Posted on 05/15/2019 at 08:25 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Today we’re interviewing Jim “Thunder Lizard” LeMay.

LeMay is the author of four novels in his “Shadow” series: The Shadow of Armageddon, A Shadow Over the Afterworld, Shadow Jack and Shadowspawn and one related short story, “Jack in the Warren.” 

His latest novel, Making the Most of It, and the associated short stories, “Tin Cup” and “A Fairy Rainbow,” may be the beginning of a new series. His stories have appeared in Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence and Vagabond 001 and 002. 

He and publisher-writer Charles Eugene Anderson published a Jetpack story, “Have Jetpack – Will Travel,” which appeared in Rocketpack Adventures, compiled by Russ Crowley and published by 53rd Street Publishing. They’re plotting to write another one.

LeMay has engaged in many of the vocations and avocations practiced by his characters and many they have not: homebrewer, bartender, waiter, land surveyor, civil engineer, land developer, copywriter, editor, artist and others best forgotten. 

He has called many places home but now lives and writes in the Denver metropolitan area. 

SADYE: How did you come to see yourself as a writer, and what inspired you to seek publication?

JIM: I’ve enjoyed science fiction since childhood and, as an adult, thought about writing sf for a long time.

I found the subject I wanted to write about in the mid-’90s in a newspaper article about a teenager in Mozambique who had a form of antibiotic-resistant bubonic plague. Fortunately, the boy recovered.

The article made me curious enough to watch for related ones. By the turn of the new century I saw that the rise of antibiotic resistant pathogens was beyond doubt.

According to an article by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 2 million Americans become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria or fungus every year, and at least 23,000 of them die.

Many others die of conditions complicated by these infections. Those numbers remain the CDC’s official estimate but they are based on 2010 figures.

I spent a lot of time on research. I found that these diseases were increasing worldwide but couldn’t find any numbers later than those given by the CDC.

I wrote The Shadow of Armageddon to find out what kind of dystopian world would follow after a pandemic that killed 80 percent to 90 percent of mankind.

I had intended for it to be my only novel, but I wondered what happened to the characters later, so I wrote A Shadow over the Afterworld.

But writing is an insidious master so more fiction followed.

SADYE: Tell us something about your writing process that’s unusual or that you haven’t revealed before.

JIM: I had written nonfiction in my professional life as a civil engineer and then as a consultant for land developers — engineering reports, feasibility studies, business plans and the like.

For lengthy or complex projects like business plans, I started with an outline and built on it. How much different could writing fiction be?

For me, I found out, a lot!

I started The Shadow of Armageddon with an outline. Before the end of the second chapter, the characters began to disregard it.

Some minor characters increased in importance and influenced the plot in subtle ways. One of them refused to get out of the story even after he died!

New people appeared that I didn’t even know. At some point the characters took over the novel and ran with it.

Fortunately, they seemed to be headed in the direction I wanted to go so I followed their lead. I grew really curious to see what would happen next.

From then on I wrote without an outline. I let the characters go where they liked.

Since all the books on writing I had read stressed the importance of using outlines, I thought only I broke the outline rule.

I felt guilty and kept it secret until I read this Neil Gaiman quote:

If you’re writing a novel, you can be halfway through it or more before you know what it’s about or how it’s going to work. You get to the end and you realize how the end fits together, and you go back to chapter one and you plant all the clues that make it obvious how it’s going to end.

Now I feel vindicated.

SADYE: Which of your characters would you most and least like to become romantically involved with?

JIM: My choice for a romantic relationship would be with Eleanor Coleridge, the mayor of Coleridge Gardens in The Shadow of Armageddon and A Shadow over the Afterworld.

She is a beautiful, intelligent woman who bullies but protects her children and her community.

She has read a lot of the same books I have (no surprise there, I guess). We could share many hours of interesting conversation as well as an intimate relationship.

My least favorite would be Mikela Moer, who appears in Shadow Jack and Shadowspawn.

A ruthless woman, she seeks only wealth and power and a collection of men who share her bed. She reminds me of one of my land development clients.

SADYE: What period of history would you most like to travel back to and why?

JIM: I would choose Renaissance Italy around the year 1500 CE.

It was a time of exciting events and fascinating people, including my favorite Renaissance man, Leonardo Da Vinci, artist, scientist, anatomist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, city planner, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician, and writer.

May 2, 2019, was the 500th anniversary of his death. I would love to visit with him — if I could find a translator who knew sixteenth-century Italian.

SADYE: What message or theme would you like readers to take away from your work?

JIM: Thanks to my son Matt, I finally learned more recent statistics of fatality rates caused by antibiotic resistant pathogens.

He emailed me an article from the New York Times dated April 6, 2019.  Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine estimate the number of annual deaths in this country as 162,000 and the worldwide toll at 700,000. 

This increase of deaths in less than ten years is truly frightening.

Why is there no outcry from the public? They don’t know about it. The world’s hospitals and governments keep it secret.

Even the CDC, because of an agreement with the states, cannot publish the names and locations of hospitals that have outbreaks.

Hospitals don’t want to lose patients, governments don’t want panics, and pharmaceutical companies make more money developing drugs that solve “sexier” maladies like cancer.

I would like to make readers more aware of this threat.

SADYE: What experience in your past or general aspect of your life has most affected your writing?

JIM: Tragedy changed the direction of my writing career.

Hospitals are incubators of nosocomial diseases — those contracted by their patients. My wife and I didn’t know how dangerous they were when she scheduled hip replacement surgery.

While hospitalized, she became infected with an extremely rare flesh-eating bacteria that is resistant to all drugs: klebsiella oxytoca. The only way to save the patient’s life is to remove the infected tissue.

The removal of a large mass of flesh from her hip crippled her worse than arthritis had and eventually killed her.

With tragic irony, she had died of a danger I had been writing about. I decided that I couldn’t write any more.

But in a few months, I decided to write a short story as a kind of good-bye to her.

The result was “Tin Cup,” which is about the death of a young woman killed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria and her lover’s memories of her.

A related short story (“A Fairy Rainbow”) and novel (Making the Most of It) followed.

* * *

Learn more about Jim LeMay on his Facebook page and Amazon, where his books can be purchased; and contact him at jwl-inc@comcast.net.

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Categories: Author Interview

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