Rich James is a professional public speaker and the author of the novel Fearbreeders; here is a link to his website:
Q: What is Fearbreaders about?
A: Fearbreeders is crossover YA fantasy that tells the story of three streetwise east London kids who also happen to be powerful psychics with near-superhero abilities. But being psychic has its downside if you can’t control it!
The kids soon discover that the shape-shifting monsters that have been pursuing them their whole lives are actually the manifestations of their own darkest doubts and fears, made real by their fledgling powers.
Knowing this, will they be able to – quite literally – face up to and recognise their fears in order to have a chance at defeating them and bettering themselves?
The idea strikes a chord, I think, because, if we are all honest, this is the same question we should be asking ourselves in our own everyday lives – but we are too afraid to confront it: what are we really afraid of in life that is holding us back? My book encourages readers to ask themselves this question, and face their own fears as well in a fun and non-threatening way.
Q: What gave you the idea for the series?
A: It was actually a process I had developed as part of a research assignment back in college whereby the goal was to visualise your fears, write them down in a comedy/dramedy format to reveal to yourself how silly the root cause of these fears were. I followed that through to its natural conclusion and wrote a whole novel (or three).
Oh, and on that subject: the second edition of the novel, out in January, will contain a companion self-help preface: my aim is interactivity: I faced my fears and wrote a book, got up on stage to speak publically, etc., and it worked out great for me. Now it’s my readers’ turn – and I’ll show them how.
Q: What are some of the ways in which it is interactive?
A: Basically, the fact is – and please, please publishers, hear me out on this – an eReader is a specialised browser, which means an e-novel should be seen as a specialised website. Plain and simple. I followed this through to its natural conclusion and included multimedia links in my text to take readers “down the digital rabbit hole” and into the web to explore my ideas further through video sharing, web site and game links. The weirdest thing in all this is how my “fantasy” world works so seamlessly when juxtaposed with the (“real”?) online world. Kind of makes you rethink the internet, doesn’t it?
Q:How did you get your first speaking gig?
A: I developed a system of performance based teaching for learners of English as a foreign language. This system was developed from the various “direct” teaching methods available. From there, I started to get invited into private language schools to teach/demonstrate this, and from there companies asked if I could teach not only their employees English but their managers how to deliver a speech in the manner I taught; i.e., dynamically.
Q: What can your public speaking book offer that other books of its kind cannot?
A: I am busy rebranding my public speaking manual to go with the second edition of my novel, actually (which is part of the answer to that question). The self-help preface the novel will come with provides an introduction to the principles I practice and preach of “dissociating” in your everyday life through the techniques of creative dissociation. In the same way, my public speaking manual develops the idea of dissociation in your everyday life (as well as public speaking) through the techniques that I also practice and preach of breathing and audience interaction.
Thus, my public speaking materials give you the in-depth psychology behind the activity that is equally applicable in your own life, breaking down the “mystery” behind public speaking the same way my preface breaks down the “mystery” behind the creative fiction process. In other words, all my “self-help” stuff is about not only talking the talk but walking the walk.
My motto is: the proof is definitely in the pudding – so try a piece of my cake first and then I’ll show you how to bake your own! Most other books, CD’s, etc. on the subject just want to sell their own cake. Period. That is the real difference with my materials.
Q: You say you write dissertations for some of the top universities in the world. What are some of the subjects that you have written about?
A: Just to clarify that: I do write for Oxford and Cambridge grads, and these universities are world-class, however I don’t write for all top universities everywhere. I think this is a distinction worth noting as it is important a writer is familiar with the structure and needs of any given institution or course: the job of essay writing is not a one-size-fits all cop-out (online “essay companies”, I’m coming for you on that one – and you know who you are!)
As regards the subjects I tackle, my last three dissertations were an eclectic bunch: they included one on sectarianism and the Shia dominated government in Iraq, exploring a way to peace in the wake of the Shia upsurge in political power; another on the effectiveness of special education needs (SEN/D) legislature in mainstream UK schools; and finally one on the fiscal implications on global oil companies in the wake of government backed “green” initiatives.
Q: Are you writing them on behalf of students or do you just edit what they have?
A: In reality, somewhere in between. Quick market comparison: 99% of all those essay companies that “write it for you” are scammers of the very worst kind, turning out pieces of work a trained rhesus monkey could’ve improved upon, and are insulting to my profession. (Trust me, kids: avoid.) Moreover, the best writer in the world can’t “write it for you” as it has to be specific to you and your course needs.
On the other hand, I have never, not even once, ever seen an essay or dissertation that “just needed editing”: generally speaking, if a writer is good enough to structure, argue and expound on his or her core thesis then he or she would by default need a very high level of English to do so in the first place. For this reason, essays generally need a lot of structural work as well.
So I’ve carved out a particular niche: I work with students, helping them shape their ideas and I will then write/edit as much as they need to express these ideas, structuring it for them and showing them how (which the universities aren’t set up to do) to write academically as they go. So students learn while we write together! It’s a unique but rewarding process.
Q: What kind of educational background do you have?
A: I have a BA in Creative writing and English lit. – so I am basically unemployable in the real world: I had to make my own opportunities! Oh, the fact I can write dissertations on all those other subjects above (if you were wondering) is, I like to think, a triumph of research, structure and communication, as well as being CMoS and MLA conversant, over intrinsic technical knowledge.
Q: What is the oddest thing you have done to promote your writing?
A: “Odd” as in “odd-innovative-unique” would have to be the idea to slap a self-help preface onto a fiction novel and tap into a whole new market on US radio and, hopefully, TV. (“Self-help”-style tomes don’t fly so well in the UK!) The fact that the idea works so seamlessly across all the areas I work in was actually very gratifying to me: it showed me I must be doing something write! (And yes, that last misspelling was a deliberate juxtapositional pun – I am a writer, I get to do those things!)
Q: What famous fictional character’s blog would you most like to read?
A: Great question: the links in my novel actually take you to a guest blog site (apparently) set up by a murdered teenager, her/its idea being that the dead can use it to leave posts for (and hence communicate with) the living. How many of these posts are “fiction” or “real” is, again, anybody’s guess – especially the YouTube sites and blogs you can go and explore through my book that are set up by my (allegedly) fictional characters. Life imitating art imitating …
So if I were to pick a fictional character whose blog I’d like to read it would have to be Sherlock Holmes: I mean, which other character would have the intuition to figure out how to use WordPress plugins? – lord knows I struggle!
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)