Indie Book Promo is happy to welcome James Finster to the blog! He is here to answer some of our questions and to share some information about his book, The Reverent Surrender and also about his writing. If this book sounds like something that you would be interested in, please use the buy links at the bottom of the page to pick up a copy or two!
IBP – Tell us about your new release.
James – My father took his own life in March of 2009. In the years following I found myself really struggling with his decision and the fact that I felt that all he had taught me in this life was negated by his decision. Admittedly, it was a very dark time in my life. Although I had a growing family and an amazing support system, I felt entirely alone in my grieving. Suicide tends to do that to those left in its wake.
The book is my cathartic journey to healing and forgiveness. It took me a long time to realize that through reflection, and putting it on paper, I could separate the good from the bad. I started out thinking I could write a self-helper, essentially helping people through similar situations. In the end I realized I could do no such thing.
The Reverent Surrender explores the life I had with my father before his decision and the times that followed. Each chapter tells a story of a lesson learned passed from Father to Son. Ultimately ending up at the conclusion that nothing was lost by his hand but his desire to carry on.
Through humor, sadness, and a realistic approach to the phenomenon that is suicide, I feel I have given my heart and perspective on a situation that can destroy so many lives left in wake. I wanted to offer the reader the chance to see that life is not defined by how someone dies, but instead, by how one lives their life.
IBP – Tell me a little about yourself.
James – As long as I can remember I have been an avid reader. When I got to the college level it was time to really decide what major I would pursue. I suppose it was a little bit of a lazy choice when I chose Literature. Although the reading loads were large, I found it very easy and enjoyable. In retrospect I am happy I had made that choice, but there were some occasions I truly doubted it, as it made for little career choice.
For the past eight years or so I have worked in the construction industry operating heavy equipment to support my family. On the down time I would write children’s shorts for my daughters and kept the creativity flowing while working in an industry that doesn’t support it much.
In June of this year I decided to give writing a go. Although I have constantly written throughout my life I had never pursued it much. Along with my wife and two daughters, I moved up to Flagstaff, AZ to calm down a bit and just write for a change.
IBP – When did you begin writing?
James – I had two dreams growing up. I wanted to either be a rock star or an author. So I constantly wrote anything that was on my mind. Belonging to multiple bands growing up I thought every song I penned was the most important song in history. Looking back, I am glad I have lost notebooks of songs to time. I’m sure they would be TERRIBLE! But, truth be told, I have always had an innate desire to communicate through the written word.
IBP – What’s your current guilty pleasure?
James – Detroit Tigers baseball.
Every season I usually watch 99% of the Tigers season, which sometimes is a very disappointing way to spend my time… I love baseball statistics, although I hate math and statistics in the real world. Luckily my wife doesn’t mind too much, and if they’re doing well in a season she can get into it a little too. But it is true that usually I will see nearly every pitch thrown in a Tigers season, or at least listen to it on the radio, which I find just as enjoyable.
IBP – What’s the hardest part of writing a book?
James – I think the hardest part of writing a book is knowing when to take an editors advice. Initially, “The Reverent Surrender,” was a manuscript nearly double the size of the actual publication. Trimming the fat was something I had to realize was very important. In my case I was essentially writing a memoir/biography on my father and myself. Authors like Stephen Ambrose can get away with long titles because they are writing on historical figures. I needed to understand that although my father was one of the most important people in my life, George Washington holds a little more merit and recognition in the real world and to the mass populace.
I am glad I listened to my editor when it came to slimming it down a bit. Although I was reluctant and felt as if what was referred to as the fat, could potentially be meat, in the end it was not. Some of the most complimentary comments I have received mention the flow and rhythm of the book itself. That fact gives me great satisfaction knowing I put out a book that can be read by anyone.
IBP – Which scenes were the hardest to write?
James – There is a chapter that deals with reoccurring nightmare I had shortly after my father’s death. At the time I was experiencing them I spoke very little of them to anyone. I have since shed those horrific nights and bringing them back into my consciousness scared me a bit.
IBP – Where do you get your inspiration?
James – It may sound cliché, but my father. He was always a huge supporter of anything I ever wrote. He always encouraged me to never give it up, no matter what medium I was doing it in. I feel terrible that this book is riding the wake of his suicide, but in a way it feels very honorable to do so.
IBP – Are there any particular books and/or authors that inspired you and continue to do so?
James – I really enjoy inspirational works. Mitch Albom is always someone I turn to when I feel a little down, but when I was younger it was Mike Magnuson. I got a copy of “The Right Man for the Job” sometime in high school and fell in love with the characters and settings. To me, Magnuson always had a unique way to explain the human condition with graphic realism mixed with sensitivity.
When I was reading “Lummox” I felt as if Magnuson had nailed guys like my father perfectly. Pretty much anything he has written I thoroughly enjoy. He writes with such wry humor and realism that, as a young boy, captivated me and made me want to be an author just like he was. I would love the chance to get to meet him one day, even if it’s just at a signing.
IBP – How can readers stay in touch?
James – I am incredibly accessible through my webpage and on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. I love and accept anything a reader has to say and respond to everything positive or negative.
I really try to make it a point to connect with readers and remind them that I’m just a guy like everyone else, no different than a guy standing next to you at the supermarket.
IBP – What are your thoughts on eBooks? (i.e. love them, hate them, wave of the future)
James – Although I definitely prefer to have a tangible copy of a book in my hands I can see the value of the eBook in the literary world. Platforms such as PubIt! and Author Central make it so easy to get something out there these days. I encourage everyone with something to say to get it out there to the people.
For people putting out an indie publication the eBook offers such an amazing avenue to distribute, without having to spend a fortune in production. I really hope I never live to see the day I can’t get a new release in tangible for however.
IBP – Are you working on anything new and if so when can we expect to see it?
James – Currently I am working on two works of fiction entitled “A Midwestern Mosaic” and “The Disappointment of Daughters.” Speaking of eBooks, I was thinking of releasing them on Kindle, Nook, and iBooks only, sometime in late 2013.
Lately I have received quite a bit of interest in some of the many children’s stories I had only intended for my daughters when I wrote them. I have been going back and forth with an old friend, who is an amazing artist, who wants a chance to illustrate some of them. Because these shorts are already done and ready I think I will get them out before I try to finish and polish up my fiction titles. I think the fun of seeing them come to life with illustrations will really be fulfilling and provide a nice break from hammering the keys for a bit.
James W. Finster, born July 6th, 1982 in Escondido, CA studied Literature at California State University San Marcos.
He resides in Flagstaff AZ with his wife Jerusha and two daughters Vivian and Reagan.
James enjoys writing fiction, children’s shorts and published a non-fiction memoir entitled “The Reverent Surrender” in 2012, dealing with the suicide of his father.
The Reverent Surrender is an insightful memoir that tells the story of a father’s dynamic and beautiful relationship with his son cut short when he took his own life.
How does one retain the life lessons past on without becoming resentful of their father’s decision?
As an only son, James Finster, retells the memories of the life and times he experienced with his father and looks for the messages and teachings within them while finding the strength to carry on as a man and father himself.
From learning to drive at the age of eight to avoid certain death, to facing and conquering his own demons in the days following his father taking his own life, James Finster spreads thoughtful insight into the complex relationship that is the father and son dynamic.
Through these memories Finster finds the strength to move forward and forgive life’s ultimate sin, and honor his father while keeping his teachings close to the heart and applying them in his own life. The Reverent Surrender reinforces the idea that a life is not lost with death, that it is truly the teachings and memories that keep the spirit alive within the hearts of those touched in their lifetime.
My father chose to end his own life.
That is the elephant in my room. It’s actually more akin to a mastodon that goes along with the old “bull in a china shop” saying. I do not feel sorry for myself. I know there are millions of people who have suffered worse tragedy in their lifetime. I am not angry with the decision my father made, yet I would give my own life if it meant that he could be a part of this world again.
It’s a lonely club to be a part of because I think everyone affected by suicide finds their own way to come to grips with it. Perhaps the many variables that go into acts of suicide affect the aftermath. The word brings awkward silence to even the best of friends. It’s a taboo subject when all your support exists to cheer you up. There are emotions inside you that you cannot bring to words, even if you had the self-awareness to tap deep into your heart.
Everyone dies; it’s a truism in this life, yet many choose to go on their own terms. Is there not some form of honor to be found within this selfish act? As exists when a samurai falls on his own sword? Does the absence of real battle shed the metaphoric war that is our daily existence? Should it even be considered a selfish act?
The ultimate act of humanity’s desperate search for freedom.
The penultimate act of the emotional self.
I like to assimilate things in my life. To think of things outside the realm of just existing in the daily world, comparisons or metaphors work to put my mind at ease. Take the whole of life for example; it is really no different than a game of baseball. You have a core group of players, always at odds, trying to get ahead. In order to win, you must balance the delicacy that is both offense and defense. A win is never guaranteed, and the fear of losing weighs on the mind until the moment you realize you have clinched a victory.
There are times of slumps and waves of victorious runs, but in the end, you will find you rarely play better than .500 ball over the years. You can’t always be the star player. It is true everyone will have that one memorable at bat, but in fact, no one man wins it for his or her team. It is a group effort the whole way; you put in as a team. Players can easily lose their faith in their team, but it is the coach who has to keep the faith day in and day out.
I like to think of my father as that coaching figure. He never lost faith in me, always tried to offer me his wisdom, no matter how unconventionally he brought it across, in matters that maybe he didn’t quite understand but fooled me as if he did. If coaches were better ballplayers than their own, they would be the ones in the game.
The coach who was Dad didn’t get fired. He chose to walk away. Hang up his hat silently and exit the field. True, it was an abandonment of his team, there is no disputing or defending that argument. But I had to look back on what he taught me and apply it in the seasons that lay ahead of me.
Our family, our “team,” was a good group. We stuck to our positions and respected where we found ourselves on the field of life. Simply put, it could have been worse. Given the circumstances of life, I feel, while we may not have gotten a championship, we were and are contenders.
The other team, the pitcher who is outside forces, decided to throw a curveball the day Dad took his own life. None of us saw it coming, and we watched it go by helplessly. We all struck out looking. We in the dugout left the ballpark defeated, yet as a team we knew we had more games to play. The game of life would continue; it would demand more offense, defense, wins, and losses.
It may not have been our day, our series, or our year, but more games lay on the horizon. If we didn’t carry on, there would be no chance for a championship, or even the opportunity to strike out again. Remember, if you get on the bags three out of ten times, you’re headed for the history books or at least the honorary all-star game.
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