An Interview with James Van Pelt
This week, we're excited to chat with James Van Pelt. James Van Pelt is a full-time writer in western Colorado. His work has appeared in many science fiction and fantasy magazines and anthologies. He’s been a finalist for a Nebula Award and been reprinted in several year’s best collections. His first Young Adult novel, Pandora’s Gun, was released from Fairwood Press in August of 2015. His latest collection, The Experience Arcade and Other Stories was released at the World Fantasy Convention in 2017. His next book, The Best of James Van Pelt will come out in November.
WFC2020: Thanks for joining us, James. To get started, we'd love to hear one of your "first" stories. How did you start your writing career? Can you tell us the story of your first sale?
J: I started as a short story writer, and although I’ve published a couple novels, my identity is in the short work. I started submitting short stories in my 20s irregularly. Once I got serious, though, after I turned 30, while working on a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing at U.C. Davis, I received a phone call at home. The guy on the other end didn’t introduce himself. He started talking about a story I’d written earlier that year. I thought he might be another student or one of the professors. After a minute of confusion, I figured out he was a magazine editor who wanted to buy the story that I’d sent him, but he wanted to suggest a small edit. I don’t know how it is with other writers, but that first sale, after reading and loving science fiction and fantasy for so long, and after submitting stories without luck for a decade, made me feel like I walked on clouds. That was over thirty years ago, and I still feel that way.
WFC2020: I'm sure many of us can relate to that feeling! What insights have you gained since then that you'd like to share?
J: For most of my writing career, I taught high school and college English, raised three sons with my wife, and pursued other interests and hobbies. For the attendees who also are interested in writing but don’t know where they can find the time, or are waiting until they have more time, I’d like to suggest they don’t wait. In the time it took to read this review they could have written a paragraph on their own story. If you write a paragraph every day, and you don’t skip days, you will finish a complete work in much less time than you would think.
WFC2020: Solid advice. For people looking to familiarize themselves with your own work, which of your books would you recommend?
J: I have five short story collections out now with The Best of James Van Pelt slated for release at World Fantasy, so, of course, I’d recommend the Best of collection. It will be a collectible, limited edition hardbound book, signed and numbered available now through preorder at Fairwood Press. However, a reader looking for a smaller paperback might start with my first collection, Strangers and Beggars, also available in Kindle at Amazon.
WFC2020: We're excited for your Best of collection to be released! Tell us some more about it.
J: After over thirty years of publishing short stories in many of the science fiction, fantasy and horror markets. My publisher, Fairwood Press, decided it was time to put together a The Best of James Van Pelt collection to be released at this year’s World Fantasy. It is a huge book, containing sixty-two stories, including stories that were reprinted in several year’s best collections and finalists for numerous awards. We’re in the midst of editing now.
WFC2020: That's wonderful. It'll be a special WFC this year, for sure. What would you say is your current favorite memory from WFC?
J: World Fantasy is always memorable. Lots of wonderful times there! One that stands out is that I met Jay Lake at World Fantasy. I’d heard of him before because he was already slightly larger than life, but at the time I’d been publishing longer and at more prestigious magazines. I was pretty full of myself. During dinner, he laid out his plan to win the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (now the Astounding Award for Best New Writer). He said he was going to make a lot of sales at small, non-professional magazines to get his name out there, and then make a bunch of sales to the pro-level magazines at the same time to start his two-years of eligibility clock ticking. Obviously this was an insane plan! An author can’t control when (or if) his stories will sell. Except, he did it exactly the way he told me, winning the award in 2004.
WFC2020: Incredible! And are you working on anything at the moment?
J: I always have a short story or two in the works.
WFC2020: Excellent. And where can we find you on the Internet?
I’m most often on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/james.vanpelt.14
I have a dedicated author’s page at http://www.jamesvanpelt.com
Many of my stories are available for free or minimal fee at www.curiousfictions.com
And even though almost no one goes there anymore, I am on LiveJournal at https://jimvanpelt.livejournal.com/
Both James and his publisher, Fairwood Press, will participate in this year's Virtual World Fantasy Convention. Be on the lookout for them!