Today I am happy to be hosting Ryan James, co-writer of the all-new paranormal book Forbidden!
Hello, thank you for joining us today! My first question is what was the inspiration behind Forbidden, and what led to the collaboration between you & your mother in writing this book?
Several years ago, my mom had wanted to write a book about a teenage girl who begins getting psychic messages from a mysterious source, and falls in love with a boy at school who she enlists to help solve the mystery. Around that same time, we also co-wrote a screenplay about a young, lonely, supernatural action hero in a dark world, whose heart’s desire is to be human and lead a normal life.
Flash forward a few years. She was standing in line for a movie at a film festival, thinking about what she should write next… when inspiration hit. What if we combined the hero in the movie we’d written and produced together with her idea of the psychic girl? At that instant, she called me and asked my “permission” to combine the ideas in her next book. I immediately loved the idea, but insisted that we write the book together. The result turned out better than either idea on its own, since each made the other stronger and more unique.
Can you tell us a little bit about the writing process, and how co-writing is different than writing alone?
Writing is normally a solitary process, where it’s just you and your own thoughts. Upside? You can just channel what’s in your head out onto the page. Downside? Anything you put down will only be the best—and worst—that your lone mind can come up with.
Co-writing is different, and for me it’s more of a blast. I work in video games by day, so I’m already a glutton for collaboration. When you write together, it’s two people pouring ideas and sentences out of their heads, and two people tempering each other’s ideas to be that much better as they land on the page.
Three days a week for six months, from 9AM to 6PM, we sat together at Syrie’s computer and wrote the first draft. Because we wrote the book sitting side by side, from creating the characters and outlining the story, to inventing details about their unique world, the quality of what we wrote benefited from the constant input of our two minds. Once we sold the book to HarperTeen, my mom did a major revision on her own, because I was busy working 60 hours a week and planning my wedding—but I reviewed all the changes, and we did another complete pass at the novel together. We both loved working as a team. We challenged each other to explore new ideas, and often found ourselves finishing each other’s sentences. It has been a remarkable and very rewarding experience.
If you had to pick a character in the book you are the most similar to, who would it be & why?
Any writer will tell you that there’s a piece of them in every character they write, even the “evil” ones. The same is true for me. But as Alec was originally “my” character from the film I’d conceived years ago, he is the one I still am the most like. A deep passion for life, but weighed down by responsibility? Me. Socially awkward at times, with a bit of a temper, but mostly well-intentioned? Me also. Gifted with extraordinary powers that are a blessing as well as a curse? … I’m really close on this one…
Final question, what kind of books do you enjoy reading?
I enjoy reading any well-written story, regardless of genre or format. (Many of my favorite movies are actually adapted from books.) Science Fiction, fantasy, drama, comedy, horror—most of my favorite works blend these elements as much as possible. I find that lately I’m drawn (no pun intended) to comics and graphic novels a lot because there are so many interesting, non-superhero things being produced in that part of the industry. What really matters to me are well-thought-out characters who are presented with an opportunity to learn, grow, and change over the course of the tale, and then make their choice whether or not to do so. Stories like that have an organic, non-episodic flow that builds to a great climactic moment, and I always thrill in experiencing that crescendo. It’s also important to me that the female characters in these stories be—or become—strong, nuanced individuals, since that’s something a lot of male writers to this day still struggle to do. (ADD DRACULA MY LOVE REFERENCE HERE.)