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COVID-19: How it Impacted the Indie Industry (The Self Publishing Show, episode 236)
A Winter of Wolves is also the 4th volume in the series. Check out the first three volumes on Goodreads.
What led you to become a writer?
After 30 years of service as a federal prosecutor, I had collected hundreds of professional “war stories” from cases. Told correctly, these are also known as “plot lines.” My wife kept saying, “You should write a book,” so I did.
There’s no better fuel than life experience. Excellent!
Which authors inspire your writing the most?
If any served as inspiration, it would be the W.E.B. Griffin father-son team and series, since it showed me how characters could be developed over the course of a series of novels. I also love the way Michael Connelly writes.
Haven’t heard of W. E. B. Griffin, but I also love Michael Connelly. Great source of inspiration!
What’s your goal in becoming a writer?
I honestly just wanted to see what I could do. Nothing beyond that. The modest success (about 40,000 sales as a self-published author) has been a pleasant surprise.
Wonderul. I believe it’ll only get better. The reviews are great!
What three things have hindered your writing?
I don’t have three. The only obstacle before I retired was the day job; in other words, having enough time. Since then, the retail bias against self-published authors may have hindered sales, but not the writing itself.
Having enough time is always a struggle.
What keeps you motivated?
I just like to write.
That’s good enough motivation for anyone.
What is my antagonist?
I don’t allow those, don’t have one.
Oh, I love that attitude. Excellent.
Compared to my previous work, what’s it like being a writer?
First, I like my boss a lot more. Second, since I was a career prosecutor, I miss the cops and agents – real-life heroes – with whom I had the pleasure of working for years. Third, my schedule is my own now, and being comfortably retired, there’s no pressure. I’m very fortunate in that way.
This sounds like a very sweet experience. I wish I had it!
What would I say to a writer who has given up?
Find something you believe in enough to NOT give up on. Examine yourself. Why did you give up on writing? Lack of financial success? Self doubt? One can be overcome with perseverance. The other is a sign of some deeper issues. Identify them and start to deal with them.
Perseverance is the name of the game. I needed to hear this myself.
What are the key elements to a legal thriller?
I try very hard to avoid formulas. In real-life legal work – especially in solving criminal cases – formulaic approaches can lead to “tunnel vision.” By that, I mean that if you approach a case the same way every time, trying to solve a case using the same method that happened to work the last time, you can miss a lot of clues, make a lot of serious mistakes. Each case involves different people with different motivations. Some criminals act without rational motivation at all; they are creatures of impulse. A crime-based legal thriller by definition has to involve a crime, or series of crimes. After that, I climb on board with my characters for the investigative “ride,” to see where that leads. The solution can occur in or out of the courtroom.
I agree wholeheartedly. Formulas can be quite boring.
Introduce us to the Jeff Trask series.
Trask is my fictional alter-ego. A lot of my plot lines are based upon actual cases, and I use trial transcripts from actual cases in the books, with the usual name changes “to protect the innocent” (and guilty). While Trask and I share a lot of experiences, he probably learns faster on the job than I did. I strive for realism. There aren’t any Hollywood gun fights where the good guys snapshoot someone off the roof of a building a hundred yards away with a handgun, then outrun a string of machine gun bullets. I also try not to use the hackneyed lone, tortured soul, alcoholic detective approach. Complex crimes are not solved by rogue superheroes acting alone. They are solved by teams of good people – cops, medical examiners, forensic specialists, and then prosecutors and their staffs – all working together. I’ve been fortunate enough to earn praise from professionals in these fields who say, “Finally, somebody got it right.” Some critics have said that Trask is “too perfect,” in that he is NOT the typical tortured hero. We all have some demons, but I don’t seek readers who have to look down on a character in order to feel better about themselves. I don’t write literary fiction, and don’t have to apologize for that. The series is about how real teams solve real cases, facing criminals or criminal organizations posing real threats. It also has a lot of dark humor in it, which is also real, in that the guys and gals who do this work for a living have to have that sense of humor to do their jobs without going nuts.
I love the whole team idea to solving crimes. Not conforming to the typical hero complex is a great way to step outside the box.
What are the chief characteristics of Jeff Trask?
Smart. Occasionally a smart-ass, in fact. He does not, however, talk down to anyone or use his brain for anything other than finding solutions. He loves classic rock, and always has a jukebox playing in his head, usually providing a theme-based tune to any situation in which he finds himself. For example, in one book, he encounters a crime scene with about a dozen victims – gang members – shot to hell by a rival criminal element. Oingo Boingo’s “Dead Man’s Party” starts playing in his mind. Trask works well with others as long as they are interested in being part of the solution and not the problem.
The characteristics of the protagonist help readers fall in love with them.
Any planned releases for 2017?
The next book in the series has already started to take shape in my head. It will find its way to a keyboard some time next year.
Looking forward to it! it’ll give me some time to catch up in the series.
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Author page of JR Handley, a veteran who writes military science fiction to excise the demons of his time spent fighting in the Late Unpleasantness in Mesopotamia.
British-Canadian scientist and writer
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