Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 19:15 — 13.2MB) | Embed
Subscribe: iTunes | Android |
Description: Male, 38. Very large. Very bald.
Occupation: Writer. Merchant of Death (retired). Firearms Instructor. Accountant.
I’ve had this blog (Authors Think Tank Note: This was taken from his blog, http://monsterhunternation.com/) for three years now, so I figured I should actually put some information on this page.
I was raised in El Nido, California. I grew up on a dairy farm, where I received my black belt in the ancient art of Portuguese Shovel Fighting,
because nothing motivates a Holstein to move its fat ass into the milk barn like a good shovel on the snout. El Nido was a tiny little town, where the cows far outnumbered the people. There’s not a whole lot of interest in El Nido, so I read a lot of books and I shot a lot of guns. (as you will see, these two things will be a theme in my life).
Looking back, I suppose I would describe myself as a geeky, fat kid. Ironically, I was also strong as an ox because I had to hoist bales of hay every day, but when you drink a gallon of extra-whole-super-plus-fat milk direct from the tank daily, (all you can drink, and it’s sorta free!) you do tend to chub up. So rather than play a lot of sports, I preferred to read books. I was that one kid that always had a book in my hands and was usually reading at recess instead of actually doing stuff.
It was my mom that installed a love of reading in me. My dad considered reading fiction a complete waste of time, since reading time should be devoted to information related to important things, like cows or tractors. But I was a voracious reader. I read everything I could find. El Nido had a tiny library, and by the time I was about twelve I had read everything there. Two hours on the school bus everyday gives you plenty of extra reading time.
The first author I loved was Louis L’Amour. I kept one of his index pages and checked off every book as I read it. Eventually I got them all. There was just something heroic about those that caught my imagination. The first real fantasy novel I ever read was Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. Somebody my mom knew had picked it up at a yard sale. It was amazing. After that I discovered Raymond E. Feist and David Eddings, whole new worlds opened, and I knew that I wanted to write fantasy. I started writing little stories in my school notebooks. I even illustrated them with dragons and swords and lots of explosions, because why the hell not? The other kids loved them, and suddenly I discovered that I was good at making crap up to entertain people. It would be another twenty-five years before I discovered that I could actually make money at it.
The first sci-fi I was introduced to was John Dalmas, and from there I went on a crazed spiral of reading everything possible. I polished off Dune when I was about ten. Mom didn’t believe me. She had to read it herself and then give me a quiz. I passed. She was impressed.
Besides cow hoisting and hay tossing, I was also our farm’s pest eradicator. Squirrels and rabbits would burrow into our irrigation ditches, and then when you ran water down them, they would break and flood the roads. Nothing prevents this quite like shooting the little buggers. Basically, I shot a lot of animals growing up. As farmers, you had your good years and your bad years. I remember one Christmas where all my presents were a new pair of work gloves and a brick of .22 shells. No matter how poor we got, there was always an ammo budget.
I loved shooting. It wasn’t really the hunting aspect. I didn’t enjoy killing animals, but it was part of my job and I was really good at it. You see, killing animals was where food came from, and for me that was work, not fun. For farm kids, raising a calf, giving it a name, and taking care of it like a sort of giant bovine pet was perfectly normal. And then one day you shot your pet in the brain, hung it up, and cut it into steaks. It really helps keep that whole circle of life thing in perspective. I don’t think city kids or suburbanites really grasp it.
Rather, shooting was about the interaction between me and the weapon. If I did what I was supposed to do, then this mechanical marvel would do what it was supposed to do. It was remarkable. It was fun. I loved guns. I still do. I’m a gun-geek.
Life was tough. Like I said, there were good years and bad years. A string of bad years were a real challenge for everyone.
We lost the farm. My dad wanted to try and start over somewhere where land and hay was cheaper. My family moved to Utah. I was the oldest and my dad and I were at that stage that many young men reach with their fathers where they really want to murder each other. I stayed in California. I was a junior in high school. At the time my plan was to go to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Moving to Utah was stupid. Why would anyone want to move to Utah?
I moved to Delta, Utah, and back in with my family, half way through my senior year in high school. I had a good excuse though. I was from El Nido, but I went to high school in Merced. Merced, California is a decent enough place, but at the time they had a bit of a gang problem. I don’t know if they still do, because I avoid going back to California like the plague. But either way, one of our local “youth groups” had an initiation that required them to jump and beat the crap out of some random schlub who didn’t even know what was going on. Guess who the random schlub was? Yep. Wrong place. Wrong time.
So I got my jaw dislocated and a concussion. Their plan of walking up to an unsuspecting doofus and clubbing him over the head and then mudstomping him was brilliantly executed. Except for one little thing. Remember that part about hoisting cows daily? (farm kids arestrong) Well, it didn’t work out too well for the Youth Group, and three of the four of them that attacked me ended up injured, and one of them rather severely. (head wounds bleed alot!) All of a sudden, I had a whole bunch of really pissed off gang bangers who decided that it was rather embarrassing to have four of their little homies beat up by a fat country kid, and I needed to be taught a lesson. Said lesson would probably involve putting bullets into my vital organs.
Plus, my personal stash of college-money steers contracted tetanus and most of them died. It was gross and sad. Kids, get those tetanus shots! Trust me on this one… It ain’t pretty. I even looked to the military as a career path and way to pay for my education. However, Bill Clinton was our new president and was in the process of gutting everything. The recruiters were kind of ho-hum, and then they shot me right the heck down when we got to the part where I had severe allergies, asthma, and extremely flat feet. (no really, I’ve got the worst you’ve ever seen. I’ve had podiatrists ask to take pictures of them).
So… Utah was sounding better and better.
The thing was, I actually really liked Utah. I was kind of surprised. Sure, I’d visited, and the people always seemed friendly enough, but I found that I was actually really comfortable there. Sure, it was populated by a bunch of weird Mormons, (I was raised Catholic) but it was just my kind of place. Everyone was literate and liked guns. Plus, California was becoming increasingly odd, with wacky socialists in charge of everything… (remember the part about being a reader? Yeah, I read Das Kapital for fun when I was a teenager. Even as a kid I could see how ridiculous that philosophy was) I checked out Utah State University on a whim, and ended up getting an excellent scholarship offer. It was kind of a no brainer.
At USU I lived in a tiny room ( I think it was originally a pantry) in a hundred and fifteen year old house with a bunch of goofy yet great roommates. It would have made a good sitcom. I got a job at the campus bookstore, but sadly, didn’t get to work with the fun books in the fiction section. Oh no… I worked with textbooks… Gah. What a racket. (and college students, yes, you’re getting ripped off, but don’t blame the bookstore employees. They’re making peanuts!) It was also during this period of working with professors that I lost every last bit of respect I’d ever had for academics. Most of them were dumber than a sack of hammers, but extremely proud of the fact that they had a bunch of degrees and had never held a real job.
I know when most authors look back at their college years, it is to remember with fondness of all the awesome debauchery and beer pong, but I kind of went the other direction. For fun I played role playing games and started taking karate classes. I worked hard, held down multiple jobs, and strangely enough, got religious for the first time in my life. I went through a period where I started examining my personal beliefs and philosophies, because I was a strange young man. I had made some good Latter Day Saint friends, and I had enough respect for them that I decided to listen to their spiel.
It clicked. For the first time in my life, I found something that made sense for me, and that I believed in. I converted to Mormonism, and only later found out that I’d only get one wife. (only joking, we haven’t done that since the 1890s, plus who am I kidding, at the time I couldn’t even keep a steady girlfriend). Because I’m the kind of guy that can’t do anything half way, I volunteered to go on an LDS mission. Apparently God has a great sense of humor, so I was sent to Alabama.
You know the dudes on bikes, with the white shirts and ties? Yep. That was me. I did that. I like to think I was pretty good at it too. Well, as good as somebody that looked like a young, hulking, terrifying James Gandolfini could be expected to do in a field where you randomly go up and talk to complete strangers. I know that the vast majority of folks who read my books and my blog aren’t the same religion as me, and that’s totally cool, but all that I’d ask is please be at least courteous to those kids. It is a tough job. And they’re unpaid volunteers who’re trying to do what they think is the right thing. Don’t point guns at them. Don’t run them off the road. Don’t fling beer bottles at them as you pass by (you have no idea how much that hurts!). If you’re not interested, just give them a polite no.
I did fall in love with the South though. I had one assignment where I spent four months living out of a car and driving from small town to small town across Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi, so I saw a lot of country. The South is a wonderful place, and I decided that southerners get a bad rap. People ask me why MHI is set in the South, and that’s why. Southerners get screwed in fiction. They’re portrayed as hicks, racists, and illiterates. In real life they’re proud, heroic, smart, hard working, good people. So I made MHI a Southerncentric organization.
So after two years of soul-crushing humidity, (how do you guys do it?) it was back to Utah, where I buckled down and started working toward my accounting degree. Why accounting? Because I got to know a couple of FBI agents really well when I was in Alabama, and I decided that sounded like an interesting job. It was like being a nerdy version of Batman. At the time, you either needed to be an accountant or lawyer, (both of which sounded boring as hell, but getting a CPA was cheaper than going to law school), so I decided that was what I would do. Besides, I couldn’t make a living with writing or guns, right?
Speaking of guns, the incident that would turn me from a casual recreational shooter into a hard-core tactical riot-nerd occurred around this same time. Without going into a lot of details, I was a witness to a very bad person doing something crazy, and the resulting aftermath where he then decided to try and kill an innocent person. I retrieved a gun and intervened. I didn’t shoot anyone, but I was about half a second from pulling the trigger on another human being. Everything worked out, but when I took stock afterward, I realized that I’d blundered my way through a violent encounter, made a ton of stupid mistakes, and there were a hundred other ways that the situation could have played out where I would have gotten killed. I had been lucky.
It was a sobering event, and I decided that if I was going to have guns, I was going to learn how to use the damn things. I started seeking out every knowledgeable person I could, and every time I could scrape together the money, I took another class. This was also how I stumbled into the dawn of the internet gun culture, which would go on to play an important part of my life. I found out many years later that the bad guy I was prepared to shoot that day had gone on to be deported three times before eventually murdering a cop. There are bad people in the world, and they’ll hurt you, just because they can.
So after working a summer at a horrible cheese factory, and getting fired for reporting them to the health inspectors for knowingly shipping shredded cheese with broken glass in it (long story), I returned to Logan, Utah. The very first day back I was visiting my old roommates, when this girl came in and said “Oh, hi, Larry. Welcome back” like she knew me. She was hot. I mean, she was so gorgeous she took my breath away. She acted like she had known me from before I’d left for Alabama, but I was certain I would have remembered her. Her name was Bridget. I didn’t want to embarrass myself that I’d somehow forgotten this beautiful girl’s name, so I tried to be polite.
It turned out that we’d never met. She’d just thought it would be funny to embarrass me. She’d moved in down the street after I’d left and become friends with my old roommates. Bridget had heard so much about me, that she figured she’d just mess with me. It wouldn’t be the last time she’d mess with my head… Or my heart. (oh, man, I’m cheesy).
We talked. It turned out that she’d never shot a pistol before. I’d just bought a Browning Buckmark the day after I’d gotten back from Alabama. (kind of a welcome back present to myself), so I invited her to come along to the range. Somehow it turned into a date. Yes. Our first date was shooting. Appropriate, I know. We then went hiking and watched UFC. I know! This one was a keeper. She was beautiful, smart, funny, and extremely talented, while I was unemployed, homeless, balding, and ugly. Yet two days after we’d met, I knew that I was going to marry this girl. It took her longer to come around, nearly a whole week.
Yep. We were that couple. We’ve been married for twelve years now. She is still the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Ironically, she was also a Californian. And we’d grown up about 100 miles away from each other. Pre-mission, we’d lived only a few blocks apart, worked in the same building (where I bought food daily from the establishment she worked at), attended the same dances, she’d been best friends with one of my co-workers, and we’d even had Psych 101 together, yet we’d never once met that entire year before I’d left for Alabama. I’m pretty sure I would have remembered the nearly six-foot-tall Viking goddess that looked suspiciously like the Baroness from GI-Joe. (Yes, it is awesome to be me, thanks for asking).
Life sped along. We had our first child while still in college. That was a challenge. Full time jobs, full time school, and a baby… But we were badasses. None of that whining to mommy and daddy for us. I worked at the bookstore during the year, and did everything from Sprint customer service to providing Allstate rate quotes during the summers. My wife ran the international kitchen at the food court. She always volunteered to close because we were so poor that we lived off the leftovers she brought home.
At some point, I realized that working in federal law enforcement was probably not a good fit for somebody with “authority” issues and complete lack of faith in the federal government. So I applied for local law enforcement jobs. For those that have been through it, you know what a long, tedious, annoying process that is. I’d been graduated for several months before I was finally hired by the sheriff’s department that I really wanted to work for, and to celebrate, my wife and I spent actual monies and flew out to California to visit relatives. Of course, while we were there the sheriff’s department cut their budget and instituted a hiring freeze. Ooops.
So now I needed a job, quick. I had an accounting degree. I had never planned on being an accountant. I’d envisioned myself in a career with more ‘hitting’ in it. But a man’s got to feed his family. So I started applying. I was hired to be an “Associate Financial Analyst” for a Salt Lake branch of a giant fortune 500 company, where I could be a tiny cog in a machine. By the time the sheriff’s department started hiring again, I’d settled into my boring, but better paying, accounting job, and we’d just had our second child… So I decided to stick with accounting. It was sad, but it seemed like the responsible thing to do.
It turned out that I was actually a decent accountant. They dropped the Associate part from my title, and I got to do a lot of fun things, plus our factory made neat stuff for the music industry. I liked most of the people I worked with, but as the years went by, the company got bigger, and therefore dumber. There were layoffs, downsizing, and all manner of corporate foolishness. It became a game for management to think of ways to justify not giving raises, except for when I got other job offers, because then I was worth keeping around. (only two big raises I got where when I threatened to quit) After five years, I’d decided that the corporate world was a soul-sucking pit, designed to crush the human spirit. It was very depressing. That, and I hate cubicles.
To free my mind from the corporate BS of my day job, I started writing again. The first thing I wrote was a thriller. (don’t even ask to see it, because it sucked). After that, I decided I wanted to write a book about monster. I loved B-movies, only the protagonists were always stupid. How cool would it be to have a big B monster epic, only with smart protagonists?
During that time I kept on expanding my knowledge of gun stuff. I had become a Utah CCW instructor to supplement my income, and I was really good at it. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m a hell of a good teacher when it is something I enjoy. I shot a ton of competition, mostly IDPA and 3gun. Plus, I had started getting articles published in gun magazines. A friend of mine from the gun culture called me from Afghanistan. He said a few of the guys in his unit had been talking, and they wanted to go in together to open a gun store when they got home. I was the one person they knew that knew guns and could also do math.
So I became part owner of a gun store. I was living the dream. I said goodbye toHumungous Manic Group. Ironically the person they hired to replace me made 10K a year more than I did when I quit. That’s the corporate world for ya.
Small business ownership is an interesting thing. You’ve got a lot of freedom, but at the same time it is the biggest chain you could ever shackle yourself with. We grew from a tiny little space in the front of a boat shop with two employees, to a giant building with a bunch of staff and a full shop. We amassed an impressive collection of hardware, and I was able to participate in some really neat training opportunities. There were challenges, oh, so many challenges, but I’ll get to that.
I finished Monster Hunter International, and was surprised to find that it was actually pretty good. Most of the people I showed it to loved it. It was like when I was a kid, and I did the little fantasy stories complete with cartoon drawings, and people complimented me. That’s a surprisingly addictive feeling for a writer, and I bet many of us feel that same way. So I decided to try and get it published.
I started out the old fashioned way, query agents and publishers, submit according to the guidelines, wait, and collect rejections. MHI got shot down over and over and over and over again, all while everyone I showed it to really enjoyed it. I’m a businessman. I’m certainly not the sensitive artist type (you can’t work with Green Berets and Marines all day, and be “sensitive”). I knew about how many books a publisher needed to turn in order to make a profit. I knew from my own reading tastes, and the many people that I corresponded with on the internet that MHI could sell, but the publishing industry said no.
So screw the publishing industry. I decided to publish it myself. Self publishing is normally the kiss of death. It is where really crappy books, written by talentless hacks, go to die. But once again, I’m not the guy that can do anything half way. I used my aforementioned internet gun culture contacts to spread the word. I did an online serial with Mike Kupari that got over a hundred thousand hits. People knew I could write, so they lined up to buy the self published MHI. A fan of the serial got an early copy to pass along to his friend who owned a big indy bookstore (Uncle Hugos). I figured I needed to sell 500 to break even. Anything over that was gravy.
Uh… Yeah. A couple thousand copies and a spot on the Entertainment Weekly bestseller list later… Uncle Hugo introduced me to Baen, and all of a sudden, I had a publishing contract. I was an actual writer. Holy crap, that was unexpected.
Meanwhile, back in the land of small business ownership… I was fried. I was teaching a couple hundred people a month. I had been working 80 hours a week or more at my shop, and I’d gotten to the point where I was having some differences of opinion with the other owner about our direction. I was neglecting my wife and children. I was burned out, suffering from insomnia, and bringing that stress home. I’d poured a lot of effort into making the store a success. Selling my business was one of the hardest decisions I’d ever made, but I’m glad that I did. I made many good friends over those years and had many great opportunities. I wished them the best and moved on. A year later they’d gone out of business.
For the first time in my adult life, I was unemployed for more than a couple of days. Plus the economy had just tanked. I had a single book deal, but I was just starting out. It wasn’t enough to live off of. There were fifty qualified accountants applying for every job. It was kind of scary. So, to take my mind off of being unemployed, I wrote a couple more books. I’d later sell those too, so technically I can say that I’ve never been unemployed.
I found my current job through a series of flukes and coincidences. I’m now the finance manager with a defense contractor. I do like supporting the military. I just crunch numbers, but in a way I’m helping keep F-16s in the sky to rain fire on our enemies. Sweet! It is honestly the best job I’ve ever had. My boss has integrity. I run my side of things with a lot of freedom and it is very professional. I’m selling an ever increasing number of books, but I actually like my day job. Every time I get some new bit of good writing related news, I have to assure her that I’m not planning on quitting anytime soon.
The Baen version of MHI came out, and it was a surprising hit, even ending up on another bestseller list and getting killer reviews. It went through four printings in its first year, which is remarkable. I’ve since sold three more books to Baen, have fingers crossed on a fourth that I just sent in, and I’ve been asked to do another sci-fi series collaborating with powerhouse author, John Ringo.
The writing career has been going well. I am humbled by how awesome you folks reading this are. My readers never cease to amaze me. The Monster Hunter Nation is an impressive bunch. So, I’ll keep making crap up to entertain you, and in exchange you give me money, and tell your friends to give me money. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Bridget and I have more kids now. I don’t like to talk about my family a whole lot on my blog, not because I don’t love them, quite the opposite in fact, they’re the center of my universe, but because the internet is a strange place. But life is good for the Correia family. We’re in the process of building a house in the mountains and getting the heck out of the suburbs. If they’re lucky, I may get some cows for the children to have as pets, and then steak. It’s that whole circle of life thing, you know.
And that’s it for the About Me.
EDIT: Somebody pointed out that I’venot updated this for a couple of years. It has been really busy.
We had a 4th (surprise!) kid.
We moved from the suburbs out to a place that I lovingly call Yard Moose Mountain. We’re in a very small town in the mountains, and I love it.
I retired from my military contracting job, so now I’m a fulltime author. Which is good, because I’ve been crazy busy. My 10th novel will be out this summer, with 16 more under contract. My audiobooks have won two Audie Awards in a row, and my books are now in 7 languages.
And it is because I’ve got the best fans around.
James is a geeky, nerdy dude. He writes, sometimes. He blogs, sometimes. He's helpful to people, sometimes. He doesn't like to repeat himself, sometimes. He's funny... looking... always.
His hopes and aspirations of the future is to one day find a way that people will pay him while he sleeps. It is his dream job.