A Children’s Wordsmith, Word-pecker, Word Wizard, 'imaginator', Dragon Tamer - oh and he writes the occasional book.
“I wrote this story for you, but…..you are already too old for fairy tales.
But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.
You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it.
I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand.”
C. S. Lewis
James was born in Yorkshire, but his ancestral roots are to be found in Wales and Devon.
He was educated in Africa and worked there until the age of twenty-five when he returned home to the UK.
In 1997 he was advised to write, although he dismissed the idea. But in 2001 he wrote his first reference book, followed by several historical biographies.
Then in 2021, after a life-changing event, James decided to write a story for his young niece and nephew called The Musings of the Milliner. This was only supposed to be a single book, however, parents were soon asking when the next one was going to be available. The Magical Misadventures of Mr Milliner Series is now in its seventh book!
James is a prolific writer, with over thirty children's books to his name. Yet he remains reluctant to take praise or compliments and always shuns the limelight.
James often says 'It's the story that matters, not the author.'
He lives in Oxfordshire and writes full-time.
To try and explain where his stories come from would be impossible and not even James can't explain it. His writing process is as unorthodox and as quirky as his books are magical and mind-transporting.
He admits to being a 'Pantser' writer. He just allows the stories to come to him and writes them straight from his head.
James doesn't watch the news, read newspapers or stay up-to-date with current affairs. Instead, he tries to put himself into the mind of a child where there is an innocence with days filled with imagination and adventure. Children are certainly not bothered by who the current Prime Minister is or if mortgage rates are on the rise.
"I need to be in a happy place when I write my children's stories. The last thing I need is my mind filled with Doom and Gloom, Global Disasters or Celebrity Gossip."
"Isn’t it wonderful when you see your child reading a book? It’s even more amazing when you pick the book up after they have gone to bed, and love it just as much! For me, that’s the joy of writing - to offer a story that appeals to all age groups.
Reading a book will do many different things to many different people because we are all different.
As a writer, my aim is to keep readers entertained, educated, and - most of all - emotionally moved. I often get emotional as I write a story, either for the character, or the storyline, then I know that a few of my readers will do also.
That keeps them turning the pages. "
"Acorns are tiny little shells full of potential. Inside each acorn is a magnificent energy for life that, in the right conditions, will allow them to grow into one of the biggest and strongest trees on this planet of ours.
Children are all like acorns, carrying within them an inner gift of imagination, an imagination of the mighty tree they will hope to grow into one day.
As adults, it is our duty to nurture, feed and support their growth, so we might one day sit beneath their branches and be proud of the tree that they have grown into."
I always have several books on the go at any one time. But I am predominantly working on 'Theodore' and 'Walter Shrew' at the moment.
My writing process is what's called a 'Pantser' as opposed to a 'Plotter'. Meaning there is no research, no outlining of the content and no storyboard. I just sit down at the computer and write from page one through to the end, just as the story comes to me.
It varies. A Mr Milliner-type story is about 50k words and takes me a month or so. However, an Albert Mouse adventure is about 10-12k words and usually just takes me several days - such is the joy of Albert! The Mouse who wanted to see the World took me just eight hours to write in a single sitting.
That's a difficult question. I owe Mr Milliner a great deal as he set me on the road to becoming a children's author. But then we have Albert Mouse, I mean who could not love little Albert? He's adorable.
Since 2001, I've written a total of 50 books (37 for children). I did total up the amount of words in all those books and it came to 1.1 million words which was a bit of a surprise!
For me, it wasn't selling my first book, although it was a nice feeling. I'd have to say my proudest moment was when all the staff of Feniton Church of England Primary School dressed up as Albert Mouse on World Book Day. It made me realise that my books were changing people's lives and it was very emotional.
As I child I remember reading classics like The Wind in the Willows, The Tales of Peter Rabbit, Tom Sawyer and The Jungle Book. However, since I've become a children's author, I've made a point of not reading any children's books or watching any children's films. I want to keep my stories as original as possible and fear that if I read someone else's work I will lose that originality. An author must always be themselves and not try to write like someone else.
AI? (taking a deep breath) I believe it has no place in the creative writing process. After all, isn't the clue in the title? I also feel AI will jeopardise real authors out there who spend many hours and even months creating their beautiful stories. I continuously make a stand against the use of AI in any form of writing.
The Royal Society of Literature (RSL) was founded in 1820, with the patronage of George IV, to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent".
The Patron is HRH Queen Camilla.
The SoA was established in 1884 to advise individual members and lobby for the interests of authors.
Alfred Lord Tennyson became the society's first President.
The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) is a trade union representing professional writers in TV, film, theatre, radio, books, comedy, poetry, animation and video games.
Their members also include emerging and aspiring writers.
The WGGB was established in 1959 and its current President is Sandi Toksvig OBE.
"Children are the only people who accept a mood of wonderment, who are ready to welcome a perfect miracle at any hour of the day or night. Only a child can entertain an angel unawares, or to meet Sir Lancelot in shining armour on a moonlit road.”
The Musings of the Milliner was featured in the magazine's Book Review section.
James recently did a series of book readings and signings. One of them was at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley. This was a very special location for James, given its connection with The Wind in the Willows.
James dropped into the Dartmouth Visitor Centre to sign copies of his Albert Mouse books.
He also returned on the 1st of October for a 'meet the author' morning where he signed more copies of Dartmouth's most fa-mouse resident (Albert Mouse)
Albert learns to swim featured in By The Dart Magazines Book Review.
James was mentioned when a very special house came on the market.
Cherub Cottage is the home of Albert Mouse, which probably makes this house the most important in the whole of Dartmouth.
"If a magician puts a curse upon you then your hens are probably going to lay a bit funny or your child might be born with a squint, which is not that terrible. But if a bard puts a satire upon you that’s finely worded enough, then even 300 years after you’re dead, people might still be laughing at you."
IWG interviewed James for their Capital Markets Day that took place in New York in December 2023. His story was shared to highlight the positive impact of the IWG business community.
When Kenneth Grahame wrote The Wind in the Willows in 1908, he had little interest in what he called "painstaking realism".
When Beatrix Potter criticised Mr Toad for combing his hair, calling it “an impossibility for any toad", Grahame said "her comments bothered him not a jot, after all, her rabbits wore clothes!"
Chair Chats is our new regular podcast where James will have conversations with people who inspire him. He will discuss subjects that are important and talk about what drives them.
The guests will certainly have a story to tell, so pull up a chair because there are going to be some fascinating conversations.
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