eSpec Books interviews James Chambers, contributor to the anthology Horns and Halos edited by John L. French and Danielle Ackley-McPhail, which is currently funding on Kickstarter.
eSB: Please tell us a little something of your story.
JC: My story, “Far from the Knowing Place,” is set in my Machinations Sundry series of steampunk tales featuring Morris Garvey, inventor of steam-powered chimney sweeps and founder of an invention and manufacturing company, Machinations Sundry, in New Alexandria, an alternate history analog to New York City. The inspiration for the story came from a true case of murder in the late 17th century that occurred north of New York City. It also partly inspired the early American novel, Wieland; or the Transformation by Charles Brockden Brown, in which case a man who’d founded his own religion slaughtered his family after hearing a supposedly diving voice order him to do so.
eSB: Is your story based on a particular lore or legend, or did you take the broad concept and run with it?
JC: In addition to the historical and literary inspiration for the story, I drew additional influences from theosophy, a spiritualist belief system most often identified with Madame Helena Blavatsky. The idea of “devas” as the equivalent to angels as divine intercessors in mortal affairs offered a fresh angle on the idea of angels and what they could be and represent. “Angels” could be any sort of enlightened spiritual being from an elemental to a divine force.
eSB: Are your characters here ones that you plan to revisit?
JC: Definitely! I have a great time whenever I write a Machinations Sundry story. Morris Garvey is sort of a blend of Sherlock Holmes and Nikolai Tesla with a dash of magic thrown in, and I especially enjoy his supporting cast, which includes a transplanted Texan, Inspector Daniel Matheson; the witch-queen of New Alexandria, Anna Rigel; Madame Marceline Rene, a French noblewoman living in New Alexandria; and in my Horns and Halos story, Betsy Carpenter, one of Machinations Sundry’s top designers. Morris has a long-running conflict with the sinister Cult of Bast that I plan to develop in future stories. I have a strong attachment to these characters and their world. I have many new ideas for stories about them.
eSB: Is this your first time writing for a themed anthology, or have you done so before? What draws you to such projects?
JC: I’ve written for many anthologies in a variety of genres, and I’ve written for many themed anthologies. When considering a themed anthology, the first question I always ask myself is “Can I do something new here?” I’ve been very fortunate to publish in anthologies of crime, fantasy, horror, pulp science fiction, steampunk, and even walrus stories. So the opportunity to play in a new genre sandbox and stretch different writing muscles always appeals to me. Next, I ask myself “Do I like this theme?” That’s important because even if I can come up with a story idea, if I’m not excited about the project, then it’s hard to write a story for it. I’m drawn to themes that give me a lot of inspiration or present a creative challenge.
eSB: What angelic thing have you done as an author?
JC: I co-edited a charitable anthology, A New York State of Fright, with April Grey and Robert Masterson, that featured New York horror stories written by New York authors to raise money for a group in New York City called Girls Write Now. GWN pairs professional publishing mentors with at-risk teen girls interested in writing and looking for help planning their education and career. Thanks to our publisher, Hippocampus Press, not only did the anthology contribute all royalties to the group, but also secured a $5,000 grant from the Aeroflex Foundation. It was a great experience and a huge success in meeting our goal to help a great organization, and to top it all off, the anthology received a Bram Stoker Award® nomination.
eSB: What are some of your other works readers can look for?
JC: Three Chords of Chaos, my dark urban fantasy novella, grew out of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, and tells the story of Gorge, a faerie musician stripped of his magic and exiled to the mortal world, where he learns to regain his power through playing live music. He gravitates to the underground punk scene in New York City circa the early 1980s, where raw energy is off the charts—and he encounters an unscrupulous music executive who knows what he is and wants his power. Also from eSpec Books are the first three novellas in my Corpse Fauna series: The Dead Bear Witness, Tears of Blood, and The Dead in Their Masses. Each one chronicles the lives of a group of characters in a world where the dead walk—and inside their corpses are legions of dead souls. Lastly, On the Night Border is a collection of my horror fiction published by Raw Dog Screaming Press.
eSB: What projects of your own do you have coming up?
JC: On the horizon for me are the novella, The Eyes of the Dead, which will complete my Corpse Fauna cycle of stories about a world overrun by the living dead, forthcoming from eSpec Books. The first three volumes are currently available. I’m also working on finishing touches for a collection of my fantasy and science-fiction short stories to follow-up On the Night Border, which collected some of my horror stories, due out in 2021 from Raw Dog Screaming Press. And lots of other exciting projects, including short fiction, novellas, and graphic novels that aren’t far enough along for me to share details.
eSB: How can readers find out more about you?
JC: I’m online, of course, with the obligatory website, social media, and author pages. I’m also very active in the Horror Writers Association. I coordinate the NY Chapter, co-chaired StokerConTM 2018 and am co-chairing StokerCon 2021. You can read my bio and find a list of my published works on my website, or look for me at various HWA events or local events around New York (when public gatherings resume) such as HELIOSphere and the New York ComicCon. I’m always happy to answer questions or talk about my work. Most recently I did a deep dive interview about my body of work so far with Scholars from the Edge of Time.
James Chambers is an award-winning author of horror, crime, fantasy, and science fiction. He wrote the Bram Stoker Award®-winning graphic novel, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe. Publisher’s Weekly described The Engines of Sacrifice, his collection of four Lovecraftian-inspired novellas published by Dark Regions Press as “…chillingly evocative…” in a starred review. His story, “A Song Left Behind in the Aztakea Hills,” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.
He has authored the short story collection Resurrection House and several novellas, including The Dead Bear Witness and Tears of Blood, in the Corpse Fauna novella series. He also wrote the illustrated story collection, The Midnight Hour: Saint Lawn Hill and Other Tales, created in collaboration with artist Jason Whitley.
His short stories have been published in the anthologies The Avenger: Roaring Heart of the Crucible, Bad-Ass Faeries, Bad-Ass Faeries 2: Just Plain Bad, Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory, Bad Cop No Donut, The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, The Best of Defending the Future, Breach the Hull, By Other Means, Chiral Mad 2, Chiral Mad 4, Dance Like A Monkey, Dark Hallows II: Tales from the Witching Hour, Deep Cuts, The Domino Lady: Sex as a Weapon, Dragon’s Lure, Fantastic Futures 13, Gaslight and Grimm, The Green Hornet Chronicles, Hardboiled Cthulhu, Hear Them Roar, In An Iron Cage, Kolchak the Night Stalker: Passages of the Macabre, Man and Machine, Mermaids 13, No Longer Dreams, Qualia Nous, Shadows Over Main Street (1 and 2), The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson, So It Begins, The Spider: Extreme Prejudice, To Hell in a Fast Car, Truth or Dare, TV Gods, Walrus Tales, Weird Trails, and With Great Power; the chapbook Mooncat Jack; and the magazines Bare Bone, Cthulhu Sex, and Allen K’s Inhuman.
He has also written numerous comic books including Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals, the critically acclaimed “The Revenant” in Shadow House, The Midnight Hour with Jason Whitley, and the award-winning original graphic novel, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe.
He is a member and trustee of the Horror Writers Association, and recipient of the 2012 Richard Laymon Award and the 2016 Silver Hammer Award.
He lives in New York.
Visit his website.