James was born in Santa Rosa, California, and grew up on his family vineyard in Calistoga. As a child, he explored the Napa Valley hillsides, reading, writing poetry, drinking too much espresso, and getting into trouble. Some of his favorite books growing up included the Tao Te Ching, Ringworld, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and C.G. Jung’s Man and His Symbols.
Despite James's desire to be a dragon when he grew up, he resigned himself to a career in medicine and writing. Inspired by the books he loved and his adventures in Kenya, California, New York, and other fantastic places, he wrote his first novel, Black Scales, Book I of The Dragons of Apenninus. James’s clinical work and love for scaly things continue to inspire him today.