James, can you tell us a little about your background and how you found your way to writing?
In 1997, a spinal cord injury due to an auto accident derailed my twenty-year railroad career [as a locomotive electrician and rail traffic manager] and steered me instead toward writing. I once studied Tai Kwon Do and taught Hatha Yoga, and I still practice metaphysics, i.e, creative visualization, or “The Secret.” Prior to my accident, my wife and I had been avid hikers of the Colorado Rockies, which along with my yoga, metaphysics, and martial arts added color and realism to “The Sibyl Reborn,” my debut urban fantasy novel.
Between 2002 and 2006, I twice served as a surrogate White House spokesperson on stem cells and interacted daily with national biotech policy advisers. This involvement revealed disturbing similarities between my novel’s premise and bi-partisan ploys for controlling the public regarding vast social issues [such as stem cells, health care, energy, and climate change]. My stem cells activism inspired me as a writer to hopefully entertain readers with a high-concept novel that wraps its sci-fi/urban fantasy plot around a factual premise…a non-fiction premise that the lies at the root of much that concerns us in the world today.
You have published “The Sibyl Reborn.” What is the premise of the book?
Its fictional premise is that Man’s genetic ancestors were quarantined on Earth by their fellow “Hue” due to an aspect of their psyches causing the outcasts to threaten the climatic balance of their former planet. This flaw, called “The Taint,” caused them to distort, deny or ignore realities that conflicted with their egos, ambitions, convenience, or beliefs. Fast forward to today: if our E.T. cousins can find and abduct a single “untainted” human, they intend to cure us of Taint and turn mankind into their humanoid source of replacement bodies.
In reality, research by Professor of Psychology Drew Westen, Ph.D., of Emory University [in 2004 and 2006] revealed that humans do in fact have a “universal” tendency to “rationalize to biased interpretations of facts” regardless of I.Q., academic training, profession, or worldview beliefs. Using functional MRIs, Westen showed that [when confronted with factual evidence that we’d rather disbelieve] humans process unwanted information with the brain’s Limbic [Emotional] Center to arrive at biased rationalizations while [metabolically] shutting down the brain’s objective region, the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex.
Your main character is Casandra, a figure many people know from Greek tragedy. Does ancient literature influence the way you write, or your view of the world?
While still in elementary school, I came across copies of The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Fall of Troy in our attic and fell in love with them. The injustice of Cassandra’s plight seemed especially cruel to my adolescent sense of fairness. The authors made it blatantly clear that her supposed ‘curse’ had nothing to do with her. Rather, it reflected blatant examples of willful denial by others. Many years later, when I fell asleep while driving and awoke from a coma to find myself paralyzed, I instantly knew that I’d been as pigheaded [through my stubborn insistence on driving through the night despite knowing I was falling asleep) as the Trojans who had scorned Cassandra for telling the truth. Her tragedy definitely played a compelling role in why I first drafted “The Sibyl Reborn” and how I see the world.
Your work has a strong “environmental” focus. Do you consider yourself an environmentalist? If so, how does this influence what and how you write?
Yes, I do, although I once styled myself a “pro-cures” stem cells activist. It was a matter of personal experiences, priorities, and what I allowed myself to learn. I chose to place “The Taint” primarily in an environmental context in “The Sibyl Reborn” because I prioritize the futures of our planet and subsequent generations over Man’s immediate convenience. This isn’t to say that I believe humans must choose between meeting our energy needs or safeguarding the future. In my opinion, the social acceptance of this false ‘either/or’ perception is due largely to special interests–whose power and profits hinge on entrenching our energy status quo–adroitly exploiting the “Taint” in human nature, i.e., the aspect of human psychology that Professor Westen reveals in his bestselling non-fiction, “The Political Brain.” I therefore felt that my novel should, first and foremost, concern Man’s relationship to Earth.
What is the next work on the horizon for you?
In addition to [currently] producing an unabridged audio book version of “The Sibyl Reborn” with Seattle actor Sean Mitchell (we expect a July release on Audible.com), I’m continuing Cassandra’s saga in a sequel. A Part III is also planned. Thank you very much for your interest in Cassandra and “The Sibyl Reborn.”
“The Sibyl Reborn” can be purchased at Amazon.