Jim is one of the judges for our WARS Fanfiction and Fanart Contest, which you can find out about HERE!
How did you get involved in WARS?
Nathan Butler recommended my name to Josh Radke at Grail Quest Books. Nathan and I had known each other for some time through Star Wars fan circles, even roomed together at ConCarolinas, and he knew my work from Star Wars: Codename Starkeeper, the fan audio drama I produced and which was a Parsec Award finalist in 2008. I suppose Josh listened to that to get an idea as to my writing chops as I had not yet been published. From there, Josh contacted me and the process was relatively painless.
What is your favorite faction?
The Mavericks, of course! I am drawn to their fierce independence and rugged survivor mentality. The fact that I was basically writing about Pirates and smugglers ala Han Solo or Malcolm Reynolds made it eminently cool.
What is your favorite thing about writing in the WARS Universe?
I loved figuring out the existing structure and fleshing out the bones, so to speak. As a Star Wars fan, I was steeped in the Expanded Universe novels, and the fact that we were taking an existing universe and basically figuring out how it all came together? That was really fun. I imagined Nathan, myself and the other writers as Timothy Zahn, Michael A. Stackpole and Kevin J. Anderson, wondering how they must have felt kicking that off in the 90's. The fact that WARS is almost unheard of gives us an opportunity those authors didn't get: to give these characters a personality they did not yet possess. That extended to all the weapons, ships and vehicles as well. It was like making three-dimensional what had only been two-dimensional. I was honored to play a part in giving life to something that had existed only in the imaginations of the players of the game. I felt obligated to take that seriously, as if I had loved the game for many years, even if it was some obscure property few people knew. At least every fan of WARS could know that I had them in mind while writing.
Is there anything about the setting you don't like?
I don't really think there's anything not to like about the setting. I suppose I would prefer to watch the three human factions duke it out, and not see the emergence of the rift, the Shi and Quay, or Kizen powers. That has yet to come in the storyline, and that is obviously a take on the Star Wars game for which Decipher previously had the license. I can understand why they did that with the game, but as a literary property it will obviously seem derivative of Star Wars. At least if Grail Quest has the chance to extend that property, I know that continuity between publications won't ever be an issue!
Would you live on the Rim in Maverick space if given the chance?
I think I would more than likely find myself a happy little cog in the Earth machine. Maverick space would be far to dangerous for a senstive artist like myself!
Your WARS Novellas have focused on the Mavericks; specifically the adventures of Jack Wilgress. What was it like getting inside his head, and what inspired his more fleshed out backstory?
With the names I previously mentioned, Solo and Reynolds, the inspiration clearly speaks for itself. The stats on his game card say he was basically the baddest dude in the galaxy, so I wanted to reflect that. The obvious fun of it all was taking Jack back to his early days, to find out why he was branded a deserter. What function did he serve within Earth's military? What did he leave behind, being stuck out on the fringes of space? How does a guy get from a ranch on Earth to where he was? It seemed the perfect opportunity to create some native conflict, taking the mystery behind his acquiring of cybernetics and make him prejudiced against their use before they are thrust upon him. I had an arc planned out that I hope is realized in the third Maverick volume, being penned by Sabrina Fried. Because it was going to be EPIC.
What stories inspired or influenced your writing?
For WARS specifically, visual media played a big role for me. The Firefly TV show inspired not only the Malcolm Reynolds aspects of Wilgress' character, but also the banter and repartee that Joss Whedon so deftly wrought. With the Knaves themselves, honestly to some degree it felt a little like the movie Hook meets Fraggle Rock. I relished making them seem like a bunch of really colorful weirdos thrown together like the Lost Boys. I wanted them as eccentric as possible, and relatively immature. From a literary angle, everything I read inspires my writing in some way. Obviously the Star Wars Expanded Universe plays a role; I felt like I was able to take the best parts of those books and throw it all together. Glen Cook is perhaps a more obscure writer of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and I love the way he is economical in his prose. He doesn't waste a lot of flowery words or pointless description, which is good in a novella-length story. I am always inspired by the writing of Crichton, Clancy and Cussler, all three of whom I read much of before I learned I loved writing. They are (or 'were' in the case of Crichton, may he rest in peace) great at weaving together a story that starts off a little slowly as it introduced the players, and ramps up toward the climax. Clancy especially is a study in Third-Person Limited perspective, if you want to know how to do it right.
The Eathers would like to put some order out into the Rim in WARS, which undoubtedly is filled with a lot of heinous crime, but which also has much more personal freedom than Earth does. Who do you side with between those opposing ideals?
Well Earth doesn't exactly own all of the Solar System. It's a bit of a reflection on Imperial Britain, and also the American Old West. This question reflects on politics and as a rule I belive in Liberty with a fair justice system. I don't like centralized governing authorities with too much power, and we are beginning to see a greater encroachment by the Federal Government in all our affairs, it seems. I'm a big believer in a people governing themselves, and things are very different in Massachusetts from the way they are in Arizona, and the way it is in Indiana. I don't believe one size fits all, and unlike many places in this world, in the United States we all have the freedom to live in a place with like-minded people. There are far too many elitist bureaucrats--from the Left and the Right--who are mostly interested in maintaining their own power, telling all of us how we ought to behave, and if we step out of line they have many agencies with many guns. As you might imagine, I would not be a terribly big fan of the Earther faction. :)
A really tragic part of your second Novella involves the fate of Killer Cat Cait. Do you think she'll ever be able to regain the parts of herself she lost?
I don't have much to say about the future of Killer Cait. I will leave that open to interpretation by future authors or perhaps the writers of fan fiction. I would be very interested to see what people come up with! That said, I think all great stories have tragic elements, and I think it makes Cait that much more frightening an adversary. I trust that Cait and Jack still have a role to play in each other's story.
Mavericks augment themselves with mechanical and electronic parts. If you had the chance, would you take one of their cybernetic parts if it was offered to you?
I would love to have either an indestructible spine for the back trouble, or something that removes the need for sleep. I have too much writing to do and not enough time! Maybe I need a telepathic computer in my brain to dictate all my thoughts into coherent fiction! Yeah, that's it....
Is there anything you'd like to say to fans on this 10th Anniversary of WARS?
I really hope that we sell a bunch of copies of the books we've produced, because I would dearly love to continue the WARS literary property. I'm still waiting on my chance to write Starhawk's origin story!