James Scott Marryat was born in England and grew up in Sussex. Back in the good old days before daytime television, his older sister used to read to him and his siblings. The World of Narnia, The Magic Faraway Tree, and The Famous Five were all lapped up, stimulating a child’s imagination, freeing it from the mundane and everyday reality of an absent father, and the struggles of his mother to provide. Perhaps having Captain Marryat as his great-great-great grandfather had filtered into his genes, unlocking his brain to storytelling traditions. When he learned to read for himself he devoured any book he could lay his hands on, frequently infuriating the librarian when he tried to take out more books than he was allowed.
Winning a scholarship to boarding school at the age of eleven should have helped, but James quickly found he resisted being told what to read, rather than choosing for himself. So Ian Fleming rather than Thomas Hardy, Sergeanne Golon rather than Shakespeare, was the norm. Being caught with an ‘Angelique’ book was frowned upon, and as a punishment, James was made to read ‘A Kind of Loving’ by Stan Barstow, and write an essay on it. To his astonishment, he liked it. A lot. It was the first book he’d seen written in the 1st person, and the first book he ever bought. He’s still got that copy, which cost three shillings and sixpence (18 pence in today’s money!). He also found he was good at sports, and neglected his studies in favour of that, and reading more books. Once, bedridden with tonsillitis, his sister bought him a copy of Dune, thinking he’d enjoy it, and ‘grownup’ Science Fiction and Fantasy entered his life.
Two grade ‘E’s at A level weren’t good enough to get into University, and James embarked on a series of jobs that were mostly fun, and paid reasonably well: Flight Despatcher for British Caledonian Airways (which fortuitously brought him into contact with the woman he’s still married to today) a diver in the Nigerian oil fields, Civil Servant, Recruitment Consultant. A recurring problem with his own back led him to Osteopathy, and he’s been practising that for 30 years. Along the way, two sons arrived, and the most magical phase of his life passed all too quickly – seeing life again, through a child’s eyes. This allowed him to indulge himself in the tales of the fantastic he’d enjoyed as a child, reading to them nightly: after Thomas the Tank Engine, Dangermouse and SuperTed became old hat, Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl joined the reading list.
He was treating actress Carol Hawkins (Sharon in Please Sir!) and made the comment that he could write better than the rubbish they’d seen on the television. “I’d like to see you try!” was her rejoinder, and she didn’t laugh too much at his attempt, pointing him in the right direction. Hooked on the creativity of writing, James took courses with Raindance, The Writer’s Workshop, Arista Development, and two full-length film scripts were optioned, for his efforts. He also won a screenwriting competition, which teamed him with a Bafta-nominated director for three years, as they worked on the script together. But in the best traditions of storytelling, the scripts were consigned to a drawer and almost forgotten, when all avenues were exhausted. A few years later, an idea crept into his head that was too long to visualise as a film script, so he wrote Gateway of Tears, the first book of a trilogy, and enjoyed it immensely. Naturally, the first draft was indulgent, info-dumpy and switched point-of-view a dizzying amount of times, though a professional edit sorted that out. James took more editing courses, rewrote the book 18 times, and was fortunate to have Patrick Rothfuss critique it for him.
Sending it out to agents and publishers brought some interest, but ultimately rejection. By then he’d had the idea for another story, and wrote The Iron Curse. Seems he was getting the hang of it, since there was more interest in that one, and anyone who’s followed this website will have seen several different openings of the first chapter in the last three years. Following one critique, 70,000 words of the original were ditched, for good reason. Encouraging rejections followed on, and it’s still being re-written. And then James had the idea for The Unrepentant Warrior, and wrote the first draft. Then set about revising and editing it. That garnered the best responses and the most encouraging rejections so far, and at the time of writing this, it’s still being looked at by industry professionals. Not being very good at waiting, James looked for something else to do, besides revising the two previous books. His wife suggested he rewrite those old film scripts as novels and epublish them for the experience.
It sounded like an excellent idea. James had to buy a widget to retrieve the script off those funny floppy disc things, but writing Indigo Heartfire was the most fun he’s had with a book. Part copying, part new writing that overwhelmed him as the story expanded itself. “But I don’t write Romantic Fantasy,'”James said, when he saw the finished product. But all his favourite novels have phenomenal love stories at their heart, and his muse told him to shut up and get on with the sequel.
Along the way, James had found time to attend more writing courses, and also to complete an MA in Creative and Critical Writing (and learned to write about himself in the third person). He also started editing for others, and had edited two anthologies for Tickety Boo Press: ‘Malevolence’ and ‘After Midnight’. James asked the Publisher about epublishing – how best to do it – and Gary Compton asked if he could see Indigo Heartfire, even though it wasn’t the kind of book he normally published. There’s an apocryphal story that Gary’s wife demanded he publish it, but the upshot was Gary wanted to take it on, and who was James to argue? Indigo Heartfire came out on December 17th 2014, and two more will follow.
James likes Marmite, Cremant D’Alasace, Budvar, his Softail Heritage Motorcycle, reading, and writing. He has a dream that he’ll one day be asked to write the sequel to Shogun, because it’s so unfair to Pilot-Major Blackthorne to leave him sitting on a beach, thousands of miles from home. And to write the fourth in A Kind of Loving series, the book that started him off, decades ago. It’s not fair to leave Vic with the uncertainty of not knowing if he’ll achieve what he’s yearned for all his life. In the meantime, he’s writing the sequels to his own book, and planning more epic fantasy. As his son put it: “If you’d stuck with the first book, you’d have completed the trilogy by now.” He will, one day.