Join me today in welcoming Cortez Law III, author of Kremlin Tide, part of the X-Men Atlanta Homicide Unit series. I hope someday I might have opportunity to review it, but in the meantime, let's enjoy exploring the craft of novel writing as he shares his experiences.
DAB: Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?
I was creative as a kid always drawing something, from football players to dinosaurs using the plastic toys as my before the dawn of modern man models. I’d make an paper album of them staple them on one side in a landscape type of format and boom, NFL football games on paper in arrays of colors and needless to say skill craft as well. I wrote for the junior high newspaper’s sports section, some poetry for classes in high school and for a contest I believe in college. I took an undergrad class in copywriting, too. But I ignited the formative writing moment when in my next to last semester of college I enrolled in a scriptwriting class. After some textbook guidelines and professor instructions, the students had a handful of months to complete a ninety-page screenplay. There I was living on campus banging out the story I think on an old IBM Selectric Typewriter with either my liquid paper or liquid sheets by my side.
From that point on I realized if I wanted to do this, all I needed was that typewriter, my correction buddies and ideas. I bought whatever books I could find on screenwriting, the late Syd Field’s wisdom leading the way in my tutelage, and had at it for the better part of a decade. I banged out I think it was sixteen or seventeen scripts in various genres including the college class project, which encouraged me to pursue this obsession after I got a ‘B’ for my efforts. It wasn’t until after that nearly ten years passed that I started to investigate the novelistic form of story expression.
DAB: Ugh! I remember liquid paper - but it was easier than correction tape. Where do you come up with ideas for your novels?
They can spring from the news, magazines and books. The visual medium may inspire me to create a different take on something I saw and heard. It could come from a particular biblical story or character situation. A mood could trigger a story or at least a type of crime story I want to tell. If I want the reader to share in an intense cerebral challenge to find the killer, that’s more of a mystery novel to me. If I want the reader to experience a gradual build of anxiety or dread before the final showdown, that spells suspense. If I want the reader to slide off the edge of their seats and hang on there by the skin of everything in their being for most of the book, that’s a thriller. So, even a mindset or an emotional response can catapult me into writing a certain type of story that I want readers to share.
DAB: What was the catalyst for this novel’s premise?
The origin was in a couple of parts. One was this desire to begin again, to start your life over and experience a new start in another country. Two, intertwine that with a potentially dangerous susceptibility that with a little careful planning and some fortuitous breaks could unleash some challenges the U.S. government on all levels might not yet be ready to deal with. We learned that or I hope we have, from 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, that even if we believe we’re ready on paper, the execution could fail. The world saw the results of that. Even as recently as the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, the government didn't follow up on intelligence about the Tsarnaev brothers. The world witnessed that result, too. Within that framework, I could explore these people and their lives of love, faith, forgiveness and second chances. I think readers can and will relate to all of the above.
DAB: Do you have a character(s) in your novel with whom you closely identify?
I think all writers engraft snippets of real persons on or in their characters to ground them in reality. With my faith, I think that the Christian characters would of course be more closely identifiable to me. Again, snippets of real persons or experiences, whether your own or others, plays as part in the realness of the people. Having said that, I don’t think that any one character can hold up the trophy for the, ‘Hey, that’s Cortez!’ prize. All of them, Christian or not, have something I can identify with and I believe the readers will find some common ground with them all as well.
DAB: Yes, it's that basis in real life that translates onto paper. Do you ever have difficulty writing from the point-of-view of a member of the opposite sex?
That’s a good question. I don’t believe so. As a writer, I’m intuitive as are other writers. Simply stated, we’re studiers of human behavior. You grow and develop through those you interact with throughout your lifetime whether that’s a father and mother, brother and sister, grandfather and grandmother, uncle and aunt, cousin and niece, friends, colleagues, even strangers. I always want to write three-dimensional female characters for whatever their role in a story happens to be. That studying of human behavior is a part of the makeup of a writer and it helps that I’m a thinker anyway so that in turns enhances the internal monologue of the women I create.
DAB: Thank you for taking time to make we of the female persuasion realistic. How long did it take for you to craft this novel?
I started it about eight years ago and continued to hone and shape it. Each time the rejection letters came in, I reviewed the story repeatedly. Generally, I say for this story about six months for the first draft and on and off for about seven and a half years for subsequent drafts of two through sixteen or seventeen. As writers know, at some point the little darlings have to face readers and fly into the challenges of the marketplace. However, they know their daddies will always be there to encourage them to grow and develop into compelling reading. We writers all hope.
DAB: Great analogy! Tell us about the moment you received your first real fan correspondence.
It came from the first book in the series, which I’ll bring back to market next year, called The Serialist. Several readers commented on their experiences with the book and it was so gratifying. We don’t always hit the grand slam and that goes for all of the artistic mediums. The biggest authors, directors, producers, actors, singers, etc., have out and out stinkers or other projects that underperformed in their respective mediums. Artists have chutzpah or something akin to it to step out into this enormous world with its myriad voices and attempt to stake a claim in it for whatever reason. To right an injustice, to sound an alarm, to inspire, to inform, to entertain, to educate, to make people feel, to make money. So, when a reader expresses gratitude in a fan letter or an email or face-to-face, man THAT feels good! A reader says, you’re ‘amazing’ or ‘I couldn’t put it down’, whew. It’s like, yeah, I can’t thank you enough. I really can’t.
DAB: There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not. What is your preference?
Seems there are only two camps: Pantsers or Intuitive writers or stated by author James Scott Bell, ‘OP’ or Outline People or ‘NOP’ or No Outline People. I like to plan my stories ahead of time. But they’re not so detailed that I don’t leave any wiggle room for the unexpected. Usually a bare bones outline of beginning, middle and end. Then I list a series of bulleted plot points within the three-act framework. Two thriller bestsellers who smash the New York Times Bestseller Lists with regularity are complete opposites. Jeffery Deaver is a plotter and man does he ever. Per several interviews I’ve read, he plans a detailed outline for months on end for dozens of pages before he even thinks of writing the next Rhyme series or one of his other books I’m sure as well. On the flip side, Lee Child doesn’t outline so as readers we can experience the same unknown thrill he gets when he writes his Jack Reacher books off the cuff. I don’t think anyone will argue with the success of either of those thriller writing giants. To each his own.
DAB: Usually authors are also avid readers - what are you currently reading?
Well, nothing now mainly because I need to decide if the next book will be fiction or non-fiction. Plus, I’m re-thinking on what to write next and when to publish next, too. But, wouldn’t you know it I just finished the Lee Child thriller, 61 Hours. For my thoughts on that one, check out my review on Goodreads.
DAB: Sounds like you're quite the Lee Child fan! Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?
Yes, well as I stated in the last question, I was going to wait until next spring for the next Atlanta X-Men Homicide Unit Case File, however I believe I need to get the book out I the last part of this year. I think from what I’ve read about others’ experiences, it’s imperative to have a backlist as quickly with quality of course, as possible. God willing, I’m going to target September or October for the next installment of the X-Men Squad. Also, in the near future, well, I said it, I want to branch out into the near future with some freaky ‘X-Files’ type of stories that lay dormant for a long time. We’ll see how the market takes to that or not. However, I love the story and concept. I’d pay money on a Friday night at the neighborhood multiplex to see this one at full price in IMAX, which I’ve never done to this day.
DAB: Now’s your chance – give us the final plug for your novel.
I’ll give it in the book description: Atlanta Homicide Sergeant Malcolm Hobbs slowly puts his shattered life and walk of faith in God back together again when a married woman is found dismembered and left at a church. When a series of grisly murders with similar M.O. blanket the city, the consensus by the Atlanta Police Department is a serial killer prowls the night. Once Malcolm and his elite homicide squad known as, 'The X-Men', discover a Russian link to the victims and the perpetrators, they must race-against-the-clock in efforts to rescue a kidnap victim and deter a ruthless group of sinister criminals ready to execute a plan of chilling proportions.
It’s a story of redemption, faith and God’s never say die love for all of us. He’s forever reaching out to us, but we have to do some reaching ourselves so we can walk with Him through this life’s journey. The people of Kremlin Tide walk in different and similar paths like real humanity, some for the good and some for the bad. But, that’s fictional life and that’s real life. I believe readers will see that but at the same time, they’ll take away some redemption of their own in whatever form suits their lives.
And there you have it, dear readers! Thanks again to Cortez for spending this time sharing with us about his novel and the life of an author. If Kremlin Tide sounds like something that tugs on your brain, be sure and pick up a copy or contact him at one of these following links.
Smashwords Author Profile: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/CortezLawIII
Smashwords Book Page: Kremlin Tide: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/429359