It seems that lawyers who become writers are fairly adept in writing suspense genre novels. Is this your niche and will you stick with it or have you written in other genres?
I am drawn to the suspense genre probably for the same reason I was drawn to trial work as a lawyer. The drama inherent in both seems to stimulate my imagination in ways that other genres—and other legal specialties—do not. I think something has to be at stake for a story to be interesting; the higher the risk, the more likely it is the reader will start to root for a character. This being the case, I will likely stick with the suspense genre for a while. It seems to be in my blood.
Years ago, a novice writer told me that he wanted to take up photography because he felt the composing a picture would help with his writing to show rather than tell. Do you find that your skills in photography have given you an edge in describing scenes, characters, and action?
I do. For many years I looked at the world either through an actual or an imaginary viewfinder, and asked myself, what information does this piece of the world—this potential image—convey? That was how I learned what the elements of a good photograph are, and it is that experience that has been invaluable in helping me to describe scenes and settings in my writing in a way that (I hope) put a vivid picture in the reader’s mind. I would recommend to any writer to take a basic photography class and to play with the camera. The two disciplines are not as far apart as they seem.
As one of the lead characters in A World I Never Made, Megan Nolan is not a very sympathetic character. Was that your intention when you fleshed her out or did she take shape as you kept writing?
Megan was always going to be a character who was difficult to like, but who would change, even act heroically, when she realized where her bad decisions had led her. When the stakes were high enough, Megan went all in. Her courage, at least, could not be doubted.
The Roma play important roles in the novel, what inspired you to include them?
There was a gypsy family that lived in my neighborhood when I was growing up. The boys my age were unbelievably clannish and unfriendly. One day I woke up and they were gone and they have fascinated me ever since.
When Megan needs a place to really hide, it came to me that the Roma would be a realistic answer. They have a disdain for the wider culture and a fierce privacy ethic that I felt would make them ideal for Megan’s purposes.
You mention the Madrid bombings. Did they spark the idea for A World I Never Made?
I had been to Morocco a few years before the bombings so when they happened I was very interested. They did not spark the idea for A World I Never Made, but they are a historical fact around which I felt much of the plot and the personal story lines could revolve.
If you read through writers’ blogs, it seems that procrastination is one of the big hurdles they encounter on a daily basis. Are you a disciplined writer with a schedule or do you fall in the trap “that tomorrow is another day” and do something else?
I have been lucky. When I engage with a story and a core group of characters, procrastination is not possible. I write every day, taking the occasional day off to rest or to attend to iron-clad obligations.
Once you decided to write, did you join any writing groups, take classes, buy books on the craft of writing etc?
I did not write well at first, but I met an editor who must have recognized some potential and who’s work with me was very informative and formative. That was my training.
Who are you currently reading?
I am re-reading John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series. There is something about them, a sense of excitement I think, that I wanted to re-experience.
Which writers do you admire and why?
I love knock-out mystery and noir: Raymond Chandler, P.D. James, Patricia Highsmith, James Ellroy, Walter Mosley, Elmore Leonard, and a few others. I admire them because they have mastered all or a great deal of a very difficult craft. Who is more noir than Chandler, more eerie than Highsmith, more down than Mosley?
James LePore is The Story Plant’s Author of the Month, which means we are offering sensational deals on his work. You can read more about the program here.