James McTeer II: Local author and school librarian draws on family history for first novel

Born and raised in Beaufort, James Edwin McTeer II was inspired by the life of his namesake grandfather – James Edwin McTeer – for Minnow which will be published by Hub City Press in May of this year. Minnow won the “First Novel Prize” from the South Carolina Arts Competition in 2014.

“[My grandfather] was High Sheriff of Beaufort County for thirty-seven years,” James says, “and also worked as a local witchdoctor. His forays into the strange world of voodoo were an inspiration for me as I tried to capture the weird and spooky atmosphere of the Lowcountry on the page.” PROFILE -james - mcteer

Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk calls Minnow  “A gorgeous fever-dream of a novel. McTeer’s story of a young boy’s quest achieves a narrative drive and depth that are rare in any novel, much less a debut effort. Minnow picked me up by the scruff of the neck and carried me along as powerfully as a novel by Pat Conroy or Toni Morrison.”

James works as a school librarian at Polo Road Elementary School in Columbia. He ventured into teaching while completing his bachelor’s degree at the University of South Carolina Beaufort. He then went on to receive his Masters of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

According to James, “My first job was as a substitute teacher, and I loved it right away. I was working on an English degree when I started subbing, and that degree became a great foundation for me as a writer. After that, I wanted to pursue a degree that would give me an avenue into teaching, which was such a fulfilling line of work for me as a substitute. I loved books, reading and writing, so I decided to become a school librarian.” PROFILE - BOOK Minnow

“I grew up reading,” he says. “We read as a family when I was a child. As soon as I could read on my own I never stopped. Writing was a natural extension for me. I wanted to create the same sort of stories I was reading—the same sort of stories that engaged and excited me. So at night, I write stories. During the day, I live and work among the books, telling stories, teaching my students, bringing the world of literature to them.”

James believes in working hard, both as a writer and as an educator and has ready praise for both his dedicated co-workers and his publisher.

“The educators I work with are heroes,” James says. “Educators are hard workers, and the work they do is hard, but the ultimate reward is being there for the kids, unconditionally. On the publishing front, I have the best support a writer could want in Hub City Press. They have guided me through the entire process. I’ve been given so many opportunities, so many chances to reach out to my audience, all because of the folks at Hub City.”

James says his life as a school librarian and a writer is full of surprises. “I don’t think I’ve worked a day and not had at least one genuine laugh or smile because of a student. The same thing happens when you sit down at the page. It’s not always a smile, but you’ll get something, no matter what. You may find excitement, or satisfaction, or happiness. You might find frustration. But you never know what the page will bring.”

While the world waits for the debut of “Minnow,” James finds happiness and satisfaction with his work and his writing.  How can he not when Publishers Weekly calls Minnow “… a memorable coming-of-age story brimming with unexpected encounters with man, beast, and nature, and some magic thrown in for good measure.”

For more information on James, go to www.jamesmcteer.com.

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