About
J. M. Surra
Books by J. M. Surra
Books by James Surra

A Tale Teller’s Life

There was a “moment” at a book-signing when a fan asked me, “Who inspired you along the way?” Well, let's see. I lived in the Bangor, Maine area for many years. Stephen King lives there. That's pretty inspiring to a writer! Evrything he writes is binge-worthy. I also tend to read anything that my eyes fall upon, so any number of distinguished literary figures could lay claim to being my inspiration, at least in part. Grishom is a favorite. I'll even confess that Jean Auel's Earth Children series is one of my guilty pleasures. I gave the question a lot of thought before I finally answered, “Ol' Dan. Yeah. Dan Fogelberg.”

Why a songwriter? Because he always had the strength and courage to lead with his heart.

My inspiration may come from something as tangible as a sad song, a broken heart (mine or another's), or intangible things such as aliens and UFOs. There's a whole world to see out there, if you just open your eyes.

Books by James Surra

My Childhood

I grew up near Chatham, New York, not far from Woodstock, and the unorthodox thought processes of the characters that populated our part of the world were a wellspring of inspiration. Can you say, "Hippies?"

Granted, any number of them were more than half a bubble off level, but if you keep an open mind, even that can be fun and a source of inspiration. After decades of traveling the country, I’ve returned to my home area.

Books by J. M. Surra
Books by James Surra

A People Watcher

I’m a people-watcher; I always have been. On any given day, I encounter all kinds of people. Any one of them stands a good chance of ending up in the little notebook I carry in my pocket, destined for that unique moment of fame where they become one of the strange, eclectic, wonderful characters populating my books. Sometimes I ask for permission to use their names. The right name can be a powerful character-shaping tool. I recently ran into a guy named Darius Walker. Wow! Oh, yeah. I asked permission! He said yes!

In truth, Dan Fogelberg, named before as my inspiration, was only a partial answer. The unabridged answer is ‘People’. People inspire me, and they always will. They make life worth living. Inspiration is a wonderful thing.

Books by James Surra

How Did I Learn to Tell Stories?

My steel mill worker grandfather told me stories of Scotland and Ireland, the first world war, and taught me to speak with a good Scottish brogue. Although it's pretty close, despite what my friends think, I never quite mastered it. Any true Scot would wonder if I'm from Australia! But it's fun.

My Dad told me the story of how he flew a disabled bomber back to base and "flew it all the way in," crashing onto the ground, where he was badly hurt. I listened to him tell it a hundred times, taking in every detail, every nuance. I took my dad's injuries from that plane crash and revisited them onto a character in Angels and their Hourglasses / Aerodynamic.

I was hooked, not only by the stories but also by telling them, which gave me my start on the lifelong passion of writing my own stories.

Books by James Surra

The move to Maine

Books by J. M. Surra

In the Mid-80s, I left the big city. I moved 2000 miles to rural Maine, where I found myself surrounded with a brand new, colorful cast of characters, an earthy breed of honest, hard-working people who possessed a seemingly endless supply of dry, humorous quips. It's a prerequisite that these be related using the native Downeast accent. I fell in love with the state, and stayed nearly 25 years.

 

Due to the devastated Maine economy, I bounced around the country following my day job, living in Texas, Washington State, and then Alabama before finally landing right back in my hometown in New York State. I still call Maine my second home, and whenever I can, I steal back to Maine to write, hike the Appalachian Trail, take in the vistas, and visit dear friends.