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THE JAMES GANG

March James Gang Interview

Each month, I interview authors or publishing insiders who have some form of "James" in their names or in their books. My March interviewee is author Jim Farrell!

1. Why James?

That is my given name, but I use Jim Farrell for the author name on all my books. One funny story: my birth certificate says James Farrell, but when I was confirmed (Catholic), I took the confirmation middle name of Leo, after my father. He was James L. Farrell, and I became James L. Farrell, Jr. When I entered the Army, they would not allow the Leo or the Jr. because neither was on my birth certificate. Since the Army abhors a vacuum, I became James (NMI) Farrell. My Sunoco credit card to this day lists James N. Farrell as the cardholder, and my younger son always loved it that my middle initial on the card stood for No Middle Initial.

2. What fiction genre(s) or sub-genre(s) do you write?

If I had to put my books in a category, I would say general literary fiction. There is romance in most of my books (Mikey's Quest for Father God being the exception), but you would never find my books in a romance section of Walmart or a book store.

Brooklyn Boy, my first novel, is the coming-of-age story of a young boy in 1940s and 1950s Brooklyn and Long Beach, NY. It is semi-autobiographical, but definitely fiction.

The Extraordinary Banana Tree, my second novel, is about the fall of Saigon in 1975 and the events leading up to it. I insist that it is not a war story, but a love story in time of war. Again there is a lot of Jim Farrell in Billy Dobson, the hero, but it is fiction.

Mikey's Quest for Father God is "a joyous romp through my theological and philosophical past." I spent 11 years in a Roman Catholic seminary, including two years studying Philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. and thoroughly enjoyed putting that education to use during young Mikey's quest for God.

My fourth novel, and favorite, is The Barge of Curiosity. It is the story of three youngsters who fall in love at age six and never fall out of love. Mark Tuttle, the little boy, and Peggy Mayhew, one of the two girls, both fall in love with Sandy Roberts. I can understand that; I fell in love with her too.

My fifth published book, Kiss Me, Kate, and Other Stories, is a collection of short stories set in a variety of locations and illustrating the depth of the human spirit; the importance of laughter; and the miracle of love.

3. Tell us more about your latest release.

The Barge of Curiosity, as I said in the previous section, is the story of three youngsters who fall in love with each other at age six and never fall out of love. Sandy Roberts and Mark Tuttle made their first appearance in eight stories in Kiss Me, Kate. I then expanded those stories into a novel, added Peggy Mayhew, and created a lifelong adventure for them on the barge of curiosity. Peggy created that term when they were group studying while still in grammar school, and they stay on that barge, with Mark as the captain, throughout life. Unlike my earlier novels, this one is not in any way autobiographical.

One of my favorite characters in the book is Mark's and Sandy's daughter, Maddie. Sandy asks that wonderful question about Maddie, "Can you love all your children the same, and yet love one more that the others?" There are stories within the story as Sandy creates children's books with Alexandra the Mouse (based on Maddie, of course) as the heroine. One of my favorite chapters is the next to last, Maddie's Soliloquy, where Maddie's thoughts comprise the entire chapter. (Unlike Mollie's Soliloquy in Ulysses, Maddie uses punctuation in her thoughts.) Most of the book takes place in Rhode Island, but Mark and Sandy go to Ireland twice and Italy once, on their honeymoon. He saves her life, one of two times, in Flagler Beach, Florida. And Sandy and Peggy walk on the Great Wall. They do get around. I loved writing this book, and I think readers will love living their adventures.

4. Is there a core story and/or theme in your books?

The books are all different, but if I had to pick a theme, it would be love, with all its joys and pains, highs and lows. Little Brian Farley and Anita Sanchez, the star-crossed lovers of Brooklyn Boy; Billy Dobson and Cheryl Flynn who endure the fall of South Vietnam together; Sandy Roberts and Mark Tuttle (and Peggy Mayhew) lifelong lovers in The Barge of Curiosity.

5. Do you have a favorite hero and/or heroine in your books, and why?

My wife accuses me of falling in love with all my heroines, and I think she is right. I loved Anita Sanchez while I was writing Brooklyn Boy. I fell in love with Cheryl Flynn during the writing of The Extraordinary Banana Tree. And I fell in love with Sandy Roberts while creating The Barge of Curiosity. Of the three, I would pick Cheryl Flynn as my overall favorite. She is so competent. Two scenes I loved writing:

During the evacuation of Danang: "A group of fifteen American contractors approached Billy. 'Can you get us out of here?' their spokesman asked. He assumed Billy was in charge. 'Cheryl, can we?' asked Billy, surprising the contractors. 'I thought you were in charge.' 'No,' answered Billy, 'she is. I'm just her bodyguard.' She said to the contractor, 'Don't worry. I'm not leaving behind any American who wants to get out.' The contractors all thanked Cheryl as they boarded the plane. One of them, a PA&E employee, said to Billy, 'Who is that woman? Wonder Woman?' Billy laughed and said, 'Yes, she is.'"

During the evacuation of Nha Trang: "'Mel, how are we feeding this multitude tonight? I sound like Philip asking Jesus how we're going to feed the crowd,' said Cheryl. 'There is a young boy here with five loaves and two fishes,' said Mel with a straight face. 'Shall I have him bring them to you to bless and distribute to the crowd?'"

6. What do you enjoy most about being an author?

Creating characters and watching them grow. I gave a talk at a local writers' group recently and gave them examples of how characters can surprise even the writer at times. I mentioned Sandy's question above in The Barge of Curiosity, "Can you love all your children the same, and yet love one more than the others?" That occurs early in the book. On the next to the last page of the book, Maddie's daughter, Alexandra, is visiting her grandmother, Sandy, and Sandy tells her she has the most beautiful face in the world. Alexandra smiles and says, "I look like you, Grandma." I never planned the next line. It just popped into Sandy's head, and I just wrote it down: Can you love all your grandchildren the same, and yet love one more that the others? I think it is one of the best lines, if not the best, of the novel.

7. Do you have any awards, reviews or kudos you'd like to tell us about?

I have three reviews that I cherish, all from fellow authors, the first two on Brooklyn Boy, and the third on The Extraordinary Banana Tree:

"Thank you for the pleasure and joy of Brooklyn Boy." Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, author of Girls of Tender Age.

"This was a fun and thoughtful venture into life in New York during a more innocent time. Farrell writes with a smooth style, easy to read and well paced. Funny and at times heart-wrenching, a great mix of human nature and everyday life." Karla Jay, author of Speaking in Tungs and Speak of the Devil.

"The Extraordinary Banana Tree is a deeply moving tale that provides a wondrous contrast between the ugliness of war and the power of love...Unfaltering in its vision and uncompromising in its treatment, The Extraordinary Banana Tree calls to mind the classic work of both Herman Wouk and James Jones. Stark, vibrant and not to be missed." Jon Land, author of the Caitlin Strong series.

8. How do you promote your books and your author brand?

I did nothing for the longest time. Last year, I hired a marketing consultant, WingWoman4Hire, here in Flagler Beach, Florida, and she set up a website and a Facebook author page for me, and we now do constant marketing and promoting on Facebook. That is basically the only marketing I do.

9. What is your next project?

Another collection of short stories, The Committee and Other Stories, has been edited and is now with my publisher. I hope it will be live on Amazon by April. Like Kiss Me, Kate, the stories cover multiple topics. Two of the stories that I love are “The Old Lady Whose Stool Exploded,” and “What the Hell Does Cis-gender Mean?”I had a lot of fun writing the stories. Next will be another novel, my fifth, but it is still in the planning stage.

10. Do you have a bit of wisdom you'd like to impart or a favorite quote?

Wisdom: persist. I started Brooklyn Boy forty years ago when I returned from Vietnam. I was in New Orleans at the time. I carried around over 400 type-written pages for many, many years and finished it when I retired. Did it ever change! The original title was The Scare Was Passed On, and there was no Anita Sanchez in the original. Can you imagine Brooklyn Boy without Anita Sanchez? I can't.

Quote: my good friend Frank McGoff had one of the great quotes on books: "Why do they call the great books 'The Great Books'? Because they're great books."

My links:
Email: jimfarrell12@yahoo.com
Website: www.JimFarrellAuthor.com
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/JimFarrellAuthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TennVornados
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Farrell/e/B00QJBXFGK/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1487883977&sr=1-1

Thank you, Jim! Stop by next month, when my interviewee will be author Emma Jameson!

 

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