Years ago, before I started writing fiction, I used to marvel at the imagination of novelists.
How on earth do they come up with every little thing contained between those two covers?
I mean the characters, the events, the plot, the suspense… Hundreds, if not thousands, of crafted details.
I just couldn’t fathom how they did it, until I tried. And I mean really tried.
I latched onto an idea, I wrote a plan around it, let my imagination run wild, and sat down and wrote and wrote and wrote.
And here I am. Five novels under my belt and a sixth under way.
Now that I have some insight into how it’s done I can tell you that it’s not magic, nor is it some kind of gift that can’t be learned.
I KEEP A SEED BANK
For me it starts with one line. I have a list of them.
This is the line that led to Code of Justice: “Actress killed after Tinder date.”
Force of Justice: “Hollywood producer charged with killing former child actor.”
Divine Justice: “YouTube star murdered, gang member blamed.”
Game of Justice: “Boyfriend charged with killing girlfriend.”
Blood and Justice: “Hooch/cash heist.”
That’s it. That’s the kind of seed that can grow into a novel.
For Blood and Justice, the basic idea came from the news. I read about some ram raids that targeted legal cannabis dispensaries in LA. And that’s when I learned that this was largely a cash-based industry, and that security companies were being hired to transport cash and cannabis.
Then I imagined that crooks would be targeting these vans. And that’s when the story started to take off in my head.
REAL LIFE TRUMPS FICTION
I like my stories to be based in the here and now, but real life has had a way of synching with my books, which has been a really peculiar experience.
For instance, when I was getting ready to publish Force of Justice, the Harvey Weinstein story broke and the #metoo movement born.
I was worried that a book dealing with Hollywood sexual predators might seem to be opportunistically ripped straight from the headlines.
As I was about to publish I Swear To Tell, a book that deals with a murder during a right-vs-left street clash, protests were breaking out across the country after the death of George Floyd, with both neo Nazis and antifa members exploiting the chaos.
In some ways my imagination just can’t compete with the real world.
In Blood and Justice, I imagined these security trucks getting ambushed by armed robbers. Then the other day, a video of a “cash-in-transit” robbery in South Africa went viral.
The cool-headed driver in this video was Jason Bourne and Die Hard’s John McClane rolled into one.
And I bet you right now there’s an author somewhere who’s watched that video many times over and is now letting their mind wander, wondering how they could shape that scene into a thrilling fictional world that would keep you up at night until you reach the very last page.
As for my next book, the second in the Cadence Elliott series, what’s the one-line seed?
I’ll tell you. It’s this: The murder of a technology officer with links to the arms trade.
And I’ll also tell you another thing.
It’s called The Lawyer’s Truth.
All the best