Interview with James Maxwell

Describe your desk
My desk is round.
It sits among many.
On it is my laptop.
On it is my cup of dark roast.
I come here every morning.
Not just to write.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in an oil-patch in Glenrock, Wyoming in the 50's.
My early childhood appears in many of my stories and in several of the characters.
In 1962, our family moved to Boulder, Colorado.
Boulder is the setting for all my stories.
Boulder is the happiest city in America.
When did you first start writing?
I was in a play at the Nomad Playhouse in Boulder around 1983 and we couldn't get any press for the show (The Glass Menagerie), so I wrote a feature story and a local paper ran it. The next week I wrote another one for somebody else's show and they ran that one too. When I submitted a third feature, the editor asked me if I was going to continue submitting them. I thought they were going to refuse the piece, but when I said yes, they told me they'd like to start paying me for them.
What's the story behind your latest book?
In the spring of 2010, I wrote a whole bunch of dialogue jokes, just as I'd done when I created my comic strip some twenty years earlier. Except this time I wrote 9300 of them. I experimented with them and created three different joke panel concepts with hundreds of examples in each style. Not satisfied with my experiments, I then took five days of my jokes (I wrote a minimum of 100 jokes a day for seventy five days.) and used them to write two-minute scripts. Finally I took the 500 two-minute scripts, which all shared the same story world, and used them as outlines for narrative fiction - flash fiction as it turns out. The result is an epic novel set in Boulder that tells the story of the Cafe Milano, a seedy coffee catering to the homeless.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I write from my collective unconscious, which means I write free from conscious thought. I use a technique called "automatic writing" to create a dialogue between different inherited archetypes. I use the word archetype in the same sense as Carl Jung, except that I expand the definition to include inherited linguistic archetypes, making the structure of the story the real story. These linguistic archetypes are, I believe, closely connected to our inherited genetic code and the stories we tell - in their most fundamental structure - are the stories of our genes. These are the stories that teach our genetic pool how to survive.

Consequently, I do not write in a linear fashion, except within each story. The over-arching narrative reflects my all-in-one mind, which has little regard for time or sequence of events.

Writing as an "Indi Author" therefore seems the only choice for an experimental author and an experimental narrative structure.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Discovering my archetypical characters and watching them emerge from the shadows and into light.
As my first character Realia defines herself, "Classroom objects rising to view."
What are you working on next?
I am torn between writing more flash fiction and between re-imaging the work of Plautus by adapting all his plays to a speculative universe.

On the one hand, I have around 5000 more "usable" stories outlined (without fabula) in the form of dialogue jokes. Using these as guides to create both story world and scripts and then using the scripts as outlines for narrative fiction, I could easily write 5-10 stories a day. That would certainly keep me busy. On the other hand, I am drawn to write about "those who do no work today." Plautus, who wrote about slaves and slavery, had a special relationship with a character known as the parasite.

Simultaneously, I am looking for several collaborators for the repurposing of Up the Alley. I am specifically looking for a graphic artist to collaborate on a graphic novel series, and a film-maker to collaborate on an internet entertainment series telling these stories in 60 second videos.

More immediately, after I complete publishing the four volumes of Up the Alley, I plan on publishing four volumes of my dialogue jokes followed by several volumes of the two-minute scripts followed by the audio books.

In short, my goal is to create a branded franchise for Up the Alley.
Who are your favorite authors?
Vladimir Nabokov, Earnest Hemingway.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I have, all my life, bounded out of bed each morning.
I am internally inspired by my inherited archetypes for purposes of their own (but always with my best interests at heart.).
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I produce, direct, act, write and design for the theatre and have done so for the past 50 years.

I am also a large canvas abstract and abstract expressionist painter.

For example, I painted the cover of volume one expressly for this project on a four foot by six foot canvas, then photographed it and manipulated the photograph in Photoshop to "see" the under painting and create the effect of background illumination.

I also hike four to six miles a day on the trails around Boulder.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I join book reader and author centric groups that share similar interests.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. My first two stories were both adaptations of Aesop Fables. The first was the story of the fox and the goat which became the Well, the Bucket and the Rope.
What is your writing process?
Marivaux wrote only about love in all its forms.
I write only about compassion.

Aristotle said a story consists of agents who tell the story.
These agents are sometimes known as actors.

I write the dialogue first - on behalf of those agents, even before there is a glimmer of a story in my own mind.
I write from my collective unconscious - free from conscious thought.
Each of the stories in this current project averaged 107 seconds to write the first time I wrote the story (the average time it took to write all 9300 jokes.)
As I write, I listen to the voices of the agents (my archetypes) and try to feel their joy or pain.
It is in the sound of their voices that their story is told (not just the words.)
I write this dialogue without fabula - only archetypical story and sound allowed - only story that could fit into any setting or time.

Once I have the dialogue of the story, I imagine what kinds of people might speak those words with those voices and that intention.

Then I assign fabula to the story, the who, what, when and where.
When I'm done with the fabula phase, I have a script suitable for the stage.

Finally, when the script is ready, I overlay a suitable narrative voice - and use that new voice to allow an audience to "fall" into the store - hopefully from the first word. This "falling" is a suspension of disbelief in theatrical terms.

As Johnny Carson famously said, "If they buy the premise, they buy the gag."
How do you approach cover design?
This is my first book, so I'll have to be specific to this book.

About eight years ago I created a piece of digital art in Photoshop and Illustrator incorporating the yin/yang symbol.
Then, as I am wont to do, I began experimenting until I had 6 or 7 versions. I didn't create them with this project in mind and they were just several of thousands of abstract designs I created during that period.

At the end of 2012, after I'd committed myself to writing this novel, I went looking for possible covers. I found this series and then decided to paint one of the designs.

Since I paint on a large canvas, the result was a four foot by six foot painting in Acrylic on stage canvas stretched over a plywood support. I incorporated an under painting because I knew from my digital design work that even though we can't see all the colors in a painting with our native eye, our digital eye (via Photoshop), captures it all.

The result was a cover that seems to be back-lit (illuminated from behind the painting).
Published 2014-03-17.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Up the Alley
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 33,380. Language: English. Published: March 19, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » Black comedy, Fiction » Urban
Up the Alley, Volume One begins the story of the Cafe Milano, a seedy coffee shop catering to the homeless.