James Boyle has been writing fiction and poetry for most of his life. He was born in North Carolina, but lived in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Washington, before his family settled down in Oregon when he was fifteen. He graduated high school there and received a degree in literature and writing from the University of Oregon. In 2003 he returned to Gold Beach, where he now makes his home. For the past five years, he has been a volunteer organizer for the South Coast Writer’s Conference. His debut novel,Ni’il: The Awakening, was an award-winning finalist in both the 2010 Indie Excellence Book Awards and the 2010 International Book Awards, both for horror fiction.
You can find James at www.jamesboylewrites.com
His mouth was very dry and he stepped into the short line at the student run concession stand. Th e line moved quickly, and within a minute or two, he stood at the counter.
“Hi,” A young girl smiled at him through a mouthful of braces. “What can I get for you?”
He ordered a soda and waited while the girl dispensed it from the fountain.
“You’re the Chief of Police, aren’t you?”
Dan nodded. “Guilty.”
The girl giggled and waited for the foam to subside on his drink. Dan watched her, smiling. Th e girl was probably sixteen, or seventeen. She could have been quite beautiful, and probably would once she got used to her own sexuality. Her hair was thick and curly, her body curved in all the right places and with the firmness of youth. Right now though, she wore too much make-up and her miniskirt and sweater were a touch too tight. With age would come subtlety. Maybe.
“Should I know you?”
“You gave a speech to my class last year,” the girl said and set the paper cup of soda on the counter. “On drugs.”
Dan gave her his money. “Was it any good?”
She shrugged and gave him his change. “It was okay. I already knew most of the stuff you talked about.”
“Oh well,” he said. “At least I didn’t put you to sleep.”
She giggled again.
He thanked her and stepped outside to take a quick look around the school. The night was calm and starless, absolutely quiet but for the muffled cheers from the gymnasium and the distant rumble of surf. He could smell sea salt and popcorn.
The sidewalk led around the side of the gymnasium and he followed it, walking casually, neither slow nor hurried. He sipped his cola and scanned the parked cars and dark buildings for anything unusual. He’d found through experience that the unusual was usually easiest to spot and unusual for a reason.
He rounded the back of the building. The sidewalk ended and he found himself walking across asphalt that was both the access road and parking lot for the teaching staff when school was in session. School, however, was not in session and the parking areas were empty.
The calm darkness was peaceful, if a little spooky. Even in adulthood, he had not outgrown the feeling that the school was supposed to be full of young voices. He had spent many hours among these buildings. Seeing it dark and empty felt like a Twilight Zone episode where everyone else on the planet had been killed.
As he passed between the main building and the dark mass of the shop building on his left, a furtive movement caught his eye. It was unusual. There was no legitimate reason for anyone to be back here.
His senses went on high alert, but he did not change his pace or attitude.
He continued past the spot where he’d seen the motion and used his peripheral vision to examine it more closely. Again, he saw motion, a shadowy silhouette ducking behind the back of the building. Someone was trying to hide from him.
He kept his pace even and nonchalant until the neighboring music building hid him from the suspect’s sight. Then, as quickly and quietly as possible, he slipped next to the wall of the music building and doubled back until he was almost at its edge. A security fence ran along the back side of the buildings. If the suspects wanted to escape, and they thought he had kept going, they would emerge from between the buildings. They had nowhere else to go.
He could probably reach out and grab them.
For a few moments, he heard and saw nothing. He waited. Then, came soft footsteps from around the corner. Approaching.
He readied himself. It was probably just some kids sneaking a beer, or a joint, but it could just as easily be a burglar or vandal.
The footsteps reached the edge of the music building and stopped just around the corner. They must want to double check that Dan had really kept going.
He stayed where he was, pressed flat against the wall. When in doubt, let the other guy make the first move.
Laughter. Deep bass laughter sounded from around the corner. They, he, was laughing! Something about it made his flesh crawl and the hairs stand up on the back of his neck.
“Ni’ilshanla,” A voice pronounced.
He knew he was there.
Dan fumbled for the small pistol he wore on his belt. With the pistol gripped in tight in both hands, he leaped away from the wall and around the corner. “Police! Hands where I can . . .”
No one was there.
He quickly scanned the area between the buildings, then carefully moved up to check behind both the Shop and the Music building. No one was there either. He was alone.
He lowered his pistol and leaned back against the wall of the music building. His hands were shaking and his heart pounding. Had he imagined the whole thing? Somehow, he found that hard to believe. He was not prone to hallucinations, at least he hadn’t been in the past. But how else could he explain what he’d seen and heard with what he’d found when he’d rounded the corner?
He had no idea.
Welcome to Paperback Writer.
Thanks for having me.
Q: Would you share with us how you came up with the idea for your book?
A: I will do my best. I don’t remember having a specific idea so much as a character and a situation. I had created the character of Police Chief Dan Connor in an earlier sketch and thought he would be a good fit for the horror story I wanted to write. From there, I let the story take me where it would.
Q: Was it a light bulb moment or something that you thought about for a very
A: It was a series of light bulb moments, one after the other over a period of months. I didn’t so much build the story as find it. Or that’s how it felt.
Q: How did you come up with the title?
A: The current title is not the original one. At first, I simply called it Ni’il, taken from a foreign phrase used in the book. However, several people (including my editor) observed that no one knew what that meant, and were therefore, less likely to give it a chance. After much thought, brainstorming, etc. I decided to add “the awakening.” It seems to have worked out.
Q: How did you find an agent and publisher?
A: I decided to publish this on my own. I had submitted it to several publishers and one asked to see the full manuscript. After holding it for a year, they politely turned me down. At that rate, I decided, I could be dead before a commercial publisher actually got it into print.
Q: How long did it take you to complete the first draft?
A: About a year.
Q: What’s your favorite time of day to write?
A: Late at night/ early in the morning. There are fewer distractions. The phone never rings; no one comes to the door; everyone else in the house is asleep. I turn off all the lights but that at my desk and write in a cocoon of darkness.
Q: Do you have a writing routine? Daily goals (# of pages, word count) or a
specific ritual you do to jumpstart the writing muse?
A: Nothing that specific. As you can tell, I am something of an intuitive writer. I’ll often begin the session wanting to finish a particular scene, or group of scenes, but it isn’t a hard and fast rule. The only real strict rule I have is a piece of advice Hemingway gave to a young writer as a way of defeating writer’s block. That is to always stop writing for the day when you know what you’re going to say next. That way you’ll have something to start with next time. That rule has served me well.
Q: With all that you have encountered on the road to publication what advice
would you give to new authors?
A: Believe in yourself. Believe in your talent and craft. There will be times when writing can be a very discouraging avocation. Listen to your critics, glean from their words whatever can make you a better writer and ignore the rest. If this was easy everyone would be doing it, right?
Thank you, James, for stopping by Paperback Writer. I wish you continued success with your tour.