“I write because I love to tell stories, …share knowledge, and thoughts, ” says cozy mystery and family drama author James Cudney. “I always wanted to be a writer…but ultimately found myself working in technology. ”
James did well as a technical writer for a telecommunications company but as the years passed, felt like something was missing. There was constant buzzing in his brain. A whispering in his ears kept saying, You have other stories to tell. Let them be known. So after more than a decade of trying to ignore the whispers, James decided it was time to abandon the safety of a day job and give full-time writing a chance.
He hasn’t looked back since.
Now some might dip into writing as if they were testing the waters of an alpine lake. First a toe. See if it’s too cold. Then another. And if it’s bearable, slowly immerse the legs. But not James. He took a deep breath and canon-balled right into those frigid waters managing in just two and a half years to write five novels, land a publishing contract, gain thousands of followers on his popular blog, and garner the respect of both reader and author alike.
If only we all could make such a splash, huh?
So, how has he been able to achieve so much success in such a short period of time? “I have a one-year-old shiba inu dog named Baxter who likes to keep me focused on him and only him!” he answers, acknowledging the challenges of being a full time writer. He manages with organization, determination, and ignoring what others might find distracting still he was kind enough to grant me the following interview:
Tell me about your work .
“My first two novels are stand-alone family drama contemporary fiction books—Watching Glass Shatter, Father Figure. My last three are part of a light and cozy mystery series about a college campus in Pennsylvania, coincidentally based on where I went to school. The Braxton Campus Mysteries includes—Academic Curveball, Broken Heart Attack, and Flower Power Trip. My books will always focus on family drama and mystery to varying degrees, as this is where my heart and mind work best. I am planning to dabble in other genres over the next few years. I wonder how it will turn out!”
Can you tell me about your writing process?
“Since my books tend to have complex story lines that weave clues and connections throughout all the chapters, I have to plan them. I start with a ~25-page outline that lists the basic plot, setting, characters, and goals. I include a few high-level descriptions for scenes within each chapter, noting which characters are involved, what their purpose is, and what settings will be used. From there, I write 2 chapters per day on writing days. With the first two books, it took ~6 months from start to finish. With the three lighter mysteries, each is about a ~3-month process to outline, write, edit and prepare for publication. When I’m writing, I tend to sit at my dining room table on a laptop staring out onto the terrace in my NYC apartment. I spend about three hours per chapter, but sometimes it can go more quickly or take all day!”
What inspires you? How do you come up with your ideas?
“I’m plot-oriented. The first thing that comes to mind is some wicked or devious story that is chock full of surprises. Then I decide who the villain will be. Sometimes it’s a minor character, but others, I want to shock readers by making it someone core to the story. Once I know the villain, I create side-stories that allow me to show red herrings or create sub-plots to entertain and distract. I tend to be quiet and shy in person, so I’m often thinking about new books even while in a group setting. I listen and observe rather than talk and share in person. It’s a blessing and a curse!”
What is your favorite part of writing?
“My favorite part is interacting with readers to know what impression it had on them.”
How did you break into publishing?
“It was an alternative path. I started out by querying literary agents using an online database that matched author style and genre to agencies. I took 6 months while I was writing and editing Watching Glass Shatter to search for an agent to help me succeed, but like most people, I had very few responses and leads. I also had zero connections in the publishing world until I began writing a blog. After I posted two chapters, a fellow blogger read my work and privately messaged me. She was a life-savior who introduced me to her publisher, Creativia. Within a month, Creativia and I decided to partner together to build my career. Five books into it, I’m still shocked things are working out!”
What is the strangest thing you have ever had to research?
“How to create an explosion in a laboratory that has two different reactions—a minor one to distract a villain and a larger one to kill someone unexpectedly. It’s a good thing I didn’t get into science, or I might have blown up a few too many things! The scene will be in Flower Power Trip when it is published on March 30th, 2019.”
Any tips for new or aspiring authors?
“Be sure you know what your goals are before you publish something. Is it for fame? Money? Prestige? Accolades? Self-worth? Boredom? Hobby? Profession? Literary merit? Humor? Until you know what you want to accomplish, you can’t define your marketing plans or your reaction to critics. Few writers survive on income from books alone. It’s important to know that and focus on the right plan to meet your goals.”
Tell about your writing education.
“I took a few creative and fiction writing courses in high school and college.
Since then (20 years), I have done nothing formal nor obtained any
qualifications. I personally don’t learn from sitting in a classroom and
studying textbooks. I learn from talking with people, reading other people’s
works, and paying attention to what’s happening in the realm of publishing.
Should I brush up on grammar, yes. Should I take a course on marketing,
yes. But when it comes to building a character, I know enough from reading
and reviewing close to 1000 books in my lifetime. But it doesn’t mean I am
an expert. It means I have enough to be successful. I can always learn, and
if the right class came around about how to develop certain writing skills, I’d
fully jump into it!”
Who are your favorite authors and novels?
“I’ve got a bunch depending on genre. For historical fiction, I’m obsessed
with Ken Follett and Kate Morton. For mystery, I adore Agatha Christie. For
contemporary fiction, I’m enamored with Fredrik Backman and Amanda
Prowse. I’m a huge fan of Follett’s Pillars of the Earth series, but ultimately, my two
favorite books are And Then There Were None’and Murder on the Orient
Express by Christie.”
What are your plans for the future?
“I’d love to have enough of a canon and following to spend time working with younger or newer writers. I’m adept at story development and figuring out what characters will attract readers. I’d love to mentor and give back in the future once I’ve proved my skills and capabilities.”
What are you working on now?
“I’m writing a sequel to Watching Glass Shatter and the fourth book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries series. Hopefully I keep the plots separated!”
If his recent books are any indication, I’m sure he’ll have no problem.
“I write because I love to …develop characters, create settings, and share … with other people,” says James.
And we are all so thankful that you have.
For more information about James Cudney’s books see below:
Websites & Blog and Social Media Links
Laurie Woodward is the author of several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles. She also cowrote Dean and JoJo: The Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet, and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.