Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Author Spotlight: James Rollins

Internationally acclaimed bestselling thriller author James Rollins is truly a writers' writer. Since the 1999 publication of his first thriller, Subterranean, not a year has passed that Rollins hasn't enthralled eager readers worldwide with at least one highly-anticipated new novel. This year's publication, titled Bloodline and released just yesterday, is the eighth and latest installment in his lauded SIGMA Force series. In addition to the SIGMA Force stories, he has written six stand-alone thrillers, two books in his "Jake Ransom" Young Adult adventure series, and the novelization of the blockbuster movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. As an author, if he's not touring to meet his readers, or mentoring, or writing, or studying breakthrough science and exploring exotic locales researching for his next project, then he's active in International Thriller Writers, an organization he helped launch in 2005 with fellow renown practitioners of the thriller-writing arts to celebrate and promote the genre. If you manage to run into Rollins (who is also a doctor of veterinary medicine, by the way) on those rare occasions when he hasn't donned his well-worn author's hat, don't be surprised to find him spelunking or scuba-diving in some remote venue that could be almost anywhere on the planet.

As he should be, Rollins is excited about Bloodline's release. We are too, and we're fortunate Rollins graciously carved out some time from his ongoing promotional tour to spend a few minutes with Gazalapalooza's readers. We're unsure what effect the Author Spotlight's white hot klieg lights will have on an accomplished thriller author and scuba-diving spelunker for whom four-legged perils and eerie crystal skulls are just another day at the office, but there's only way one to find out. So without further ado, let's get Rollins' Gazalapalooza Author Spotlight underway.

Gazala:    In my omnipotence, I've sentenced you to be stranded alone on a desert island for offenses best left unnamed. In my beneficence, I've decided to allow you a limited amount of reading material to make your stay a little less bleak than it would otherwise be. I'll spot you your religious text of preference, and the collected works of William Shakespeare. In addition to those, name the one fiction book, and the one nonfiction book, you'd choose to take with you, and why you choose them.

Rollins:    Hmm…that’s a tough (and mean) question. Really? Only two books? Okay, for the fiction book, I’d choose Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—for its apt wisdom of “Don’t Panic,” and its stress on the importance of towels. Both fitting reflections while stranded on an island. That, and the humor could come in handy.

As to the nonfiction book, I would pick the recent biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Because I keep meaning to read it, but I never seem to find the time.
Gazala:    Your latest novel is an excellent and gripping thriller titled Bloodline: A Sigma Force Novel. I've read it. I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly. Shockingly enough, however, from time to time my bare recommendation doesn't always motivate a book's potential reader to become a book's actual reader. Tell us something about Bloodline, and why its potential reader should make the leap and become its actual reader.

Rollins:    First, if you want to learn how to live forever, read Bloodline. It’s an exploration into the strange technologies at the cutting-edge of extending life. Second, it’s got dogs—specifically a military war dog named Kane, who is pivotal to the story. I’ve even written several scenes from the dog’s point-of-view. So if you want to experience what it’s like to be a dog on the hunt or on the battlefield, I hope you check out this adventure.

Gazala:    What are books for?

Rollins:    First and foremost, a book should entertain. It should have a reader turning those pages well into the night. But ideally, novels should also leave something for a reader to contemplate after turning that last page: some bit of history, some piece of science, some intriguing quirk of character. At the end of my books, I have a section where I reveal what’s true and what’s not in my stories. For me, one of the greatest compliments I get is when a reader tells me that some topic raised in a novel has piqued their interest enough to set them off on their own exploration. Then I know that book worked.

Gazala:    W. Somerset Maugham said, "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." Do you agree, or disagree, and why?

Rollins:    I disagree. I believe the tools of writing can be taught to anyone. What they do with those tools is an entirely different matter. To be a writer, you need to be an innate storyteller, to enjoy spinning tales. With that drive and a handful of tools, anyone can become a writer.

Gazala:    I see out my window a sandstorm is hurtling my way, and I better seek some cover. Ask yourself a question, and answer it.

Rollins:    Q: So, Mr. Rollins, prove you know what you’re talking about in that answer above. Give us one of those three rules of writing that seemed to escape Mr. Maugham. A: Okay, I will since you so rudely doubt me. One of the best tools is simple. It’s one word:  READ. There’s the old adage that you should “write everyday” if you wish to get published, which is definitely true. You do need to practice and hone your craft. But I’d like to add a caveat to that old nugget: “Write every day, but read every night.” There is no better teacher on the craft than a good book. Whatever problem you struggle with during your writing day (dialog, opening a scene, etc.), you’ll discover a great example on how to address that in the book you read that night. If you write everyday and read every night, you’ll grow stronger and stronger as a writer. That, and don’t forget to floss.

Not a drop of sweat on the man's brow. Wow. Maybe we'll have to come up with more intense questions. While we're working on that, you can enjoy yourself immensely by getting your very own copy of Bloodline. No worries, there -- we've made it easy for you. All you have to do to get your copy from Amazon is click here.

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