Monday, April 19, 2010

Interview with author James C. Wallace II - BK Walker Books virtual book tour

Today, Reviews and Interviews welcomes James C. Wallace II. He is touring with BK Walker's Authors Promoting Authors virtual book tour. Their full schedule is here.

Welcome, James. Please tell us about your current release.
My current release is Magician of Oz.

Life in Indiana was quite the adventure for young Jamie Diggs and his parents. After a tumultuous move from Kansas, Jamie explores the covered bridges, forests and cemeteries of rural Indiana where he discovers the ways of the Hoosiers. When his parents bring up an old humpback trunk from their basement, Jamie discovers his magical heritage lurking inside. Jamie learns the ways of magic from a local magic club, meets Tree-In-The-Road, gathers Morel mushrooms for his mother's legendary potato soup and discovers his great grandfather, the original Wizard of Oz's sentry stone. He soon finds himself transported to the Land of Oz where he must face the wrath of the Fighting Trees who have grown bitter after their defeat at the hands of the Tin Woodman so long ago. In this compelling tale of fantasy and adventure in the Land of Oz, the young magician discovers new friends along the way, conquers his fears and battles the oncoming wave of trees and mushrooms alongside Dorothy and Toto.

What inspired you to write this book?
One day, while engaged in testing some educational software about Geography for 6th graders, I encountered quite a number of children who could not read, literally. It's one thing to suggest that there are kids in America who cannot read. It's quite another to come face-to-face with them.

I found myself at the end of the day sitting in my car in the parking lot shaking with remorse and resolving to do something about what I had just witnessed. I then spent the next year in various teachers’ lounges having lunch with teachers and trying to understand how they could allow a child to go through school without mastering the art of reading.

Although some teachers cared deeply about their students, many cared only for their paycheck and thought little of the impact their negligence and disregard for the future of the next generation caused. This was reinforced by a school administration hamstrung by budget concerns and state-mandated test scores.

As a result, today's child has lost the art of reading. No longer do children sit down to read a book, to linger within the world of fiction and fantasy. Nowadays, kids are glued to the computer screen and read in snippets. In fact, with the advent of text messages, most kids now understand a truncated language that would have Daniel Webster spinning in his grave.

Only in the last few years has the Harry Potter effect taken hold and inspired kids to pick up the traditional book and immerse themselves in another world. Despite this momentary reawakening, most kids still reach for the cell phone and communicate with their thumbs. Most kids would have trouble taking the time to sit down with a good book and giving themselves over to the realm of fantasy. They prefer the instant gratification that comes with a world overflowing with technology.

The book has become a lost art, and with that thought in mind, I chose to reinvigorate the original dream of L. Frank Baum.

In writing about young Jamie Diggs, the great grandson of O.Z. Diggs, the original Wizard of Oz, my most sincere desire is that children will pick up my book and rediscover the joy of reading.

If only a single child comes to understand and appreciate the joy of reading, then I have achieved my dream.

If, by writing about this wonderful land and all of its unique characters, I can inspire children and introduce them to the joy of reading, even if it be only a single child, I will have made an impact that reaches far beyond my own lifetime.

To this end, I have committed all my efforts towards creating an environment where kids will want to pick up that book and put aside that cel phone for a few moments. If I can serve as a mentor promoting Literacy to our youth, then I will have realized my dream.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Currently, I am about to celebrate the release of Volume Two in the Royal Magician of Oz Trilogy; Shadow Demon of Oz.

It was in the early month of Spring when the old humpback trunk of O.Z. Diggs, the original Wizard of Oz was opened by his great grandson, Jamie Diggs, revealing a magical heritage lurking within.

Following in the footsteps of his great grandfather, a young boy named Jamie pursued the ways of magic and soon found himself transported to the magical Land of Oz where, alongside Dorothy, he faced his greatest fears and the fearsome Army of Trees in defense of the Tin Woodman.

Now the young magician is called to return to the Land of Oz to take his place as the new Royal Magician of Princess Ozma; Ruler and Sovereign of Oz.

And for his first Royal Command, Princess Ozma sends her Royal Magician and his best friend Buddy off to battle the Evil Shadow Demon and save the Hyups of Mount Munch.

Following the release of Shadow Demon of Oz on or about May 1st, I will continue working on the final leg of this most incredible journey, Family of Oz. It will bring together all the elements spoken of in books 1 and 2 and weave them together into a tale of family, love and friendship, both in and out of the Land of Oz.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have been a writer nearly my entire life. Although I started out early and wrote the usual childhood stuff, such as poems, short stories about home life and the like, it was at about 14 years of age when I discovered that I was a talented writer of science and technical material. I began writing about astronomy and soon became a published tech author. My earliest published work was in several NASA journals and I had thought that I would focus on that realm of writing. However, over the years, life has taken me in a slightly different direction and now I have found that promoting youth literacy and writing children’s stories equally as rewarding as writing about Dust Ring Formation from Jovian Cometary Impacts or Holographich Speckle-Interferometry Application is Musical Acoustics.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am not a full-time writer, although on some days, I feel like it, what with the writing and the typing and the things… Hey lady…! Oy..! Moiven! Pardon me there… I was channeling Jerry Lewis for a moment.

As I was saying, I currently teach Weather & Climate at a local community college, so education is the driving force in my life. As such, writing stories of Oz requires that I find a time and place where Oz can take over and flow. In order for the Ozian muse to strike, I normally set aside a 3-4 hour daily block of time usually around midnight or so. It's quiet, calm and I can be alone with my thoughts. However, that only happens when the muse strikes and I can devote myself to the 30 days or so it takes me to write the entire book. Once I start, I don’t stop ‘till “THE END” shows up on my screen.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
For me, it is the fact that I write in a frenzied state-of-mind, preferring to write a chapter a night and finishing a book in a month. For most, that is not a realistic way of writing, but for me, that is the only way of writing. As I’ve said before, once I start writing, get outta my way!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
From the age of 8, I have always had a desire to be an astronomer. Over the years, I’ve managed to make that dream come true and, although I teach Weather & Climate, I remain an astronomer and will be one the rest of my life.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
My only advice to readers, be it young or old alike, is to read. Do it often and with as much enthusiasm as possible. If you have young children, read to them. Do it daily and read from a wide variety of styles and genres. Encourage them to read on their own and to write. Children learn from our examples and if we shunt them off to the television or the computer screen, we lose that desire to express ourselves. Every child has a story within themselves and if we are not careful, that story will be lost.

Where can people find out more about you and your books?
My blog is a great place to start.

Thank you for being a guest today, James. Best of luck with the virtual book tour and your Oz books!

My next guest for the virtual book tour will be April 26, Nedyne Shorts Nettles.

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