Thank you for introducing yourself to my readers. I enjoyed reading Incentive for Murder.
The novel reads like a police report: Stick to the facts, maman. Even when moving out of the significant protagonists' POV, the narrative sounds like witness statements in the report. Was this voice a specific decision? Or is it your writing style?
You give me too much credit here. It was simply the voice I heard in my head and translated to the written words.
Special Agent in the Office of Special Investigations in the Air Force, a law degree, and a law professor; that is quite a career biography. What moved you to write novels, or have you always written?
I have been a compulsive reader since age 12. I have consumed 2 or 3 books per week my entire life. For the past 20 years, I have been focused on how authors assembled their plot, developed the characters and maintained the pace. I have wanted to write novels for a long time and finally started reading “how to” write books, taking online seminars, and attending writing clinics taught by published authors.
A lot is happening in this novel: in a week, two detectives need to unravel seven murders. The plot brings the reader along as if the reader is also a character. Where did the idea for the story come from?
Surprisingly enough, it came from a television commercial. One night I saw a television ad about selling your life insurance. It occurred to me that could turn out very badly if your life insurance fell into the wrong hands. From that paranoid thought, I worked backward to develop the story line.
I liked the use of Sherlock quips. "Kind of Sherlock Holmesian, isn't it?" Then, later on, continuing this quip: "Using my Sherlock Holmesian skills…" Are you a big Sherlock Holmes fan? Do these quips come naturally to your protagonist, Detective McDermott, or you?
When I was young, I loved following the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Conan Doyle. I also liked the later imitators. Quips flow naturally from my twisted brain.
Detective McDermott (Mac) Burke is an interesting protagonist. His relationship with his ex-wife (they still live together although divorced) is fascinating. And logical in subtext. What was your character motive in having this cohesive separation?
I wanted to create a different relationship between divorced spouses than is normally portrayed. It made me smile at times.
Maggie (his ex-wife) is also an investigator but for an agency. Did you see this division of offices (departments) as a way to create various plot events?
First, I started out with Maggie keeping secret from her ex-husband the fact that she actually worked for the CIA. Second, I then complicated the picture by making her boss at CIA the mastermind behind the crimes being investigated by her husband. They mostly worked in parallel without directly assisting each other until late in the book.
Do you plot your work before writing, or are you a panser and write then plot?
I am definitely a plotter. I spent a month developing the plot line before I ever started writing. It makes the writing of the first draft go so much faster.
I read that you were an avid reader when you were young. Who do you think influenced your desire to write in this genre?
I have long been fascinated by mysteries of all types. Frederick Forsyth’s Day of the Jackal captured me when it came out in 1971. It is one of only two books that I have ever read twice, fifty years apart. The book held up very well on the second reading.
As a reader, what do you want to see in a mystery or thriller when picking it up to read?
The story has to capture you early. Pace is very important throughout, including a climactic ending.
What was the last mystery/thriller you read?
I just read Joseph Finder’s Buried Alive and Vanished (two of his Nick Heller series). Currently reading the rest of the series.
I taught logical argument, and your writing reflects your skills in writing legal documents and fiction. Where would you say your craft in writing developed? And has your legal writing influenced your work? How?
Good point. Over my four decades as a lawyer, I wrote many appellate briefs which generally had a limitation of 50 pages. A lot of editing and re-editing went into making the most persuasive arguments possible. As many authors say, writing is all about editing.
I look forward to reading more of your work. What are you working on now?
I am currently working on the next book in the Mac Burke series. The working title is “Prepare to Die.”
Again, thanks, James!