Author James Raney Speaks to Clairbourn Parents

The following is a summary of a parent talk given at Clairbourn School on October 18, 2016. Moms and dads gathered to hear James Raney talk about his Jim Morgan book series as well as to purchase autographed books for their children.

Published : Thursday, November 17, 2016 | 2:40 PM

Adventure-series writer James Raney didn’t have plans to become a writer. He grew up in an army family, moved around a lot, and relied on books for his entertainment while trying to make new friends after each move. His mom bought him books like The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, Ender’s Game, and anything by J.R.R. Tolkien, Tom Clancy, and Stephen King. He read a lot of books and fell in love with reading.

When he got to high school, he aspired to a military career after the pattern of his parents, and was actually recruited by the Air Force Academy. However, a need for glasses was discovered during the physical which killed his dreams of flying. His soul was crushed, but while in college he moved on to explore a government career with the FBI.

While he was checking out the FBI, he experienced an identity crisis where he questioned if that was what he wanted to do. He met some people in college that took him in and exposed him to acting and performing. He also did well in college debates and public speaking opportunities.

But even acting wasn’t a perfect fit because he found himself constantly re-imagining the characters saying something different or the scene playing out in another way. This led him to try his hand at writing, and soon he had total clarity that he loved writing and enjoyed the process. He found his niche!

The writing profession quickly taught him that this was not a fast track to make a lot of money or get famous. “You can’t just have a dream—you have to have a job.” says Raney. So, he stared working for Verizon Wireless. He was in a training meeting to learn about the first camera phone, and each employee was given a yellow legal pad to take notes. Instead, he found himself writing a story.

This was the first time a story just jumped in to his mind. He wrote furiously in that meeting and continued developing the story at home until he shaped it into a science fiction novel called The Black Pool.

Even though his first book was not well-written in his own eyes, he kept writing because he loved the act of writing and story development so much! He wrote another novel called Empire, and then branched out into short stories, screen plays, and wrote for contests. He was starting to get better! One day, a contest judge called him unexpectedly and said, “You have talent, but to progress, move away from Cincinnati, and go to L.A. or New York to be around aspiring professionals who will sharpen your game.”

He decided to do it. New York was out because he didn’t like the cold weather, so he made his way to Los Angeles. Making new connections was hard, but slowly he started to meet the kind of writers he needed around him to progress. The feedback was tough, but he dealt with it and became a stronger writer because of their help.

Soon afterwards, his first Jim Morgan novel appeared. This was the first time that he let himself as a person filter into the work and shine through. The response was all positive. His writing circle, comprised of some very successful writers, we’re giving him the thumbs up. He also sent the book to Writer’s House in New York, and they kept the book for six weeks, gave him great praise, and moved forward in the publishing talks. It all seemed about to happen, but then they said, “We like it, but we’re not sure where it fits in the marketplace.” So, the deal was off. Hearing that he had the skill but that the type of story he wanted to tell was not projected to sell was tough! That same scenario happened about 87 times when he was shopping around the first two Jim Morgan books.

At that point, he set aside Jim Morgan and tried to write the types of books that were selling—more like The Hunger Games—but that wasn’t him either. Feeling stuck, he called up a screenwriter for advice, and this person recommended he go the independent publishing route. Even with the stigma association with self-publishing, he urged him to try it anyway. It was the best decision Raney ever made in his life! He self-published the first two novels, and not only were they read and reviewed, but they we’re catching on and the novels started to win awards.

 

The following is a summary of a parent talk given at Clairbourn School on October 18, 2016. Moms and dads gathered to hear James Raney talk about his Jim Morgan book series as well as to purchase autographed books for their children.

Adventure-series writer James Raney didn’t have plans to become a writer. He grew up in an army family, moved around a lot, and relied on books for his entertainment while trying to make new friends after each move. His mom bought him books like The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, Ender’s Game, and anything by J.R.R. Tolkien, Tom Clancy, and Stephen King. He read a lot of books and fell in love with reading.

When he got to high school, he aspired to a military career after the pattern of his parents, and was actually recruited by the Air Force Academy. However, a need for glasses was discovered during the physical which killed his dreams of flying. His soul was crushed, but while in college he moved on to explore a government career with the FBI.

While he was checking out the FBI, he experienced an identity crisis where he questioned if that was what he wanted to do. He met some people in college that took him in and exposed him to acting and performing. He also did well in college debates and public speaking opportunities.

But even acting wasn’t a perfect fit because he found himself constantly re-imagining the characters saying something different or the scene playing out in another way. This led him to try his hand at writing, and soon he had total clarity that he loved writing and enjoyed the process. He found his niche!

The writing profession quickly taught him that this was not a fast track to make a lot of money or get famous. “You can’t just have a dream—you have to have a job.” says Raney. So, he stared working for Verizon Wireless. He was in a training meeting to learn about the first camera phone, and each employee was given a yellow legal pad to take notes. Instead, he found himself writing a story.

This was the first time a story just jumped in to his mind. He wrote furiously in that meeting and continued developing the story at home until he shaped it into a science fiction novel called The Black Pool.

Even though his first book was not well-written in his own eyes, he kept writing because he loved the act of writing and story development so much! He wrote another novel called Empire, and then branched out into short stories, screen plays, and wrote for contests. He was starting to get better! One day, a contest judge called him unexpectedly and said, “You have talent, but to progress, move away from Cincinnati, and go to L.A. or New York to be around aspiring professionals who will sharpen your game.”

He decided to do it. New York was out because he didn’t like the cold weather, so he made his way to Los Angeles. Making new connections was hard, but slowly he started to meet the kind of writers he needed around him to progress. The feedback was tough, but he dealt with it and became a stronger writer because of their help.

Soon afterwards, his first Jim Morgan novel appeared. This was the first time that he let himself as a person filter into the work and shine through. The response was all positive. His writing circle, comprised of some very successful writers, we’re giving him the thumbs up. He also sent the book to Writer’s House in New York, and they kept the book for six weeks, gave him great praise, and moved forward in the publishing talks. It all seemed about to happen, but then they said, “We like it, but we’re not sure where it fits in the marketplace.” So, the deal was off. Hearing that he had the skill but that the type of story he wanted to tell was not projected to sell was tough! That same scenario happened about 87 times when he was shopping around the first two Jim Morgan books.

At that point, he set aside Jim Morgan and tried to write the types of books that were selling—more like The Hunger Games—but that wasn’t him either. Feeling stuck, he called up a screenwriter for advice, and this person recommended he go the independent publishing route. Even with the stigma association with self-publishing, he urged him to try it anyway. It was the best decision Raney ever made in his life! He self-published the first two novels, and not only were they read and reviewed, but they we’re catching on and the novels started to win awards.

But the real mark of his success soon came to him from an unexpected source. He had sent his book to a teacher in Florida, and some weeks later, she wrote him about an important change in her class. Two of her students, who had a bully/victim situation going on, had resolved it because a message in the book changed the aggressive student for the better. The book wasn’t about that, but there are scenes in the book that gave the bully a new perspective and he became apologetic to his victim.

Raney never initially expected his books would have the power to impact someone or stay with them, but after thinking about it, he realized that it’s the books you read as a kid that really stay with you. From that point forward, he knew his purpose wasn’t to chase the cover of a magazine or the New York Times Best-Seller List. He wanted to write books that stay with kids. As part of that goal, he started taking his books around to schools.

The themes that resonate with young people in his books are: learning who you are even when your roots and your family aren’t a stable factor in your life, what it’s like to determine who you are as a person all on your own, how to navigate a confusing world with a lot of conflicting voices, and how to choose one of the many paths in life. He also writes about the treasures we chase in life before we understand what is really valuable, and also he includes the theme of surrounding oneself with good people. He works to keep the messages subtle and natural to the storytelling.

Fans of his writing will be excited to know that he has a new book series coming out which he feels is the best novel he has ever written. Lord of the Wolves is about a pack of wolves where there are two brothers. A lame runt is the main character and his brother is an alpha wolf—the most magnificent wolf born in all generations. In this story, the older brother is not a bad guy. Despite their physical differences, they have a special bond. The book explores what it is like to be born advantaged or disadvantaged but still work together.

James Raney, author of the Jim Morgan pirate-themed adventure series, is a guest of Clairbourn’s October 2016 Haunted Book Fair. He will hold book talks for 4th through 8th grade students at Clairbourn during the Book Fair week.

Clairbourn School, 8400 Huntington Drive, San Gabriel, (626) 286-3108 or visit www.clairbourn.org.

 

 

 

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