I am thrilled to share this interview with bestselling author, James Kahn, who is also a judge for the World’s Best Story contest.
1- What are the ingredients for a blockbuster story to you?
Has to be a sympathetic lead. That doesn’t mean nice, necessarily. In fact wounded, flawed, is better. But you have to identify with the lead so when he starts out on his blockbuster journey you want to take that emotional ride with him. Then the journey itself has to be a big “What if…” What if a 10 year old kid discovered he was a wizard? What if a penniless artist fell in love with a wealthy socialite aboard the Titanic?
2- What story has influenced your life?
Treasure Island. I first heard the very abbreviated novel narrated by Basil Rathbone on an old 33 1/3 rpm LP record when I was 4 years old. I really identified with young Jim Hawkins, hiding in the apple barrel below decks, eavesdropping on the pirates planning to mutiny. (Vincent – I can send you a 750 word essay I once wrote on it, if you like.)
3- What writer would you consider a mentor?
Too many to count. Among them, John Le Carre, Alexander Dumas, Larry McMurtry, Harper Lee. I’ve read their books numerous times, sometimes for pure enjoyment, sometimes to study pieces of their craft – plotting, dialogue, character development, prose, heart.
4- What story do you enjoy reading over and over again?
Lonesome Dove. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Winnie The Pooh.
5- Do you have any advice to aspiring writers?
Sit your ass down and write. All writing is rewriting. It’s most important just to get something down, anything, even if you know it’s bad as you’re writing it. Then you go back to it and start the long process of rewriting. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your 2nd or 3rd draft is good enough. Get feedback from trusted friends, don’t try to defend what you’ve written, just absorb the notes, use what seems appropriate, and write it again. I just finished a screenwriting workshop at a place called Writer’s Boot Camp, and their motto is: The secret to writing is writing.
6- Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Yes, when I was 8 or 9 I used to read comic books – Amazing Stories, Tales From the Crypt, etc – and when I was disappointed in some aspect of one of the stories, I’d rewrite it as a short story, with my changes, in an 8 1/2 X 11 notebook.
7- How would you increase literacy?
The way I learned to read and love books was to be read to by parents who loved books. Same with my kids. If I were king I’d have the government finance a huge national push for teens, college students, young and old adults, to read fun stories to kids at a young age – kids in preschool, kids in day care centers. Make a TV show of reading fun books, like Reading Rainbow used to be. Make bedtime story readers available to any family who wants one to come over and read to their kids.
8- Any exciting news/hints about your upcoming projects?
Just re-released the third book of my old science fiction trilogy – Timefall – available as an ebook, on Kindle, or paperback at Barnes and Noble, along with the first two books of the trilogy, World Enough and Time, andTime’s Dark Laughter.
Also have a new book out in the fall, Incarnate, a reincarnation thriller, scary and full of surprising twists.
9- If you were given the power to become invisible for one day, what would you do?
Not for publication.
10- If heaven exists, what is the first thing you would like to hear from God when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Welcome back! Who would you like to be in your next life?
11- If you could relive one of the happiest days of your life, what would it be?
The day I got married.
12- What ice cream flavor would you invent?
Chocolate caramel cherry truffle.
James Kahn’s original work includes three novels in the New World series: World Enough, and Time (1980), Time’s Dark Laughter (1982), and Timefall (1987). As well as Return of the Jedi, he wrote the novelizations of the films Poltergeist and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He has was also producer and writer for well-known television series such as Melrose Place and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
James has worked with celebrated filmmaker Steven Spielberg, Star Wars creator George Lucas, and renowned sci-fi editor Judy Lynn Del Rey. Not only do his fiction credits include Return of the Jedi (on the New York Times Best-seller List for months), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Goonies, and Poltergeist; he’s also written for such television shows as Star Trek: Voyager and Xena: Warrior Princess.
James did several more novelizations after that – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Goonies and Poltergeist II. During this period he also began to get television work, writing first for St. Elsewhere, and later, E/R – a sitcom about an emergency room starring Elliott Gould and Mary MacDonald, in which Kahn created the character of a teen orderly named Ace, played by a young George Clooney.
James wrote primarily for television for the next 20 years. Among the series he worked on were Family Medical Center, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Beyond Reality, TekWar (created by William Shatner), Medicine Ball, Xena: Warrior Princess, Melrose Place (which he also co-executive produced in its last years), Star Trek: Voyager (also Supervising Producer) and All My Children (for which he and the writing staff were Emmy-nominated).