James Bottino earned a BS in English Education from Illinois State University and taught high school English in a suburb of Chicago for many years. He studied creative writing in graduate school at Northern Illinois University. The Canker Death is his first novel.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a self-admitted computer geek and a creative writing teacher rolled into one. I earned a BS in English Education from Illinois State University and taught high school English in a suburb of Chicago for many years. After teaching all day, I studied creative writing in graduate school at Northern Illinois University. All the while, though, in the deep corners of the night, when no one was looking, I led a double life hacking and building computers and networks. Eventually, unbeknownst to me, word of my activities leaked out, and employment offers started coming in. In the end, I switched my hobby with my profession and became a senior computer / networking administrator for a scientific research laboratory.
Just six months into this position, however, tragedy struck when, at the age of 31, I was diagnosed with cancer. Given ten to one odds of living out the year and knowing that my infant daughter would never remember me if I died, I began the fight of my life, enduring massive doses of chemotherapy that killed the cancer but nearly killed me as well. After years of struggle, I survived, but only after enduring systemic nerve damage from the treatments that left me permanently photophobic, phonophobic and with frequent difficulty in using my hands. These events focused my efforts and helped me to prevail in my dual goals: being a father to my daughter and completing my first novel, The Canker Death. I currently live in a suburb of Chicago, with my wife, daughter, two Australian cattle dogs and far, far too many books and abstruse computers.
What made you first decide to become a writer?
For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a writer, and the fact of the matter is that I'm always writing. At almost any free moment, I am composing / creating some sort of story or scene or character or plot in my head. I honestly do not remember any time in my life when I was not this way. I find that some of the ideas I think about I end up dropping pretty quickly as being “too out there and not feasible,” but most others I latch onto for one reason or another. These ideas continue to grow and mature until I have a chance to write things down, once it's all been sorted in my mind. This is how it usually happens.