Interview with James Matt Cox

What are you working on next?
I'm working on a series of books set in the same universe. 'A Pattern of Details' introduces this universe. It is set between the middle of the first book and the third. The series revolves around a different set of characters but there are some connections. Astute readers will see them fairly quickly.
Even though I have several series books written I haven t published the first one yet. I want APoD to take off before I move on to the next one, it's getting ALL my attention right now.
Who are your favorite authors?
Isaac Asimov. He's my favorite author of all time and, quite honestly, my childhood hero. I didn't care much about sports players or movie/TV personalities. What do any of them have compared to Asimov?
My other favorite authors are Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, E.E. Smith, J.R.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Lester Del Rey, Andre Norton, Alan Dean Foster and Harry Harrison. There are lots of others, too, but these are the ones I read over and over again.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
LIFE!!! In March of 2011 I became gravely ill. I mean this in a literal sense: the doctors had to bring me back twice. I ended up in the hospital with about 4 or 5 things, any two of which were over 100% fatal. God saved me, brought me back and kept me alive. I give Him all the glory and credit for my being alive today. If that isn't inspiration enough I don't know what is!
Curiosity also plays a large part in keeping me awake _after_ I get out of bed. This old world is full of some pretty bad and repulsive things BUT there are also a lot more wonderful, awesome, inspirational GOOD things. I'm eternally curious about what's going to happen next.
Finally, my writing and other interests get me out of bed and out of the house. Wonderful things are always happening and sometimes you have to look around a bit to find them. I have a beautiful wife, three awesome boys (all married!) and three perfect grandkids (so far!); they are all an eternal source of joy and motivation.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not writing I spend time with my wife and kids, when we can. I'm also an open-source Java developer and I do spend time working on programming projects. I try to take time to read, too, but other concerns cut into that, unfortunately.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
My primary sources of ebooks are Amazon, Goodreads and now Smashwords. My kids also tell me the good ones they read. That's pretty much it. I'm a bit old-fashioned in that I really prefer a good paperback or hardback. I like the feel of the paper, the rustle of the pages and even the smell of a fresh, new book. My wife doesn't let me into Books-A-Million very often because she has such a hard time getting me out of the place.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I ever wrote was about 4 pages long, it involved a star-fighter pilot named Jacques Morris and he discovered a civilization on the surface of Venus. They were highly advanced, enough so to conceal their presence from Terra, and the only thing he took away from the place was a confused set of memories and a plant-sidekick named Ploob.
Jacques and Ploob had three or four more adventures, the longest of which was five pages. I wrote these stories when I was 12. [facetious] I sincerely hope my writing has improved since then. [/facetious]
What is your writing process?
I see my stories as movies inside my head. These are really cool movies, though, because not only can I move them forward or back at will, they also have a 'preview' function so I know where the current scene is going, even before it goes.
Mechanically, as the movie plays I sit at the computer and transcribe it. I use OpenOffice for writing and I usually have three files open: the story itself, a fact sheet with general information about the League and a story-specific fact sheet. The League sheet helps me keep my details consistent from story to story and the story-specific sheet helps me keep track of the actors.
As a rule I don't do outlines or timelines but, as I said above I do employ fact sheets. I believe it is absolutely CRITICAL for science fiction series to keep consistent details from book to book. Nothing destroys the illusion faster than inconsistency and especially so when it's story-critical. I could (but won't) name several instances in which a 'deus ex machina' from a later-series book could have totally avoided problems in earlier books. I still enjoyed reading them but, well, 'I would have done it better!'
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Isaac Asimov's 'Nightfall,' the short story. At the time I didn't understand some of the more sophisticated themes, I just thought it was cool. Impact? Too much to detail here. I could also say the same of The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, The Three Investigators and Harriet the Spy, the book. Lucky Starr and the Space Rangers also played a part.
Impact in a nutshell? The stories I read developed both my curiosity and my imagination and made me the person i am today.
How do you approach cover design?
Ouch. I tried to make my cover design reflect the book. Unfortunately I'm not an artist. More unfortunately my budget for my first book was ZERO. The cover I chose is the crest for the Technical Guild. Of course the crest also contains the symbols for Merchant's, Artisan's and Healer's so you can guess what their crests are.
Finances permitting, for future books my approach to cover design will be to the closest artist I can find!
Mechanically speaking, my approach to cover design was incredibly complex. I actually used five different open-source programs, my MathTools and Windows Paint to produce my cover. For the open-source curious: mtPaint, GeoFun, The GIMP, Inkscape and Apache Batik.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1. Isaac Asimov's 'Foundation' trilogy. It exemplifies everything a science fiction story should be AND it has a totally consistent but surprising twist at the end.
2. Frank Herbert's 'Dune' because of its onion-squared layers and its intense examination of the best and the worst of humanity.
3. J.R.R Tolkien's 'Hobbit' and 'Lord of the Rings.' It's the classic hero's journey with furry feet.
4. E.E. Smith's 'Lensman' books. Just because the heroes are totally heroic and the villains so thoroughly slimy and EVIL.
5. Arthur C. Clarke's 'Rondezvous with Rama' just because it stretches my imagination every single time I read it.
Oh. I also enjoy reading my own stories. Even though I know what's coming. I try to write stories I would enjoy reading and, well, I do!
What do you read for pleasure?
See previous question! That plus anything and everything. I try not to be a snobby reader; I'll try (almost) anything once. The only exception are things I consider vulgar or pornographic. I enjoy reading the Bible, Java books by O'Reilly, Harry Potter and just about anything else.
Describe your desk
My desk is a metal computer stand with my computer, the DVD remote and a bottle of water or sugar-free drink right next to my bed. It has several important papers, my medicine, my thumb drives and a couple of pens all in their proper places.
When did you first start writing?
I first started writing at age 12. The stories were VERY short and not particularly good. As i grew older my stories got longer but still weren't particularly good. Practice makes perfect, though, and finally, at age 35 (-ish) I found the right balance of fortune and adversity. The rest, as they say, is history. A little more practice and I finally managed to create my VERY FIRST full, three-dimensonal character.
That story, 'Blademaster,' gave me the technique I have today. As with the stories prior to it 'Blademaster' won't see the light of day but its progeny (APoD and The Series) will.
What's the story behind your latest book?
('A Pattern of Details')
I won't say I identify with Morris Taylor (Tech Guild, 'A Pattern of Details') but, well... I kinda do. By today's standards Morris is a stereotypical computer geek, but with tools instead of software. He's excellent at his job and content there with plenty of work and limited social interaction. Then he receives an assignment to teach a class outside the League. This begins a long series of events, each of which knocks him a little farther outside his comfort zone. He ends up with his life and the lives of his friends depending on skills he doesn't even realize he has with a potential interstellar war thrown in just for excitement. In the end he discovers that: a) people really aren't intrinsically mean, and b) anyone who 'snoots' themselves above him is losing more (by not wanting to know him) than they gain.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I've been a _writer_ since age 12. Once I wrote my first 'good-enough' story ('Blademaster,' see previous question.) I began entertaining idle thoughts about being an author. It is the one job I could love more than teaching. Finally, with my wife's encouragement, I decided to DO IT.
I submitted dozens of query emails and several actual letters to various literary agents. They were all rejected.
I didn't let that stop me. I _know_ my stories are good! As I stated previously I write things I would (and do!) enjoy reading and I have a lot of experience reading SF. It's not just me, though. My Dad likes my stories and he's been reading SF longer than I've been alive. It's not just a case of '... my kid is the best!' though. In addition to being my biggest fan Dad's also my harshest critic. He has no problem telling me 'This is bull[stuff], change it.' So take it as given, my stories are good!
But so far, no agent or publisher has been interested.
THAT is my motivation in becoming an independent author. I still hope, someday, to publish a book the traditional way but until then I'll continue to market them via Smashwords, Amazon, CreateSpace, et. al. If the Big Boys don't want to publish my books that's their loss, not mine!
Arrogant? Perhaps. Conceited? Perhaps. Justified? Definitely!! But don't take my word for it; read my book and decide for yourself!
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
So far so good. I first submitted to Amazon via KDP. I tried their 'Select' program and since I posted the book (January of 2014) I've sold five copies (June 2014). Within 14 hours of _finally_ passing through the meat-grinder unscathed I sold my first copy through Smashwords. That in and of itself is encouraging and as of today (June 7) I still haven't qualified for the Premium catalog here.
You go, Smashwords!!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy of writing is WRITING! I have a story inside my head and when I get it written down perfectly... That's an absolute RUSH! Psychologists call it a 'mountaintop experience' and that's what it is at that instant when everything falls into place. The bits and pieces that didn't make sense at the beginning of the story suddenly come together, I _know_ how my heroes will prevail, the bad guys get beaten and I get goose-bumps.
Published 2014-06-07.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Blatant Prey
Price: $3.01 USD. Words: 87,200. Language: English. Published: July 10, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Adventure » Action
It's dangerous outside the League. The path to a sensitive data leak leads Micah Stone and his team from glamorous parties with movie stars to the sleaziest town in the sleaziest part of space: the Kensie Free Systems. Micah and his team are abducted and must face assassins, gangsters and solicitors to rescue them. The assassins are not human and they fight as part of a sport known as BloodRing.
The Border Incident
Series: Stone Blade. Price: $3.01 USD. Words: 104,530. Language: English. Published: October 28, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense
Illegal drugs are bad and worse when they lead to death. More so when it happens to a young couple in the Lost Angels sector on their graduation night. That tragedy embroils Micah and his team in an under-the-garble mission where they find corruption at the highest levels not of one government but two. Failure threatens the existence of Intelligence itself and success may land Micah in prison.
Lethal Max
Series: Stone Blade. Price: $3.01 USD. Words: 72,600. Language: English. Published: May 30, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Adventure » Action
It's a royal wedding to lift the heaviest heart as Micah and Jenn Stone depart on their honeymoon cruise. Aboard ship they find their favorite movie stars, all bound for a goodwill tour of the Semid Federation. Disaster strikes when the ship is hijacked by a madman intent on revenge. Micah is left with little more than his wits to inform his friends of his plight and, somehow, effect a rescue!
Expedient Measures
Series: Stone Blade. Price: $3.01 USD. Words: 92,790. Language: English. Published: March 16, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
Politics can be hazardous to your health! When Micah Stone and his team are assigned to help with elections in Grakis Major, they enter a quagmire of bickering unions, vicious crime cartels, squabbling candidates, apathetic citizens and yellow-armored security guards who fight like elite military. Behind it all they find a massive conspiracy to disrupt dozens of economies, including the League's!
The Burning Crown
Series: Stone Blade, Book 4. Price: $3.01 USD. Words: 83,380. Language: English. Published: November 25, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
Failing a mission can cost Micah Stone his life, that's not new, but success may cost him his friends! A trail of defective parts that fail in combat leads Micah to the Starcrown sector: a tight-knit group of rival Noble Houses. He and his team must untangle a complex knot of plot and counter-plot to find who is sabotaging the League. What stands between him and success? The lives of his friends.
The Radical Factor
Series: Stone Blade, Book 3. Price: $3.01 USD. Words: 99,360. Language: English. Published: October 24, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
The Semids are a peaceful people and staunch League friends and trade partners. When a group of interstellar terrorists detonates a nuclear bomb at the dedication of their Peace Spire the Semids call on the League for help tracking them down. Micah Stone and his team then embark on a journey of action, intrigue and interstellar trade to track down the ones responsible and bring them to justice.
Double Bait
Series: Stone Blade, Book 2. Price: $3.01 USD. Words: 97,730. Language: English. Published: August 18, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Spies & espionage
Robin Macy, more comfortable in the virtual world than the real one, is a law-abiding and hard-working data tech until her online boyfriend vanishes. When she shows her skill by tracking him she lands in the clutches of a charming criminal only to be rescued by two people almost as scary. Now she must decide who she can trust as danger and intrigue shadow her every step.
Stone Blade
Series: Stone Blade, Book 1. Price: $3.01 USD. Words: 108,030. Language: American English. Published: July 12, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Spies & espionage
When Micah Stone left work late he started down a path to change the fates of more worlds than his. Forced into his planet's military, he excels. Then kicked out by a coward, he joins the League Marines. Haunted by demons of his past he enters a world of shadow and intrigue and must face a planet of foes with only two friends to help him. Success means survival. Failure is not an option.
A Pattern of Details
Price: Free! Words: 92,600. Language: English. Published: June 7, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
(5.00 from 1 review)
When Technician Morris Taylor accepted an assignment to train students on a distant world he had no idea his path would lead to possible doom for dozens of worlds and millions of people. After a plague of accidents too numerous to be coincidence Morris discovers he must outsmart an unknown saboteur and traitor to prevent certain death for himself and his friends and an interstellar war.