Today's "5 Q&A" is with Jim Melvin, author of The Pit, Book One of The Death Wizard Chronicles.
1.) Who are you?
I was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in 1957 but spent more than forty years of my life in St. Petersburg, Fla. I now live in Clemson, S.C.
I graduated from the University of South Florida (Tampa) with a B.A. in Journalism in 1979. I was an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times for twenty-five years and retired in 2004 to become a full-time novelist. At the Times, I specialized in science, nature, health and fitness, and I wrote about everything from childhood drowning to erupting volcanoes. But I spent the majority of my career as a designer, editor, and supervisor.
I am a student of Eastern philosophy and mindfulness meditation, both of which I weave extensively into my work. Meditation helps to clear my mind for long bouts of writing.
I am married and have five daughters, ranging in age from 8 to 24. The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book epic fantasy series, marks my debut as a published novelist. Book One, entitled The Pit, was released in early September. Book Two (Moon Goddess) was released just a couple of days ago. Books Three-Six will be released one per month from November-February. They are available on amazon.com, rainbooks.com, and soon will be available via Barnes and Noble.
2.) When was The Death Wizard Chronicles born?
I wrote the first page of Book One about three years ago, but I conceived the opening scene back in the late 1970s when I was just out of college. At age 20, I wrote a horror novel entitled Sarah's Curse that was pretty good but never published. At the time, I wasn't worried because writers always hear that it's their second or third novel that really hits it big. However, I began working 50-hour weeks as a journalist and raising a family -- and 25 years later there never was a second novel. But all that time, The Death Wizard Chronicles was a part of my life. During my private moments -- falling asleep at night, driving alone in the car, showering, whatever -- I thought about this series, including plot, scenes, locations, and characters.
About four years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to step out of the rat race with the goal of becoming a full-time novelist. In September 2004, I started Book One. Six books and seven-hundred-thousand words later, here I am.
This is my time.
3.) Meditation is interwoven throughout The Pit. I know that you practice meditation. How did you get started and how long have you been practicing?
I'd like to say that it was my own ingenuity that led to my practice of meditation, but the credit actually goes to my second wife, Jeanne. She and I married fourteen years ago, but Jeanne has been a Buddhist in the Theravada tradition for more than twenty-five years. She introduced me to Buddhism and meditation. Her teacher, Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, is world-renowned -- and through Jeanne, I was able to meet him, listen to his brilliant talks, meditate with him, and even spend time with him on an individual basis, which is a high honor in the Buddhist world. I have been meditating since early on in our marriage.
I do need to make one point clear: Though my series is steeped in Asian spiritual philosophy, it is by no means a work of Buddhism, which is an extremely passive religion that disdains violence and sexual misconduct. My series contains both. All I can say is that Asian spiritual philosophy has helped to shape my world view, which of course then drives my writing.
4.) What benefits do you derive from meditation?
Ha! How long do you have? A genius could spend a lifetime meditating and barely scratch the surface of the practice, and I'm no genius and also got a late start.
Look at it this way: If you're physically out of shape, just starting a very simple walking program -- once around the block three times a week -- will do amazing things for your health and appearance. Then, of course, you can ramp it up to walking several miles five times a week, running, swimming, cycling, lifting weights, marathons, triathlons, etc. You even can become a world-class athlete. In the mental sense, meditation is similar. Just five minutes of meditation three times a week will work wonders for your mind. And the more seriously you take it, the more benefits you'll derive.
As a meditator, I'm equivalent to someone who walks two miles four days a week. I'm in decent shape but could go a lot further, if I had more discipline. As far as my knowledge of the ritualistic aspects of Buddhism, I'm pretty low on the scale But as far as having a grasp of the intellectual aspects of Buddhist philosophy, I'm a natural.
As I mentioned, meditation is like exercise for the mind. The more you do it, the healthier, stronger, and more peaceful your mind becomes. And this is true for people of all beliefs. You don't have to be a Buddhist to benefit from the practice. For instance, there are many Christians who meditate.
5.) What's next?
I have been so obsessed with The DW Chronicles for so long that it's difficult for me to look ahead. I am entirely finished through Book Five and have written the first draft of Book Six, but I still have at least two months' worth of revisions on Six before the project is completed.
After that, I'll probably take a couple of months off just to rejuice my batteries, and then write some kind of standalone novel, most likely in the horror genre. I'm not a big fan of standalone fantasy. In my opinion, it takes too long to create a world to do it all in one book.
Thank you so much, Jim!
The Pit is available at Amazon. If you'd like to know more about Jim Melvin, please visit The Death Wizard Chronicles