wrote about my deepest desires in my villains, but since I go out of my way to help the reader understand them, they don’t seem like villains at all.
Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?
James L. Steele: The cover need not be amazing, but it shouldn’t be thoughtless either. There’s a difference. Usually I’m not involved in the process at all, but when I am, I want it to look like someone put thought into it. If if were up to me, I’d design every cover so the reader will pause to look back at it when they reach that particular moment in the story it depicts.
Meghan: What have you learned throughout the process of creating your books?
James L. Steele: My first book took 2 years to write, and it was still a jumbled mess after I was done. I thought if I kept going, I’d figure out what the story wanted to be about. I did, eventually, but had I figured it out in the first draft, or before, I wouldn’t have needed to spend all that time editing and rewriting. I learned to have a plan before committing to that much writing. Doesn’t have to be a concrete plan, but guardrails can keep the story from going off in random directions. No reason to let the story have its way if you’re just going to edit those parts out later.
Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?
James L. Steele: No individual scenes come to mind. My biggest problem always comes from where backstory ends and now-story begins. My earliest novels often had me starting and restarting a story at different moments. I wasn’t sure what I needed to show and what I could get away with simply explaining. I still struggle with this, though I’m better at it now.
Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?
James L. Steele: One of the underlying assumptions of sci-fi is that technology is the end result of civilization and it will make all our lives better. I wanted to approach from a different assumption. What if technology was not a sign of an advanced civilization? 4 years later, I had written six books about that.
Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours?
James L. Steele: It’s hard to choose a title because no matter what you want to call your book, someone else has already called it that. I try to choose phrases that stand out.
Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?
James L. Steele: I am certainly a novelist. Most of my ideas end up being too large to be short stories.
Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.
James L. Steele: Currently I’m releasing the Archeons series, a sci-fi tale set mostly off Earth. It takes place from the aliens’ point of view and only involves humans toward the end. No spaceships. No technology. In this reality, the conscious mind is capable of taking control of spacetime and opening portals to other planets, and that’s how everyone gets around. Archeon is the term given to people who have this ability to break down the subconscious and perceive the universe as it really is. To understand it is to control it. Then something happens that sends this happy system into chaos, and that’s where the story opens. I want it to appeal to sci-fi readers who are interested in something without spaceships and laser battles that still feels sci-fi. I’m not trying to make a statement about technology, but I do often wonder if humankind truly is on a normal path.
Meghan: I am always excited to get my hands on anthologies, especially ones from publishers that I have grown to trust. Tell us about Burnt Fur and your story in it.
James L. Steele: “The Victims” was originally written for a Halloween anthology. It was rejected due to it not fitting in with the other stories already selected, and I understand why, as it barely has anything to do with Halloween. I wrote it with the idea that there could be something going on in the animal world on that particular date, unseen by human eyes. Some secret pact with evil the animals made that ended up saving mankind, and humans are unaware of it. I hoped the story would be a better fit for Burnt Fur than the one it was written for. I don’t write horror very often, so for this to be published is special to me in more ways than one.
Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?
James L. Steele: Most of the deleted elements from my work are deleted for good reason. Action scenes going on too long, incorrect reactions to certain events. That happened a lot in Dangerous Experiments (Archeons 2). My editor pointed these out and I improved them. Hopefully the original version will never be seen.
Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?
James L. Steele: I have at least 3 books I want to go back to and fix up someday. Knowing what I know now, I believe I could do better with those earlier works. I also know it would be a lot of work, so I hesitate committing to them.
Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?
James L. Steele: KTM Publishing is in the process of releasing the second half of the Archeons series, and I am always looking for homes for what few short stories I’ve written.
Meghan: Where can we find you?
Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?
James L. Steele: Horror is not my usual genre, so I hope The Victims intrigues horror readers. And if anyone checks out my other work because of this story, I hope they’re not too disappointed I mostly write sci-fi. Cheers!
Author the Author: James L. Steele has been published in various anthologies and magazines, including: Solarcide, Allasso, Different Worlds, Different Skins: V.2, Tall Tales with Short Cocks V.2, Bourbon Penn, Gods with Fur, Claw the Way to Victory, and The Reclamation Project, Year One. His sci-fi novel Huvek is published through Argyll Productions, and the Archeons series has been released through KTM Publishing, beginning with Dangerous Thoughts. He lives in Ohio, where he pursues his hobby of becoming a wine connoisseur while having at least two existential crises per day.
About the Books:
Sit. Roll over. Who’s a Good Boy?
There are no good boys in in this anthology, only twisted, deviant, and burnt encounters with pets, people in costume, animals who behave like humans, and creatures who blur the line between the three. Violent pigs, killer ducks, horny bees, a naughty rabbit, and many more fill these pages with tale after tail of hair-raising horror.
Don your Fursuit, slip into your Fursona, and ride the dark wave of horror that is Burnt Fur. You may never go back to wearing your normal skin again.
The Moon in Her Eyes by Sarah Hans
Mallard’s Maze by Joseph Sale
Salivation by Theodore Deadrat
The Hamford Pigs by N. Rose
The Willingness of Prey by Paul Allih
6 Dicks by Rachel Lee Weist
The Others by C.M. Saunders
Randall Rabbit by Elliot Arthur Cross
A Concubine for the Hive by Rue K. Poe
Five Nights with Teddy by Thurston Howl
Oh Piggy, My Piggy by Matt Scott
Ware the Deep by Stephanie Park
The Molt of a Diminishing Light by Michelle F. Goddard
The Victims by James L. Steele
Humanity has gone to the stars, split and fused the atom, colonized hundreds of worlds, and rejoiced at first contact with alien life. Until the killing started.
Man has been at war with the Kesvek for over forty years. Nearly indestructible, relentless in battle, and unwilling to negotiate, the reptiles constantly push forward. Colony after colony has fallen, and the human race can do little but hold them back. Humanity knows very little about their enemy.
The Kesvek plan to change that.
There is much to learn, and the Kesvek are willing to teach. So long as humans can survive the process, mankind will discover what caused the conflict, and what is required for peace.
No matter the cost.
Their planet was ripped apart from under their feet. When Deka and Kylac wake up, they discover Archeons are dead, and the portals have closed without warning, leaving hundreds of planets without links to other worlds.
Rel’s destruction touched every planet in the contacted universe. Without the portals, entire civilizations hang in the balance, and Deka and Kylac are the only two who can make spacetime spheres. The raptor and the fox travel from world to world, repairing the damage the disaster caused, preventing civilization from collapsing.
Floating islands drifting through the toxic atmosphere of a gas giant—offworlders are stranded there, just barely clinging to life. A planet of raised platforms made of growing rock that elevate the people above the flammable algae on the surface—everything is falling apart, and where are the people? A world of giant insects—researchers have gone missing, and they have been injected with mind-altering venom. A planet of salamanders and birdlike reptiles who relied on portals for food—facing starvation, the reptiles revert to hunting the salamanders.
What could have destroyed an entire planet?
What could have reached across the light years to kill so many Archeons at the same time?
Did anyone else survive?