James David is a freelance writer – primarily for children – former school teacher and craftsman. His most known book series, Aqua Crysta, is a fantasy series set along Whitby’s coast, where he lives. His other titles include Squbbitz and Remote Control.
1) When and why did you get into writing?
From school age, having won competitons urged me to write as a hobby, even during twenty years as a teacher. I had freelance work published but nothing serious in volume until the Aqua Crysta series was a accepted after I’d packed up teaching. I’d always regarded it as a relaxing pastime.
2) Is there a reason you chose to write from the point of view of children/young adults? Do you find this perspective easier or more challenging than writing for adults?
I always had young fiction in mind with my writing, but my work is read by many ages. My oldest regular reader is now about 93! I like mixing prose with my own black and white illustrations, which works most effectively with children’s stories. As an ex-teacher I felt at home with school visits etc and book signings. I have had an adult-aimed novel in mind for years – decades – but never got around to it!
3) Is the Whitby Coast setting of your Aqua Crysta series a place of sentimental value to you, or is it more of a case of writing what you know?
Definitely both. I’ve always loved whitby, and it makes a perfect setting for stories with a hint of magic. Also, being based here helps with promotions such as book signings in a tourist hotspot and ‘A Day with an Author’ days with school parties (a day with me in the locations from the books, doing creative work and exploring, games etc).
4) As well as writing your own books, you also receive manuscripts from aspiring, unpublished writers. Do you receive a lot of unsolicited manuscripts? If so, what would you say determines which pieces you look at/accept?
I meet many budding authors at booksignings etc of all ages. I generally encourgage them to send manuscripts. If a piece is original, well-presented, and has a ‘grab factor’ in the first few pages, they’re likely to get an encouraging response from me.
5) Would you recommend self-publishing (or other contemporary shared-cost deals etc) to aspiring authors, or would you suggest a more traditional path?
With such competition regarding new names, I’d say all methods are acceptable and to be encouraged.
6) If they were to choose a self-publishing route, how would you advise they get their work noticed?
The best route, to me, is to have a run of physical books produced and then arranging book signings to meet the public (or getting into school in the case of young fiction), plus back up with radio interviews etc, even on a local basis to start with.
7) As a fantasy writer for young readers, do you find that the market for such works has become saturated, with the popularity of fantasy serials such as Harry Potter and Twilight and so many similar books popping up?
Indeed that is the case, although it has to be said that as time moves on with new readers there is always a new market. Especially regarding the HP factor; recent juniors have seen all the films, but many find the books too long to bother with and prefer something shorter and fresh. Teachers prefer something children have to read/listen to without pre-contact images in their heads! So there is still a market, and I would still encourage the genre with new writers, but obviously a unique angle has to come first!
8) Do you have a specific writing process – any traditions or superstitions – or do you treat your writing as any other day’s work?
During the creation of a particular title, one gets into a certain routine. In my case, mornings, alternating between text and illustration, day to day. But with new experimental, non-commissioned work, I suppose it’s more hit and miss when the mood or ideas crop up. The location of working can vary for the second, with holidays etc, but I need a consistent location for my daily work; I find I often need a more mechanical, routine approach for deadlines.