Interview – James Ullrich

During the Official Launch Party for Jode Unforgiven, I had the pleasure of interviewing several other authors over the course of the evening. Since some people might have missed the party, I’m bringing the interviews over here.
As before, the lag on facebook leaves an interview a little discordant at times. So, I have moved comments around to better fit into a flowing conversation. No words are edited or changed. (Yes…even the typos are left in.)

James Ullrich

And next up to bat we have James Ullrich. He’s a travel writer and so so much more. I’ve had the pleasure of watching his writing grow over the last couple of years. His latest novel Dangerous Latitudes is phenomenal. It’s got everything…train fights, continent hopping, some dude getting hammered with an antique astrolabe! EVERYTHING! And I saw it grow.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, James Ullrich. James, tell us a little about yourself!

– Hi! I’m a freelance writer in Seattle. I specialize in European travel. I’m originally from Chicago, then lived in London, Europe, and Washington DC. I’ve written two novels: The Vanishers, a dark suspense/thriller set in Prague, and Dangerous Latitudes, an globe-spanning adventure about a travel writer on the hunt for a lost treasure. Both were published in by Latitude Publishing in December 2012.
– European travel and awesome adventure novels! So, Dangerous Latitudes is about a *cough* *cough* travel writer who goes in search of “The Lost City of Z”. What was your inspiration for this story?

– both novels were work-shopped as I wrote. MY critique group included the Great One Himself, one Scotty Schrier. it also included Lawrence Verigin and Eve Gruschow. We all had the extreme good fortune to be led and tutored by the one and only Don McQuinn. The man’s a legend and we were lucky to have him.

– So, since the gang and Don eventually gave the books a I figured they were good enough to send into the world.
– Bahahaha! But seriously, how much work was involved in writing this novel? That’s a LOT of researching…right? Take us through the steps of how you got the idea, and went about weaving this tale into the pre-existing fabric of history.

– Prior to coming to Seattle and being a writer, I worked as the Chief Managing Staff Writer for the Chicago Music Guide and served graduate internships in the Political Affairs Office of the US Embassy in London and the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence. It was interesting, since starting to write seriously, I’ve been published in The New York Examiner, World War II Magazine, Aviation History Magazine, Renaissance, Global Aviator, Military Magazine, and Weider Publishing Group, and I’ve contributed European-based travel guide material on websites and blogs including Travel Addict, Vagabondish, Compass, Backpacker, InTravel, and Writer Abroad. I contributes a semi-weekly blog post to Vagablogging.

– And I can tell you that Scotty Schrier is awesome. every time Scotty was up for a grilling in our critique group. we knew were in for a treat.

– We’re hear to talk about YOUR book now. Dangerous Latitudes. It’s a continent hopping adventure that ends up in the Green Hell of the Amazon jungle following hallowed footsteps of great explorers…what gave you the idea to write about that?
– Well, the book was inpsired in part by the book “Lost City of Z”, a nonfiction book about the real-life Indiana Jones-type guy who went looking for a lost city in the Amazon, and never returned. it was a fascinating thing to research! I read lots of books about the’ Spanish Conquistadors and their efforts to find the :Lost City” bacl in the 1500’s. And I had the cool opportunity to interview the US’s leading archaeologist on pre-Conquest South America, Dr. Anna Roosevelt, granddaughter of Teddy. She was a wealth of information, and it turns out that Dr Roosevelt was right all along in her theories– there have been recent discoveries in the Amazon suggesting that there were thriving civilization there 1000 yrs ago.
– And you decided, “What if we FIND this city? What is really there?” Not that I’m asking for spoilers, but fiction books about non-fiction events need a catalyst, as it were. Is the main character, Matthew Hunt, based on you? Or someone you’d like to be?

– As in the novel, it’s known that he purposely misled others by giving false coordinates in order to ensure they did not beat him to “Z.” This may be why he was never found. Some of his letters and artifacts can still be seen in the archives of the Royal Geographic Society in London.

– As you said, the lead charchter’s a travel writer. He’s a loner, kind of laconic, and comes off as kind of gruff. But he’s a decent guy who strives to so the right thing, in the big picture. He’s got a good heart. That’s not to say he’s perfect. He’s profoundly curious, and that drives him. He’s driven to learn and explore, and bring that little slice of the world back to his readers. He sees it as a moral issue. And so sometimes—almost always, actually—gets him into more than he bargained for. His fortitude in the face of difficult circumstances and his desire to solve the mystery drive the stories.

– Your question: totally, I needed to figure out, what if they find it and if so, what will be there, and how will the story end? So that was a challenge, and I think I came up with something surprising and interesting and satisfying.

– the lead character, travel writer Matthew Hunt, is who I’d like to be. He’s cool and worldly and…tall. I hope to be like that someday, except for the tall part, I’m kinda out of luck there

– So, will Matthew Hunt be seeing any other adventures? Or was he a one-shot pony?
– more Matthew Hunt adventures: YES!!’ Like Indiana Jones or James Bond etc, there are a wealth of potential stories and exotic locales that can be explored. I’ve got a few very intriguing ideas right now. You know, some ancient African coins were recently found on a beach in Australia. How the hell did they get there, if history is right and Australia was only found by an Englishman in the 1700’s?????? Sounds like Matthew Hunt might have to go investigate that. There’s also lots of lost treasure still to be found. So, he might keep busy for a while.

– Woohoo! I hope so!

– Like you said before, this is your second novel. The first was The Vanishers. And again I saw that one in development. It was an largely ensemble cast. How hard was it changing from a large centralized cast to just a handful of characters?

– ugh god it was really hard to write a novel with an ensemble cast. it was like having kids.

– They premise is, The Vanishers are a team of four former Special Forces vets (and one female cat burglar) from around the world. They’re experts in espionage, disguise, and cutting-edge technology. the members’ identities are a mystery to the world,but the Vanishers have reached global fame because of their ability to make off with whatever they choose and then vanish into the night. it all goes well till someone nefarious figures out their identities, and things get interesting. Then the other side is the LAW, the investigator charged with finding them, and his team…
– the interpol cop charged with catching them, Valera, is in his fifties; gruff, taciturn, a little messy and unpredictable—but finely tuned instincts and a great tenacity. This has made him a legend in Interpol, and that’s why he is handpicked by his Superintendent to lead the new Vanisher squad. He has a strong sense of right and wrong, and his sense of justice is greatly angered by the Vanishers’ escapades.
– The leader of the Vanishers is not so different from his nemesis. He came home from the Iraq war with deep emotional wounds. He began the Vanishers as a source of fun and challenge to fill his empty life after the military, but he’s a deeply decent man to; He wants to move on and live a normal, honest life; to find absolution for his sins. He tries to do this until his identity is found out by a mysterious enemy. The action spans Europe, it begins in Rome at their latest heist, then to London, then to France, Switzerland and the final 3rd of the story–the big climax where shit goes down, is in Prague.
– The atmosphere of Prague was right for the story. It evokes a sense of mystery like few other places in the world, and that’s why it’s one of my favorite places to visit and write about. This also made it the natural choice for the final act of the story to play out; the cobbled alleyways, the slightly ominous feeling you get when strolling in the narrow lanes under the church spires at night—especially if it’s a little rainy or misty—all epitomize that enchanting, Eastern Europe ambiance. I’ve tried to capture that atmosphere in this story.

Thank you for coming by tonight! Here’s a link to Dangerous Latitudes:


– thanks Scotty! Happy to be here. Thanks for the opportunity. FYI, I took a shower specifically for this. I don’t do that for just any old author. Oh I almost forgot–Congrats Scotty! Can’t wait to read the new book!!!!