Have you started to write another book yet? Yes, I’m currently writing the sequel to POISON PILL. It’s working title is BUYING ON MARGIN. The same protagonists, Olga Mueller and Benedict Vickers, will be employing similarly borderline-illegal methods to reach a just result. Also just like POISON PILL, this story involves multiple international locations: Italy, St. Maarten, Peru, possibly South Africa.
In parallel, I’m working on another legal suspense novel that isn’t part of the Mueller/Vickers series, and I’m starting research on a couple of other novels, all generally in the suspense/thriller genre.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel. or about writing in general? I think the biggest challenge facing any writer is self-doubt. There comes a point when the plot seems stupid, the writing seems wooden or sloppily sappy, the characters appear to be nothing more than cardboard cutouts… In short, why spend all these hours on a piece of garbage when the laundry is piling up and there are great movies you haven’t yet seen? Usually, writing through this low period leads to a great reward — you get to the other side surer than ever that your novel has the right to live (albeit it may require extensive editing).
Self-doubt is even worse if you’re contending with expectations. If you have a book out already, and it’s gathering good mentions and reviews, writing the second novel may be much harder. What if it’s nowhere near as good as the first? What if no one likes it? It’s very difficult to put blinders on, shut out the thoughts of future praise or panning, and concentrate on the only thing that matters — you have a story to tell, and it’s not getting told unless you’re writing.
Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot? I have included a lot of what I know in this novel. I was a bench scientist specializing in genetics before becoming a lawyer and working on pharmaceutical patent cases. So a lot of the substance is based on what I’ve experienced first-hand, as are many of the personalities and relationships I describe. No character is a straight portrait of a specific individual, but most are composites of people I know, with significant tweaking to fictionalize them further.
How important do you think villains are in a story? I think the inclusion of villains never hurts, but their importance varies by genre. If you’re writing a man vs. nature story (i.e., floods, volcano eruptions, meteorites), or a coming of age story, then villains may be less necessary than if you’re writing a crime-based thriller.
For me, though, the term “villains” is somewhat problematic. I’m not interested in characters that are inherently evil. Rather, I want to understand how decent people can do horrible things, be it through plausible deniability, sins of omission, or making a bad choice when faced with several less-than-ideal options, then failing to admit their mistake and correct course. And I’m interested in how corrupt systems influence the behaviors of those who work in them. Those are the evils I explore in POISON PILL.
What do you do to unwind and relax? For me, the quickest way to unwind is to do something physical, like go for a walk or dance around my apartment. As a lawyer and as a writer, I mostly sit and stare at the computer. I use my brain and not much else, so changing gears and using my body is an instant pick-me up.
Other great ways to relax are meeting up with friends for great food and conversation, reading (for pleasure rather than for work), and playing with the neighbor’s dog.
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Genre – Legal Thriller
Rating – PG