Jim DeFelice interview with David Alan Binder

posted Apr 10, 2019, 3:59 PM by David Alan Binder

Jim DeFelice interview with David Alan Binder

 Dear Writers and Dear Readers, you have got to read the whole interview below.  Especially the part about some publishers panning him while some wanted the same book and thought it was great.  Funny, how that works.

His bio from his website:

A master storyteller, NY Times Bestselling author Jim DeFelice is known for his vivid, raw, and powerful portrayals of modern American military heroes: from Navy SEAL Chris Kyle's iconic memoir American Sniper  (the #1 NY Times Bestseller made into a film starring Bradley Cooper), to a groundbreaking biography on America's last five-star General, Omar Bradley: General at War.

In his newest popular history, West Like Lightning, DeFelice resurrects the heroes of the Old West to recreate the sweeping drama of the American frontier's most audacious enterprise: the legendary Pony Express.  A meticulous researcher, DeFelice drove the entire two thousand mile stretch of the original Pony Express trail from Sacramento, California to St. Jo, Missouri. Along the way, he talked with museum curators, local historians, and reenactors, and tracked down original documents to convey the full scope of the historic enterprise against the wider background of the U.S. Postal Service, American finance, the Gold Rush, and the impending Civil War.

Delving deeply into the human experience of war, history, geopolitics, and cutting edge technology, DeFelice has written on a wide range of subject matter. His novels run the gamut from spy thrillers set during the American Revolution (The Silver Bullet) to futuristic techno-thrillers (The Helios Conspiracy and Threat Level Black). His non-fiction military histories capture the WWII-era in Rangers At Dieppe and the current Iraqi and Afghanistan wars in two memoirs Code Name: Johnny Walker and Fighting Blind, along with the critically acclaimed novel,  Leopards Kill.

 American Wife (which DeFelice wrote with Chris Kyle's widow Taya after he was tragically murdered) is slated to be made into an upcoming television miniseries for ABC with Jim as consulting producer, while Code Name: Johnny Walker is being developed as a movie. DeFelice’s co-written series Dreamland(with Dale Brown) and Rogue Warrior (with SEAL Team 6 ‘daddy’ Richard Marcinko) are among the best-selling books in their genre  DeFelice also helped create and wrote the storylines for several video games, most notably Ace Combat: Assault Horizon and Afro Samurai.


His links:










1.     How do you pronounce your name? 


Actually, my name has been mispronounced a lot. My favorite – “Dee-Full-icious.”

Is that the name of a writer or bubblegum?


2.     Where are you currently living?


New York’s Hudson Valley (north of NY City)


3.     What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?


With luck, you learn something new every day – about the world or yourself, or sometimes both.


4.     What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?


I don’t think it’s a quirk necessarily, but I think one thing you have to learn is how to deal with frustration. Breaking furniture is very therapeutic, and often helpful, but ultimately fairly expensive. Do it judiciously.


5.     Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?


Experiences can be all over the board in both cases. Whatever you’re doing, the first time is going to be a huge learning experience, and probably a roller coaster of emotions. It will be somewhat easier if you look at it as the start of a long-term process, kind of like a first job.

I’d say “first love” but most of those are doomed.


a.      Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located?


I’ve published with all the big NY houses, and some of the smaller ones as well.


6.     Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?


I think to some extent eBooks can level the playing field in terms of getting the book into the hands of a reader; it’s easier physically, certainly. But there are so many different variations and preferences it’d be foolish to single any one thing out.

I wouldn’t negate Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” observation, but in most cases the core of the book, the story itself, will be the same no matter the package it’s purchased in.


7.     Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?


There are no secrets. Just keep at it. Every day.


8.     How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent?  Any tips for new writers on getting one?


Depends on your goal. If you’re looking at big commercial publishers, then an agent will be pretty useful.

There are no magic bullets. If you’re just starting out in fiction, you have to write the whole book first, polish it, etc. But the hardest thing will be to remember that a rejection is not a rejection of you personally. Even if you realize that intellectually, accepting it emotionally may be difficult.

My “first” published novel was actually my second and a half – the first one made the rounds for over a year, with a lot of nibbles but no bites. I was working on the second when I got stuck; trying to break out of the jam, I started something completely different. That can be a recipe for disaster, but in this case, the new idea caught fire; I wrote it quickly and had great luck finding an agent within weeks. Things went incredibly fast.

But the thing is, the week I went to sign the contract, I got a letter from another agent I’d queried telling me the book was unpublishable.

I’m glad he took his time getting back to me.


9.     Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be so specific that this most likely will not have been seen elsewhere)?


Think about the process of writing in two parts – art and business. Art is the creating part, frustrating and rewarding entirely on its own. Selling/publishing/promoting the book is business, a whole different thing.

If you’re starting to write your first book, forget about the business part. Focus on the art. Put in everything you know, then go back and rewrite it with everything you’ve learned along the way.

Hold on to that feeling of accomplishment and elation and everything else when you’re done – that’s your highest reward.

After you’ve savored that, you can worry about the business end.


10.                        What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?


How long things take. “Next week” in publishing means next month. Or maybe the month after that. Unless the holidays are coming up. Or it’s summer. Or there are thirty-one days in the month.

Of course, when the publisher finds that they have a tight schedule, the two weeks you were supposed to have to go through the galleys becomes three days. And don’t get me started about the copy edit.


11.                        How many books have you written?


I’m not really sure. According to the publicist, over fifty adult books, and thirty children’s titles.


12.                        Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be so specific that this most likely will not have been seen elsewhere)?


The only worthwhile advice about writing is DO IT.

Aside from that, I think it’s important to find a balance between love and hate when you work on the book. Re-reading/re-editing/re-writing your manuscript can be hell. Know that it’s never as good as the day you finish the first draft, and never as bad as the first time you look at the copy edit.


13.                        Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?


Always look for more trouble.


14.                        What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?


One of my friends was in the bookstore earlier and pulled it out and faced it on the shelf.


Hopefully, it’s the subject and the writing. But I wouldn’t understate the importance of things like the cover and the publicity, etc., in getting it noticed.


15.                        What is one unusual way in which you promote your work?


I don’t do anything unconventional, really.

I think a lot of writers are naturally shy and have to work pretty hard to get over that; that’s a personal thing. But don’t judge either yourself or your book by the size of the crowd at the book signing.


16.                         What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?


I think conditions have changed so much since I started publishing that whatever I have to say on the business side would be completely irrelevant.


As far as writing itself goes, I would have more faith in myself – or maybe just naiveté –at a younger age.


17.                        What saying or mantra do you live by?


Time to make more coffee.


18.                        Anything else you would like to say?

On the one hand, you can’t take yourself too seriously if you want to get better; you have to stay curious and inventive and willing to poke holes in your ego as well as the universe.

On the other hand, everybody’s got an opinion. And haters are going to hate.

I think it was my last novel that was utterly panned in one of the trade publications. The following week, a rival declared it one of the best books of the year.

So there you go.