Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Feature & Interview: James Matlack Raney

Today I have with me James Matlack Raney and we're discussing his debut novel, Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves. I had the pleasure of meeting James at a conference this summer and I'm very excited that he agreed to stop by my blog.

First, a little about his book...

Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves
by James Matlack Raney

Young Jim Morgan loves everything about his life: ignoring his old tutor’s lessons, flaunting his new clothes, terrorizing his servants, and perfecting the fine art of snobbery. But the night his father returns from a mysterious sea voyage with the secret to a vast pirate treasure, Jim's world is thrown upside down.

Now Jim must escape the clutches of his father’s wicked enemies, decipher the magic of a gypsy witch, hide from a shadowy pirate and his talking raven, and outwit the King of Thieves and his army of pickpockets.

If he is to survive, Jim must learn to trust new allies and discover the power and magic of true friendship. And through it all he may, just possibly, uncover a hero hidden within him, and live an adventure beyond his wildest dreams.

And without further ado, please welcome James Matlack Raney.

Cherie: Where did the spark for Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves come from?

James: That’s a good question, mostly because I’m not entirely sure when the entire idea actually coalesced into one story in my mind.  But I know it began with the desire to tell the story of a boy who loses his father and goes on a great journey to become something he thinks would make his father proud.  That’s an important theme to me personally and I just felt the need to talk about it through an adventure story.  Everything else, like the pirates and thieves and treasure, all fell into place after that.

Cherie: I think it’s a wonderful theme! When did you first realize you wanted to write for children?

James: You know, I never consciously decided that this book was going to be for kids.  When I was growing up, I wasn’t aware of this hard line between Young Adult, Middle Grade, etc.  To me, there were the little kids books (which I didn’t like so much) and then there were just books, and I loved reading books.  That idea has really carried over for me into my writing.  Yes, the hero, Jim Morgan, is 11 years old, but I didn’t want to write just for 11 year-olds.  I wanted to write a good book that someone of any age could enjoy.  Hopefully I accomplished that.

Cherie: I think all ages love a good adventure. I know I do. J What do you like most about writing for this age group?

James: Your imagination is so fertile at that age!  It’s amazing!  When I was younger, reading books would really whisk me off to other worlds where anything was possible, and I would love to give that same sensation to young readers from this generation.

Cherie: I love your cover! How much input did you have in its design?
James: I had some input, but I really have to hand it to Lora Lee.  She is an amazing artist!  Something that really helped was that Lora read the book before designing the cover.  So much of what came out was her interpretation of the story.  She blew me away!  Check out her other work at loraart.com. 

Cherie: I definitely will. What is your writing process like?

James: I try to keep it as organic as possible.  I do outline, mostly to get the skeleton of the plot and the pacing right, but I purposefully try not to overdo that.  I really like to discover and explore the world and events there as they are happening.  Sometimes this method slows me down a bit, but it also has resulted in some really great twists and surprises.

Cherie: Do you see this as a series, and if so, what’s next for Jim Morgan?

James: Yes!  I’m actually working on the sequel now.  Things are going to get tough for Jim and his friends as the story progresses.  The humor will still be there, but Jim is going to be tested by darker forces than he faced in the first novel.  It’s going to be very exciting!

And now for some random, fun questions…

Favorite color?
Blue.  Been my favorite since I was a boy!

Snickers or Almond Joy? 
Going to have to go with Snickers on this one – those are good!

Are you a morning person or an evening person? 
I love the morning, especially for writing!  It’s a quiet time of day when my mind and my imagination are less cluttered and more energized.  I get much of my best work done before noon.

Do you have any guilty pleasures that get you through the writing/revising process?
I love to reward myself with a movie at a movie theater after finishing a long section or difficult portion of a novel.  And I go all out: popcorn, soda – the works!

Favorite place to write? 
I like writing in coffee shops.  For some reason I enjoy having other people around while I’m writing.  Perhaps it’s all in my mind, but sometimes I feel like I capture a bit of the energy from the activity and conversations around me.  Plus, going somewhere besides home makes it feel a little bit more like going to work or to the gym – I’m headed to this place with a purpose and I need to get that purpose done!

Thanks, James, for being with us today and congratulations on the release of your novel!

For more information on Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves:

About the author:
James Matlack Raney grew up all over the world, in Europe, Latin America, and Africa, before winding up in the mysterious land of horses and bluegrass – Kentucky. Now he calls Southern California home, writing adventures and occasionally living a few of his own.

Besides writing adventures about magical treasures, scheming thieves, and daring pirates, he also enjoys playing guitar, reading a great book by the pool or at the beach, and seeing his far-away friends and family whenever he has the chance.

Find James Matlack Raney


  1. There aren't enough boy-MG books. HP needed this addition for company. I wish James Matlack great success with this book.

  2. Great interview, Cherie and congrats to James with his new release! Looking forward to reading it! :-)

  3. Hey,

    I'm not writing MG or YA (yet!) but I really liked this interview. James struck a chord with me on several points, so thanks for having him over, Cherie :)

  4. That's a great cover! Wonderful theme too!
    It's interesting to note that James' intention was not to write just for kids, but to write a good book that would appeal to all ages...

  5. It sounds like a fun MG book with a great theme.

    PS: I also write best in the morning.

  6. I love the synopsis. My son would like this.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Being a mother of 4 boys, this will be the perfect book that I can read at night to all of them while not getting bored myself. I ordered my copy from Amazon...can't wait to get started reading.

  8. Thanks so much to Cherie for the interview, and to everyone for their kind comments!

  9. Thanks everyone for stopping by and commenting. I've been waiting for this book myself. :)

    James, it was my pleasure.