A month ago, I reviewed a historical fiction novella by author James Gawley. I read it on a whim thinking it would be interesting reading. I wanted to expand my reading repetoire and I'm glad I did! Find the review here. I enjoyed the book immensely -- way more than I had anticipated and when I found out that Exiles of Arcadia would be FREE this coming weekend I had to let everyone know a bit more about the book and its author.
In the meantime, please find out what makes James tick...
NB: Tell us about yourself.
JG: My name is James Gawley, and besides being the writer of a Historical Fiction/Fantasy series called “Exiles of Arcadia,” I am a PhD student at SUNY Buffalo. My scholarly research concerns the linguistics and the economics of the ancient world. Specifically, I investigate charity and corruption in the first hundred years of the Christian church, economic policies of the early Roman Empire, and on the linguistic side, I look at the language of everyday Romans and try to determine what their speech habits say about their cultural values.
NB: Tell us about your latest work. Can you share a little of it with us?
JG: ‘Exiles of Arcadia’ is told from several perspectives, but each novella follows one character exclusively. In aggregate these novella’s depict the personal consequences of sweeping historical change. The next piece of the ‘Exiles’ puzzle follows Lilith Fabian, a young noblewoman living on the provincial borders of Arcadia. Lilith is the governor’s daughter. For years she has attended her father’s meetings, met with his clients, and advised him in his affairs. But violence is brewing on their borders and the province is suffering. When the barbarians are at the gates, Lilith’s father disappears, leaving her alone in the governor’s chair. With few allies and crumbling support, Lilith must find a way to rally her province against imminent destruction.
NB: Tell us about your main character.
JG: The hero of ‘Legionnaire’ is a sixteen-year-old recruit named Primus Seneca. His father is a great general, brought low by a disastrous civil war that began and ended ten years ago. Primus worships his father, and wants little more than to prove himself worthy of his attention. But in the past six years, the Elder Seneca has been away from his son. In his absence, young Primus attaches himself to a string of unlikely father-figures seeking acceptance wherever he can find it. Yet, the men he looks up to don’t have his best interests at heart. The choices he’s forced to make will lead him ever further away from the man he wants to be–the man who could make his father proud.
NB: How, if at all, has your upbringing influenced your writing?
JG: I was raised in Florida; Dade County Public schools being what they are, I was largely educated in the library. My parents took advantage of all the activities the public library put on for children; this may have been a cheap trick to get me out of their hair. As a result, story-time at the Coral Gables Public library was a staple of my childhood even before I went to kindergarten. If you aren’t from South Florida, it’s worth saying that CGPL is one of the most beautiful buildings in Miami; it’s built of porous limestone, both its walls and the plaza and fountain at its entrance. Giant ficus trees cast the whole block in deep shade. The library’s doors are two stories tall and built of solid oak, yet they swing in easily on huge brass hinges. The smell of books that floods out when those doors open is a vivid memory even now. The love of reading that ultimately drives my writing was forged there.
NB: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
JG: My father used to read ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ to my brother and I as a bed-time story. I doubt that we tackled more than 15 pages on any given night; I was in the first grade when he started, but I was a third-grader by the time we finished. By then my fate was sealed. I was making up stories by the end of that year.
NB: How long have you been writing?
JG: Since the third grade. My first story was called “The Last Mission” and it was about a soon-to-retire space-fighter pilot who finds his commission abruptly extended when his final tour runs afoul of aliens poised to attack the Earth. It was actually a pretty decent story, though I never got around to finishing it. One of these days...
NB: What inspires you to write and why?
JG: My research is a constant inspiration. A historian spends all day attempting to imagine a world and a culture alien to his own. The evidence we have is always fragmented, and while it’s irresponsible to let your imagination fill in the blanks, the temptation to do so is constant. Writing lets me indulge that temptation, and my professional research helps to impart texture and a realism to my work that I’m proud to say you won’t find anywhere else.
NB: What do you love about independent publishing?
JG: The speed with which one can share one’s work with the world. My father died just six weeks after ‘Legionnaire’ was released. I had been working on the book for ten years by then, and if I had gone the traditional publishing route it would have been another year at least before the book saw daylight as a published work. The way it happened, my father had the chance to read my book on his Kindle and to share it with his friends. He was proud of my accomplishment, and bragged shamelessly about it. That’s an experience that will forever shape the way I look at independent publishing.
NB: How do you come up with new novel ideas?
JG: I steal from history. Seriously, research is the ultimate cure for writer’s block. I have more ideas than I’ll ever get to write about, and it’s thanks to inspiring teachers who constantly expose me to new ideas and areas of the human experience.
NB: What genre of books do you read, or do you stick with the genre you write in?
JG: I rarely read fantasy anymore. If I do, it’s generally to re-read the work of Robin Hobb or George R.R. Martin. I read a bit of historical fiction–I’m currently reading Maurice Druon’s ‘The Iron King.’ I was also tremendously influenced by Studs Terkel’s ‘The Good War,’ an account of WW II through the eyes of generals, candy-strippers, POWs, submarine captains, conscientious objectors, presidential cabinet members, and pretty much everyone else who lived through the experience. In a time when historians are striving (and failing, in most cases miserably) to create a ‘People’s History’ of great events, this journalist has actually done it.
And of course the fake-history version of ‘The Good War’ is the masterpiece ‘World War Z.’
NB: How important do you think villains are in a story?
JG: They are critical, of course! I spent a great deal of time writing about Varro’s life–material that will never see the light of day–in order to make him feel like a real man. His actions, however cruel, must seem justified in his own eyes. I hope the reader gets a sense of that depth when faced with Varro (from the reviews, I think that’s the case). I hope your skin crawls when you think about him and I hope you can’t look away!
NB: Where can readers find you?
JG: My author site can be found at www.exilesofarcadia.com, and my professional (scholarly) site is located at www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~jamesgaw/. I’m on twitter as @JamesGawley, and my facebook fan page is facebook.com/exilesofarcadia.
NB: Where can readers purchase your book?
JG: ‘Legionnaire,’ is currently available exclusively as a Kindle download at amazon.com/dp/B00BBFP1LG.