Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Author Interview of James Shelley

Q. Tell us about yourself…

I was born in Los Angeles, but my family moved to Toronto when I was eight years old. My father's family is from the United States and my mother's family is Canada. Even as a very young person, I can still remember being wholly intrigued by the cultural differences between the two sides of my family -- though I obviously had no idea that the word 'culture' even existed then! Growing up in a very religious home also taught me about the intimate and powerful influence that beliefs can have in a person's life. As I grew up I began to realize how much culture and belief had shaped my understanding of the world, and it began to dawn on me that everyone -- regardless of their specific creeds and customs -- were shaped by their own heritage too. And that sparked my curiosity. How do other people see the world? How do they understand the nature of truth? In my twenties the whole world suddenly became a huge invitation to learn.

Q. What genera do you write and why?

My genre is a quirky amalgamation of historical journalism, meditative poetry, and scientific nonfiction. It's an endless dance between rationality and empiricism. It's like mixing a love for rock-solid evidence with a willingness to learn from any hypothesis. When I research a topic, I simply let my curiosity take the lead, and the words to capture the ideas morph into whatever stylistic form they need. Whether narrative, prose, or poetry, my first interest is in presenting compelling ideas. Concept first, genre second. Ideas lead, form follows. The writing format is subservient to the idea. Presenting an engaging portal to the idea is the main priority. The genre is impossible to pen sometimes: stanzas and APA citations are allowed to collide into one another.
Q. Tell us about your book….
This is the most recent addition to an ongoing compilation of reflections, brought together under the broad theme of 'compelling and provocative ideas'. It includes sixty readings that span the arts, sciences, and humanities. It is intended for people who love coming across new perspectives. The vigorous, interdisciplinary approach provides some new routes and a compass to anyone who is looking for new discoveries.

Q. What was your inspiration for this book?

A recurrent thread throughout the diverse range of topics is the relevance of 'today'. The book asks: "How do our ideas about the world shape our experiences of living the next twenty-four hours? If we change our ideas, do we change our lives?" I'm perennially fascinated by the question, "So what?" The inspiration for this book is the fact that each one of us are just one out of billions to experience conscious life on this great planet: what ideas and thoughts did those other folks have about being human? If we wrestled with some of their ideas, would our lives be the better for it?

I remember one day, many years ago, listening to a lecture (on an audio cassette; age: demonstrated) while driving home from college. The lecture was about Søren Kierkegaard's theories on the nature of time. I was astounded. I think it was one of the earliest moments that I can consciously remember thinking to myself, "I have never, ever, ever, evening imagined of thinking this way before!" Even though the lightbulb-in-the-head analogy is painfully overused, that's exactly what it was like! In an instant, I suddenly realized there was not just one way of looking at the world, but millions of different perspectives. Peering through those new perspectives became an obsession. To this day I am still helplessly intrigued and mesmerized by those moments I encounter new ways of thinking.

I would trace the inspiration for the whole Caesura Letters series back to this animating discovery: the discovery that endless new discoveries await. If I can contribute anything through writing, my hope is that the Caesura Letters introduces someone else to this exciting realization as well.

Q. Did you find anything particularly difficult in writing this book?

I constantly feel like I'm pushing the boundaries of what I should be allowed to write about. For instance, I do not have any formal science education, so the envelop of my research must always stay a few steps ahead of my writing. This is the cause of perpetual trepidation. What if I fall behind? What if I mess up an obvious scientific fact? That said, a little bit of fear goes a long to motivating rigorous effort. I try to leverage my ignorance to inspire my own learning.

Q. What project(s) are you currently working on?

I am presently working on the next book in the Caesura Letters series. Now that I am this many volumes in, I can begin to see some very interesting threads and broader themes emerge that I expect will one day warrant more focussed investigation. For now, however, there are no other specific plans in place other than to continue to build upon where the periodical has come thus far.

Q. Do you have any interesting writing quirks you want to tell us about?

I absolutely love public libraries. They are definitely my favourite place for research and writing. Furthermore, I think libraries represent something important a culture's values: they are public institutions that reflect a society's commitment to informal, self-directed education and self-betterment. Of course, none of us can force each other to become anything we do not want to be, but when we collectively pool our resources (i.e. pay taxes) to fund public libraries we are declaring that we cherish the establishment of a place where all people (regardless of socioeconomic status) are invited to the pursuit of knowledge. I find libraries incredibly synergistic places to work.

Q. Do you have any advice for writers out there?

To be entirely honest, no. If I was to give one piece of advice, it would probably be this: stop looking for advice. Sure, there are terrific books on writing out there, but when do you stop reading about writing and actually start writing? Truth is, no amount of reading about writing will help write one single word -- you just have to do it. The "writer advice industry" is almost like a vacuum: I fear that the more time you spend reading about writing, the less time you will spend actually writing.

Q. Where can we find you?


Q. And of course we have to know, where can we find your book? (your website, publisher, amazon, etc)



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