When I met James Renner, I was a little starstruck and to be honest, I still am. After talking a bit and getting to know him, I was pleased to learn that he is kind, easy to talk to, and fun to be around. When I told him the idea I had for my blog and asked if he’d be interested in being a part of it, he said he’d love to do an interview for me. It made my day!

In 2005, James directed a short film based on Stephen King’s story, All That You Love Will Be Carried Away, starring Joe Bob Briggs and Harvey Pekar. His first book, a nonfiction account of the disappearance of Amy Mihaljevic called, Amy: My Search For Her Killer, was published in 2006. This was followed by Serial Killers Apprentice, a collection of true stories of Cleveland’s most intriguing unsolved crimes. He is also the author of the fictional novel, The Man From Primrose Lane, and the release of The Great Forgetting is tentatively set for 2013. He is an investigative reporter, a film producer, a novelist, and he was even named one of the cities most interesting people in the December 2004 issue of Cleveland Magazine. But most of all, he’s cool enough to take the time to answer my questions and just be an all around great guy. It isn’t every day you meet and befriend someone like James Renner… and I’m pleased our paths have crossed.

For more information on James, check him out at: http://jamesrenner.com/

James Renner

Q: How long does it take you to write a book?

A: Generally, it takes me about 9 months to write the first draft of a new novel. Then I set it aside for a few weeks and work on something else, like a script or short story, then I come back to it with fresh eyes for editing. I’ll do an edit. Then I work on another edit with my agent, Julie Barer. Then yet another edit with my editor.

Q: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

A: I’m surprised at how hard it is to actually get your book in bookstores, even if you’re with a large publisher. It depends a lot on early reviews and also how excited your rep is when they pitch the book to booksellers.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

A: Texas Hold’em

Q: What is the best thing anyone has ever told you about your writing?

A:  My agent, when she said she liked it so much she wanted to represent me.

Q: How do you choose the names of your fictional characters?

A:  Names have different feels to them, based on who you know with that name and simply how it sounds to the ear. Some names just fit with the character you’re trying to create. Sometimes it takes a while to find the name that feels right.

Q: How is writing fiction different from writing non-fiction?

A: It’s really not that different. There’s a lot of research involved in each, especially if you want your novel to feel true.

Q: How do you do research for your books?

A:  I generally have a nugget of an idea that I think about and develop over the course of a couple years. I have about five or six ideas I’m building right now. Then I spend some spare time researching the interests of the central character. If they live in an old home, I research the words they would use to describe the decor; I speak to people who have the same job as the character, in order to learn slang and terminology. Stuff like that.

Q: Do you prefer writing or film producing? And why?

A: I prefer writing, because it’s easier. It’s crazy hard to get a good book published. But it’s next to impossible to make a good film.

Q: What are the main problems you’ve faced in finishing a book?

A:  Planting my ass in the chair to start the day.

Q: What motivated you to write The Man from Primrose Lane?

A:  When I was 11, a cute girl from down the road was abducted and murdered. As a journalist, I’ve been trying to find her killer for many years. The Man from Primrose Lane grew out of a dream I had of a world in which somebody saved the girl. I began to wonder how that might have altered both her life and my own.

Q: What is your relationship with your agent like?

A: She keeps me grounded. Or tries to. She looks after me and my stories.

Q: You just returned from your “Crazy Stupid Fast 2012 Book Tour”. What was that like?

A: It was the smartest and dumbest thing I’ve ever done. It was great to meet so many bookstore owners and book sellers. But I didn’t give myself much time to enjoy any of the cities I passed through. I was only in New Orleans for two hours. And I had to skip the last couple stores in Ohio because I got a flat on the way home.

Q: How many cities did you visit?

A: I visited 40 book stores in 7 days.

Q: What do you think your greatest strength as a writer is?

A:  Finishing.

Q: What about your greatest weakness?

A: Starting again.

Q: In what ways do you identify personally with David Neff, your main character in The Man From Primrose Lane?

A: Like David Neff, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to my exposure to horrific crimes in the course of my work in journalism. We both fell in love with strong women who helped us fight our demons, real and imaginary.

Q: In 2004, Stephen King gave you the rights to adapt his short story, All That You Love Will Be Carried Away, which you directed. What was that like?

A:  I think I was the tenth person to get permission from King to adapt one of his stories as a student film, for $1. Frank Darabont was the first, so I was in good company. The whole experience was the most fun I’ve ever had working on a project. And to see it get accepted to the Montreal World Film Festival was totally rad.

Q: As a writer, what do you think is your greatest accomplishment?

A:  Simply getting published.

Q: What are you working on now?

A:  I’m working on two books. A big, meaty thriller about paranoia. And a shorter novel that is a kind of throwback to the classic horror stories I grew up on.

Q: Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?

A:  The Man from Primrose Lane is still my favorite at the moment. I really had fun coming up with the strange structure and rules the novel has to follow.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A:  Read as much as you can about how other people got published before you start sending queries to agents.

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Comments
  1. Linda Anderson says:

    Very good interview!!!

  2. Sherrie Hill says:

    A very honest interview. I like that.

  3. Linda Ashbrook says:

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Linda L. Bennett says:

    Will you do more of these interview blogs? I enjoy reading, they are very interesting and informative. 🙂

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