James Pyles is a published technical writer and editor who is starting to break into fiction writing, particularly science fiction and fantasy, with a side of horror. His books on technology have been published by Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill Education, O’Reilly Media, and others.
ToA: How long have you been writing and what got you started?
JMP: I’m a little unusual in that my career as a writer began and still is primarily in technology, not fiction. I wrote a small article for a Linux tutorial website around 2001 and also sent a copy of it to a friend, who is a published author, to critique. His response was pretty harsh but he saw enough in my writing to recommend me to an acquisitions editor, someone who matches up subject matter experts to publishers. From there, jobs came in that had me updating chapters in technology books and textbooks. I was recommended to an agent who contacted me and asked to represent me. From there, I wrote my first technology book solo and everything took off.
ToA: If you could go back and find yourself five years ago, what advice would you give yourself?
JMP: As far as fiction writing goes, I’m just now breaking into it. I don’t think I’d have any advice for myself five years ago. A unique set of circumstances have occurred over the past three months that have snowballed into me finally writing my first novel. Those circumstances didn’t previously exist and back then, I wasn’t in the right place in my life to have made use of any advice. It’s all in the timing.
ToA: What tips do you have for finding time to write?
JMP: Use every spare minute you’ve got. Like everybody else, I’ve got a day job and a family. I’ve been writing technology books for around fifteen years now, and I’ve lost a lot of sleep doing it. You’ll never find the perfect time to write, so write whenever you get a spare moment, hour, or weekend.
ToA: What do you think the publishing industry will look like twenty-five years from now?
JMP: I think the traditional publishing industry is already losing ground. The books I usually write, ones on technology, are almost always dated by the time they are in print. Web publishing and digital content makes it a snap to correct errors in a technical publication and get it to market faster. As far as fiction goes, it’s just too easy to self-publish or do indie publishing. The big publishing houses have more conduits for marketing, but they only make a big effort for a big talent. Via the web, I know a number of fiction writers who believe they can get their writing to market and in front of readers faster by doing it themselves. The big publishers will have to adapt to that, especially as the push towards digital content increases.
ToA: How do you deal with rejections?
JMP: I try to find out why my submission was rejected. If I can turn the rejection into a learning experience that improves my writing, in the long run, I’ve gained more than I’ve lost. I get to become a better writer and if I can form a relationship with the publisher who rejected my story, I have one more resource to help me improve my craft.
ToA: Do you ever get criticism from family or friends who don’t understand your passion?
JMP: The biggest criticism I get is that I spend too much time sitting in front of a computer. Between doing research, communicating with editors, and doing the actual writing, it sucks up a lot of time. I really do have a passion for writing. I’m either writing a textbook, blogging (I have several), writing a short story, or working on my novel. My biggest challenge is to balance my passion against the needs of my family.
ToA: Were you taught anything about creative writing in high school or college that just didn’t work for you?
JMP: I took a creative writing class in high school, back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, and then a fiction writing extension class several years after that. Neither worked for me. I felt my writing was derivative and my characters two-dimensional. I think the part of me that’s always wanted to write fiction had to mature enough and find the right inspiration. It’s taken quite a while, but I’ve finally gotten to the right place. It’s taught me that it’s never too late to follow your dreams.
ToA: What are your writing goals for the next twelve months?
JMP: I want to finish my novel and have it published. I’ve got most of the first draft finished now. Then it’s a matter of getting together one or more beta readers, then an editor, and then deciding which publishing route to pursue. I’ve got an agent for my technology books, but she doesn’t do fiction, so if I want professional representation, I’ll need to look elsewhere.
I also want to promote my fiction writing blog. It’s only a few months old and as it matures, I want to make it a platform for trying out new ideas, practicing short story writing, reviewing books, TV shows, and films, and possibly using it as a place for meeting and networking with other fiction writers.
ToA: What book(s) are you reading right now?
JMP: I’m currently reading “The Star-Spangled Buddhist” by Jeff Ourvan. It’s not the usual sort of book that I read, though I do have an interest in theology and spirituality. But I’ve always been a little curious about Buddism, and Ourvan’s book seemed like a good gateway.
I’ve recently read a murder mystery called “Sigil” by Aidan J. Reid, as well as science fiction novels “Echo: Approaching Shatter” by Kent Wayne, and “City of God: Transgression” by R.S. Ingermanson.
ToA: Is there anything you’d like to plug? Feel free to share a link.
JMP: Absolutely. I’d love for people to visit my blog https://poweredbyrobots.com. Currently, I’m commenting on aspects of science and technology and how they may project into the future, as well as posting short stories, reviews, updates on my science fiction novel, and occasionally social commentary.