‘The tang of steam coal mined in the South Wales valleys is a thing you never forget. Okay, that makes me older than ideally I would like to be. Never mind. My father was a civil servant and cricket writer and he often reminded me, and I still proudly maintain that by birth I retain my ‘Middlesex Qualification’ even though I was never, ever going to be good enough to play cricket anywhere near the hallowed turf of Lord’s Cricket Ground!’
‘Such is life.’
James and his wife have lived in Hampshire for many years.
‘I lived in London as a child and grew up in Surrey – solid commuter belt country, basically – until I married and moved away. Wherever I go I look to its history. When you are young one tends not to look to the past so much as when you realise life is not forever, I suppose. Later you realise which old family, or church, or whatever, owned the land upon which you lived and that always alters one’s perspective of the past. For me, anyway. The Beaufort family – Margaret was the mother of Henry VII, which makes her more than a tad significant in English history – own large tracts of land around Woking and the ruins of their fifteenth century ‘palace’ still stands in a field outside the town.’
‘I feel at home in Hampshire, especially living so close to Winchester; King Alfred’s Wessex capital. One can see the Cathedral from afar; attempt to imagine the scene in the age when the whole treasury of England was kept in a big box in that church! It makes one wonder what size box the current Chancellor keeps the nations IOUs!’
James has been an author most of his life, initially following in his father’s footsteps publishing two cricketing biographies in the late 1980s. Having spent years and years ‘almost getting published’ by any number of mainstream publishers he eventually gave up on agents and editors and the marketing mantras which governed the ‘old publishing empires’ and embraced the e-publishing revolution.
‘I confess I was a late convert to e-publishing. After so many years trying to get noticed by the industry I think I had got a bit institutionalised – in the perfect 20-20 vision of hindsight I was always too respectful of the great publishing houses and the arcane opinions of their employees – and took a long time to come around to the idea that I could be again my own master. And, actually, write exactly what I wanted to write!!!’
In his time he’s been a civil servant, IT-guy (for years and years), forever an amateur historian, researcher, and by turns a technical author, copywriter and the bloke who usually got to draft the final report on anything he was ever involved in.
‘I think I have very nearly given up hope of ever getting my fiction read by the time I posted my first offering on the Amazon KDP platform. I made lots of mistakes with that first book, and others afterwards. To err is divine, allegedly… Anyway, I eventually got less afraid of the platform although I was not entirely surprised when nobody bought anything for ages. That did not bother me at the time (2012), I just wanted to get my stuff out there. I write for myself but I always hope to amuse, entertain and or spark my readers’ imagination; so if nobody reads it then that is not really the optimal outcome any author is looking for. Obviously, like most lifelong novelists I have a trove of truly dreadful manuscripts in my attic, those which have survived culls over the years, which will never, ever see the light of day, so my first book was not, my first, that is, if you see what I mean.’
James’s first success on Amazon KDP was UNTIL THE NIGHT, his 220,000-plus word saga about Bomber Command’s battles in the terrible winter of 1943-44. The book was inspired by family stories and many years in the writing, written ‘to be told’ not with any view to commercial or frankly, any other considerations.
‘It is a funny thing but no matter what people tell you if you do not remain your own person as an author you do yourself, and more importantly, one’s readers a great disservice. I was just pleased to have finished UNTIL THE NIGHT, that I was pleased it was the best work I could do, and that it was finally out there. When people started staying nice things about it and buying it in large numbers I was over the Moon – and incredulous, obviously – and frankly, I felt a little humble.’
It was the good reception to UNTIL THE NIGHT and subsequently, his TIMELINE 10/27/62 series which enabled James to become a full-time writer for the first time in his life.
‘I was still a jobbing IT-guy when my writing career grew wings and it was a big wrench telling friends, chums I’d worked with and known for years that I was throwing away my screwdriver and software manuals to do the one thing I had always wanted to do seven days a week. Writing can be a lonely business; I am lucky because through writing I have got to work with lots of committed, talented people on projects associated with what I whimsically call my project. I get a huge buzz working with skilled narrators like Melanie Fraser, Lesley Parkin, Andrew Calverley and others to produce audio versions of my books. Both my websites are the concepts and work of Tanya Jayne Park, without whom I would be anonymous on the web.’
James is currently working on his 42nd and 43rd books for publication on Amazon
‘I was a tad baffled what to do when I
Last year James edited and re-published his late father’s – JAMES D. COLDHAM’S – cricket writings.
‘That was a big project in itself – two full-length books, eight monographs and a couple of weighty anthologies – but immensely satisfying. It was a thing I had always meant to get around to but – like so many things – I had never got around to it.’
All twelve books are available in ebook and as paperbacks on Amazon.
‘Since then I’ve concentrated on the day job, moving forward with TIMELINE 10/27/62 and developing other future projects. I think you always have to be thinking about the next project, or the next book, or whatever.’
James’s books revolve around his fascination with character-driven storytelling. He believes there is no secret to persuading a reader to turn the page of a book; one simply has to make it worth his or her while. A good yarn is a good yarn for any generation and James Philip tries hard never to forget it.
‘The funniest thing is that although I have been known to refer to what I do as ‘my little retirement project’ I have never, not ever, worked this hard in my whole life!’
You can explore James’s ever-growing