James Essinger is a writer of fiction and non-fiction and he is also an editor, literary agent, publisher and public relations consultant. He founded and is principal of The Conrad Press and of Canterbury Literary Agency.
He is currently working on a spiritual autobiography for a highly successful United States businessman. James has particular expertise at ghost-writing the life stories of prominent people in their own voice. He holds an MA (Hons) in English Language and Literature from Lincoln College, Oxford University.
James’s first mass-market books were Jacquard’s Web, how a hand loom led to the birth of the information age, and Spellbound: the improbable story of English spelling, which was published both in the UK and the US.
James’s book, A Female Genius, a new biography of Lord Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace, was published in the UK in October 2013. A longer version of this book was published in the US in October 2014 under the title Ada’s Algorithm.
…Through the infamous divorce of her parents, Ada Lovelace became the most talked-about child in Georgian Britain. This riveting biography tells the extraordinary yet little known story of her life and times when mathematics was as fashionable as knitting among women and Ada became the world’s first computer programmer. But for her era’s view on gender, Ada would single-handedly have started the digital age more than two centuries ago.
You can buy the book HERE.
An option on the movie rights has been sold to a leading Anglo-Hollywood movie production company and a new edition of the book was published on Ada Lovelace Day on October 11 2016.
James is also the author of the novel The Mating Game, being published in November 2016, and he is currently working on a new biography of Charles Babbage, Machines of the Mind.
How did you pursue and achieve your dream job/life?
I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to say I have my dream life because although I enjoy my life very much, anyone who says they have a dream life is tempting disaster and there are always things about one’s life that can be improved. But I certainly feel I have my dream job, in the sense that if I won the lottery tomorrow I would continue to do what I do.
I’ve achieved this dream job of being a writer, a literary agent and a publisher – and also a coach for a small number of writers whose work I think is promising and who hopefully benefit from my advice, particularly in terms of their fiction – by following a course of action I set myself more than ten years ago. That course of action was to try and write some good novels and non-fiction books, get them published if I could and see if I could earn a living as a writer.
I also founded my own publishing firm, The Conrad Press, in December 2015, so I am a publisher now too as well as a writer.
What are the advantages to working in the field you do?
The biggest advantage for me is that I can earn my living working at home and using words. I really can be my own boss, and that’s something I love.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a creative?
I suppose there are two basic challenges. The first is to make my work as good as it can possibly be.
The second challenge is even more fundamental. Obviously, you can only continue to be a freelance writer if you can make a living. If you can’t make enough money, you lose your independence and have to get a job. It really is as simple as that.
How do you deal with the inevitable ups and downs of leading a creative life?
I try very hard to keep all my business relationships positive ones.
Can you share tips for building confidence?
I think for any writer, confidence can only really be gained by producing good books that are published and appreciated. It’s amazing how powerful this can be. Achievement is the best form of building confidence. In particular, I’ve worked very hard to teach myself to write fiction.
Below are more of my tips on building confidence-my first five are for your professional life; the second five are relating to your personal life.
Much confidence stems from professional success, so the sooner you find out what you are best at professionally and apply yourself to it, the more successful and consequently confident you will be.
Do make sure you listen to the advice of professionals in the area in which you want to excel, but don’t take any advice on board unless you really believe in it.
Take steps to learn as much as you can about the technical side of your chosen profession.
Try to find a mentor; someone you admire and who you know has your interests at heart. Be willing to show your appreciation for the time and energy they’ve giving you; don’t take them for granted.
Pay attention to your appearance: whether you’re a woman or a man, appearance matters in terms of what people you want to influence think of you.
Be decisive in not being prepared to waste time on people who are less enthusiastic about you than you are about them: it can’t possibly lead to anything and all you will do is humiliate yourself.
Read, if you haven’t already, the book He’s Just Not That into You. It’s a brilliant and accurate study of male psychology in relationships.
Pay attention to your appearance: but be yourself, and insist on being accepted for yourself.
Try to make all your personal relationships positive ones. Drop people who stress you or make you feel negative and unhappy.
Pay attention to your health, fitness and diet.
What are your career highlights?
Inevitably, I think publishing my first mass-market general book Jacquard’s Web in 2004 was a huge boost to my career and to my own sense of self-worth.
I’ll never forget seeing the book for the first time.
I was also very pleased with the reception given to my biography of Ada Lovelace, Ada’s Algorithm which has been published in the UK, US, in Spain and also it’s being published in Finland.
I think my Babbage biography on which I’m currently working, to be entitled, Machines of the Mind, is going to be an interesting book.
But ultimately, I find writing novels more satisfying than writing non-fiction books.
The novel The Mating Game, which is being published in November 2016, is a book I’m very proud of and have worked extremely hard on.
It’s designed for everybody older than 16 (it isn’t suitable for children), and I think chess-players will find it particularly interesting because the heroine is a professional chess-player.
Who inspires you?
Charles Dickens’ brilliant novel, Our Mutual Friend is a book that made me definitively want to be a writer, although I think I’d have probably become a writer even if I hadn’t read it.
As far as living people are concerned, I’m inspired by two particular people. One is Doron Swade MBE, the brilliant scholar of computer history and the author of The Cogwheel Brain, the life of the nineteenth-century computer pioneer Charles Babbage.
Doron headed the team which by the year 2002 had completed the calculating section and the printer of one of Babbage’s machines – the ‘Difference Engine’. The modern building of a Difference Engine is in my opinion one of the most amazing achievements in the history of science.
Another person who has greatly inspired me is an American businessman called Joe Lukens who is man of deep spiritual integrity and faith and whose attitude to life and perspective on the world has made a big difference to me.
What is the greatest advice you’ve ever been given?
I can’t say I’ve ever been given any really great advice in one single message. But I do think Winston Churchill said something brilliant about dealing with adversity. He said: ‘When you’re going through hell, keep going.’
What are your hopes and aspirations for the future?
Well, many of those are the type anyone would have. I want to keep on being healthy, I want to keep on having a great relationship with my girlfriend, and I want to keep on writing good books.
Ultimately I think success has to be related to enjoyment of one’s work. I can’t really imagine anyone feeling successful if they hate their job. For me, in the field I’ve chosen, which is not always an easy field to make a living in, success means being solvent, having a great network of wonderful people to work with, which I do, and giving my all to writing (or with my publisher hat on, producing) some super books.
One thing I do want to say here is that anyone should have some aims to improve aspects of their lives. I want to lose weight and also go to bed earlier more often, because unfortunately I often get carried away with enthusiasm for my work at about two o’clock in the morning and don’t go to bed till three o’clock or half past three, which is really too late.