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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Interview with James Conway, Author of The Vagabond King

Today I'm very excited to have James Conway, author of The Vagabond King, on A Bookish Affair for an interview.

James Conway

1. How did you come up with the idea for The Vagabond King?

Wow, it's kind of an odd situation. In college I had an assignment to write a paper on Napoleon using either the "Great Man" theory which took the position that Napoleon and only Napoleon could have affected history the way he did or the "Wave" theory which would be the position that had Napoleon not lived someone else would have replaced him and history would have happened in the same way. Now, it may not seem like a big deal to most people but I could not write the paper simply because I saw both things as being true at the same time. That affected me very profoundly because if those two opposite theories could be true at the same time then all other opposite thoughts (such as right and wrong, good and evil) could be true at the same time. I began questioning everything I had held as true and my world and all my beliefs unraveled around me.

So, a the questions that the main character Chris is asking about his life are the same questions I was asking about mine. However, I had to find a way to portray this and so I developed Chris who, like the typical teenager, is questioning his role in the world but even more so when his mother dies of cancer and he discovers the man he was raised to believe was his father is actually not.

2. Mythology plays a role in The Vagabond King. What's your favorite mythological story? What drew you to weaving mythology into The Vagabond King?

I don't really have a favorite story. But, I find mythology fascinating. After college I discovered the work of the mythologist Joseph Campbell whose fundamental contention was that mythology is a mirror of human psychology. Myth reveals the inner workings of a people's or person's mind. I tried to use myth in a few ways in The Vagabond King. First I used it because Chris was rebuilding his psychological world, he was reformulating it after what he had believed to be true had collapsed around him. I also used mythology to portray the fact that we are all, to one extent or another, enacting mythological archetypes. When we realize that we are all playing these roles on a daily basis life becomes a much richer and deeper experience.

3. What advice do you have for aspiring writers? What advice do you have for those interested in self-publishing?

Take your time. Put one foot in front of the other and don't give up. You will get to where you are going. Failure is an illusion. The only people who fail are those that give up before success.

I highly recommend self publishing. You could spend years trying to find a publisher and then they are going to take the majority of the profits and still leave you responsible for marketing. If you are going to be spending all that time on marketing you may as well make more money.

4. Do you have any future projects in the works?
I am currently collecting notes for a work in progress called The Mythological History of Chicago which portrays 300 years of history simultaneously in what quantum physics calls the eternal moment of now. I'm having some trouble wrapping my head around it so I won't burden anyone with the details but the generalities are that the poet Carl Sandburg is trying to discover the real cause of the Chicago fire at the same time the Chicago Cubs and White Sox are in the 7th game of the world series and Robert De La Salle is trying to establish an empire in the New World for France a few hundred years earlier. Oh, I almost forgot. It is a noir novel narrated by a trickster god.

5. If you could bring any three fictional characters with you to a deserted island, who would you bring?

I have learned some of the most important lessons of life from children's literature. And, there is a Russian fairy tale called The Fool of the World and the Flying ship. I think he would come in handy because he's got the means to get off the island. But, I think Sherlock Holmes would be particularly fun as well as Gandalf the Wizard. Kind of an odd assortment of chaps isn't it?

Thank you, James! I personally wouldn't mind having Sherlock Holmes with me on a deserted island!


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