James writes about tough issues of adolescence in hopes of creating conversations. He lives in Massachusetts, where he is employed as a high school teacher.
SIX MINUTES WITH JAMES THIBEAULT:
Joining LitPick from Massachusetts is! James is the author of which was released this year. James works with students with learning differences such as ADHD, NLD, and dyslexia. When he isn’t working, James loves to read, rock climb, and do martial arts and obstacle course running.
How did you get started writing?
I’ve always been interested in writing since I was a little kid. I remember sitting by my Tandy computer and typing out odd adventures about some mummy who ate people—it wasn’t going to win a Pulitzer any time soon. Because I’m dyslexic, I always struggled with the grammatical part of writing, but I was really good at coming up with different worlds and ideas. In college, I became interested in theater and playwriting—which helped me develop my writing skills without the worry of syntax. Eventually, as I became an English teacher, I was forced to improve my grammar in order to teach my students. With a solid knowledge of dialogue from college, my imaginative way of thinking, and my growing understanding of grammar, I finally felt confident enough to write short stories. Soon, my confidence grew with each new publication—leading me to write my first novel. Five years later, I am absolutely amazed that people have the opportunity to read what I have worked so hard on.
Who influenced you?
My style is very influenced by the Harlem Renaissance and Post-Renaissance writers. I’ve always loved the rhythm of Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown. The blues and jazz poetry they contributed to the world had a great impact on me. My writing tries to mimic that loose but thought-out style which is prevalent in their methods. After reading Native Son by Richard Wright, I fell in love with Naturalism as well as the power and rawness he brought to the table. All these authors wrote differently and against the status-quo, which I greatly admire.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
Native Son is one of my favorite novels. I remember reading it until four in the morning because I desperately needed to know how it ended. It is amazing the book’s complexity, but it is also mixed with intense action and suspense. My other favorite novel is The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner. It annoys me how very few people have even heard of this book, but it is nevertheless a classic. It is the epic tale of a family who desperately tries to find the American dream, only to fail again and again. The characters are so real and personal to me, I get emotional just writing these words.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Read and write as much as possible. Like any trade, experience is what improves your skill. Reading was very difficult for me growing up, due to being dyslexic. My writing never made serious headway until college. I began watching a lot of classic movies, and my sense of dialogue grew stronger. Once I realized that I needed to expand out of dialogue to become a true writer, I started reading more books. Eventually, literature took over my life. Usually, I read about four books a month and have no signs of stopping. Not only does reading good literature improve syntax and writing naturally, it helps see patterns and styles that are proven to work well.
Where is your favorite place to write?
In my office or in a café. Writing at home is really difficult, because I don’t have the mindset to be professional. In my head I am thinking, “Should I write a chapter or look at a video of a silly cat?” Usually, the cat videos win. By putting myself out of my home, I feel obligated to be more professional. Also, the atmosphere of a café is energetic and lively—I feel like the French poets and painters discussing life around coffee in the late 1800s.
What else would you like to tell us?
Give independent and lesser known books a try. Not only is writing a book incredibly difficult and long, but it is really difficult to get people to read the book once it is finished. If you come across a book that interests you but it is not really well known, humor the author and give it a go.
James, thank you for spending six minutes with LitPick! Many people think that with dyslexia, you are not a good writer. Writing a book would not be something they would try. You have inspired many.