Jim Stovall has been a National Olympic weightlifting champion, the President of the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network, and a highly sought after author and platform speaker. He is the author of the best selling book, The Ultimate Gift, which is now a major motion picture starring James Garner and Abigail Breslin.
Steve Forbes, president and CEO of Forbes magazine, says, “Jim Stovall is one of the most extraordinary men of our era.”
For his work in making television accessible to our nation’s 13 million blind and visually impaired people, The President’s Committee on Equal Opportunity selected Jim Stovall as the Entrepreneur of the Year. He was also chosen as the International Humanitarian of the Year, joining Jimmy Carter, Nancy Reagan, and Mother Teresa as recipients of this honor.
Tell us about your new release, The Ultimate Journey:
The Ultimate Journey is the third book in a series that began with The Ultimate Gift, followed by The Ultimate Life. The Ultimate Gift was an international bestseller and was made into a major motion picture by 20th Century Fox starring James Garner, Brian Dennehy, and Abigail Breslin. The Ultimate Life movie is scheduled to go into production next month and should be out late this year or in early 2012.
The series is about a billionaire, Red Stevens, and the effect that his money and fame has on several generations of his family. In The Ultimate Journey, readers who have enjoyed the first two books or those who are following the story through the movies will have an opportunity to meet Red Stevens and his contemporaries when they were young people and follow them throughout their lives, including The Great Depression, World War II, the assassination of JFK, etc.
How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?
I had a colleague at my company, the Narrative Television Network, who was facing terminal cancer. She made me the guardian of her teenaged daughter and spent many days sharing lessons with me she wanted me to pass along to her daughter at the appropriate points in her life. The thought of someone passing on their values, in addition to their valuables, emerged in The Ultimate Gift and subsequent books and movies.
Did anything strange or humorous happen while researching or writing your book?
The Ultimate Gift was my first novel. I had written six other nonfiction books previously but decided to try fiction. I had no idea how to do it or what to do, so I began telling a story as it flowed out of my mind. I wrote the entire book in five days and, unlike my other 15 subsequent books, there was never an edit or a rewrite. The Ultimate Life and Ultimate Journey flowed approximately the same way through the creative process.
Every novelist has a journey. How long was your road to publication? How did you find out and what went through your mind?
I am rather unique among novelists in that all of my books were sold or committed as I was writing them, or shortly after. Fortunately, it has given me the freedom to stretch a bit creatively into areas publishers might not typically go.
Do you ever bang your head against the wall from writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?
I write a weekly syndicated newspaper column and a full-length book once or twice a year. I typically don’t write until I feel like I have the motivation and the creativity in place; however, it does become more difficult in that several of my series have taken on multiple books which creates limitations in the settings and plots.
Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?
As a blind person who dictates all of my books to a very talented colleague named Dorothy Thompson, people would find it ironic that I do, indeed, consider myself a visual writer. I have the scenes pictured in my head as I write them. I have an advantage in that I am not limited by things I have seen. I can create anything I want in my mind’s eye.
Novelists sometimes dig themselves into a hole over implausible plots, flat characters or a host of other problems. What's the most difficult part of writing for you?
The most difficult part of writing, for me, is dictating books that I can’t read that are made into movies that I can’t see. Even though it is a mental process for me, it transfers to my readers visually.
How do you overcome it?
I have my own colleagues that I trust to edit and proof my work as well as coordinate book covers, publicity artwork, etc. with publishers and our publicity people.
Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?
I dictate my books, columns, screenplays, correspondence, and interviews like this one in Dorothy Thompson’s office down the hall from my own.
Some authors report writing like watching a movie and they record what they saw. Others tweeze scenes out. What's your MO?
I create characters in my mind and then let them go to see where they will end up. If you know your character and their basic traits, it is relatively predictable to chronicle what they will do next.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?
The best writing advice I ever heard came from James Michener. He said, “The average aspiring writer is filled with seven volumes of garbage [garbage is paraphrased for your readers]. Unfortunately, they won’t write through this garbage to get to the goal.” We all aspire to write because we enjoy reading. We compare our worst efforts in the beginning to Mr. Michener and other great writers’ polished efforts, which have the benefit of many years of experience.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Always be a reader. Enjoy being a writer. And don’t forget to go to the movies. As you know, The Ultimate Journey is the third book in the series. The Ultimate Gift was already made into a movie by Fox, and The Ultimate Life is scheduled to go into movie production next month. Click here for a preview.
The Ultimate Journey
In The Ultimate Gift, Jason Stevens learns to appreciate the value of his life, while in The Ultimate Life, he learns the value of love. Now, in the touching conclusion to the trilogy, Jason learns that life’s journey is all about traveling well—not about the destination.
In The Ultimate Journey, readers will discover the secrets of a successful life, including:
• Money helps pay for the trip, but should never be a destination …
• Friends make the journey worthwhile …
• Laughter lightens the load of any rough or rocky uphill road …
• Time may be allotted in small or large portions but the moment is what counts …
… and so much more.