Bare Back Magazine: Can you tell me about your background and how did you decide to become
James Lewis: I’m a retired Navy man who always had an inner fire for words, whether reading,
writing or even rapping at one point (shortest rap career in history). My “career” as a writer started
around age 10 when my mother put me on restriction for something I did (don’t remember exactly
what, but enough to confine me in the house for a week). For punishment, I had to write a story
each night. She would read it and critique it. At first I hated these assignments, but as they say Mom
knows best, and I grew to love writing, even after my restriction was up. Writing was my hobby for
years, but once I discovered the internet, it became my passion and I decided to see how far I could
take my God-given talent. I’ve published stories in several magazines (including Bare Back
Magazine!), anthologies and published four novels via my company The Pantheon Collective. My
two novels are Sellout and A Hard Man is Good to Find.
Bare Back Magazine: Tell me about The Pantheon Collective and how did it come about?
James Lewis: In the summer of 2007, Stephanie Casher, Omar Luqmaan-Harris, and I made a
pact: If a traditional publisher doesn't sign us to a book deal by 2009, we'll create our own
publishing company (we'd been soliciting our manuscripts to agents/publishers for at least four
years). Coincidentally, I retired from active duty service in 2009--which gave me room to go full-
speed ahead into a new career--but by then, we still didn't have a book deal. I was somewhat
reluctant to go into business with friends--I'd always believed mixing business with friendships was a
bad idea--but I decided to dive head-first into this new venture. I'm happy I did!
We decided on the name The Pantheon Collective (TPC3) because we feel we are three powerful
individuals with unique skills and talents, but as a team--or "collective"--our ability to brainstorm and
make things happen has no boundaries. Plus, we have three times the promotional power. I call
ourselves the "Literary Voltron" and our tagline says it all. Three Minds. One Mission. No Limits.
Bare Back Magazine: I've read A Hard Man is Good To Find and enjoyed it thoroughly! What I
was most impressed with was that you actually wrote the story from a female point-of-view, and did it
very well. How did you find that place within yourself to pull that off?
James Lewis: I’m happy you enjoyed it! The response has been outstanding and luckily, most
female readers feel I captured the female voice accurately. My background definitely helped in
writing this book. Growing up with four aunts who would regularly get together gave me a peek into
the female world and how they really talked behind closed doors. Their conversations were full of
“colorful language,” laughter, and inappropriate babble about the opposite sex (definitely things I
shouldn’t have heard as a kid). While in the Navy, I served with women onboard ships and some of
them cussed worse than the guys! I realized women talked about sex as much as men (probably
more), but more detailed, especially in regards to penis size, how the guy was in bed, positions, etc.
I used one of my crazy aunts as a template for the main character Michelle.
Bare Back Magazine: What can readers expect from you in terms of upcoming projects?
James Lewis: Through my publishing company The Pantheon Collective, 2012 should definitely
be a banner year. We launched our latest book One Blood last December. Next up is Soul Mates by
Stephanie Casher (the sequel to When Love Isn’t Enough), which should debut in the spring. My
next novel Tangled Web should launch this summer. We also plan to publish a non-fiction book
about our experience with independent publishing, hopefully to give aspiring authors insight on
what it takes to create, market, and promote indie books. And that’s not including upcoming short
stories and novellas that I will publish on my own. Definitely going to be busy!
Bare Back Magazine: I understand that you are also a student, studying Kinesiology? How did you
decide on your major?
James Lewis: My other passion is health and fitness. I’ve always been physically active, and
genuinely enjoy learning of new ways to stay healthy and sharing information with others. I was a
fitness leader in the Navy, helping sailors meet body composition standards and pass the bi-annual
physical readiness test. When I retired, I wanted to continue on this path, so I became certified as a
personal trainer and enrolled in college to major in Kinesiology. Ultimately I’d like to pursue physical
therapy in graduate school.
Bare Back Magazine: You also volunteer in your local community at places such as The Veterans
Assistance Outreach and also the Boys and Girls Club. Why is volunteering so important to you?
James Lewis: I had read a news article about black men in the penal system and it annoyed the
hell out of me. I was always reading negative reports about black men, so I decided to take action
and do something about so many young men lacking adult male figures. I joined the Boys and Girls
club and became a “Big” to a young man named Daniel. Although I was still active duty, I was able
to commit for almost two years. I enjoyed it a lot, and promised to continue giving back after I
retired. I kept my promise and volunteered at a local Boys & Girls Club working in the gym. Also, I
knew many young men and woman would need assistance transitioning to civilian life (especially
with the end of the Iraqi war), so I decided to volunteer at a local Veterans Center, where we assist
veterans with Post Traumatic Stress and readjustment counseling.
Bare Back Magazine: You've received several writing awards and had your stories featured in
such books as: Zane’s Caramel Flava, Chicken Soup for the Soul (two series), Gumbo for the Soul,
Truth Be Told: Tales of Life, Love and Drama and Don’t Forget your Pepper Spray. What has kept
you grounded and so well-rounded professionally and personally in terms of the stories that you
James Lewis: I’m always striving to improve my skills and feel I have a long way to go. I believe a
true writer can branch off into different genres, so I study the craft of writing and read works from
other authors. I want to be bold and tackle different voices and perspectives that are foreign to me,
which is one of the reasons why out of both my books (Sellout and A Hard Man is Good to Find),
three out of the four main characters are females. I never want to limit my talent.
Bare Back Magazine: Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years as far as your writing career
James Lewis: I hope to have sold 1,000,000 books, put The Pantheon Collective on the map,
publish other authors and working in my own practice as a physical therapist living in my new, 6,000
square-foot house! I’m well on my way!
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James Lewis is a very talent writer. His debut novel
SELLOUT launched in July 2010 and second novel A
HARD MAN IS GOOD TO FIND in July 2011. His work
has been featured in various magazines as well as being
published in anthologies such as: Zane’s Caramel Flava,
Chicken Soup for the Soul (two series), Gumbo for the
Soul, Truth Be Told: Tales of Life, Love and Drama and
Don’t Forget your Pepper Spray.
James began writing at age 10 as sort of a punishment
from his mother. But his writing grew into a passion that
he has loved throughout his life.
He is a retired navy man who has found success in his
writing. Besides writing, James also volunteers in his
community at: The Veterans Assistance Outreach and
also the Boys and Girls Club.
In 2007, James made a pact with two other friends
(Stephanie Casher, Omar Luqmaan-Harris) to start their
own publishing company. And hence, The Pantheon
Collective was started in 2009. Several books have been
released and there seems to be a very positive
momentum ahead for the future. Stay tuned...
READ THE INTERVIEW...
Interviewed by Natasha
© February 2012