Monday, May 3, 2010

Author Interview and Book Giveaway - Jim Bernheimer

Today I am excited to run a feature on Jim Bernheimer!  He was nice enough to send me some of his books to read and I really enjoyed them.  He writes novels and short stories with a unique mix of urban fantasy/paranormal/horror/mystery/fantasy and throws a good dash of humor in them. 

Thanks to Jim for taking the time to answer some questions!  Below I have listed all of the books/short stories that Jim has published.  If you haven't read anything by Jim you should; he is an excellent writer and very entertaining.

- Horror, Humor, and Heroes
Horror, Humor, And Heroes
- Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman
Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman

Short Stories:
- Reality Bites!
- Cookie?
- Rob's Last Day
- Existence
- A Sharp Mind
- Fate's Heavy Hand

Now on to the Interview!

What made you want to start writing and why horror/fantasy?

 I’ve been a fan of science fiction and fantasy for pretty much my entire life, but I would read books and be dissatisfied with how the plot or ending went.  Finally, I decided to try my hand at doing better.  My 2nd cousin’s success gave me inspiration.  She’s Nora Roberts.  I don’t know her all that well and have only met her once in my adult life, but she’s a class act and I’m hoping there’s some of her talent on my branch of the family tree.

When did you start writing?

Back in 2005, I started with fanfiction.  Eighteen years removed from my last English course, I chose fanfics as a way of concentrating on my storytelling while working on my mechanics.  It helped that I didn’t have to come up with massive backstories and characterizations because they were already there.  For me, it’s been a writing exercise that allows me to experiment and do crazy things like write an entire 23 chapter 180k story in 2nd person present tenst.  Eventually, my fanfics were developing enough of a following that I decided to give original material a shot.

Of course, there is a downside.  There is a stigma associated with fanfiction.  Inevitably, people will say, “Oh, you’re just a fanfic writer.”  I prefer to think of myself as a writer who has written many things, fanfiction being one of them.

How long did it take you to first get published?

My first short story took about 8 months before I sold it to Norm Sherman’s Drabblecast.  There were 2 more short story sales in 2008 and things started to pick up in 2009.  I collected some of the sold ones and wrote a bunch more and self-published my short story collection (Horror, Humor, and Heroes) in early 2009.  One of the stories that didn’t appear in that was a 2nd person horror story that David Wood at Gryphonwood published in the Tales of Loss and Dispossession anthology.  It opened a nice little door for me to submit the Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman manuscript, which he liked enough to buy and publish in May of 2009.

What has been the toughest part about writing?

Finding the time to do it.

You work in IT full-time, so when do you get most of your writing done?

I get up early, around five thirty and have about 60 minutes to write before getting the oldest up and off to school.  Then I have another 90 or so minutes before I take the youngest to day care and head for work.  Sometimes, I’ll stay up after the wife and children go to bed, but the wife and I have “negotiated” over this, so I don’t do it that much any more.

Who is your favorite current author?

I haven’t read a current book in awhile.  Most recently, I read Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines (very good book by the way) and that’s because he frequents the Permuted Press forum and I do as well.  With my limited time, what little I don’t spend writing or contacting people for reviews, I invest in working with the writing groups I’ve joined and offering critiques there.  Honestly, Stephen King, JK Rowling, or Jim Butcher don’t need to hear what I think of their books, but some other up-and-coming author might be very interested in what I have to say.

What projects are you currently working on?  Will there be another book in the Dead Eye series book in the future?

Dead Eye 2: The Skinwalker Conspiracies is about halfway done.  I’m hoping to have the rough draft to Dave Wood when we’re both at ConCarolinas in early June debuting my first epic fantasy novel, Spirals of Destiny Book One: Rider. 

Looking at all the crowds for the Harry Potter releases, I noted that the majority were teenaged and into their early twenties females and I was struck by the notion that I should try to write something for this demographic.  Spirals is an attempt to blend high fantasy along the lines of Lord of the Rings with a classic that would appeal to that female group such as Black Beauty.  I wanted to reimagine the unicorn and maiden folklore and give it a healthy dose of “buttkicking.”  Spirals is envisioned to be anywhere from 3-5 books and Dead Eye will go at least 3 books as well.

Also, there is a pair of short stories (Lieutenant Armchair and Prime Suspects) as well as a novella (Confessions of a D-List Supervillain) that I hope to make into full length novels in the near future.

Added to that list is I’m trying to increase my level of exposure.  On Amazon, I’ve been doing some cartoon video reviews of the excerpts for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition.  They’ve gone over pretty well and I’ve already received a few requests to do reviews of full length ones, so maybe I’ll do some book blogging in the near future.  The big problem now is that there are so many different ways to market yourself as a brand that to do them all would force me to eliminate all my writing time, so my advice is to pick and choose how much marketing you do and balance that with your writing time.

Hopefully, I’m not biting off more than I can chew.

If you could sit down with any author to discuss writing, who would it be and what would you ask them?

If we’re talking about the deceased, I’d pick Robert Heinlein in a second, even over Poe.  I’d spend as much time picking his brain about writing as possible.

For a living author, I’d be happy to speak to any of the following – Eric Flint, Piers Anthony, Clive Barker, and Mercedes Lackey.  Those are the ones that come off the top of my head.

I see that you have C. T. Westcott as one of the authors who influenced you to write.  To be honest I had never heard or him but upon looking up his writings found that he writes military sci-fi of a sort.  Pennies for the Ferryman also features an ex-military man.   Is your life or writing influenced by the military in some way?

I spent a little over 8 years in the US Navy from 1989 to 1997 and still work as a contractor to the Navy to this day.  Mr. Westcott’s work is also written in first person and filled with the sarcastic ravings of an anti-hero fighter pilot named Will Bucko.  It’s a somewhat obscure choice, but Eagleheart is my favorite trilogy even over The Lord of the Rings.  

I had a great time in the military with no real bitterness on my part, but knew when it was time to go and do something else.  That said, I met many people along the way that didn’t have such a great time in the service and I drew on those recollections to create the disaffected voice of Mike Ross.

Another writer who influenced you was Edgar Allen Poe; what is your favorite Edgar Allen Poe story?

The Telltale Heart is probably top of the list.  It’s followed closely by The Cask of Amontillado.

Your short stories are really excellent and you do a great job of creating a detailed world in a small amount of space.  What came first for you writing short stories or novels?  Which is harder for you to write and which do you enjoy writing more?

Short stories came first, while I was getting a feel for my style.  Short story writing is tough and can only be considered a labor of love.  There’s no real money in it.  The best you can hope for is that the exposure helps get your name out there and drive novel sales.  To make matters worse, the market contraction is taking a toll on the pro paying venues and editors have a selection of “the absolute best” that comes across their desk, so the competition is fierce.

Comparing the two is difficult.  Sometimes I’m in a mindset to write a short story and it detracts from my ability to crank out another chapter of what I’m working on until I stop what I’m doing and write a draft of that darn thing to get it out of my head.  Many people don’t understand this, but a short story requires almost as much care as a full length novel, if you hope to sell it to even a semi-pro market.

In the end, they both bring their own rewards.  To borrow some football metaphors (hopeless Buffalo Bills fan … literally hopeless, they haven’t made the playoffs in a decade), selling a short story is like converting a critical first down.  It keeps your drive alive.  Seeing a novel in print is completing that post pattern and scoring a touchdown.

Let's say you are Mike Ross from Pennies for the Ferryman, if you could see any ghost which ghost would you choose?

My wife and I watch a lot of those News/Mystery shows.  I’d probably want to solve some kind of mystery once and for all such as who killed that little Ramsey girl in Colorado, or what happened to Natalie Holloway in Aruba, did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone – those kinds of things.  If I had Mike’s powers, that’s what I’d try to do with them.

If I were limited to just a sit down with a single ghost for a conversation and not do the whole “mystery solving thing,” I guess I’d have to choose between Churchill, Jefferson, John Adams, Mark Twain, or maybe Ben Franklin, though I suspect Jefferson and John Adams would be a trifle boring, but Churchill, Twain, or Franklin would probably be a hoot.

What is your favorite food?

There is no substitute for the Reese Peanut Butter Cup – the classic and not all these white chocolate/dark chocolate/big cup/ peanut butter on the outside/other variants. C’mon now, why fiddle with perfection?  Frozen is good, but fresh is better.  If you’ve ever gotten a package that’s sat on the shelf too long, you know what I mean.  It borders on criminal neglect, in my opinion.

Where is your favorite place that you have visited and why did you visit?

Hawaii.  The first time for our honeymoon and the second to see one of Kim’s cousins get married.

Thanks to Jim for the excellent interview and for all the time he took to answer questions.  He's provided a couple signed books for me to giveaway on my site.  See below for giveaway details.

You will win signed copies of both:
Horror, Humor, and Heroes and Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman

To enter the contest you must be a follower.  This contest is open to US Residents only. You must be 13+ years of age to enter.  JUST FILL OUT THE FORM BELOW.  You can post an entry about this contest on your blog for extra entries.

The contest is open until May 24th 2010. 

1 comment:

  1. Just dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail, lady. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you!