A Book Event with Author James Rollins

James RollinsRecently I had the pleasure of meeting James Rollins, a New York Times bestselling author, at a book event at my local library. Anytime I can learn how someone has made it as an author, I’m all ears.

BornΒ James Paul Czajkowski, he is a colossal success, having written 26 novels, in the international thriller, fantasy, and young adult genres. Among that list are his Sigma Force Series Novels, a huge draw for his fans, where history meets science and a lot of stuff is blown up in between. For fantasy novels he writes under the name James Clemens. His novels have been translated in more than 40 languages.

I might have expected someone of such caliber to be intimidating or arrogant. Instead Jim was warm, funny, enthusiastic, and humble. He was there at the book event to meet with fans and offer encouragement to aspiring writers. I thought to myself how delightful it must be as an author to see your fans show up at event with a stack of your books.

His own path to becoming a writer was a circuitous one. In fact, he started out as a veterinarian. He explained that while he knew he had a scientific mind, his warped, right brain also competed for his attention. Always a voracious reader, he practiced his storytelling abilities in his childhood with tales that scared and tricked his brother. Growing up in a big family with six kids, I imagine the opportunities were endless.

He wrote short stories in the beginning and attended a writing group. Only one of his short stories was published, but it was this one achievement that gave him the push he needed to keep going. When he completed his novel and set out to get an agent, he was rejected almost 50 times, even to the tune of “This is unpublishable.” But on the fiftieth attempt, his work was accepted.

He is still active in the veterinarian community and joked he can spay or neuter a cat in thirty seconds. Animals appear in many of his books. In his latest novel, Bloodline, he examines the relationship between a war dog and his handler. In the story, the dog assumes a character role. Additionally, he actively supports veterans in a project called Authors United for Veterans and travels overseas for USO tours. It is heart-warming to see someone giving back to his community.

Although he mentioned that many of his books have been optioned in Hollywood, none have been given the green light until recently. Jim explained his interaction with Hollywood directors had previously been unlucky. He described one meeting with a certain director at his first writing conference in Maui. (By the way, he recommends this conference. Hey, sign me up!) He turned to him, thinking it was a person he knew from his home town, and said, “What are you doing here?” It so happened that this person was Ron Howard, who replied, “I was invited.”

He also described accidently hitting Quentin Tarantino in the gut at the San Diego Comic Convention. It seems Mr. Tarantino would be the last person you would want to hit, anywhere.

His advice to writers is to never give up and to keep writing. While Jim writes one novel, he is also researching for the next. In his own writing practice, he writes five pages, fives days a week. At night, he gets his reading in. He also prominently displays a post-it note on his computer that says, “You have permission to write the worst crap in the Universe.” He admits that many of his pages are polished and ready to be inserted into his story, which is often loosely outlined before writing.

He also had tips for authenticating historical events. To the laughter of the audience, he mentioned if you can get a few facts correct, like the actual location of a corner Starbucks, people will believe everything that you write. A little trick! In fact, many of his readers confuse fact from fiction. They swear the fiction is actually truthful, and the truth, all made up. I’d say that is clever writing.

As I presented my newly purchased The Devil Colony to be signed, he said to me, “If I can a write a novel, anyone can.” I left feeling a little giddy, and quite hopeful.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get to work on that short story.

Photo credit: David Sylvian

37 thoughts on “A Book Event with Author James Rollins

  1. He sounds very entertaining (and considerate)! It’s nice to hear he was so down to earth. I feel like humility is often underrated. Not that confidence is bad, or if someone is shy (I’m very shy, so I know that can be taken the wrong way), but when someone is obviously trying to prove they are doing you a favor by talking to you… yeah… that gets on my nerves pretty quickly. Anyway, that definitely doesn’t sound like it was the case here! Maybe someday you will meet James Rollins again at one of your book signings, Amy! πŸ™‚


    1. Robert, he was very entertaining. He had a great sense of humor and could laugh at himself, too. He was really humble, and I think that is always refreshing to see. In the past, I’ve come across talented people who are also humble in their success. I think it’s because they know how hard they have had to work for it. He was really nice and helpful, made me smile. That would be a little dream to have him at my book event! πŸ™‚


  2. I’ve read quite a few of Rollins’ books and he’s certainly one of the better writers out there. He seems like a down-to-Earth type guy based on what I’ve heard/read in the media and via his social media…


  3. Proof that word of mouth is still the best publicity for writers. I’m adding him to my to read list! Cool post-I’m kind of inspired to start going to local book signings now too.


    1. I thought the same thing after going to this, Rachelle. I thought I should go to more of these things. Even if you’ve never heard of the author, it’s bound to be insightful. I’m really enjoying his book. It’s action-packed.


    1. I’m always in need of motivation myself, Carrie. Good. I hope it helps. I’m enjoying his book!

      Hey, by the way, my mom read your book and loved it! Thought I would pass that on to you.


      1. Thank you! So nice to hear! Let her know that is she’d like to leave a quick review on Amazon, I’d be forever grateful (was that shameful of me to say? I bet James Rollins doesn’t have to say that…) πŸ˜‰ But in all seriousness, I appreciate you passing the word on. πŸ™‚


      2. Of course, Carrie. I will mention it to her. I’m sure she would happy to do it. Believe me, it’s a compliment coming from my mom. She reads everything! πŸ™‚

        I’m sorry I haven’t read your book. Oh, I can’t figure out this Kindle App on the iPad. Drat!! I want to read it so bad. Don’t worry, I will.


      3. Oh, please, no worries. I have no expectations. I’m just grateful you read my blog. I follow a lot of authors, and as much as I’d like to, I can’t read all their books. We all have lives that don’t have enough hours in the day. πŸ™‚


  4. β€œWhat are you doing here?” It so happened that this person was Ron Howard, who replied, β€œI was invited.”


    Brilliant post. He sounds like a great person as well as a great writer.


    1. I know, huh? Ouch is right! I think he survived it okay though.

      Thanks, J.D. Definitely. He was a lot of fun and inspiring. It’s always interesting to meet the person behind the words.


  5. I love James Rollins’s books. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him, but everything I’ve seen or read about him, he seems like a genuinely nice guy.


  6. I have never ever been to a book signing. That’s just sad. I’m glad you met someone who was so nice and funny. Makes us all able to dream big. πŸ™‚


  7. Amy, you must feel so encouraged! His words resonated with me as well, “If I can write a novel, anyone can.” I’m glad to hear that you’re buckling down and working on your short story. It will surely be a labor of love!

    By the way, I love the fact that James tried and tried again. Then, on the fiftieth attempt, his work got accepted. Talk about perseverance!


    1. I did feel encouraged, Anka. I just need to keep writing. I find it very hard to squeeze into my life at the moment. I thought the same about him. He never gave up and kept going. That’s inspiring when you think how successful he is now.


  8. James Rollins will be added to my must read list. I love that he shared his faux pas with the directors. You have to admire someone who is confident enough to share their failures along with their wins.


    1. Absolutely, Michelle. I think it’s a great quality to be able to laugh at yourself and to have a sense of humor in life. He provided a lot of detail as well. You could totally see it all happening, and he got big laughs from his audience.


  9. I’m glad you went to this talk, Amy. Your post is inspirational. I like the “if I can write a novel, anyone can.” I guess that’s true, but it may take 51 times to see publication of said novel.
    Good to know that even authors write crap sometimes.


    1. I think you need to write the crap before you can get to the good stuff. I keep thinking this way. I’m glad you felt inspired. I can never get enough inspiration, Tania. With a little perseverance, you can do anything, right? Or, a lot…


      1. I think there are many hurdles and valleys to any process. Writing is so subjective – we can be our own worst critic. I definitely appreciate all/any inspiration I can get. We need that motivation to keep going, to keep getting through crap to get to our essence.


  10. Oh please, Amy. You are so ripe and ready to put a novel out there. I’m sure it was as much a thrill for him as it was for you. People forget that. He was probably like who is this beautiful intelligent young lady asking me questions? That’s what he was thinking — I’m glad that he was kind and open and inspiring. Amy, you have it going on. You can do this. Maybe next year James Rollins will attend your book signing?


    1. Oh, I love you, Lisa! You inspire me. Thank you. I will do this. I really don’t James Rollins thought that, but he was very nice. You know, he was nice to everyone πŸ™‚ I appreciate your kind words. I need to get this going on. Yes, I do. Thank you for your encouragement. Love you,


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