What inspired you to become an author?
I’ve always enjoyed the process of writing and creating something from nothing. But, in the early 1990’s, I finished a book by a New York Times bestselling author who will remain nameless and the first thought that went through my head was “What a piece of shit book that was! That was a New York Times bestseller?”. My second thought was “If you think you can do better, then shut up and do it”. The process turned out to be a hell of a lot harder than I thought it would be.
Do you write in different genres?
I write whatever floats my boat at the time. That original first book that started me down the writing road was a cop/serial killer novel that remains unagented and unpublished (for a reason – it needs a lot of work). I self-published a boy meets girl coming of age story called Jack & Diane three years ago. I love that book as have those who have read it according to the ratings. I had a short story series called “The Nuts” published about a poker player and, most recently, another short story published in the Words with Hearts anthology about a writer. Poor Boy Road is something different entirely. I think I’ve found my genre now, but won’t rule out delving into other realms.
If yes which is your favorite genre to write?
I love to read stand-alone books in a series with the same characters that you can grow with. Poor Boy Road is the first of what I hope will be a long running series featuring the adventures of Jake Caldwell and his friends.
How did you come up with the title for your latest book?
I have to admit I really struggled with the title for this one. I had about three-fourths of the book completed and took another trip to Warsaw, Missouri for a little inspirational research. In one of the first few chapters, Jake travels down a country road to the very real Turkey Creek Cemetery where a number of his, and not coincidentally, my family members are buried. As I walked amongst the tombstones, the name of the road struck me as a great title for the book – Poor Boy Road.
Is the book, characters, or any scenes based on a true life experience, someone you know, or events in your own life?
Thank God, no! That said, Warsaw is a real place, a great little town in the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks. I originally crafted the story with a fake town name of Cranston, but figured that plenty of novels take place in real cities. Why not Warsaw? Though scenic, drugs, especially meth, are a very real problem its citizens must deal with. Jake’s father, Stony, is an abusive alcoholic who is nothing like my father, but is an exaggeration of stories I’ve heard about my grandfather who I never met. So, I’ve never been a leg breaker for the mob or had to endure any of the things Jake did, but there are smatterings of some real life in there that were exaggerated for the purposes of the book.
What books/authors have influenced your life?
The first “adult” book I remember reading was Watership Down by Richard Adams – a big undertaking for a 12 year old kid as it was a monster with tiny print and a glossary of rabbit lingo in the back. But, I remember being absolutely blown away that someone could create such an amazing world about rabbits…freaking rabbits! Can you imagine that pitch? A ragtag band of rabbits, who rely on the visions of a psychic one of their own, seek to find a new home and must battle an evil rabbit dictator if they hope to survive. It just goes to show even the seemingly craziest of ideas can be pulled off with talent. It is a brilliant book and sunk that love of reading hook in as deep as it could go.
There’s a handful of authors that, when a new book is released, that I immediately buy and devour. Stephen King is such a masterful storyteller and can set a scene like nobody else. I read his work and then mine and feel like a kid with a crayon and a Big Chief tablet. Lee Child and his Jack Reacher novels are such page turners, fast paced and great characterization. Gillian Flynn is a fantastic writer with some seriously twisted tales that I love. John Sandford and his Prey books with his main character Lucas Davenport are another instant buy. So, two of my four favorites involve series with the same character so I think you can see where I’m planning to go.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Easy answer – Stephen King. I’ve read everything he’s written including his fantastic book On Writing which should be required reading of anyone following the craft. That said, I think we can all learn something from all kinds of writers – what to do and what not to do.
What book are you reading now?
I just finished a fabulous book called All the Light We Cannot See. I was totally blown away by how Anthony Doerr sets a scene – short sentences, but very powerful descriptors. He also time jumped between three different characters before and during World War II without causing the reader to miss a beat. Incredibly done from a structure standpoint. I just started the advanced reader copy of my fellow Lakewater Press authors Sue Featherstone and Susan Pape. Their book A Falling Friend is set for an April release. I’m only a few chapters in, but liking it so far.
What books are in your to read pile?
Oh, you’re going to make me pull up my Goodreads app! If anyone reading this is not on Goodreads, I highly recommend it – friend me when you get on there. I read R.L. Martinez’s In the Blood (another Lakewater author) and loved it, though I’m admittedly not a big fantasy reader. When I plugged her book on Goodreads and Facebook, a number of people suggested I check out Red Rising by Pierce Brown so I added it to my list. I also have Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham, the Memory Man by David Baldacci and The Pardon by James Grippando on the list among others.
What is your current “work in progress” or upcoming projects?
I’m currently editing the stand-alone sequel to Poor Boy Road titled Ares Road. I’m afraid that Jake and his friends are going to find themselves in a bit of trouble in Kansas City with some very large stakes hanging in the balance. This one is a bit faster paced than Poor Boy Road and I think the readers are going to enjoy it. We’re set for a 2017 publication date, but would love to get it out by Christmas so everyone can stuff their stockings with multiple copies. We’ll see.
Who designed the cover of your latest book?
E.L. Wicker with Lakewater Press. It was amazing because when she asked my thoughts for the cover, I described two scenes that had occurred to me. I don’t even remember the first one because when I described the second, she immediately jumped in because that was the exact scene she had in her head after reading the book. After that, there was no point in exploring any other options. She sent me the first mock-up and it required very little change. She nailed 95% of my vision in the first try and 100% of it after the second. I love the cover and what she did with it.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
First, shut up and write. Don’t talk about the book you always wanted to write. Write it. When you’re done writing it, put it aside for at least a month. Then, go back and polish, polish, polish. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
Second, don’t be afraid to share your work with other people for feedback. Find someone who will give you very candid feedback. It does you no good if they read your book and say “It was good” and that’s all you get. You have to find someone who will tell you that parts of your book sucks, that a scene is ridiculously contrived, that there’s no way you could have gone from Point A to point B. Find that person or group of people. I’ve started doing some editorial work on the side and there’s plenty of good folks out there who can do that. This is an absolute must before you send out to agents and publishers. You can polish your own work until the cows come home, but you won’t spot all your own flaws. You’re simply too close to it.
Third, enter writing contests such as PitchMadness and Pitch Wars and Writers’ Digest among others. It forces you to really grind down on your story and you will meet so many people. You never know about the friendships you will develop or what doors it may open. You may even find a publisher!
Poor Boy Road
James L. Weaver
Publisher: Lakewater Press
Date of Publication: March 21, 2016
Number of pages: 251
Word Count: approx. 78,000
Cover Artist: E.L Wicker
As a mob enforcer, Jake Caldwell is in the dark business of breaking kneecaps and snapping bones. But each job sends him one step closer to turning into the man he swore he’d never become—his violent and abusive father. Leaving the mob is easier said than done. When his boss offers a bloody way out, Jake has no choice but to take it, even if it means confronting ghosts of old.
Arriving in his Lake of the Ozarks hometown, Jake has two things on his mind: kill ruthless drug lord Shane Langston and bury his dying father. What he doesn’t expect is to fall in love all over again and team up with his best friend Bear, the Sheriff of Benton County, to take Langston down. Racing through the countryside searching for Langston, the web of murder, meth and kidnapping widens, all pointing toward a past Jake can’t escape and a place he never wanted to return—Poor Boy Road.
“Open the door, Carlos,” Jake said, pounding the door twice. No answer, but the shadow wavered as if its owner was uncertain if it should stay or run.
Jake sighed and stepped back. With his good leg, he exploded forward, driving his heel above the knob. The lock assembly collapsed against the splintered wood and the door burst open. Carlos cried out as the door cracked his face, his wiry frame collapsing to the floor. He landed on his ass, holding his nose. Blood poured through his fingers and onto his stained, white T-shirt. Jake entered the apartment to the stench of cigarettes and fried onions, and shut the remains of the door behind him. Carlos pushed back toward a kitchen stacked with crusted plates and glasses, his wide eyes fearful.
Jake tucked the Glock in his waistband and picked up a dented baseball bat leaning against a bookcase covered with dead plants. He held it with both hands, testing the weight. Thirty-two ounce aluminum fat barrel. He walked to Carlos and tapped him hard on the leg with it.
“Where’s your daughter?” Jake asked. The last thing he wanted was a little girl to run in screaming. It happened before.
Carlos nodded. “They can’t figure out what’s wrong.”
“Sorry to hear it,” Jake said. He didn’t wish that kind of heartache on anyone, but Keats wasn’t paying him as a shoulder to cry on. “The two grand. Where is it?”
“Ain’t got it. No insurance and the damn hospital’s sucking me dry.”
The bat burned in Jake’s hands. He didn’t want to, but his orders were to liberally apply a blunt object to Carlos’ legs if he didn’t have the money. There would be hell to pay otherwise. He raised the bat, white knuckling the handle.
“Please, Jake,” Carlos pleaded, tears rolling down his weathered cheeks. “It’s my little girl, man.”
The brief howl of air and hollow thunk of metal meeting bone echoed in his head, a ghostly sound from long ago. The excruciating pain would rip through the man’s body, so intense he would shred his vocal cords from the screams. He knew because he dealt this punishment too many times in the past. He could feel it because he was once on the receiving end. As the bat barrel wavered and Carlos sobbed, Jake’s cell phone vibrated for the fifth time in twenty minutes. Like the previous four times, he silenced it.
He glimpsed a picture on the kitchen counter of Carlos and his daughter. Eight years old, cute as hell in a white dress with a daisy in her thick, black hair. What would happen to her if Jake broke her daddy’s legs? What would Keats do to him if he didn’t? His cell vibrated again.
Jake tossed the bat on the floor. It clanked toward the busted front door and he yanked the cell from his pocket, checking the number. 660 area code. Home, if there was such a place. He needed to think and the call provided as good a distraction as any. Jake answered with his left hand and pulled the gun out with his right, training it on Carlos.
“Dad’s dying,” Janey said. His sister’s first words to him in a year. Like he was supposed to give a shit.
About the Author:
James L Weaver is the author of the forthcoming Jake Caldwell thrillers Poor Boy Road and Ares Road from Lakewater Press. He makes his home in Olathe, Kansas with his wife of 18 years and two children. His previous publishing credits include a six part story called "The Nuts" and his 5-star rated debut novel Jack & Diane which is available on Amazon.com. Author note: a handful of the raters are actually not related to him.
His limited free time is spent writing into the wee hours of the morning, playing parental taxi cab to his kids' sporting endeavors, and binge watching Netflix.
You can read his blog at weaverwrites.wordpress.com and follow him on Twitter @WildcatJim2112.