BookView Interview with Author Jim Hamilton

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed Jim Hamilton, author of deliciously cozy science fiction and mystery books, including The Chaos Trilogy: Better Life Through ACME, Raising Miss Ellie  and several others. After half a century of designing, building, programming, and maintaining computers, Jim is retired and writes full time now.

I was born and raised on Planet Earth in the American sector. I am happily married and have three wonderful children. After half a century of designing, building, programming, and maintaining computers, I have finally retired. Nine out of ten people swear that I’m mostly harmless.

You can visit me on my Amazon author page at https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Hamilton/e/B01M0V6FSR

What’s the most difficult thing about writing a novel?

For me, it’s coming up with a unique plot. With the tens of thousands of Sci-Fi plots that have already been done, this is the hardest part. However, once I conceive of yet a new wrinkle, it just becomes a matter of telling the story in an interesting way. Once I have the story firmly in mind, I populate it with characters and let them interact in natural ways to wherever the storyline takes them. Most of the time, they follow my lead and end up where I want them to be. However, there have been two exceptions, Goddess of the Gillani and Stranded in Eloi, in which the characters did something entirely different than what I had planned for them. This is what happens when you give your characters Free Will.

What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

Almost all of them. I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. My mother learned early on that the easiest way to keep me quiet was to give me another book to read. My grandmother was an English teacher and always provided “grown-up” books as Christmas and birthday gifts. By the time I was twelve, I had read all of the Tom Swift, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Dana Girls, and Happy Hollisters books available. Thanks to my grandmother, I had also read Edith Hamilton’s (no relation) Mythology and numerous biographies of various famous people. Although I’ll read almost any genre, when it comes to writing, it’s almost exclusively Science Fiction. Heinlein, Asimov, Wells, Clarke, Stephenson, and especially Douglas Adams, are but a few of the authors that have influenced my writing.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

My first novel took seven years. In the Spring of 2016, my wife asked me if I was ever going to finish the damned thing. I promised her that I would finish it by the end of that summer and I kept my promise. My second novel only took five months. Over the past five years, they’ve varied between a few months to almost a year. Some of them are novellas which only take about six weeks or so.

Is writer’s block real?

Definitely. Sometimes it’s when I’m trying to come up with a new idea for a plot. Other times I can’t quite figure out how to ease into telling the tale. Once I’m past those hurdles, however, I’ve never had any problems.

Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?

My first novel, which ballooned into a decalogy, started with a photograph in National Geographic. It was of a small folding wooden tablet, complete with stylus, that was found on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. 5,000 years ago, it was used to track the inventory on the ships that were plying the trade triangle between Egypt, Greece, and Italy. Combined with what little we know of the ancient Sumerians, I began toying with the idea of aliens that had crash-landed on Earth in 5342 BC and what might have resulted. Twenty years later, I began writing The Chaos Machine.

Tell us some more about your book.

I read Erich von Däniken’s book, Chariots of the Gods?, when it first came out. While I don’t necessarily believe that we have been visited by extra-terrestrials, I can’t rule it out. If they visited us in the past, what happened to them? Are they still here? If so, where are they? And what if their lifespans were 100,000 years instead of only 100 years? I added a new wrinkle to the plot by having them develop a device that could predict the future. Using it, they learn that the humans are going to die out in only a thousand years and so they set about making small changes from time-to-time in order to keep us from killing ourselves off. The Chaos Machine is followed by another book, Second Contact, that takes place 5,342 years in the future. Due to the long lifespan of the Shoomarans, the same alien characters are back again with a whole new cast of Humans, Denoshii, and Relsynki added. This is followed by a third book, Mankind 2.0, that bridges the first two novels and—finally!—completes my original story.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Of course I do. It’s the only way I can get any feedback as to whether or not I’m hitting the mark. Most of the reviews are quite good. A couple that aren’t explain why they didn’t like my book and I’m good with that. I write for myself and hope others might enjoy what I’ve written. If not? That’s okay. We are all different, after all, and it would be terribly boring if we were all the same.

Random factoid

I was a high school dropout before I got kicked out of a university for not being serious enough.

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