Invalided out of the East India Company's army, James Brooke looks for adventure in the South China Seas. When the Sultan of Borneo asks him to help suppress a rebellion, Brooke joins the war to support the Sultan and improve his chances of trading successfully in the area. Instead, he finds himself rewarded with his own country, Sarawak. Determined to be an enlightened ruler who brings peace and prosperity to his people, James settles with his lover, John Williamson, in their new Eden. But piracy, racial conflict, and court plotting conspire to destroy all he has achieved. Driven from his home and a fugitive in the land he ruled, James is forced to take extreme measures to drive out his enemies. The White Rajah is the story of a man, fighting for his life, who must choose between his beliefs and the chance of victory. Based on a true story, Brooke's battle is a tale of adventure set against the background of a jungle world of extraordinary beauty and terrible savagery. Told through the eyes of the man who loves him and shares his dream, this is a tale of love and loss from a 19th century world that still speaks to us today.
Now, without further ado, let's learn a little bit about the man behind the story:
♥ What genre(s) do you write?
♥ Why do you write the stories that you write?
I always wanted to write fiction and I found that I was inspired by real characters with a story to tell. So I told it.
♥ When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I won a national short story competition when I was about ten, so I guess that's evidence.
♥ What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I dance Argentine tango a lot. I skate (inline, not ice) and I get out on street skates most weeks and play drop-in games of street hockey when I can.
♥ Where do you hang out online?
James Brooke (the hero of The White Rajah) has his own Facebook page and blog.
♥ Why do you write?
Because I have to. It's a disease. No one in their right mind would do it if they had a choice.
♥ Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Start at the beginning. Get to the end. Do it over. Repeat indefinitely.
♥ Most people envision an author’s life as being really glamorous. What’s the most unglamorous thing that you’ve done in the past week?
Sat waiting by the phone to know when to pick my ski partner up from the hospital so we could fly home following their ankle surgery. Oh, I guess the ski bit means it wasn't that unglamorous after all.
♥ What would you like readers to know about you the writer?
That I take it very seriously. I'm sorry if they don't like it but I really did my best. If they do like it, I love them to death.
♥ Do you track work count or write a certain number of hours per day?
Horribly often, yes.
♥ How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
One fiction. There's non-fiction and a tiny amount of magazine stuff but The White Rajah is my baby and I love it.
♥ What can we look forward to in the upcoming months?
There's a sequel to The White Rajah well under way but I write slowly and historical novels need research (despite the whole 'fiction' thing) so it could be a while.
♥ What kind of research do you do for your books?
Masses. The White Rajah involved months spent in libraries. The sequel is being written faster but has still meant an awfully long time spent reading about mid-19th century India. I read histories and contemporary biographies to get a general feel and use the Internet a lot to research specific details I need. And, of course, I knew something about it before I started. Do you enjoy the research process? I love it. If you don't like research, historical fiction probably isn't for you.
♥ Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?
I write non-fiction for money and deadlines are what make me get the work done. But a deadline that is not accompanied by a meaningful promise of serious cash isn't really a deadline – it's just an irritation. So I don't think they're a help for most fiction writing.
♥ Do you outline your books or just start writing?
The joy of historical fiction is that, if you deal with real events, the overall shape of the story is pretty well set out for you. That said, characters do tend to go off in their own directions once words start hitting the page.
♥ Is there something special you do to celebrate when one of your books is released?
We had a party. Tangos were danced.
♥ Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
They are a mix. My stories are based on historical events, so some characters are real people. Others are made up. The made up ones are not thinly disguised friends or whatever, they're pretty well totally imaginary.
♥ Is it hard coming up with names for your characters?
No. If all else fails, I use the names of people I know, mixing forenames and surnames.
♥ Which of your stories would make a great movie?
The White Rajah would. Who’d play the lead roles? The young Colin Firth would be James Brooke.
♥ Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
We own a house in the middle of Wales. It's quite remote. It's my favourite place in the whole world.
♥ What’s the last song you downloaded?
”Dance me to the end of love” by Leonard Cohen. I couldn't really believe I would do that but I did and I listen to it a lot. It's very danceable too.
♥ What’s the last album you bought?
The latest by Astillero. They're a modern tango group. We saw them playing live and afterwards one of them persuaded us to buy it – even though many of the songs are deliberately undanceable (though we had fun trying).
A huge "thank you" to Tom Williams for stopping by. You can check him out on the web at JMS Books, or at any of the sites he mentioned above.
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