Indie Spotlight – James Lloyd Dulin

Today I am welcoming James Lloyd Dulin into the Indie Spotlight.

James is a nerd with a head full of stories and limited time to put them on the page.

He grew up in Grand Rapids, MI, spending an excessive amount of time at a local community theater where he developed his affinity for storytelling. This affinity grew into a deep admiration for language and spoken word poetry while studying mathematics and education at the University of Michigan. A few hundred mediocre poems and lackluster performances later, he decided his dream of writing a novel might not be as ridiculous as he once thought. He firmly believes that art—even silly books about magic, or maybe especially silly books about magic—has the ability to tell stories that sink beneath the surface.

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Welcome to the Indie Spotlight, James!

What made you decide to publish your books independently? What was your path to publication?

Self-publishing wasn’t my original intension. I didn’t know much about the indie community or indie books, and I had a biased opinion about self-publishing. So I started querying. I had minor success getting attention from agents, but for the most part I reached out to agents who didn’t respond. This isn’t a critique of agents, but the industry isn’t set up to handle the influx of writers we have in today’s world. Agents receive hundreds of queries a week, if not a day.

Anyway, I would stop querying to work on my manuscript or my query letter, then start up again. The stress of the process didn’t sit well with me, and I stopped enjoying writing. When I thought about what I wanted from this experience, two things came to the top of the list: to enjoy writing and to share my story. I can do those things on my own.

The day I decided to pursue self-publishing didn’t feel like a defeat. It felt like I rediscovered my love for writing.

What made you decide to write in your specific genre rather than other genres? Have you ever written in other genres?

For years, I wrote poetry. I published in different online magazines, competed in poetry slams, and wrote a couple of chap books. I still love poetry, and that experience was fundamental to my process as an author. It taught me how to edit like no other experience could have because the care for language in poetry is unmatched.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed reading fantasy stories and had this underlying dream of writing a novel. I loved how fantasy stories could utilize magic and other other-worldly elements to say things about the real world in accessible, entertaining ways. That’s what I want to do. I want to tell cool stories about magic that have meaning beyond the fantastical. 

Do you only read the genre that you write? 

Lately, I do. I believe in studying the genre you write in, so I have focused my reading on fantasy novels. However, I love stories outside of this genre.

One of the major inspirations for how I approached No Heart for a Thief came from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. He has openly discussed his approach to Dominican culture in his writing like world building. This is a deeply character-driven novel, with a few fantastical elements, that utilizes the plot to investigate a singular character.

My reading and writing outside of fantasy greatly improved my ability to craft fantasy stories.

What are you currently reading? Watching on TV? Is there a type of music you listen to for inspiration?

Lately, it’s been hard to find time to read. I just finished listening to Stones of Light by Zack Argyle, which was great. I am also reading The First Binding by R.R. Virdi and loving it. However, I have two toddlers and I’m busy with launching this debut novel, so my reading is going very slowly.

On TV, I am really loving The Last of Us and Abbot Elementary—two very different shows. They both really do a good job understanding their characters and setting. And, although it isn’t traditional TV, I have been getting into Critical Role. I would argue that Calamity on Critical Role is a masterclass in storytelling. 

As for music, I don’t listen to music for inspiration. However, I do find it interesting after the fact to think about songs that fit the story I wrote. It helps me think about it in a new light. I would say The Pretender by the Foo Fighters is an interesting comparison to Kaylo’s journey in No Heart for a Thief.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Nothing new. There is lots of advice out there, and the best thing you can do is build your own metrics for what advice is worthwhile. No piece of advice is universal. 

For me, the hardest thing I had to learn to do was be comfortable with my words being imperfect on the page. I had to learn to let myself move past sections that I knew were not well done so that I could finish a first draft.

What are you working on right now and what can we look forward to seeing from you next?

I am currently working on editing Malitu Book 2. If all goes well, it will be out in the fall 2023. In that time, I’ll also be working on drafting Book 3. 

In the meantime, I also have several projects I am developing, figuring out what my next series will be.

Thank you so much for joining me on my blog today, James. Your book sounds really interesting! Good luck with all you projects.

No Heart For A Thief

We are the stories we tell ourselves…even the lies.

The Thief, a great spirit, and her descendants have abused their ability to steal magic for centuries. When Kaylo starts to hear the song of other people’s magic, he must learn to hide from his people as well as the invaders. A gift or a curse, Kaylo may be able to save his people from the Gousht Empire that claimed their land with this stolen magic.

Eighteen years later, Kaylo still prays to the spirits, but not out of loyalty or love. He knows better than to rely on those selfish bastards for anything. While hiding in the forest from his foolish acts of rebellion, he encounters a girl, Tayen, being pursued by two soldiers of the empire. Against his better judgment, he risks facing the consequences of his past to intervene.

When Tayen attempts to run off seeking vengeance for her family, he offers to train her to wield her magic and a blade. If he can’t convince her to relinquish her need for vengeance and stave off the demons of his past, he’s going to get them both killed.

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