James Mace was born in Edmonds, Washington, and grew up in Meridian, Idaho. He joined the U.S. Air Force out of high school, and three years later changed over to the U.S. Army. He spent a career as a soldier, including service in the Iraq War.
In 2011, he left his full-time position with Army Guard and devoted himself completely to writing. His series, “Soldier of Rome – The Artorian Chronicles”, has been a perennial best-seller in ancient history on Amazon. In 2012 he branched into the Napoleonic Era with the short novella, “Forlorn Hope: The Storming of Badajoz”. This was soon followed by the full-length novel, “I Stood With Wellington”.
He also co-wrote the critically acclaimed screenplay, The Evil That Men Do.
1. How did you come up with the title of your book?
I chose the title, “I Stood With Wellington”, because my original intent was to write this book in the first-person. I eventually decided against this, as this is not only extremely difficult, it also drastically narrows the story arc to only one perspective. I still kept the title, because I felt it was eye-catching; plus the protagonist, Captain James Henry Webster, does give a first-person account at the beginning or ending of the major chapters, like one would see in a journal.
2. What is your writing environment like?
I work out of my house, with one of my bedrooms converted into an office. The décor is a bit eclectic, though fitting for an author. I have a large painting of Shakespeare above my desk, which itself is made to look like a stack of books. A suit of Roman armor sits on a stand in the corner, and other artistically-inspiring paintings hang on the walls. There is a shelf with all of my medals and decorations from my time in the Army; the only such display in my house. I do find that I have to get out of the house quite a bit, in order to stir up the writing Muse. Part of my reason for this is because, unlike the stereotyped introverted writer, I am extremely outgoing and extroverted, and I need to be around people.
3. What is your favorite quote? Why?
“Next to a battle lost, the saddest thing is a battle won.” This quote comes from Wellington himself, in a rare show of emotion at the end of the day. The Battle of Waterloo was the single bloodiest day of the entire 19th Century, with total casualties exceeding even those of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, forty-eight years later. When it was over, 17,000 British, 7,000 allied Prussians, and as many as 48,000 French were either dead or seriously wounded (Note: these do not include the additional 4,000 British, 16,000 Prussian, and 12,000 French casualties suffered two days earlier at the Battles of Quatre Bras and Ligny). The Duke of Wellington, known for his stoicism and complete lack of outward emotion, was so completely shattered by what he saw, that he knelt next to some of the bodies and wept uncontrollably. His greatest victory was also the most profoundly sad moment of his life, and could only have been made worse had his army lost. I feel that his simple one sentence quote sums up wars’ futility and destroys the notion that there is any glory to be found in killing one another.
4. How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
I’ve been telling stories in one form or another my entire life, and my parents always supported my creativity. This was also fostered by their encouragement to read. Some things that will always stand out to me in this way are first picking up ‘The Hobbit’ when I was ten, and reading ‘I, Claudius’ when I was about twelve. A love of reading helped fuel the creative fires within me.
5. What inspires you to write?
Since I write historical novels, I get inspired by certain events that I feel must be told. I also draw a lot of inspiration from people. I do CrossFit several times a week and that explosive physical exertion, combined with interacting with others achieving similar goals, is where I get a lot of my creative energy. Physical and mental prowess are intertwined, and so the more I exercise, the better my writing.
6. What do you consider the most challenging part about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
For me, the most difficult aspect is the ever-elusive Muse. There will be times when I am determined to get some work done, and it just is not there. Then there will be those times when I am looking to do other things, or even right around bedtime when the Muse starts screaming at me. Those are the times where if I don’t drop what I’m doing and get some writing cranked out, whatever creative story pieces I had will be lost.
7. Did you learn anything while writing this book? If so, what was it?
From a writer’s standpoint, I learned that like any other skill, repetition and repeated use will improve performance. If one were to read my first book, “Soldier of Rome: The Legionary”, and then read “I Stood With Wellington”, which was my seventh work, one would find it hard to fathom that they are written by the same person. I find this is true of many of my favorite authors.
From a historical aspect, I learned a lot about the daily life of people living in early 19th Century Europe. The disparity between social classes was severe, and I sometimes wonder if we are headed back towards that. I traveled to England and spent some time at the Duke of Wellington’s London residence, Apsley House. This was a very rich and rewarding experience for me. The ‘Iron Duke’ has long been one of my heroes, and it meant a lot to me personally, as well as the story I was writing, to get such an intimate look into his history.
8. What have you done to promote this book?
I started with a mass press release, and am now doing a two-month virtual tour with numerous interviews, reviews, and guest blogging. I am also looking at advertising locally through Boise State Radio.
9. What are some of the best tools available today for writers?
There are numerous writers’ forums and other sites dedicated to authors helping each other. Blog / virtual tours are a great way to get your work out to a large audience, as well as getting it reviewed. One can also set up fan pages on Facebook, which is becoming far more common now for many authors. It is still very much a learning process for me, even after seven books. Unfortunately, no one has written a “publishing for dummies” book yet.
10. Is there anything else you would like to share?
To fellow authors, write first for yourself! Remain true to your work as you see it, not how you think others want to see it. If you compromise on that, then what you write is no longer your own. Also do not sacrifice quality for expediency. I learned that lesson the hard way, and I hope others don’t have to. When you think your story is ready to share with the world, hire yourself a good editor. Under no circumstances try and simply edit your own work, nor rely on friends and family to do it. Hire a professional to make certain everything is correct in terms of spelling, grammar, and formatting. Also, do not go into publishing with any expectations. This is difficult, I know. That being said; embrace whatever success you achieve, whether modest or if you become the next J.K. Rowling. And finally, with the publishing world ever-changing, take any lessons you learn on your journey and pass them on to others. When you meet a fellow aspiring author with a story to tell, take a moment to ‘pay it forward’. Above all, never lose your love of storytelling.