I fell in love with writing before I fell in love with books.
I didn’t enjoy reading as a child or a teenager. I did, however, enjoy being read to. Listening to my mother reading Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and A Billion for Boris to my brother and me is among my fondest memories. But that’s about the extent of my literary exploits as a kid. Rarely did I crack a book on my own.
Raised on a small farm, I loved working with my hands. I loved the machinery of farming—the tractors, implements, and tools—the earth of farming, the animals of farming, the expanse of farming. And also the deep camaraderie among those who work the land. I had no knowledge of or aspiration for a literary life.
But then farming rejected me—my family didn’t actually make a living from our land (my father was an insurance agent)—so the neighboring farm kids didn’t accept me as one of them and made sure I knew it, sometimes violently. Spurned by the community and the vocation I loved, I found myself in a rural high school searching for a place to fit in.
I had no known talents. I couldn’t throw a football or win a race; I didn’t play an instrument and couldn’t carry a tune; my artwork hadn’t progressed past stick figures; and science and mathematics baffled me.
The brightest and most admired kid in my high school could do most of these things and more. But the thing he did better than anybody else was write. His essays and short stories were small, sometimes astonishing works of art that brought for him a certain level of prestige and acclaim. With no other prospects, I decided to try my hand at writing.
Perhaps in the same mystical way that some people pick up an instrument and instinctively understand how to make music with it, I instinctively understood how to turn sentences and paragraphs into essays and short stories. And like a musician who practices daily for the sheer joy of it, I found myself writing each day for the sheer pleasure and sense of accomplishment it brought me.
By the end of my senior year, I was thought of as perhaps the second best writer in my school.
My love for writing is why I graduated with honors from college. It is also what got me admitted into an Ivy League law school and from there into the upper reaches of the legal profession—places that seem such a long, long way from the farm.
I’ve gone on to read many of the great works of literature—but not nearly all of them, and not nearly as many books as avid readers consume. I read strategically, selecting novels that will challenge me and improve my writing. I am a painfully slow reader. I consider and weigh each word in search of the writer’s motive behind its selection. A great sentence has the power to seize me with reverence—and to wrack me with waves of self-doubt and jealousy. I might put the book down for days to ponder the genius of such a sentence, unwilling to move on until I’ve savored the last hints of its flavor.
My life has been profoundly altered by great books—East of Eden and War and Peace come to mind. But I do not write because of them. I write because I love to write. And because I can’t not.
James Kimmel’s debut novel, THE TRIAL OF FALLEN ANGELS, was published by Amy Einhorn Books last week and we’ve got two copies up for grabs today. Leave a comment below if you’d like to be entered in our drawing.
But how did she die? And why? Trapped between worlds in a mysterious place populated by people from her distant past, Brek desperately struggles to get back to her husband and her beautiful, now motherless, baby daughter. But her hopes for escape dim, and her fear for what lies ahead grows, when she is informed that she was sent here to join the elite group of lawyers who prosecute and defend souls at the Final Judgment.
With each dramatic trial conducted in a harrowing courtroom of eternity, Brek moves a step closer to comprehending what has happened to her. In a seemingly deliberate coincidence, her first client appears to provide a link to the sequence of events that led to her death. Through a series of stunning revelations, Brek discovers how the choices that she and others made during their lives have led her to this place. If she’s to break the chain, she must first face the terrible truth about her death. But when Brek suddenly finds that she herself has been called to stand trial, she learns the surprising answer to perhaps the most important question of all: Who is the true final judge of our fate and our lives?
The Trial of Fallen Angels is a thought-provoking mystery about love and hate, freedom and responsibility, and humanity’s search for redemption.