With a bit of background, who is James Oswald?
Start with the easy one, why don’t you? I was born and grew up, I went to school and then university. I have worked and travelled. Somewhere along the line I started writing things down…
More seriously, I had a slightly peripatetic upbringing, being sent off to boarding school in England when I was seven. I went to Aberdeen University where I read Psychology, ended up staying there for a few years after graduation, working part time as a Wine Merchant whilst I tried to forge a career in comics. I moved down to Edinburgh for five years, ending up working in a mortgage call centre, then spent ten years in Wales as an agricultural researcher and consultant – one of my more memorable jobs involved collecting samples of sheep faeces for analysis to determine parasite resistance to various treatments. I moved back up to Fife in 2010 to take over the running of the family farm, following my father’s death in 2008. Through all of this to-ing and fro-ing, writing has been the only constant – I am currently working on my thirteenth full-length manuscript and have written innumerable short stories and comic scripts. The less-awful of these languish at the website of my publishing company –www.devildog.co.uk.
What/who inspired you to pick up a pen and start writing?
I started off trying to write comics. I even had a Tharg’s Future Shock published by 2000AD back in the early 90s. As a young boy my parents used to buy me Look & Learn magazine, but the only bit I ever read was The Trigan Empire. When 2000AD came out, I was hooked, and have been reading it ever since. I still love comics, but I find it increasingly difficult (and expensive) to keep up with the multiple-crossover titles the Americans love putting out.
I lived in Aberdeen for a while, and whilst there contributed to a SF, Fantasy and RPG fanzine called From The Sublime… (those three dots are very important). I collaborated with a young, unknown artist by the name of Stuart MacBride on a comic strip calles As if by Magic, which wasn’t a piss-take of Mr Benn at all, really. Stuart and I became good friends and exchanged short stories and manuscripts for many a year, giving each other ego massages and editorial input. When he hit the big time with Cold Granite, Stuart suggested I stop wasting my time with comics and fantasy and try writing some crime instead. The DI McLean books are the result of that suggestion, so it’s all his fault really.
For anyone who hasn’t read your work, tell them what they can expect to read.
That depends. If you pick up one of my fantasy series, you can expect epic world-building, dragons and magic, with a smattering of sheep references and perhaps too much Welsh. If instead you opt for my DI McLean books, then you can expect police procedurals mixed with a hint of the supernatural. Either way I hope you’ll be entertained.
You have had huge success with self publishing. Downloads for both your novels have been excellent, as you explained to me at Bloody Scotland. Do you have any advice for other writers, especially in the self publishing area?
Write the best book you possibly can. Find the best cover designer you can sensibly afford. Employ the services of a professional editor if you can possibly afford to, but be aware that very few self-published authors will make that money back. Make every effort to ensure your ebook is free from formatting and typographical errors. Write the best book you possibly can. And if it doesn’t set the world alight, then roll up your sleeves and write another one.
And if you’re going to use social media, use it to sell yourself, not your book.
What is next for James Oswald?
I’m currently about 1/5th of the way into the third DI McLean book, with a hope it might be out in the early new year. After that I need to wrap up the fantasy series and a couple of other projects I’m working on. I’m hoping to sign up with an agent soon, and who knows, some publishers might start to take notice too. Oh, and I have a 350 acre livestock farm to run.
So here’s where I cheat a bit and get some more info out of you.
Bonus question: You are stranded on a desert island. You can have 3 ‘luxury’ items and one person with you. What and who would they be and why?
Three luxury items would have to be something to write with, something to write on and something to make music with. So a magic self-sharpening pencil, a huge stock of paper and a penny whistle (because if I had a guitar its strings would break).
If I had to share my desert island with just one person, I’d end up killing them. Best if I just took an imaginary friend.
Ha! I can understand that sometimes, James. It was a pleasure to meet you at Bloody Scotland and thank you for taking part in 5 Questions For…..
Best of luck with the third DI McLean book.
James Oswald Books