1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I just finished my 25th (and easily my most unusual) year as a teacher. I teach history, psychology, and philosophy. These disciplines definitely influence my writing, as does the act of being a teacher! I believe the best way for a student to learn and appreciate history is to engage, what I call, their historic imaginations. There is a lot of creative energy generated in my class and I know that rekindled my desire to write…a desire I was first aware of in the third grade.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
As you know, Anthony, that question is always a bit harder to answer than people think. There’s a full pie chart of inspirations for this story. When I teach history I always view it as a grand narrative of big and small stories that revolve around suffering, struggling, and – hopefully – overcoming. In psychology, which I also teach, we see a grand array of suffering, struggling, and overcoming. When writing this story I clearly wanted to continue that classroom motif. I believe that comes through clearly to readers. You stated in your review of Out of the Basement that one of the book’s strengths is the ability to highlight “…the inner demons so many people must face and yet hide behind a carefully orchestrated mask to hide the pain,…” To me, that is a key to the book…you don’t have to personally know the protagonist’s pain to connect to the idea of suffering and struggle. There is an exploration of a core concept of our shared humanity at play in the story, an aspect of the human condition that any reader can connect with.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
The back cover of the book has the phrase “Find Hope in the Darkness.” That is definitely one theme at work in the book, the idea that even at the worst of times hope exists. It may be obscured or seem unavailable, but it is there if we can look past our pain and find it. That’s definitely one of the many themes embedded in the pages of Out of the Basement.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
I teach psychology and a class called P3: Philosophy, Psychology, and Pop-Culture. The P3 class evaluates and utilizes movies, music, and television shows to illuminate psychological and philosophical theories. My interest in those topics in my classroom strengthened my interest in those types of stories.
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
Ha! That’s a great question. I think I would like to walk a few laps around the park with Father Sylvan. That character has a deep well of insight, compassion, and patience. I think I could learn a thing or two from him!
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
Thus far, Facebook. I’m new to the social media marketing game so that’s where I started.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
Write and be open to suggestions from thoughtful readers. You don’t have to take every suggestion to heart, but listening to people’s reaction to your manuscript can be very helpful. We all have blind spots when we write so extra eyes can be helpful. A group of creative people sharing ideas and their work can also help you maintain a writing schedule.
Speaking of writing schedules, don’t try to adopt someone else’s or feel guilty if you don’t write every day as some stress you must. I am a full time teacher, I teach in an evening program, and have four children. Some days I don’t write a word. Sometimes days on end. I do, however, take notes and record thoughts on my cell phone to refer back to when I carve out my writing time.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
Book sales, I hope! I am holding some online book events and trying to be creative in the promotion of Out of the Basement. I have a dystopian manuscript, Stone Souls, that I hope to have released in the near, and hopefully post-COVID-19, future.
About the Author
James Rourke has been a high school of teacher of history, psychology, and philosophy for twenty-five years. His commitment to the idea that these three disciplines can assist his students to connect not only with his material, but to the unifying aspects of humanity, also guides his writing. “The Comic Book Curriculum” is praised for revealing”how major superheroes and their stories raise some of the deepest and most important ethical and psychological questions we all need to ask and answer.” This aspect of storytelling, the quest to tell stories that entertain, challenge, and uplift the reader, inspires James in his fiction as well.