My name is James P. Sumner. I live in the north of England and I write a series of action thrillers about a former soldier-turned-hitman named Adrian Hell.
I wanted my books to stand out, to be different, so they’re written in the first person, in the present tense. You see what’s happening at the same time Adrian does, and things are described to you by him. You get to see what he sees, but you also get to know what he thinks, which is very important.
I’ve recently released the fifth book in the series, A Necessary Kill, which has hit #1 in both the US and the UK Pulp Thriller charts on Amazon. It was a 2015 winner of Amazon’s Kindle Scout program, which means Amazon themselves published it for me via one of their digital imprints, Kindle Press.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I wanted to be a writer ever since I was in high school, but I never really had the dedication or the mindset for it until I got older. It was always a glamourous job to me, and the only thing I could ever imagine myself doing that would truly love. Now I’m doing it, it’s not very glamourous, but still the only thing I want to do!
How did you get into writing?
About three years ago, I was on holiday reading a book called Lethal People by John Locke. It wasn’t perfect, but I loved it. When I looked into the author, I found out he was the first self-published author to sell a million eBooks on Amazon. I read the book again and thought if he could do it, why couldn’t I? I started to research the options open to people who didn’t want to explore the more traditional path of going through an agent, at the same time as building the idea for my first novel. And here I am, three years later, with three Amazon bestsellers.
When and where do you write?
I work full-time still, and I do a large chunk of my daily writing in my lunch hour. I try and get as much done as I can in the evening as well. I’m lucky enough to have a little corner of my busy house all to myself where I can get some words down.
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
The hardest thing about being a self-published writer is wrapping your head around the fact that actual writing is really only half the job. Maybe even less than that. I have to arrange marketing and promotions, editing, cover design, run the website and social media profiles… it’s hard work fitting it all in, but to be successful, that’s what you have to do. I’ve spent a lot of time not only learning the craft of writing, to become a better storyteller, but also how to utilise the many tools available to authors that can help showcase your work – Facebook advertising plays a big part in our visibility nowadays, and that’s a job all on its own.
What is your greatest fear as a writer?
There are many differences between independent authors and ones who are traditionally published. But the main concern both have in common is probably losing relevance. Having readers lose interest, or dislike your latest work. Seeing your sales figures dry up, because with them goes your advertising budget, or, if you’re lucky enough to write full-time, your mortgage payments. I want to succeed, and I want to avoid failure. That said, I guess I’m not afraid to fail, as I would simply learn and try something else to get my success, but that doesn’t mean I want to fail.
Are you an outline writer or a discovery writer?
I try not to do much planning. I’m impatient, and when I have the basis for a novel, I don’t want to waste any time – I just want to get it down on paper. I always have a simple premise for the story, a definite starting point, and a rough idea where it’ll end, but other than that, I simply start writing and see what happens. If something works, I roll with it. If it stops working, I go back to the point where it stopped and change things until it starts again. I find it a very organic process, like I’m discovering the story myself, and simply documenting what I find.
How much research goes into your books?
Not too much, if I’m honest. The bulk of my research goes into the locations and the weaponry used, not the story itself. If anyone ever looked at my Internet search history and found me looking at maps of the United States and sniper rifles, they might get worried!!! But for the most part, I play it fast and loose, exercising artistic license to make things as entertaining as possible.
Describe your latest book to our readers.
The new book is the latest, and fifth, entry into my ongoing Adrian Hell series, entitled A Necessary Kill, and it finds our hero (if you can call him that) on the run from pretty much everyone, as he tries to uncover the truth behind a government conspiracy and stop things escalating to the brink of war. It’s action-packed, probably more politically driven than previous novels, and full of humour, explosive set-pieces and lovable, crazy characters.
What was the inspiration behind it?
There’s no specific thing or event that inspired the book, per se – it’s simply the thing that Adrian Hell is doing now. In the previous book, Deadly Intent, he had escaped his old life and started over in a small Texas town, running his own bar. But his former life caught up with him and he was dragged back into the dark world of contract killing. As a result of that, he became embroiled, through no choice or fault of his own, in a government conspiracy that was discovered in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. As a result, he’s found himself in the situation we see in A Necessary Kill. It’s Adrian’s story, Adrian’s life. I’m just documenting it for you guys.
What have been some of your favourite scenes to write?
Hmmm, that’s a tricky one… I write my books as if you’re reading an action movie, so they’re full of scenes that would look great on the big screen, and consequently stick with you long after the book’s finished. In terms of action, there’s a scene at the end of Book 2, Hunter’s Games, where Adrian has a very brutal, visceral fight with someone in Alcatraz, and then has to shoot a missile out of the air with a sniper rifle. Does it stretch the laws of physics a little? Possibly! But mathematically speaking, it was doable! Haha! But it was a great scene, and despite having written it, when I read it back, I literally shifted to the edge of my seat, so I think I nailed it.
There’s also a scene at the end of Book 3, One Last Bullet, where Adrian is standing over a grave, and his internal dialogue during that scene very much brought to a close the part of his life we were privy to during the first three books of the series. It was a great moment, and a scene I had planned since about 25% through the first draft of True Conviction (Book 1 in the series), so to get there and write it, and have myself shed a tear reading it back… again, I thought it was something I nailed, and it’ll always be one of my favourite scenes.
If you were stranded on an island and you had one book to take with you, what would it be?
I won’t say one of mine and be “that guy”! Haha! I think I would have to take something that I would happily read over and over again. There aren’t many books like that, for me, but I would have to say Killing Floor by Lee Child. I read it when it first came out, back in… 1997, I think it was. And I’ve probably read it once a year ever since.
What advice would you give to an aspiring novelist?
Study. Without a doubt. I wish I’d learned more about how to write before I started. You don’t need to have a degree in literature, but you do have to understand that writing and storytelling is a craft. It’s a skill, and like any other skill, you have to study and work hard to become good at it. There are loads of tips and techniques that can make your story better, and make you a better writer, and I’m still a very long way away from learning them all.
The only other piece of advice I would give is, don’t try to do it alone. There are thousands of authors out there doing it themselves as well. Connect with them. Learn from them. Where you can, help them. Remember that writers aren’t in competition with each other. Just because someone’s #1, it doesn’t mean you have to beat them. It doesn’t mean that being at #10 is worse. People are still buying your book as well, and will continue to do so even if they buy other people’s. Build up a network of authors you can bounce ideas off, that you can trade information with. It’s helped me greatly, and I’ve made a lot of friends in the process.
The world has just experienced the most devastating nuclear terrorist attack in history. Having discovered proof of the U.S. president’s involvement, legendary assassin Adrian Hell finds himself facing an enemy too powerful to overcome alone. With no friends by his side and his loved ones in danger, Adrian must find new allies to combat the unprecedented threat, and he gathers the few he can – an over-the-hill small-time mob hitman, a female assassin who’s so crazy that Adrian has to break her out of an insane asylum, and an illegal arms dealer who’s not used to working in the field. While they start out taking the job for the money, they soon come to realize that their actions have much farther reaching impacts. But the nuclear attack was only the beginning. The horrifying conspiracy runs deeper than even Adrian knows, and time is running out to save the world from a war no one knows is coming.