James W. Lewis is a novelist and freelance writer published in several books that include Zane’s Caramel Flava, Chicken Soup for the Soul (two series), Gumbo for the Soul, Truth Be Told: Tales of Life, Love and Drama and Don’t Forget your Pepper Spray. Magazine credits include 3AM Magazine, Eyeshot, Dare Magazine, Naptural Roots Magazine, Lucrezia Magazine, Circle Magazine, Rundu Bedtime Stories and American Fitness Magazine. His novels Sellout launched in July 2010 and A Hard Man is Good to Find launched in June 2011.
He’s also part owner of a publisher and author services company called The Pantheon Collective.
After spending twenty years in the Navy, James retired from active duty and is now completing his studies in Kinesiology. In addition to writing, he loves to deejay and has a collection of over 300 vinyl records.
He also does extensive volunteer work at a local veterans assistance center and Boys & Girls Club. You can find James trying to hustle his dreams daily as hard as he can in every way possible.
Natasha: Can you tell me about your background and how did you decide to become a writer?
James: I’m a retired Navy man who always had an inner fire for words, whether reading, writing or even rapping at one point (shortest rap career in history). My “career” as a writer started around age 10 when my mother put me on restriction for something I did (don’t remember exactly what, but enough to confine me in the house for a week). For punishment, I had to write a story each night. She would read it and critique it. At first I hated these assignments, but as they say Mom knows best, and I grew to love writing, even after my restriction was up. Writing was my hobby for years, but once I discovered the internet, it became my passion and I decided to see how far I could take my God-given talent. I’ve published stories in several magazines (including Bare Back Magazine!), anthologies and published four novels via my company The Pantheon Collective. My two novels are Sellout and A Hard Man is Good to Find.
Natasha: Tell me about the Pantheon Collective and how did it come about?
James: In the summer of 2007, Stephanie Casher, Omar Luqmaan-Harris, and I made a pact: If a traditional publisher doesn't sign us to a book deal by 2009, we'll create our own publishing company (we'd been soliciting our manuscripts to agents/publishers for at least four years). Coincidentally, I retired from active duty service in 2009--which gave me room to go full-speed ahead into a new career--but by then, we still didn't have a book deal. I was somewhat reluctant to go into business with friends--I'd always believed mixing business with friendships was a bad idea--but I decided to dive head-first into this new venture. I'm happy I did!
We decided on the name The Pantheon Collective (TPC3) because we feel we are three powerful individuals with unique skills and talents, but as a team--or "collective"--our ability to brainstorm and make things happen has no boundaries. Plus, we have three times the promotional power. I call ourselves the "Literary Voltron" and our tagline says it all. Three Minds. One Mission. No Limits.
Natasha: I've read A Hard Man is Good To Find and enjoyed it thoroughly! What I was most impressed with was that you actually wrote the story from a female point of view, and did it very well. How did you find that place within yourself to pull that off?
James: I’m happy you enjoyed it! The response has been outstanding and luckily, most female readers feel I captured the female voice accurately. My background definitely helped in writing this book. Growing up with four aunts who would regularly get together gave me a peek into the female world and how they really talked behind closed doors. Their conversations were full of “colorful language,” laughter, and inappropriate babble about the opposite sex (definitely things I shouldn’t have heard as a kid). While in the Navy, I served with women onboard ships and some of them cussed worse than the guys! I realized women talked about sex as much as men (probably more), but more detailed, especially in regards to penis size, how the guy was in bed, positions, etc. I used one of my crazy aunts as a template for the main character Michelle.
Natasha: What can readers expect from you in terms of upcoming projects?
James: Through my publishing company The Pantheon Collective, 2012 should definitely be a banner year. We launched our latest book One Blood last December. Next up is Soul Mates by Stephanie Casher (the sequel to When Love Isn’t Enough), which should debut in the spring. My next novel Tangled Web should launch this summer. We also plan to publish a non-fiction book about our experience with independent publishing, hopefully to give aspiring authors insight on what it takes to create, market, and promote indie books. And that’s not including upcoming short stories and novellas that I will publish on my own. Definitely going to be busy!
Natasha: I understand that you are also a student, studying Kinesiology? How did you decide on your major?
James: My other passion is health and fitness. I’ve always been physically active, and genuinely enjoy learning of new ways to stay healthy and sharing information with others. I was a fitness leader in the Navy, helping sailors meet body composition standards and pass the bi-annual physical readiness test. When I retired, I wanted to continue on this path, so I became certified as a personal trainer and enrolled in college to major in Kinesiology. Ultimately I’d like to pursue physical therapy in graduate school.
Natasha: You also volunteer in your local community at places such as The Veterans Assistance Outreach and also the Boys and Girls Club. Why is volunteering so important to you?
James: I had read a news article about black men in the penal system and it annoyed the hell out of me. I was always reading negative reports about black men, so I decided to take action and do something about so many young men lacking adult male figures. I joined the Boys and Girls club and became a “Big” to a young man named Daniel. Although I was still active duty, I was able to commit for almost two years. I enjoyed it a lot, and promised to continue giving back after I retired. I kept my promise and volunteered at a local Boys & Girls Club working in the gym. Also, I knew many young men and woman would need assistance transitioning to civilian life (especially with the end of the Iraqi war), so I decided to volunteer at a local Veterans Center, where we assist veterans with Post Traumatic Stress and readjustment counseling.
Natasha: You've received several writing awards and had your stories featured in such books as: Zane’s Caramel Flava, Chicken Soup for the Soul (two series), Gumbo for the Soul, Truth Be Told: Tales of Life, Love and Drama and Don’t Forget your Pepper Spray. What has kept you grounded and so well-rounded professionally and personally in terms of the stories that you write?
James: I’m always striving to improve my skills and feel I have a long way to go. I believe a true writer can branch off into different genres, so I study the craft of writing and read works from other authors. I want to be bold and tackle different voices and perspectives that are foreign to me, which is one of the reasons why out of both my books (Sellout and A Hard Man is Good to Find), three out of the four main characters are females. I never want to limit my talent.
Natasha: Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years as far as your writing career and business?
James: I hope to have sold 1,000,000 books, put The Pantheon Collective on the map, publish other authors and working in my own practice as a physical therapist living in my new, 6,000 square-foot house! I’m well on my way!
You can learn more about James @ http://www.jameswlewis.com/