Interview with Author James Matlack Raney, Fantasy and YA Author

Today, we have an interview with James Matlack Raney, author of the Jim Morgan fantasy YA series. It’s below freezing levels in Ohio, so I’ve opted to use my imagination and head to the beach for an awesome interview. To refresh your memory about the Jim Morgan series and what Hook of a Book has posted previously, see the links below and then enjoy the interview!

See my review of Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves HERE. See my review of Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull HERE. See a guest article on writing fantasy literature that JMR did right here on Hook of a Book HERE.

Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’ve been looking forward for some time to having you on the blog for an interview, Mr. James Matlack Raney! I am sure it will be a treasure chest of fun! Since you just published the second in your Jim Morgan series, called Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull, have you had any time to rest or is it all swashbuckling good times? How has the book launch gone?

JMR: Thanks for having me, Erin! I’ve really appreciated your support during both launches in the Jim Morgan series. This current launch has been going well so far, the critical reception of the book being better than I could have hoped, including a 5-Star review from Foreword reviews, and a great review from Hook of a Book! I am hoping that sales will start to pick up in the New Year, especially as I begin my school visits in February


Erin: I’ve given you 5 stars as well. I truly loved the book.  So, what’s your drink of choice? See it’s cold and I’m knee deep in snow here in Ohio, and you’re in sunny California….so I’m thinking that I’d like to imagine being on the beach with a sunset cocktail in my hands. Wanna head out to the sands to do our interview?

JMR:  Haha! Already beat you there! I spent today playing beach volleyball with some friends of mine! But in SD, the beach is nearly always warm enough for a sit down. As for drink of choice, whenever I’m writing I like to drink hot chai tea – in fact, the lovely folks at my local Peet’s Coffee usually have it ready for me before I even reach the front of the line.

Erin: Ah, the warm sand feels great on my toes. Just puts me in the perfect mind set. Let me get started asking you a few questions.


James Matlack Raney, Author

Q:  When did you decide to become a full-fledged writer of novels that would thrill young readers (and adults as well–*wink*)? How long have you been writing?

A:  I tried to write my first novel when I was about ten years old, a science fiction adventure about astronaut policemen who lived on a space station. It was pretty terrible! But I’ve been writing seriously for over eleven years now. I wrote out the story that eventually became my first novel while bored to tears in a work training, and I never looked back!

Q:  What life experiences have you had that helped you mold the adventures within your book?

A: I grew up in an army family, so by the time I was fourteen years old I’d already lived in three foreign countries and all over the states. I was exposed to different cultures, managed to have some exotic adventures, and all while trying to master that crazy trick of growing up and becoming an adult at the same time. My childhood definitely continues to influence my work, even today.

Q:  You’ve traveled and lived many places around the world. Where has been your favorite place so far? What was your most heroic adventure?

A: I don’t know how heroic it was, but when I was twelve, while on a hike with some friends in Kenya, I was charged by a cape buffalo! I would hardly call it bravery, but I did remember that our camp leader had told us if we were ever charged by a buffalo, to lie down, so that it couldn’t gore you. So I at least remembered that lesson, and it did indeed save my life! But for all the wild and crazy places I’ve lived, I love Southern California the most, the beaches, the warm weather, and the friendly people can’t be beat.

Q:  How did you create the characters within your Jim Morgan series? How did you build them so well and define their personalities and purposes?

A: While there is a lot of me in all my characters, I have to give some credit to my nephews for helping me create the brothers Ratt. My sister has four boys, and they are some of the roughest, toughest, most mischievous and hilarious little guys I’ve ever met!

Q:  Did you have any motivation behind writing your Jim Morgan series other than entertaining fun? Do you use an outline when you write, or do you write as you imagine?

A: Mostly to entertain, but like Jim, I also lost my father at a young age, and I really wanted to share some of the experiences of growing up and learning from my own mistakes without that important influence in my life. So hopefully some of that sneaks through the sea battles, enchantments, and monster attacks!

As for the writing process, while I do outline, I also like to leave room for sudden inspiration to strike. That’s how Cornelius Darkfeather learned to speak, in fact. I was just planning on having a raven as Dread Steele’s pet, but then I was writing and all the sudden decided it would be awesome if Cornelius could speak!

Q:  How long does it take you to write your books? Do you hope to write one every year?

A: One a year would be great! I do have a full-time job, so that goal might be a bit ambitious, as It took me about thirteen months from beginning to end to finish Pirates of the Black Skull. I start work on the third book of the series in February, so we’ll see what kind of pace I can keep.

Q:  Do you enjoy writing anything else? Have you thought about writing another genre or will you stick with the fantasy adventure?

A: Fantasy adventure is my favorite by far, but I have some ideas for more mature stories, including a YA and a thriller aimed at older readers. Hopefully I’ll write long enough to see them all in print one day!

Q:  Who are some of your favorite writers? What do you hope your novels will leave behind for readers years later as some of them did for you?

A: I’m a huge Stephen King and Neil Gaiman fan, and I’ve read almost all their books, but I’m really looking forward to more Ernest Cline after reading Ready Player One this year. As for my own books, if they can leave behind a smile, and that child-like sense of wonder that leads people to shoot for the stars, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Q:  I enjoyed how this second book including sea monsters, talking reptiles, a vanishing island…it was so exciting. What is your favorite myth or legend of the sea?

A:  Gotta go with the Bermuda Triangle…because it might just be real!

Q:  What else do you enjoy besides writing and going to the bookstore (oh, I know you do!)?

A: Those really are my favorite things to do! But between that and work, there’s not much time left. However, when I can squeeze it in, I enjoy working out and playing guitar, though this year, I’d love to somehow add some surfing into the mix.

Q:  What is your favorite type of food and what do you eat to relax after either a stressful work day or a long writing session?

A: Don’t tell on me, but I have an unconquerable weakness for hamburgers! I can’t get enough of them!

Q:  What was your favorite movie of 2014 and why?

A:  I thought Rush was the best movie of the year, even though I also enjoyed several others, but I thought it really got to the heart of these two men, and what drove them to put their lives on the line every time they got behind the wheel of a racecar. 

Erin:  I could go on and on with the questions, but we’ll need to go grab you a hamburger to eat, and me a turkey burger (I don’t eat red meat), so we’ll finish up our interview and you can continue on with the rest of your blog tour!

Q:  Where can readers connect with you?

A:  The best place is at my author Facebook page, at, or on Twitter, @jmraneywriter.

Q:  Where can your book be purchased?

A: is probably the easiest, as well as on Barnes & Noble’s website. But if you live in San Diego, visit the good folks at Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, who carry both of my books!

Erin:  JMR, it was such fun walking on the beach and discussing your interests and books with you. I wish you so much continued success with your series and your future writing endeavors! You’re such a joy of a person and you write such fabulous, fun adventures that any young adult will enjoy.  Feel free to stop back by the blog anytime you wish!

JMR: Thanks for having me, Erin! Hopefully we’ll talk again when I’m releasing book #3 in the Jim Morgan series!

Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull, Synopsis~

JMKTSecondBookKindleCoverOver a year has passed since Jim Morgan outwitted the King of Thieves and escaped from London with his friends, Lacey and the Brothers Ratt. Now, at long last, Jim is ready to return home to Morgan Manor.

But a dark vision haunts Jim’s dreams – a Crimson Storm with the face of a black skull. Soon, Jim is thrust into a deadly race against his father’s old enemies, Count Cromier and his son, Bartholomew. This time, he will face terrors beyond his imagination – pirate battles, hidden islands, sorcerers, and sea monsters.

New foes and magic forces will tempt and test Jim. For there are terrible secrets he has yet to learn, secrets about his father, the Treasure of the Ocean, and his own incredible destiny…

Adventure has a new name – Jim Morgan!

James Matlack Raney, Biography~

JMRJames Matlack Raney grew up all over the world, in Europe, Latin America, and Africa. Now he calls Southern California home, writing adventures and occasionally living a few of his own.

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