Thursday 18 November 2021

An interview with Jim Bates

 Today on my blog I welcome Jim Bates. Jim is a frequent contributor to CafeLit 

We have recently published  his collections Resilience  and Short Stuff.  I count Jim as one of my good writing friends. 

So, Jim, what do you write? Why this in particular? 

I usually write literary fiction. I’m drawn to stories having to do with real life situations and how my characters choose to deal with those situations. That being said, I also enjoy writing poetry, haiku, drabbles, flash fiction, SF, fantasy and even horror. I guess what I’m saying is that I love to write!

What got you started on writing in the first place?

While helping to care for my aged mother in 2011, I realized that my goal of being a writer had been put on the back-burner for many years. Shortly thereafter I made the decision to start writing. It was one of the most memorable decisions of my life because I suddenly felt free and alive. I was off and running, and I’ve written nearly every day since then.

Do you have a particular routine? 

My routine is to rise early and be at my desk writing by 6:30 am. I’m retired to I can usually get two hours of writing in before other commitments take over. I love to garden so during the spring, summer and fall lots of time is taken up outdoors (which I enjoy to no end.) But I love winter because I can get a lot of writing done, maybe up to four hours a day.

Do you have a dedicated working space?

I have a small bedroom on the second floor where I do my writing. It faces east so I can see the sun rise. It’s really bright and cheery. However, when I’m working away, I’m hardly ever aware of the weather or even what’s going on around me. I’m pretty focused on the story or poem or whatever. I use a laptop so I can take it with me to work remotely if I have the chance.

When did you decide you could call yourself a writer? Do you do that in fact?

Gill, when you published my first book “Resilience” I finally was able to call myself a writer. I actually had business cards printed up with my website and email address on them. I referred to myself as Jim Bates – Author on those cards. It felt good. Still does! However, I needed to see the book in print before I felt I could do that. At the moment I held “Resilience” in my hands for the first time, I felt my dream of becoming a writer had finally come true. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me that opportunity.

Our pleasure, Jim. How supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you're doing?

My family and friends are very supportive, especially my brother Tom whose lovely photo is on the cover of “Resilience”. My parents are both deceased but “Resilience” was dedicated to my mom, and my collection of short stories “Periodic Stories Volume Two” is dedicated to my dad. I think they both would have gotten a kick out of seeing me as a published author. I want to also give a shout out to the Facebook community of writers that I have met over the last three or four years. Their support has been invaluable. I dedicated “Short Stuff” my collection of flash fiction and drabbles to them.

What are you most proud of in your writing?

I am most proud of my stories. I told a friend recently that I don’t write to be published. I write to tell a good, heartfelt, emotional story. If I read what I have written and it makes me smile or makes me sad or connects with me emotionally in some way then I know I’ve done a good job. At least for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love to send my work out to see if others like it well enough to publish it or, at least, read it. It’s always a thrill to find people who like my work.  

How do you get on with editing and research?

Although I am occasionally asked to edit other writers work, editing my own work is always a challenge. Why? Because I am forever changing words, or sentences or what have you when I’m going through my own work. And I love to do that. But in order to be able to finally complete a story, I have to give myself a time frame to work under or I’d never be done! I should mention that I use editing software to catch typos and for grammar and that seems to help.

Do you have any goals for the future?

The short answer is yes, I want to keep writing for the rest of my life! LOL!! But, seriously, having made the commitment to start writing in 2011, I feel I am just now coming into my own, i.e. Finding my “voice” and coming up with fresh ideas. In the short term, I have writing projects mapped out for at least two years. I’d like to have more collections published. I’d like to do a collection of poetry. I’d like to write at least a couple more novels. I have a lot of ideas. I just need the time to get them all down. Oh, yeah. And a lot of coffee!!

Which writers have inspired you?

Henry David Thoreau for the brilliance of his mind and his ability to express himself. Mark Twain for his ability to tell a great story. And many contemporary authors like James Lee Burke, Anne Tyler, Tana French, Elizabeth Strout, William Kent Krueger and CJ Box and Paul Doiron all of whom not only telling great stories but bring to life their characters in amazing ways.


Now specifically about some of the work you’ve published with us. You write quite a lot for CafeLit. How did you find out about us and what inspired you to write the stories here?

As mentioned earlier, I started writing in 2011. That commitment ended up being a poem a day for four years. In 2015, I took an online class on short story writing and the final assignment was to write a 500-word story, something I’d never attempted before. The stories were arbitrarily sent out to the other students. My story was given to Kathy Sharp and I had hers. It was a chance meeting that changed my life for the better in ways I can’t begin to describe. Kathy and I began a correspondence. She became my mentor. She not only encouraged me to keep writing, but to start a blog and publish my stories on it. I did. She also gave me these words of advice: “Write from your heart, and write what you want to write. Publish your stories on your blog. In that way you will always be able to see the fruits of your labor.” And I started to doing that. In early 2018 both Kathy and Gail Aldwin encouraged me to send a story to CafeLit. I sent in “Remembrance Day”. When you selected it for publication in March, 2018, Gill, I was over the moon. Thank you so much!! It gave me confidence to continue on. I’ve sent stories to CafeLit every month since then. You have been the best supporter of my writing I could ever hope for. I’m eternally grateful to you for making my dream of becoming a writer come true.


What about Resilience? How did you come to write those stories?  Do they have an over-arcing theme?  

When I was given the opportunity to have a collection published by Bridge House Publishing, I went through my stories and listed my favorites. I came up with around sixty stories. I chose thirty-one of what I considered the best for “Resilience”. The theme of people being resilient is common to many of my stories. I am a firm believer in the power of the human spirit, i.e. The ability to make the most of a bad situation (something I learned from my mother.) So many of my stories deal with that. Also, just about every one of them had been published on CafeLit, so it was fun to revisit them.


Short Stuff, perhaps as the title suggests, is a collection of flash fiction. What is your relationship with flash fiction? 

In 2018, when my stories started appearing in CafeLit, I started looking at what other people were writing. In the beginning, in 2015, most of my stories were 10K – 15K words long. So, when I found out about drabbles and flash fiction, I was really intrigued. I began writing in that shorter format as a test to myself and found that I like it. I liked the brevity. I liked the challenge of telling a compelling story in a few words. It was a great learning experience. I sent a number of them out and had a fair degree of success. And I kept writing them. So, when the opportunity arose through Chapeltown Books to have a collection published, I jumped on it. I hope others have enjoyed those short pieces as much as I did writing them!


And so, what’s next? Are there any other works about to come out?

Right now, I am editing Volume Three of a collection of stories based on the periodic table of element. Volume One and Volume Two have been published through Impspired and so will Volume Three. However, in this collection, I’ve made the stories standalone yet blended them together through recurring characters into a 48K novel. I’m liking how it’s turning out. I will send the manuscript in no later than November 30 of this year. Also, I have a novel in the finals for the Open Contract Challenge through Dark Myth Publication. I’m fired up about it. It’s a fun story entitled “The Alien of Orchard Lake”. The winner should be announced by the end of November. Also, I have a collection of short stories that I will be submitting to Grant Hudson of Clarendon House on January 1, 2022. And I have a collection of horror related stories coming out in 2022 through Terror House Publications. I also have a novel entitled “A Ton of Light” that I’ve roughed out that I’d like to get started on. So…I’m staying busy!!

Thank you for this opportunity to be on your blog, Gill. Again, your support of not only me, but the writing community as a whole is amazing. Thank you so much.


Find Jim's books here: