An Interview with Author James Dittmar

James Dittmar

James Dittmar lives in Cedar Rapids, IA with his wife and two sons. When not writing or fishing, he can be found playing video games with his kids, trying to keep his motorcycle running and playing make believe in his head while he avoids any real work that he can, all with a dram of nice Irish Whiskey.

Where are you from?

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Why do you write? 

I have a deep respect for those that put things out into the world, artists, musicians, etc. I have always enjoyed telling stories, so I wanted to add my contribution to the world. 

What do you write about? 

Fantasy and Science Fiction mostly, but I try not to limit myself.  I enjoy reading many genres, so I figure why limit myself to writing only one?   

What books did you love growing up?

I loved anything fantasy or science fiction I would get my hands on.  Tolkien, Lloyd Alexanders Prydain series, Terry Brooks Shannara series, Dune, and The Books of Lost Swords series by Fred Saberhagen.  I was also a big fan of Stephen King and Dean Koontz growing up.  Many of my books were paperbacks from garage sales, so there were always a lot of their books available to me. 

What are obstacles that come in the way of writing? 

Everyday life. Family, day job, responsibilities. There are a million things in life that will try to get in the way, the key is getting it done anyway.

How long have you been writing?

Writing? All my life.  Published?  Just this year. I have many unfinished manuscripts, but I finally found some stories that kept me involved and excited to see where the stories lead me.

When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?

When I was a young kid, maybe ten or eleven, we had a writer (Carol Gorman) visit our school.  She published what is now called YA, but back then it didn’t really have a label.  I had a ‘job’ in the school library twice a week, and she was friends with the librarian and let me read the manuscript for her next book before it was published.  The fact that a local writer could also be a successful nationally published author blew my mind and ever since then, I wanted to be a writer too.

What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

I draft an outline and then get to work.  I try to work an hour or two a day when I am in the middle of a story.  I often find the story veering wildly outside of the outline, but that is what makes writing so exciting.

Who would you say are your influences?

Well, the easy answer is of course J.R.R Tolkien.  I first read the Hobbit when I was twelve I think and have been hooked on fantasy ever since.  R.A. Salvatore, William King are Dan Abnett are probably the biggest influences of my latest series of books.

How long does it take to write a book? (if you’ve written one -published or non)

My first published novel took me about 3 months from first draft to date of publishing

Do you have suggestions on how to become a better writer?

Just keep writing. Like anything else, the more you do something the more you excel at it.  You can’t worry about how well it is selling or reviewed.  As long as one person finds your book and is entertained by it, that is all that matter.

What challenges do you come across when writing/creating your story?

Pacing. There are times I know where I want my characters to go, but have to figure out how to get them there, and that sometimes ends up with pacing that doesn’t match the rest of the writing as I struggle to get them from plot point A to plot point B.

What do you think makes a good story?

Immersion. If you look up and are shocked to realize you have been reading for longer than you had thought or planned because you have become so engrossed in the setting and characters of a book.

What does your family think of your writing? 

They are supportive. 

Do you see writing as a career?

I would love for it to be, but even if that is not to be, I will be happy to continue it as a side project for as long as I have readers.

Do you have anything specific you’d like to tell the readers?

Review and share the books you love. There are so many books available now, and more every day, that it is easy for them to get lost in the mix. If you read a book and enjoy it, tell others about it, and put up a review on Amazon or Goodreads or just on social media, letting the world know about it.  As much as the publishing landscape has changed over the years, the one thing that holds still is that nothing moves books like word of mouth. Whether it is a mass-produced big-name author or a small self-published indie, the best thing that a reader can so to support authors they enjoy is to share that enjoyment.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I was reading a proof copy of my paperback and realized that if I didn’t know that I had written it, I would have genuinely thought it had come from one of the authors whose works I do enjoy.

What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?

Marketing for sure. I was so worried about the writing and publishing steps, I never would have realized how difficult the marketing is, especially for an indie author.



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