Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I program computers for a living, and a few years ago I got involved in the One Laptop Per Child project, which aimed to put inexpensive laptops in the hands of the world’s children and give them educational software unlike anything else that came before. The idea was that the children would go on to develop their own software for that platform and share it with the world. Before they could do this, they needed a good manual on how to write programs for these laptops, and I ended up writing a manual that is still used: Make Your Own Sugar Activities!
Another goal of the project was to get free e-books into the hands of these children, and I sensed the need for a book that would explain how to get these books, how to create them, how to convert printed books that were in the public domain into e-books, how to know what was in the public domain, how to photograph book pages, and lots of other stuff. My research into these topics led me to write E-Book Enlightenment: Reading And Leading With One Laptop Per Child.
After this I took out a manuscript I had written thirty years before and used my book scanning knowledge to make a publishable book about it. Since this was a memoir of my wasted youth, I published it under a pseudonym to avoid embarrassing my family. I have since used that same pseudonym to publish a novel and I’m working on a second one.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Format Your Own Damned Book is my latest title under my own name. It was inspired by corresponding with a science fiction author in Canada who was spending a fortune getting her manuscripts formatted as e-books. I pointed out that she could save a lot of money by doing that kind of work herself, as I had been doing all along. She didn’t know how, so I attempted to teach her. That led to writing the book.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
If you don’t count leaving a typewritten manuscript on a shelf for thirty years and then revising it for publication, no.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I’ve been going back to reread books that I’ve loved to see what it is about them that works. I like how Raymond Chandler describes things, Ron Goulart’s sense of humor, ditto for Mark Twain, Neal Stephenson’s ability to make exposition interesting, and many others. I’ve described my first novel as a Hermann Hesse novel written by Edward Elmer Smith.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a second novel in the world I set up for my first novel. It features minor characters from the first book and tells their story.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I have a Google+ branding page for my memoir and my first novel. I put a lot of effort into them but it hasn’t helped.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Read the books by Jack Woodford if you want to learn how to write a novel.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Write drunk, edit sober. That was by Hemingway.
Write a short story every week for a year. That was by Ray Bradbury. He claimed that nobody could write 52 bad short stories.
Avoid using adverbs. Not sure who said it, but it seems to be true.
What are you reading now?
Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I hope to quit my day job in a few years.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
The Ganguli translation of The Mahabharata is fascinating and long enough to read until I either got rescued or died from malnutrition. Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder novels and anything by Clive Cussler are good for reading on airplanes, so should work on a desert island too. I have a big collection of Ray Bradbury short stories that would be welcome.
Author Websites and Profiles
James Simmons Amazon Profile