James Lloyd Davis, a Vietnam veteran and former electrician, shipfitter, pipefitter, boilermaker, ironworker and engineer, currently lives in Ohio. He has returned to writing after a long absence, is working on two novels, and experiments with short fiction in various forms. James has recently published flash fiction at Camroc Press Review, A-Minor Magazine and Istanbul Literary Review.

Talk about the mentor relationship if you will, its importance for a writer…

My own experience has been that of a true outsider, in that I had no influential academic or even communal experience with other writers.  My college training was in engineering and the only true mentoring relationships I’ve enjoyed were in apprenticeships for the ship building trades.  Certain books about writing have had a profound effect on me.  I can name two,  Norman Mailer’s The Spooky Art and Charles Baxter’s The Art of Subtext.  Reading the work of superior writers is a kind of mentor relationship so my mentors have been many and varied.  The greatest influence for me as a writer, the book that most challenged my view of the art was Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America, which is, or was, a revolution in perspective.  It taught me that there are no limits, no rules, no boundaries, that you can write about anything, absolutely anything.

What do you do when you feel stuck or uninspired… suggestions for unblocking creativity?

I’ve never had writer’s block.  Is that suspicious … or what?  Also, I’ve never lacked for inspiration, only time.  I wrote incessantly beginning the year I got back from the war until the late seventies, but did not write anything over the next twenty years.  Even during that period I composed novels in my head, so I had a lot of catching up to do.

When I started writing flash fiction, I would wake up every morning from a dream with a story to write.  Have no idea how that works or why, but I’m pleased it does.  Suggestions?  If you want unfettered creativity, all you have to do is live, really live.  Writing’s easy then.

Best advice you ever got? Words of wisdom…regarding writing or the writing life, or just…. living life!

That’s a hard one, because I seldom ever listened to advice of any kind.  In the service, when I took some leave in Hong Kong, they gave me a list of places that were designated as ‘off-limits,’ places you were not allowed to visit.  I used that list as an itinerary.  Had a wonderful time.

Wisdom?  Someone told me, “Life is a well camouflaged mine field that stretches as far and as long as your life.  You can walk timid or you can walk bold.  Choice is yours.  Result’s the same either way.”

What do you love to read these days? (as specific as you can be here) What excites you as a reader? What makes you care about a character?

I read everything, but I have a particular weakness lately for Irish noir fiction, like the Jack Taylor series by Ken Bruen which is a lot like what you’d get if you put James Joyce and Raymond Chandler in a blender.  Great stuff.

I’m always excited by writing that tells me a story and gives me something to think about.  Characters?  I like a mensch who can take a punch, literally or metaphorically, and not really whine about it, but give you odd, insightful details about the pain and the method of delivery.

Regarding plot: Do you start with a plot?  Do they develop during the process of writing?

I begin almost everything with an ending, both novels and short stories.  Once the ending is written, I go back to the beginning, which is, I think, the most crucial part of any fiction.  Then I make the journey from the beginning to the end.

Flash fiction, for me at least, is almost like automatic writing.  I write a few words and it just takes off on its own.  Can’t explain it.  Won’t try.  It seems to be working.

What are you working on now, on a daily basis… in your writing life?

There are two novels.  The first is titled I didn’t know Nostradamus played in McNamara’s band.  The best way I can explain it is that … it’s about a Vietnam veteran who tries to write a novel about his war, a task that takes him over forty years.  Mostly it’s about his life, what happens to him in lieu of completing his unfinished novel.  The last chapter of my book is the first chapter of his.  It’s … unusual.

The other book, James the Least, is about two homeless men who get in trouble in Houston and travel down to Corpus Christi to get away from a gangbanger who has sworn to kill them both.  One of the two men is a … well, I can’t give that one away.  It’s also different and I’m really quite confident about the novel as a whole.  I write for a while on one novel, then for a while on the other.  Switching off keeps me from getting stale and bored.  And, of course, I write a little flash fiction now and then, for fun.

What can you tell us about yourself as someone who is a regular and wonderful part of the Fictionaut community. What may surprise us?

Surprise you?  My last professional gig was at the Biosphere in Arizona, working for Columbia University as the director of engineering for the physical plant and in technical support for ecological scientific research.  And you thought I was just another pretty face.

How had Fictionaut helped you… as a writer? When did you come on the site? How did you find Fictionaut?

I never knew about Fictionaut until I was invited by Jerry Ratch last year in April.  Since then, I’ve truly enjoyed the exposure and came to appreciate and practice flash fiction for the first time.  Fn is the best laboratory a writer could wish for, a place to fly your flags and see how they stir the readers.  Also, some of the best, most innovative fiction abounds there.

Are there favorite writing practices/exercises that you can share?

Writing is best practiced in utter and absolute solitude and isolation.  It’s a lonely discipline and really hard work.  I don’t know why anyone in their right mind would want to be a writer, but if you must, you should be willing to write every single day without fail.  Hemingway, every day, stood at his desk in the early morning and plucked from his clean, bewhiskered head one thousand words.  It’s a start.  Most of us can do better if we drink less than he did.

The Fictionaut Five is our ongoing series of interviews with Fictionaut authors. Every Wednesday, Meg Pokrass asks a writer five (or more) questions. Meg is the editor-at-large for BLIP Magazine, and her stories and poems have been published widely. Her first full collection of flash fiction, “Damn Sure Right” is now out from Press 53. She blogs at

  1. meg pokrass

    Thank you Jim David and Jurgen Fauth. Great to interview Jim… who feels like a real friend. Much gratitude.

  2. Sheldon Lee Compton

    Good stuff, James. Glad you shared this, Meg. I saw the earlier (version?) and it was shorter and such, but it was pretty good, too. Anyways…bravo on another cool interview and bravo, James, for some articulate and interesting info on one of the good guys.

  3. David James

    Good interview. Thanks, for the insight into your writing life, Mr. Davis. And, as always, thanks, Ms. Pokrass for your questions that seem to invite your guests to open up and share. “Trout Fishing …” is a favorite of mine, too. And, Hong Kong? Thanks for the memories of a suit made in 2 days, snakes being sold on the streets and other stuff, like Kowloon (off limits, at the time), perhaps. I was stuck in Hong Kong during a typhoon named Mary. I’m sure we could share stories, though maybe not in public. I enjoy your work here and look forward to your novel(s). Especially,” James, the Least”. I really enjoyed this interview with an interesting writer by an interesting interviewer.

  4. Marcus Speh

    good to see you here, jim, and hear you talk about your work. i’ve long appreciated both the breadth and the depth of your work and enjoyed what you bring to the fictionaut community mix. looking forward to reading those two novels. good luck!

  5. Ramon Collins

    Nice job, Jim & Meg. I’ve read a lot of JLD’s short fiction on FN and it’s safe to say the man writes from the heart. That’s much better than writing from the fingers.

  6. Christian Bell

    Nice interview! Good luck on the dual novels, Jim.

  7. Jim Valvis

    Reading this: time well spent.

  8. Beate Sigriddaughter

    Awesome, James and Meg. I loved readings this. Sign me up for one of the first few thousand of your fans, James.

  9. Heather Fowler

    Enjoyed this! I really like this series. :) Cheers to all.

    All warmest,

  10. J. Mykell Collinz

    A very good interview with a very good writer. My thanks Meg and James. I enjoyed reading.

  11. susan tepper

    Terrific interview with Jim who is a wonderful writer and deep hearted guy.

  12. Rene Foran

    Great interview Meg! I must say I was super jazzed when I saw JLD on Fictionaut Five. Love your work, James.

  13. LindaS-W

    Wonderful interview! James, I appreciate hearing how you consider yourself an outsider — deep empathy here ;^) I am a tremendous fan of your short fiction, and wait with impatience to read your longer stories. I’ve just begun to read Baxter’s The Art of Subtext, and yes. Peace…

  14. Doug Bond

    Love this interview James and Meg…a real treat and wonderful read with a range of insights and images from Joyce and Raymond Chandler in a blender, to minefields, living with an itinerary of off-limits places and the final admonition about Hemingway…more words, less rioja!

  15. Sam Rasnake

    Nice. Enjoyed this interview.

  16. Julie Innis

    So happy to have read this today! And just when I thought my admiration for JLD’s work couldn’t be any greater…bam! Such an xcellent interview, James and Meg, thank you both.

  17. James Lloyd Davis

    Thank you, Meg, for the interview, the insightful questions. I couldn’t be more pleased.

    Thanks also to all of you who’ve responded so positively here. Does a fella good to hear nice things said about him and I’m feeling pretty good right about now. This is a great community, packed with an inordinate amount of talented writers and I’m proud to be part of it.

    Someday, we should all get together for a beer.

  18. Jerry Ratch

    Does root beer qualify?

  19. Robert Vaughan

    Really enjoyed this interview about another great Fictionaut writer! Thanks Meg and James for these insights about the writing process and more knowledge about James. I already knew he is a wonderful and talented man.

  20. James Lloyd Davis

    No, Jerry.

  21. James Lloyd Davis

    Thank you, Robert.

  22. Jane Hammons

    Wonderful interview; enjoyed seeing some of the life behind the stories.

  23. stephen h-k

    very interesting interview. i’m pleased to have read it. thanks much for putting this into motion…

  24. Bil Yarrow

    Don’t know how I missed this one (Oh, yeah–I was in India!), but happy to have discovered it now.

    Full of wisdom hard won.

    “If you want unfettered creativity, all you have to do is live, really live.”

    Meg and James–a winning combination.

    Really enjoyed this.

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