I was searching for publishers taking unsolicited submissions. Eraserhead Press' website said it was open to unsolicited novels. Finally, I thought, someone who's open! Only problem was I didn't have anything to submit.
But earlier that year i had written a personal short story venting my work frustration. The whole thing was a parody of my working life, and I wondered if there was a real story behind it.
There was no stated word limit, but I guessed I should shoot for 30,000 words. Turns out I was pretty close. The limit was about 34,000. My submitted story happened to be 36,000. Good guess. (We then cut it down to 30,000, back down to the original goal.)
I expected to wait six months to hear back. 24 hours later I got an acceptance letter. That stunned me. Never had a response that quick before.
(See this post if you wanna know more about the origin of the story itself: http://www.goodreads.com/
In terms of sheer weirdness, Felix and the Sacred Thor makes Muscle Memory look pretty conservative by comparison. Is there anything you had to take out because it was too weird?
A lot got taken out, but not because it was too weird. I knew this was an off-the-wall story and I was worried how people would react to it. Maybe people would think it was too strange, but editor Kevin L. Donihe didn't even mention that possibility. I figured if he was ok with the content, I should be, too.
Tell us a little about Mr. Hands?
It's a very tragic love story about a man and his horse. To the best of my recollection at this present point in current time, my book is in no way inspired by or based on those events or characters, and it may or may not have had an influence on the book's content or protagonist.
Was there a book that made you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I don't think so. Writing was something I more or less always did, in one form or another. I didn't get serious about it until 2001. Until then I was just sitting at my computer thinking of synopses for TV shows and episodes. Just daydreaming in text. Eventually i decided to start writing the stories instead of summaries. Tried screenplays; that didn't work. Moved on to novels and short stories for more freedom.
Who are some of your influences?
George Orwell's 1984 is a big one. World-building is a difficult skill, and I strive to create worlds as vivid as his. D. Harlan Wilson, and his method of creating organized chaos, is another. Arthur C. Clarke is another. He sucked at characters for the most part, but he excelled in breathtaking description!
What's your favorite book?
1984 is still my absolute favorite. For variety's sake, Eric Garcia's Anonymous Rex is another series I adore both for the characters and the brilliant world-building. Alice in Wonderland is also high up there. It's very rare a book will make me laugh, and that one sure did. Bakker's Raptor Red is another excellent example of world-building. That's what I like most--stories, games and movies that create new worlds.
Who's your favorite author?
I don't have one yet. Maybe i'll find one someday. The authors above are all good candidates, but I wouldn't call any of them a favorite. Not yet.
What's the best book you've read in the last six months?
The Brave Little Toaster. (http://daydreamingintext.
Forget the infamous Konami code for a minute. Do you know the code to enter the edit mode on Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis?
You mean without searching for it on the net? Actually no, I don't. I didn't do much cheating in games as a kid. I didn't want to spoil the fun or the challenge by cheating. And there was no internet back then; cheat codes weren't something you could just look up, so I barley knew they existed at the time.
If you were to get a tattoo depicting a former US President, who would it be?
I'd get William Henry Harrison. The poor man died just a month after taking office. He deserves to be remembered somehow, 'cause that's gotta be the worst thing to happen. Struggle to achieve something, then when you're finally there, you die before you can do anything. That hurts. Someone's gotta give him a break.
Which of following Kurt Russell movies is your favorite: The Thing, Escape from New York, or Big Trouble in Little China?
The Thing, hands down. That scene with the dog-thing shooting goo all over the place still haunts my dreams.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
Writing is hard. Getting someone to publish what you've written? That's even harder. Convincing people to read what you've written after it's published? That's nearly impossible. Enticing people to BUY something you've written? Ugh…
What's next for James Steele?
If elected president, I promise to write a more normal book next time. Something easier to talk about in public! Something you won't mind if your children get a hold of and take to school with them!