When did you start writing and what inspired you to start?
I started writing in 3rd grade, majored in Journalism and English at Baylor University but didn’t actually write full time until I was almost 30. I think the inspiration for my career can be traced back to two things. The first was that my grandparents were Arkansas storytellers and the second was my love of reading.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have written over 80 books and my favorite always tends to be the one I am working on at the moment. I just finished a novel that comes out later in 2015, The Fruitcake Murders, and it was so much fun to write. But, I guess if you look at my entire career The Color of Justice or Reich of Passage will be two that will remain at or near the top of my list.
“Sell” your latest book in 120 characters – Tweet style
#TheColorofJustice is a courtroom drama that challenges American history and the progress in terms of racial relationships.
The current trend in publishing is toward series novels as opposed to stand-alone books. Is your most recent release part of a series? If so, where do you see the story going (ie how many books in the series)? If not, do you have a series you’ve written or plan to write, and if so, what is it?
I have a series of novels that comes out in episodes under the umbrella of “In The President’s Service.” The story thread is set in World War II and I hope to carry the yarns through entire war, right now we are 1942. The other three books I have coming out in 2015 are all stand alone novels though I would enjoy writing sequels if the editor orders them. I love to fully develop lead characters and get deeper into the stories of secondary characters.
When your latest title is adapted to film, and the producers ask for your dream cast, what will you say?
I get asked this question a lot. In truth, the characters in my novels are so real to me that I have problems picturing other people playing them. If I could go back in time I would love to have Jean Harlow, Cary Grant and Clark Gable play the leads in The Fruitcake Murders.
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
My lead characters are always searching for a calling. When they find it they are almost always reluctant to pursue that calling because of the challenges it requires. In other words they are scared to do the right thing. The bottom line is my leads don’t come equipped to meet a challenge they have to take a step on faith and grow into the job.
Do you have a new book coming out soon?
The episodes from “In The President’s Service” come out all the time. In April my 1936 mystery Hollywood Lost will be released. The Fruitcake Murders, a comedy whodunit set in Chicago in 1946, comes out in October.
Who are some of the authors you particularly admire or who’ve had some influence on your own writing?
The first two that come to my mind are Mark Twain and Clive Cussler. I think the classic mystery writer Raymond Chandler has made a substantial impact on me as well. But my writing style might be most influenced by the men and women who wrote 1930s-1950s radio scripts. I listen to classic radio in order to develop pacing, new methods of description and unique ways of storytelling.
List your favorite quotation or words you live by.
The scripts we write for our lives are rarely lived. The very best moments are mostly improvised.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Writing is a team project, and while my name is on the book readers need to realize that what makes the final product solid is the work of the editors, the marketers, the publicists, the agent and artists. The actual MVPs of my team are the readers. They buy the books, so in a very real way I work for them. They are my bosses. I never forget that and the feedback I get from my readers I treasure more than anything else.