I’m delighted to have James Scott Bell join me for an interview. If you like legal suspense, then you will like his books. I was delighted to finally get to meet him and hear him speak at the 2007 ACFW conference. Now on to the important thing — the interview….
Your main characters tend to be people who have life going their way and then life intervenes in a dramatic way and they are stripped of the things that matter to them. Did you follow that in Try Dying? Why? What do you hope people will see as your characters walk through those valleys?
I’ve always been taken by the story of the innocent man who, through no fault of his own, gets caught up in life threatening trouble. One of my favorite movie directors is Alfred Hitchcock, and he repeats that theme over and over.
It does seem to mirror how we have to handle life sometimes. Not necessarily life threatening things, but various challenges. Suspense writing gives me a chance to explore this, and perhaps give people hope.
I think the best fiction does that. The kind of fiction I like to read and write, at least.
How did you create the what if/main idea for Try Dying?
It started with a news item I read one day. A bizarre thing. A man shot his wife, then drove to a freeway overpass in L.A. and got out and shot himself. His body fell 100 feet to the freeway below, and hit a car, killing the driver.
For some reason this incident wouldn’t leave me alone. I started to ask what would happen if the person in the car did not die from the fall, but was killed by someone else at the scene? Why would such a thing happen?
Then I asked, who might this driver be? I made it a woman, the fiance of a hot young lawyer. That lawyer became my Lead character, and that’s how the whole thing started.
One thing I’m learning is that I learn something with each story I craft. What did you learn from Ty Buchanan as you were writing his story?
I think I learned to trust what was happening inside the character more. There was a temptation to tone it down, but I think his inner life wouldn’t have been as real if I did. He is going through hell in this book. That affects him. But it also makes him stronger.
I understand that Try Dying is targeted at filling a hole in the secular bookstores for good, clean legal thrillers. How did you get a vision for addressing that niche? And what has you most excited about this new market?
I do think that secular thrillers, many of them, have taken a very dark turn. I don’t find that necessary. I think back on the film noirs of the 1940s, my favorite period, and the crime novels of the 50s. They didn’t need to be explicit to set a mood and hook the readers.
I think there is a huge audience out there looking for this kind of book now. That’s what I hope to provide.
Time for a fun question. If you could pack up your family and go anywhere in the world, where would you head? Why?
England. We love it there. My wife would like to rent a country cottage. My daughter would want a flat in London. My son would be happy visiting historical sites. I’d be happy anywhere, writing.
Any parting advice or thoughts?
Robert Heinlein, the noted Science Fiction author, had two rules for writers.
1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
Do this over and over again, and you are a writer.
Great advice. Thanks so much for joining us!
I also have three copies of this book to giveaway. Be sure to leave a comment to be entered to receive one of these books!