James Mace was born in Edmonds, Washington, and grew up in Meridian, Idaho. He joined the U.S. Air Force out of high school, and three years later changed over to the U.S. Army. He spent a career as a soldier, including service in the Iraq War.
In 2011, he left his full-time position with Army Guard and devoted himself completely to writing. His series, “Soldier of Rome – The Artorian Chronicles”, has been a perennial best-seller in ancient history on Amazon. In 2012 he branched into the Napoleonic Era with the short novella, “Forlorn Hope: The Storming of Badajoz”. This was soon followed by the full-length novel, “I Stood With Wellington”.
He also co-wrote the critically acclaimed screenplay, The Evil That Men Do.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Inspiration for my first book, Soldier of Rome: The Legionary, came back when I was about twelve. I had read the book, as well as watched the series, I, Claudius, and found myself caught up in the story about Germanicus Caesar and his campaigns of retribution following the disastrous ambush in Teutoburger Wald. Over the years the story grew in my head, and I knew I wanted to tell it from the perspective of a legionary in the ranks. I was twenty-nine when I finally started ‘putting pen to paper’, and the story took on a life of its own after that.
What books have influenced your life the most?
I go through cycles when it comes to my favourites, though there are a few that have stayed with me. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings will always be there, as they were the first books of any real literary worth that I picked up. I actually just found my first copy of The Hobbit, that I got when I was around ten. I cannot remember if either I saved my allowance to buy it, or if my parents bought it for me. I, Claudius, by Robert Graves is the book that got me into Roman history in the first place, as was the Masterpiece Theatre series that followed. Its long-term impact on my life is unmistakable.
What are your current projects?
I had taken a hiatus from my series, Soldier of Rome – The Artorian Chronicles, after the fourth novel, in order to work on my two Napoleonic books. I am now back to work on this series and about 70% finished with the fifth part, Soldier of Rome: Journey to Judea. I anticipate its release sometime in the spring and will immediately follow up with the sixth and final part of the series, Soldier of Rome: The Last Campaign. These two works will take up most of this year, though I am already looking ahead to a project I have wanted to do for some time about the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
In all honesty, there is very little, if anything, I would change about I Stood With Wellington. One thing that has been noted as an observation, rather than a criticism, is that the story is very British-centric. Given the title, this is hardly a surprise. Mind you, there is a lot of focus on the French perspective as well, and I have made every effort to not paint either side as the ‘villain’. One regret I do have is that I had to end the story after only two books. A number of readers have stated how much they got into the depth of the characters, especially Captain James Webster and Colour Sergeant Patrick Shanahan, and they want to read more. However, since the British Empire was not involved in another large-scale conflict for forty years, there was nowhere left for me to go with them. I had never intended this to be a series, hence why I kept it to a prelude novella, Forlorn Hope: The Storming of Badajoz, followed by the full-length novel, I Stood With Wellington. It was only after I finished that I found myself wishing I could write more books about Webster and Shanahan.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
Criticism is always hard to take, though as an author you have to accept that that is simply part of the game. No matter the quality of your work, you are never going to please everyone. As such a large part of my readership is British, I think the hardest criticism I have taken has been regarding my Roman books sounding too ‘American’. Mind you, we have no idea how legionaries in the 1st Century A.D. actually talked; however, I do make sure I avoid using terminology that is obviously modern American. I did take this criticism to heart when working on my Napoleonic books, though. One can expect a bit of leeway when writing dialog in Ancient Rome; however, we know how people talked in early 19th Century England, so making certain I kept the dialog accurate was paramount. This is why I not only switched my Microsoft Word dictionary to English (U.K.), I also had the initial drafts proof-read by British friends, including both soldiers and historians. They made certain my technical terminology was correct, as well as the very different ways in which aristocrats like Wellington talked, as compared to the soldiers in the ranks.
What has been the best compliment?
I think the best compliment any author can receive is when a reader says they could not put your book down. Also, if it stays with them long after they finish it and they want to keep reading more.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Focus on your story and write for yourself first. Do not write based on what you think other people want, because then the story is no longer your own. Also, do not even think about publishing until after you have a completed story. I have seen too many aspiring writers get wrapped up in publishing and then never even finish what they started.
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
I am relentless when it comes to achieving goals that are important to me. I also believe in ‘paying it forward’, by helping those who come to me seeking help in their writing endeavors.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
The other side to being relentless is I can be rather bull-headed and stubborn at times (those who know me are probably nodding their heads right about now).
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Be thankful for what you have, but also look ahead to where you want to be in life. If you have goals and ambitions, go after them. Do not wait for others to do it for you or rely on random chance. It grinds on me when people say, “Well one day when I win the lottery…” Seriously, I find that insufferably annoying. My response has always been, “I write my own lottery ticket.” Above all, do not settle for less than you know you deserve.