Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence

Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence

By   Publisher  Cashel Cadence House

ISBN  978-0-8957469-0-2


Published in   History,


Think you know Jesse James? Wait until you meet his family.

Rooted in the struggle of the Jesse James family to outrun the stigma of an outlaw reputation, Soul Liberty is the saga of a family destroyed by silence and torn apart by self-inflicted anonymity.

Drawing upon long hidden letters, memoirs, and personal interviews, author Eric F. James recaptures the family who turned on its own.
In this epic pageant of personalities and events, the core behavior, character, and soul of the James family emerges – the selfsame character and soul of their outlaws that has eluded historians for more than a century.

Jesse James Soul Liberty reveals the James family in all of their paradoxical identity:
• As rebel preachers of Colonial Virginia in the War of the Revolution
• As sharpshooting defenders of faith and freedom on the Kentucky frontier
• As politicians of an emerging nation
• As millionaire merchants of the American heartland
• As cultural combatants and feminist challengers to the politics of the status quo

The James are community builders, preachers, politicians, financiers, educators, writers, and poets. Equally, they are pariahs, outcasts, and outlaws.
Jesse James Soul Liberty extracts the compelling powers possessed by the James family. Their compulsive force for personal freedom, with religious and political liberty, ever fronts the endemic ability of the James to confound expectation.

As the Jesse James family uncovers the history lost to them, they finally answer the question no one else can. Why does Jesse James endure as a cultural American icon?

What is the Tag Line for your book? (A short description of your book in a sentence or two)

Think you know Jesse James? Wait until you meet his family.

Do you write full time or part time

Full time

How do you structure your day when you write

Write early morning to noon.Lunch.Tend to research, business, or errands and gym.DinnerRead, research, write, think, or default to entertainment.Retire, after assigning my brain with homework to complete before I wake up.

Why do you write? (Example; For fun, to make extra money, a personal experience you want to share with the public)

I've been compelled to write since age nine. In 1999, however, I was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor by Judge James Randall Ross, a great grandson of Jesse James. "Why don't you write a history of the family? Everyone always writes about Frank & Jesse. No one ever writes about the family." I promised, "I'll get right on it." After a decade of research, I write today to complete my sentence and to produce my epic five-volume history of the Jesse James family. Meanwhile, other book ideas of my own keep piling up. I'm doomed for life.

What are you working on right now / or your most recent work

I'm completing Volume II of Jesse James Soul Liberty and preparing for its publication. Volume III is in que, waiting to be written in 2017, following by Volumes IV and V. Meanwhile, I still write for my Stray Leaves website, produce occasional articles for other publications, lecture, and do book signings.

What inspired you to create this book

Before Judge Ross handed me my sentence, I had already spent a decade producing new research into the Jesse James family. At that time, my only motivation was to learn the history of my family, which no one seemed to know anything. What I discovered, I knew was of interest mot only to myself alone.

What genre do you write in and why did you choose it

Non-fiction, narrative history, heavily underscored by source citations, bibliography, and notes. When you're writing new history about a subject which everyone thinks they know, it's too easy to be branded a charlatan and a fraud. Working from that premise, I write to tell an engaging and entertaining story never told before, every bit of which can be substantiated and proved.

How much research did you do on your book? (If it applies)

20 Years total. But the problem is, I now am known worldwide for the research I do. The research keeps piling up. I add to it. Others add to it. My readers offer their material. I even receive anonymous unsolicited material. One room of my home is my research center. When I die,all this will be the problem of some library. I pity them.

How do you think you have evolved creatively from when you first started writing until now

My first writing was intended to relieve the personal pain of a lousy childhood. It didn't work that well. At age 15, I attempted suicide. An angel intervened. After pouring out my story, the angel took me to the pressroom of a newspaper. From the catwalk above the printers, the angel asked me, "What do you think of those men?" The pressmen I saw wore hats made from newspaper print. They wore oil slick aprons. Their hands were black and greasy and their faces were smudged. "Not much," I said. "Are you kidding," the angel exclaimed. "If they did not get dirty as they are, if they did not show up every day to do this hard dirty work, no one would know what is happening in the world." I've lived the creative life since. I am those pressmen today. I show up every day. I produce stories. From the stories which I produce, I touch lives of people I often never see. I have an effect on the world.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book for you

Writing is grunt work. Plain and simple. I'd much rather research any day. Research produces instant gratification. Writing produces agony every day. Some joy may come when the writing comes easy. That's rare. Mostly, it doesn't. Writing is construction work. You only can be happy and satisfied when you've completed the task, stepped back, looked again at your original plan, and can say, "It is done." How well it is done will be the measure of your joy.

What was the most rewarding

The rewards I expected did not materialize as I imagined. The highest rewards have been things unexpected. The people who tell me their stories after reading mine. The people who tell me they never thought of family as my book shows family. They think differently about their family in different terms now. They now perceive commonalities more than differences. They've gained insight into the meaning of behavior behind deeds. Beyond identity, they've learned a family can have a soul. I never anticipated that reward.

If you had to start over, is there anything you would do different

I admire writers who can write to a formula. Outside of my marriage to literary traditions, I simply can't. I think formula writers must be very good liars. I am a very bad liar. I need backup, verification, and source notes to hide behind. On the other hand, I have a story no writer could have invented with a formula..

How have you evolved from when you first started writing until now

I am doing what I was meant to do, not necessarily what I might have chosen to do. I am not a religious person, but I find spiritual sustenance in this evolution. There is no conflict between me and the universe. We both are in order and in sync.

Are you a planner type person, or do you prefer to dive right in when you write

The playwright Edward Albee once said he must see and hear the entire play in his mind before he wrote it to paper. I'm that kind of writer.

How much dialogue do you have with your readers

I probably have more dialogue than they want, definitely more than what they expect.. Pity the reader who says something to me about my work. I want to know everything about their experience. The stories of each reader's experience is the story of my book's life, just the part of the book that I can't write.

Do they influence your writing

Readers offer me insight into what I do right and what I do wrong. Readers never know how much influence they have on me.

Do you recommend being a part of a support groups to help you with your writing

Like a 12-step group? Sure, my life is unmanageable, but I like it that way. I enjoy my addiction and compulsion. Intervene with my creativity at your own risk. The only support I'm seeking is a book royalty.

Do you work with an editor If so, how much input do they have

I wish I had a Maxwell Perkins. I produce voluminously, like Thomas Wolfe. Maybe, I'll talk to Santa about this.

Was there anyone in your past that you think influenced your writing

The angel I spoke of previously. I am forever grateful.

Do you have any tips or useful resources on marketing

Marketing is the devil's business, isn't it? No one likes to be sold something. Everyone hates the salesman. The assumption is the salesperson is lying. I'm thrilled by social media, though. It gives the writer an opportunity to establish authenticity and integrity. I look for every opportunity to display my authenticity and integrity and that of my book. Yes, I use an elevator pitch. That's only a tickler. Yes, I offer a media or press kit. That's promotion. Marketing means creating sales. I do book signings. I do lectures. I post like crazy in social media. Each post is an extension of my book. Where my posts go in the world is where my book goes. Anytime or anywhere that I can tell the story of my book, how it came about, and what it is about and can offer to a reader, there is nothing left to sell. A good book sells itself.

How are you publishing this book? (Indie / self-published, traditional)

I wasted two years soliciting an agent or publisher. Knowing I had many volumes to publish, I then formed a publishing company, and the book was published. I've rejected publisher offers since. I would like an agent, though, because I aspire to cross media production for my books, and I don;t want to own and operate a production studio, too.

What are your thoughts on book series

Once imagined, a series is enticing. The benefits are generous in their return. If a writer commits, it must be considered a marriage. Stepping outside the marriage may have consequences. However, I understand bigamy is acceptable in publishing, made more acceptable if the writer employs an artful nom-de-plume.

How long do you think a book should be? (Pages or words)

As long as it can hold a reader's interest.

Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers

I only seek reviewers capable of reviewing my subject matter. I eschew paid reviews.

What advice would you give to your younger self today

Live creatively. Produce what's of benefit to others. Maintain your authenticity and integrity. Write with passion. Write every day. Remember, each step you take will lead you somewhere you didn't expect.Follow the path. Write to live 100 years after you've died.

What is your favorite book or film

Look Homeward, Angel and La Dolce Vita.

If you don’t already have one, do you have plans to have a book trailer and what are your thoughts on them overall

A book trailer's life is as a short as an introduction and lasts just as long. Never make it do anymore.

What are you working on next

Beyond my Soul Liberty quintet, my social media readers tell me they want me to write my show business memoir. (In my first career I was a professional actor from local theatre to Broadway to national TV.) My children want a personal memoir of my life. My lecture attendees tell me I should write a book on how to write a family history everyone wants to read, and how to publish it. I'm up for it all, as soon as the universe expands each day beyond 24 hours, and I can live beyond 100.

When you get frustrated, how do you deal with it

Eat a meal, take nap, go for a long walk, workout at the gym, watch a movie, travel, take time off, do something I've never done before. Any, or all of the above.

What advice would you give a writer that is just starting out

Go for it. Make every dream a reality. Break your boundaries. Think waaaaay outside the box. Make trouble. Think long term. Write, write, write. Think, and then write more.

About the Author

Eric F. James

Eric F. James co-founded the James Preservation Trust together with Jesse's great grandson, Judge James R. Ross. He also is the archivist of the Joan Beamis Research Archive that produced the first genealogy of the Jesse James family, "Background of a Bandit," published in 1970 by the Kentucky Historical Society. In recent years, Eric supervised the exhumation of Jesse's twin children, reuniting them with their parents per the lifelong wishes of their mother, Zee Mimms-James. Since 1997, Eric writes & publishes the official web site for the Jesse James family...Stray Leaves - The author's book Jesse James Soul Liberty is the recipient in 2013 of the Milton F. Perry Award.