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Written Interviews

TLOP Interviews James G. Carlson


At that point, I’m fully invested and dedicated to seeing it through, scene by scene, or chapter by chapter. James G. Carlson

What is your name, where are you from and what are your hobbies?

My name is James Carlson and I’m from the States. Pennsylvania, to be more specific. And my hobbies include running, hiking, listening to a variety of music genres, reading horror and fantasy books, watching movies, taking care of my many pets, and spending too much time at the theme parks in Florida.

How did growing up as a writer looked like for you?

As a teenager, I read quite a bit. Mostly horror and fantasy. But I didn’t start writing until I hit the road at nineteen, traveling all over the country. Sometimes, when I could afford it, I went on buses from city to city. Other times, I hitchhiked. During this strange and exciting chapter in my life, I kept a journal. When I returned to Pennsylvania a few years later, I had a few poems published. Shortly after that, I began contributing to several online publications, interviewing recording artists and reviewing new album releases. It wasn’t until about four years ago, give or take, that I decided to try my hand at fiction. It clicked. I fell in love with it. And I’ve been writing horror, bizarro, science fiction, and dark fantasy ever since.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

If I become immersed in my story, as if I’m right there beside the characters I’ve created, experiencing their triumphs and failures with them, it energizes me. At that point, I’m fully invested and dedicated to seeing it through, scene by scene, or chapter by chapter. The emotional and intellectual exhaustion doesn’t arrive until I step away from the keyboard for the day. It’s a draining process, but totally worth it.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

No. I like that my real name is attached to my work.

How did publishing your first book (If you have any) change your process of writing?

As a new writer, and I suspect for seasoned writers too, the process of penning a story is one of trial and error, learning and evolving. There is so much to be aware of while working on a project. Showing versus telling, for example, and avoiding passive voice. My sentences were probably too long when I first started. And my narratives were sloppier than I would have liked. I learned how to tidy things up and to take my time. It doesn’t come together until it’s ready. It can’t be rushed.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

While I may borrow a mannerism from this person or a physical trait from that person, most of my characters spring from my imagination. In Seven Exhumations, my new collection, there’s a story titled ‘Grim’ in which the characters are loosely based on my brother and me when we were kids. In such instances, I put that person’s name on the acknowledgments page of the book.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I admit to reading reviews of my work. Fortunately, I haven’t received any negative ones yet, though I’m sure it will happen eventually. Like all the arts, writing is subjective. Not everyone will appreciate what I do, and I’m okay with that. That’s not to say that a negative review won’t be disappointing. But I can handle it. Positive reviews, however, are encouraging. They suggest that you’re on the right track as a writer. It’s a great feeling to know someone enjoyed reading a story I wrote.

What inspires you to write?

More inspires me than I can easily sum up here, I’d say. But certainly nature, the human condition, psychology, the absurd, things that I find visually stimulating, and the entire palette of emotions that color our lives from one moment to the next. I like to take ordinary things and make them extraordinary. I like to think that there’s more in this world than the human mind is capable of perceiving. I find it thrilling to consider the impossible. I like to experience and observe things, and then hand them over to my imagination. I also enjoy arranging words, then rearranging them into more creative lines. And I love how words look on the page.

How do you expect your book (If you have any) to connect with your readers?

As a horror writer, it can be difficult killing off a character to whom you’ve developed an attachment. The empathetic side of you suffers even as your plan their death, doubly so when you’re writing the scene. And then you miss them when they’re gone. I’ve experienced this before.

What was your hardest scene to write in one of your books (If you have any)?

Well, while I’d like to say that my books are for everyone, that simply wouldn’t be true. People who appreciate weird horror and dark urban fantasy might enjoy reading my work. I try to make my stories as unique as possible so they don’t come across as recycled or overly familiar material. And I work very hard on them, not just because I love the experience but because I hope others will derive pleasure from experiencing them too.

Why should I purchase your book (If you have any)?

 I feel that my work is original, honest, emotional, and relatable paired with illustrations that really make the reader think about what I am saying within my poetry. I believe that reading any book that opens up your mind and heart is worth reading.


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Do you want each of the book you write (If you have any) to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

While many of my stories share small connections, each of them very much stands on its own. I have no plans of writing a series any time soon. Maybe one day.

What do you believe are the common traps for aspiring writers?

The writing world is simultaneously a wonderful and terrible place. It’s competitive and busy, but at the same time supportive and interesting. There are more than a few shady small presses waiting to prey on new authors. There are plenty of scammers and sketchy individuals online that will try to sell you paid reviews or poor book covers or overpriced promotional packages that lead to hardly any sales. Obviously, it pays to be wise and aware.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

If I could speak to myself when I first began writing fiction, I would tell myself that it is important to use editors. I would tell myself to research the integrity of small presses before signing contracts. And I would tell myself to overcome distraction whenever possible and just keep writing.