Bookstore owner pens three novels to his resumé

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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James Van Eaton lives in a world of books. By day he sells them as co-owner of Winston Smith’s in Downtown Auburn. In his free time, he writes them. His latest is “Cartoon Eyes.” Its setting is the world of Japanese animation. “A friend of mine has a daughter who is very interested in (Japanese animation),” Van Eaton said. “Every time I went there, that was always the topic of conversation.” It was that level of enthusiasm that inspired him to tackle the project. But first he had to do the research. “I watched hours and hours of episodes,” he said. “I got a list of all the major anime series and watched at least one episode of each of them.” It took him a year and a half to complete the story, which he started shortly after the publication of his first book, “Down the Darkening Road,” also a fantasy novel. After he completed the first draft, he accepted a job co-writing a third book, “Chasing Moonshine,” which took much of 2009. All the books were published locally by Advantage Printing. “Down the Darkening Road just hit 450 (copies) sold,” Van Eaton said. “Chasing Moonshine is about 200 copies behind.” “Chasing Moonshine,” a fact-based novel about a Lincoln family, is being turned into a play. Auburn resident Michelle Coder is doing the adaptation, which will be performed at Music and More later this year. Van Eaton has an advisory role. “It’s really weird reading your own stuff,” Van Eaton said.” I think she did a really good job. It’s hard not to be supercritical of any change.” The play idea was his mother’s idea. “This was my mom’s Christmas present to me from a couple of years ago, to try and get (the book) turned into a play,” he said. “We’d seen something similar in Nevada City.” At Winston-Smith, Van Eaton has a natural outlet for selling his books. He’s also done some signings and was scheduled to appear at E.V. Cain Friday. “I’m totally excited about that because I went there,” he said. Van Eaton estimates he writes five days a week, three or four hours a day. “More toward the end when I’m getting closer(completing the book, I start pouring on hours,” he said. He’s very pleased with the finished results of “Cartoon Eyes.” “This is the beginning of a new series and is aimed at teens 11 and up who are interested in fantasy books,” he said. “It works as fantasy adventure — kind of the same genre as Disney’s “Enchanted” but the other way around — this one is the real world to a cartoon.” It’s about a group of teens transported into an animated world and outfitted with character roles that they fall into. Then they have adventures. They jump into a plot that’s already in progress, Van Eaton said, quoting the book jacket. He describes it as the most marketable book he’s written so far. “It probably has the best shot of getting the attention of a (mainstream) publisher,” he said. The cover was designed by Chris Marrinan, a free-lance comic book artist who is opening an art and fashion design studio in Downtown Auburn. Now that the book is in print, Van Eaton is turning his attention to part two. “It already has a title and I’m plotting it right now,” he said. Reach Gloria Young at