James Mace was born in Edmonds, Washington, and grew up in Meridian, Idaho. He joined the U.S. Air Force out of high school, and three years later changed over to the U.S. Army. He spent a career as a soldier, including service in the Iraq War. In 2011, he left his full-time position with Army Guard and devoted himself completely to writing.
His series, “Soldier of Rome – The Artorian Chronicles”, has been a perennial best-seller in ancient history on Amazon. In 2012 he branched into the Napoleonic Era with the short novella, “Forlorn Hope: The Storming of Badajoz”. This was soon followed by the full-length novel, “I Stood With Wellington”.
He also co-wrote the critically acclaimed screenplay, The Evil That Men Do.
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
Three things really stand out in recent years. The first is achieving the rank of Master Sergeant (E-8) with the Army Guard. I have served in the military for over nineteen years, to include deploying to Iraq, and I look forward to possibly retiring later this year.
Another accomplishment I am proud of is participating in the Spartan Race series. These are a series of savage obstacle courses, similar to what you see in military boot camp, only much longer and more arduous. I first became intrigued this last year and started training for my first competition. At first, I thought I would only race at the Sprint Level (3+ miles, 15+ obstacles) once or twice and had not ever considered doing the Super (8+ miles, 20+ obstacles) or the Beast (13+ miles, 25+ obstacles). Not only did I end up competing four times, I managed to conquer all three skill levels, thereby earning the coveted Spartan Trifecta. As someone who has struggled with their weight my entire life, to reach that level of conditioning was a strong personal achievement. For 2013, my goal is to compete six times and double-Trifecta.
As for my writing, I am proud of several things, including being able to make a living as an author. Another big achievement was when my first book, Soldier of Rome: The Legionary, became the #1 best-seller in Roman History on Amazon. My latest novel, I Stood With Wellington, has been steadily making its way up the rankings both on Amazon and Amazon U.K. I hope that with enough expose it will become the #1 best-seller in British History. A number of readers and reviewers have said that it is by far my best work so far.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
My parents influenced me to start reading at a young age, and not just books for kids. Around the time I was twelve, my Dad got me interested in Roman History, and after watching the series I, Claudius, I immediately read the book, as well as any others I could find. My creative thinking was always encouraged, though I don’t think anyone knew that I would actually make a living with it someday.
When and why did you begin writing?
Though I had done some freelance work in the past for a couple of bodybuilding publications, when it came to writing stories; that was something I did strictly for me. Essentially, I write books that I want to read. This was true with my first book, which tells about the Roman army’s campaign of vengeance east of the Rhine from 15 to 17 A.D. It is something that happened six years after three legions were ambushed and destroyed in a place called Teutoburger Wald. This disaster has been covered in detail, but the wars of retribution have been seriously neglected. They are mentioned in I, Claudius, but no real details are given. I decided that if no one else was going to write this story, then I should. The same holds true through all of my works.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Not really. I do remember that I always loved telling stories as a kid, but I rarely wrote anything down. When I started writing bodybuilding articles was when my Army Guard unit was readying to deploy. A group of us who worked out together thought it would be a great thing to cover, and since no one else was stepping up to write the actual stories, I decided that I should.
When did you first know you could be a writer?
In all honesty, probably after my fourth book, Soldier of Rome: The Centurion, was released. I know that sounds odd. It wasn’t until a few months after The Centurion came out that my sales started to climb significantly. I was developing a sustained fan base, and people were asking constantly when my next book was coming out. I suppose that subconsciously my definition of ‘writer’ was someone who could make a sustainable living from putting pen to paper. Once I reached that threshold, I started actually seeing myself as a writer; although many friends have told me they saw me that way long before then.
What inspires you to write and why?
Stories that I think need to be told. I have a passion for history, and yet so many important events from our past become forgotten because they cease getting retold. Before long, they become lost altogether, along with any valuable lessons that should have continued to pass down through generations. I also find that what history we as a society are familiar with becomes distorted to the point that reality is lost and what we think we know scarcely resembles what actually happened. My intent is to not just tell stories that I would want to read, but also ones that I am inspired to bring to the current generation. One of the greatest things I hear is when a reader tells me how much they learned from reading one of my books.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
I am by far most comfortable writing historical novels. This ties into my previous answer in that very few people want to read a dry history book; however, novels are a popular way to draw readers into history. I have a personal code of ethics in that I will never intentionally change known historical facts pertaining to the subjects I write. Many readers have expressed appreciation in that they can read one of my works, enjoy the story, learn a bit about history, and know that everything I wrote was as accurate as one could reasonably expect. Now will I ever write other genres? It’s always possible, though to be honest, there are so many historical adventure stories in my head just begging to be told.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was inspired by reading I, Claudius, particularly when Claudius’ brother, Germanicus Caesar, tells about how he and his legionaries avenged their fallen comrades from Teutoburger Wald. I wanted to know how they did it, right down to the gritty details of every battle fought. The story I had in mind revolved around a legionary in Germanicus’ army, and that is the perspective from which I wanted to tell this story.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began?
I actually wrote the initial draft of my first book when I was in Iraq. In addition to having that particular story in my mind for so many years, I was further influenced by both what was happening in Iraq, though more importantly by the Soldiers I served with. Characters within the story began taking on the personalities of those around me, to the point that when friends were reading the chapters I had written so far, they could see it right away. Certain close friends and family members still influence my work to this day. In my latest book, I Stood With Wellington, some of the British soldiers are actually named after those I served with.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general ?
The greatest challenge when it comes to my writing is also the least quantifiable; and that is the ever-elusive Muse. There will be days where I cannot leave my desk, simply because ideas are pouring out and if I don’t write them down at that moment there is a great risk that they will be lost. Conversely, entire days will pass where I get nothing accomplished, despite knowing that I need to get more work done on my next project. There are even times when I will know exactly where I want to take the story, yet I just cannot find the words to express it.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?
This latest work was my seventh overall. It is also my longest to date, as well as the first full-length novel that I’ve written since I left my previous job in order to focus on writing. One thing I did learn is that when passionate about a story that refuses to leave me, I can get it written very quickly. Previously, it used to take me roughly a year and a half to write a book. I Stood With Wellington has not only been called my best work by both fans and reviewers, but I also wrote it in only five months.
Do you intend to make writing a career?
I am one of those fortunate few who have been able to parlay what was once a hobby into my next career. In 2011 my royalties started to surpass regular wages. I had spent fifteen years as a federal civil service employee, in addition to serving in the Army Guard, yet writing books was becoming a far more productive endeavor. Therefore in December of 2011 I resigned from my federal job and became a full-time author. I do still serve in the Army Guard on drill weekends. I am very thankful to the many people who helped me get to where I am today; in a position to tell my stories and bring them to a much wider audience than I ever envisioned when sitting in Iraq writing my first book. My focus for this year is to finish the final two books of my Roman series, Soldier of Rome – The Artorian Chronicles. After, I have a number of pending projects in mind; though most likely will write a pair of novels about the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. That is another story that has been in my head for quite some time.
Have you developed a specific writing style?
I’m certain I have, though I would be hard-pressed to define it. I honestly think one of my readers would be in a better position to describe it. I have noticed a definite variation between my Roman novels and Napoleonic works. For starters, whenever I write any book from a British perspective, I change my MS Word dictionary to English (U.K.). I also notice a change in not only the way characters talk, but also in how I write the story.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
Research and historical integrity. If I am uncertain as to whether or not a known historical event happened as I am writing it, I will do additional research to make sure all the major facts are correct. I also make certain that in places where I have to fill in the gaps left by history books, which are many, that I make the fictitious characters and events believable. For example, in my latest novel there is a side love story between the main character and an upper-class lady. Two things were pointed out to me by readers: Firstly, this did not come to dominate the story and was properly balanced with the more overriding events. And second, that though she is of a slightly higher social standing, the difference is not so vast that their relationship would be unbelievable for the time.
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
Two qualities, actually; that I am relentless and loyal, sometimes at the same time. Whenever I pursue a goal or ambition, I become very focused and refuse to stop until I have achieved what I am striving for. This proved true both when I decided to try and become a full-time writer and when making one of my goals this past year to earn the Spartan Trifecta. I am also fiercely loyal to those I care about. Though not always successful, I do everything I can to be there for those important people in my life.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
Part of being relentless is that I can sometimes take it too far and be rather stubborn and bull-headed. This means I often have to learn life’s lessons the hard way. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve learned a rather harsh lesson, only to look back and realize that if I had listened to what those close to me were saying I would have saved myself a lot of grief. I think it’s getting better, but like anyone else; I am human and consider myself very much a work-in-progress.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?
I have a couple I would like to share. The first is a general view I have on life and comes to us from the Dalai Lama: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
The second is important to my books, as I write mostly military history. My works are extremely graphic because I want readers to grasp the full horror of war and what it means when we kill one another. This quote is in latest book and was said by the Duke of Wellington, following the Battle of Waterloo: “Next to a battle lost, the saddest thing is a battle won.”