Interview with James Zerndt, author of 'The Cloud Seeders'



James Zerndt lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and son. His poetry has appeared in The Oregonian Newspaper, and his fiction has most recently appeared in Gray's Sporting Journal and SWINK magazine. He rarely refers to himself in the third person.

His latest book is the YA scifi, The Cloud Seeders.

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About the Book:

Serve Your Country, Conserve Your Water, Observe Your Neighbor

This is the slogan of the Sustainability Unit and of a country gone eco-hysterical. After nearly twelve months without rain and the hinges of the world barely still oiled, Thomas and his younger brother, Dustin, set out across a drought-ridden landscape in search of answers. What they discover along the way will change their lives, and their country, forever.


The Cloud Seeders weaves humor and heartache, as well as poetry and science, into a unique novel that defies categorization.

Purchase your copy at AMAZON


Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

The idea for the book actually came while watching the news. There was something on about a drought in California, how there were all these restrictions on water usage, and people were ratting out their neighbors for watering lawns and washing cars. Before I knew it, I had a short story called “Would You Rather.” The feedback I got from the story was so positive that I decided I’d try to see if it had legs enough for a novel.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

I’d never even heard the term "world building" before my agent mentioned it. With this type of book, you have to create this alternate world (even if it closely resembles our own—which mine does) so that every little piece logically fits into place. If you move something in chapter one, it can affect something much later in the book. It’s kind of a nerve-wracking experience. For me anyway. I’m not a big fan of sticky notes.
My advice would be to get as much of the world you are trying to create figured out before you go ahead and drop your characters into it. It'll save you a lot of time in the long run.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I ended up self-publishing The Cloud Seeders after having two literary agents (at different times) represent the book. We came close, got second reads at a lot of the bigger publishing houses, only for them to back out at the last minute. At the time the book was being shopped around, there was another book recently published with the word 'Cloud' in the title. While this may be hard to believe, this was one of the reasons given for passing on it.
Then we sort of sat around with our hands in our pockets as a movie production company tried to get a fairly well-known director to commit after having shown some interest. Again, we came close but nothing was ever signed, and, in the end, nothing happened. Which is a shame because I happen to be a huge fan of the director, and even though he seemed like an odd pick for the movie, I'm sure he would have done great with it.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Yes, that it wasn't published traditionally. And though a lot of people won't admit it, there's still a bit of a stigma attached to being self-published. I remember my dentist, of all people, asking me if I wrote after telling him I taught English. When I told him I'd written two novels, he paused and said, "Are they self-published?" When I said yes, he sort of shrugged, like, well, that's nice and went back to digging around in my mouth. He never mentioned it again.
My wife said something at the time, though, that’s always stuck with me: “The book’s the book.” She then asked me how many mediocre novels I’d read by big publishing houses.  Her point was that if it’s a decent book, it doesn’t matter who or how it’s been published. All you can really do is try to write a decent book. If you can do that, and I hope I have, it’ll find its way to people eventually.

Q: Can you describe the feeling when you saw your published book for the first time?

It was bittersweet. Because of the reasons mentioned above. I was lucky enough to be put in touch with Jeroen ten Berge who ended up designing the covers for both my books. He read the short story The Cloud Seeders is based on and liked the story so much that he offered me a sort of pro bono deal on the cover. It meant a lot to me that he did that. It was the vote of confidence I needed at the time.  If you need a book cover, Google him. He's great to work with. I can't say enough good things about him.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I've sketched out a sequel to The Cloud Seeders but due to some personal things going on in my life, it's been put on the back-burner for a bit. It'll happen; I'm just not ready for it yet, I guess. In the meantime, though, I work on the occasional short story or poem. Much less stress involved.

Q: Fun question: How does your book contribute to making this world a better place?

Well, I don't know that it does. That's a lot to put on a book: making the world a better place. But books can be powerful. We’ve all experienced that. All I can hope for is that it makes people want to read more, to seek out other books to get that same fix. I did that a lot when I was younger. And still do when I can.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

I just hope it makes people appreciate the resources they're using a little more. And maybe instill in a healthy dose of distrust when it comes to government. And power in general. But that may be asking too much.

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Yes. Water is Good. Water is Great.
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