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WARNING: THIS SITE INCLUDES LOTS OF SPOILERS.
INTERVIEW WITH JAMES DIXON, CO-AUTHOR OF TITAN SCREWED.
James Dixon is the author of the "Titan" series (Titan Sinking, Titan Shattered, and the latest book Titan Screwed). If you've read the books, you know they're a comprehensive well-written and highly entertaining look at the wrestling industry in 1995, 1996, and 1997 respectively. James agreed to give me some insight into how he got started and where things are headed. Click here for my review of Titan Screwed.
What motivated you to write Titan Sinking? A lot has been said and written about the Monday Night War. In your case, you targeted a particular year, not a banner year for WWF or WCW. What stuck out about 1995?
Nothing. That's exactly why I chose it. On the surface, 1995 is one of the worst years for the WWF, creatively and commercially, but based on the stories I had heard from the people who were there at the time, there was plenty going on away from the cameras. I scoured the market and realised there was nothing out there covering this particular period of time, so I thought, 'Hell, why don't I just do it?' I wrote a few bits and pieces about Tammy and Candido, then about Shane Douglas (I never write the books in order, chapter to chapter) and the whole thing just started coming together from there.
There have been some good books written about this era. The Death of WCW and Sex, Lies, and Headlocks come to mind. What made you think that you had something new to say about this era?
Actually, I don't think either of those books really cover the same era. Sex, Lies is all over the places timeline wise, whereas Death of WCW is very much focused on WCW and a lot of the goofy, silly stuff that was going on. I wanted Titan to be behind the scenes and written from both a fly on the wall and an analytical perspective. There is always more to a story than meets the eye. There is also a lot of bullshit out there about certain events, and I wanted to be able to provide the definitive version of this period of history that people can refer to as what really happened. I am very confident that nobody else has done the research I have, which have led me to draw the conclusions I have drawn.
How did you prepare yourself to undertake this endeavor? It's obvious from the references that you talked to a lot of people and spent a lot of time researching the material.
Usually I start writing on New Year's Day. I will sit down with a blank document staring back at me, then just go with whatever subject from the period I am covering comes to mind. From there it is a multi-layered process. I add bits and pieces, I chop and change things, I remove things entirely. It's a long, laborious, but ultimately very satisfying process. Obviously along the way - and in advance - I am constantly researching by talking to people, reading old news stories, watching shoot interviews, listening to podcasts. It all helps. Even if there is nothing of value said, it still helps me to fully immerse myself in the time frame, which helps forge the narrative. Once I get going the writing process is fairly quick. I think about nothing else for three months and get it all down, then go through and fix errors, repeated bits, etc. It's fun seeing it go from that blank page to the finished article.
Did you approach any traditional publishers about getting Titan Sinking published?
No, I spoke to some other authors and realised I would be costing myself money. Traditional publishers don't pay big money for books like this. Plus, I already knew the market well enough that I could sell it myself through word of mouth, some choice ads, some helpful plugs, etc. Plus, there is a lot to be said for having complete freedom and independence.
Now you're on your third book in the Titan series. It was the number one wrestling book on Amazon. What do you think accounts for its popularity?
People love reading about what goes on behind the scenes, especially about things they remember from their childhood. While some of the stories may be somewhat familiar, a lot of them are expanded upon or given a completely different perspective in Titan, and people enjoy that. I think having that depth of research was the key.
Is there anything especially challenging you found about writing and/or researching Titan Screwed?
Montreal. The prospect of having to put that entire ordeal into perspective, give it the full service, corroborate hundreds of versions of the story to get the final, accurate version, and do it all from a fair, objective perspective gave me night sweats. It took weeks to form a timeline, get everything in order, get inside the heads of the players involved, and that was before the task of trying to explain it in a way that those unfamiliar with the events who have grown up in a different era could still understand. Finishing that section was a huge, huge relief and I am thrilled with how it came out.
Brilliant title by the way. Was there any question as to what you'd call a book covering 1997?
The title changed repeatedly, but we always kept coming back to Titan Screwed. How could it be anything else?
This time around, you've got a co-author. What motivated you to enlist someone's help?
Justin contacted me after the first Titan while I was working on the second one, and I immediately became a big fan of his work. I knew Screwed needed to be written and there is just so much happening in 1997 that the prospect was daunting. Justin asked if he could cooperate on a project with me, and I figured why not let him work on the '97 book with me to reduce the stress of doing it. He was a superb addition.
What was different about working with a co-author?
Well, it was difficult at first to try and write with one voice. I am not sure we quite nailed that in Screwed, but it was close. It did allow us both to spend a lot more time on a specific event or happening and do even more research for that than we might have otherwise. We will definitely work together again, because once we found a pattern the whole process became that much smoother and less stressful.
What do you think of the current state of books about wrestling?
There have been some great ones recently. I am a huge fan of all wrestling autobiographies, and anything that explores history. There was a time where wrestling books were a rarity, but now they are everywhere. It's great, though I do worry that the market will be oversaturated.
With non-traditional publishing like Lulu and Createspace, do you feel there's a lot of substandard wrestling books being published?
That is definitely a concern. But I cannot criticise the mediums too much because they have given me the platform to do what I do, and it will do the same for other great writers too. Yes, bad writers will slip through with crappy books, but bad reviews will kill them off. The cream always rises to the top.
How far do you plan on going with the Titan series? Do you have a year in mind as your goal i.e. the purchase of WCW in 2001?
I am destined to do this dance forever. The next trilogy will cover 98-01, then we will go back in time and hit the 80s and early 90s, until we have everything from the Vince McMahon era fully documented. That's my life now!
Have you toyed with the idea of exploring the industry prior to 1995?
See above. In short, yes. There is a ton to talk about from that era, much of it never covered before, and I am excited to delve into it.
What makes for a good wrestling book in your opinion?
Accuracy. Objectivity. An understanding of how the business works. Being able to sift through the bullshit and get to the root of a story. There are always multiple sides, multiple sources, and multiple reasons for things happening. Nothing in wrestling is black and white.
What makes for a bad wrestling book in your opinion?
The opposite of the above. I hate "mark books", written by people who don't understand the inner workings of wrestling and only base what they write on inaccurate internet reports of their WWE-led perceptions. Anything too opinionated and ranty drives me away too. I like to be painted a picture by the writer and allowed to draw my own conclusions from what I have read, rather than being led one way or another.
Given the events of 1997, the book's title should come as no surprise to WWF fans.
Sunny's role in the WWF in 1997 was eclipsed by Sable.
The Hart Foundation proved to be a great heel faction to pit the WWF's babyfaces against.
Dixon and his team do a great job of reviewing the WWF's Coliseum Video series.