Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Interview With Jim Best, Author of Tempest at Dawn

 Jumping in Pools is proud to present interview number 98 in our ongoing series. Today we're interviewing Jim Best, author of the book Tempest at Dawn. Jim was recently featured on the Glenn Beck program. You can access his homepage and his author's blog. Tempest at Dawn is among other books that Best has authored, including the Shopkeeper and the Shutmouth Society.
1. When/how did you get the idea for Tempest at Dawn?
I traveled a lot for my day job, and found myself frequently in hotel rooms. While in Boston, I read Decision in Philadelphia by Christopher Collier. At that time, I knew little about the Constitutional Convention. After reading Collier's book, I thought the creation of our Constitution was a great story, filled with some of the most fascinating people in our country's history. I started reading more and more books about the Founders and the convention. Then in 1997, I did something enormously naive, I began a novel about the convention.
2. How did you become an author?
It seems like I've always been writing. I wrote a bunch of journal articles, a couple of regular magazine columns, and a non-fiction book called The Digital Organization. All of my writing had been highly technical, but storytelling has always fascinated me. Although I now write fiction, I had a bumpy start. I had to read piles of books on the art of fiction, hire a writing coach, and attend numerous workshops. Then I blundered around until I started to get the hang of it. It took years for me to shed the baggage that I had brought from the technical, non-fiction world. The main thing I had to learn was how to relay history and facts without interrupting the flow of the story. Much tougher than I expected.
3. Which book that you have written was most enjoyable to produce?
Without a doubt, it was The Shopkeeper. I spent five years on Tempest at Dawn and found a NYC agent eager to sell the book. This was a very tough book, because, although it was a novel, I wanted it to be accurate. While the agent did his thing, I wrote The Shopkeeper, a traditional Western with an unusual hero. I felt as if I had been set free. No longer manacled by history, I could let my imagination go free. Luckily, Tempest at Dawn did not sell initially, because when I picked up the manuscript after a five year hiatus, I realized I had let history get in the way of letting the reader know the Founders. I spent another six months on a major rewrite, and I credit genre fiction for teaching me how to tell a story.
4. Do current/recent politics affect your writings?
Nope. Except that current/recent politics got me to pull Tempest at Dawn out of the drawer. I probably read, or seriously scanned, well over a hundred history books to write Tempest. It took years, and when I started, there was no Constitutional crisis, or for that matter, very much interest in the Constitution. Considering the implications, I'd prefer that there wasn't a clear and present danger causing the current level of interest.
5. Has President Obama been better or worse than you expected?
I expected the worst. His political beliefs were out there for anyone who looked beyond the mainstream headlines. A lot of bad has happened, but I believe it could have been enormously worse if the alternative blogs and grassroots organizations had not sprung up to contest a dreadful agenda. This activism encouraged me to revisit Tempest at Dawn. I agree with James Madison, "the origins of the American Republic contain lessons of which posterity ought not to be deprived.”
6. I noticed that you are from Arizona. Are you supporting a candidate for US Senate?
I support J. D. Hayworth. He may be a flawed candidate, but he has two attributes I want in my next Senator: He has consistently supported controlling the borders, and he doesn't intimidate easily. Republicans need someone to stiffen their spine. This is a fight, and flawed or not, Hayworth is a fighter. I'm done with the untrustworthy McCain. Besides, as the last presidential candidate, the only way to throw him out of party leadership is by defeating him for office.
7. Do you agree the Constitution is a living document?
Not in the way the term is normally used. The Founders designed a system of government, not a list of laws. They insisted on checks and balances to distribute power; not just between the three branches of government, but also between the federal government and the states. The Constitution is not living, in the sense that it can be wrenched every which way to fit a politician's whim.  It is, above all, a disbursement of power to inhibit the natural tendency of man to dictate the habits and liberty of other men.  Our Constitution is a brilliant system to govern imperfect people in a flawed world. This was the original intent of the Founders. The world may have changed, but since the nature of man has not changed, the Constitution is as valid today as it was in 1787.

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