The Craft of Writing — January 2022
THE CRAFT OF WRITING — JANUARY 2022
The Mike Romeo Series with James Scott Bell
I’m excited to begin a new year of the CRAFT OF WRITING blog. This year we are focusing entirely on mystery, suspense, thriller, and fantasy novels.
James Scott Bell is not only a best-selling author of books on the craft of writing. (I counted about twenty books, including the #1 Best-selling Plot and Structure). He is also an award-winning fiction author. His legal thriller Final Witness won the first Christy Award for suspense, and Romeo’s Way won the International Thriller Writers Award.
Jim’s Mike Romeo thriller series, is one of my favorites. He has created a memorable character and put him through some very trying times!
You can find the series at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07JJ6P6ZK.
Thanks to all of you for stopping by the Craft of Writing blog today. You have a great opportunity to learn from and interact with one of the masters of the craft. So fasten your seatbelts. You’re going to meet the creator of Mike Romeo.James Scott Bell talks about the Mike Romeo Thriller series. Click To Tweet
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Welcome James Scott Bell and thank you for joining us! You’ve written many novels. Can you tell us how you got started writing thrillers?
Well, I had to do something to justify being a lawyer! I started my writing journey when legal thrillers were starting to take off. Scott Turow and John Grisham were leading the way. So I wrote a courtroom thriller and got a five-book contract. That started things. The genre began to get really crowded, so I asked myself how I could do some books that would be a little different. I came up with the idea of a series of historical legal thrillers in a setting not covered much in fiction, early 1900s Los Angeles. I decided to have my protagonist be a woman, as women were just getting started in the profession. That’s how my Kit Shannon legal thrillers were born.
What inspired you to write the Mike Romeo Series? Did you know it would be a series from the start?
Yes, I knew I wanted to write a series, but outside the strict legal thriller genre. Of course it had to be a character I would enjoy writing about book after book. Still, I retained the law aspect this way—Mike Romeo’s only friend is a lawyer, and Mike does investigatory work for him.
Mike Romeo is one of my favorite characters in fiction. Can you tell us more about Mike Romeo and how you came to create him?
I’ve always been a fan of the “lone wolf” genre of crime writing, whether he’s a Private Eye like Philip Marlowe, an independent like Travis McGee, or a criminal himself, like Parker in the Richard Stark novels. My guy would have to be someone who could handle himself in fight, so I landed on the idea that he was a former MMA cage fighter now living off the grid in Los Angeles. But the key with a series character is having something unique, an aspect that sets him apart. I started to think about opposites. What’s the opposite of what a reader might expect of a tough-as-nails fighter? Two things jumped out. First, he’d be a genius, a real intellectual genius, who was admitted to Yale at age 15, when he was a rather introverted butterball. Then something happens (which I won’t reveal hear) that changes the course of his life and leads him to the cage. His wide-ranging mind gives me the opportunity to include observations from my own interest in philosophy.
The second unique thing is I made him a lover of flowers. Fair warning: do not disturb his petunias.
Of all the Romeo books, do you have a favorite?
Romeo’s Way won the International Thriller Writers Award. I’m proud of that one because it took me out of my usual Los Angeles setting and up to San Francisco and Oakland. I went there with my wife for hands-on research, and got unique details that were woven into the book. I’m pleased with how that turned out.
Do you have plans for future Romeo books?
I’m always at work on the next one, with idea sketches for the one after that. I’ve tried throughout my career to think like a movie studio, with one project on the front burner, and several more “in development.”
What advice would you give an aspiring author of mystery, suspense, or thrillers?
Know the conventions of your genre, but figure out a unique twist you can give them so they’re fresh. Readers don’t need the same old, same old. This is especially important for your series Lead. Create a compelling backstory for the protagonist, keep working on it until you are excited to weave it into the plot. And weave is the key here. You don’t want to dump all that material in one, fell swoop (what is a fell swoop anyway?) Keeping things below the surface creates nice ripples of mystery up top.
In addition to your successful thrillers, you’ve written a library of books on the craft of writing, and you teach at various writers conferences. Although many conferences have been canceled in the last couple of years because of the pandemic, do you have plans to speak at any writing conferences in 2022?
I will be doing a 5-hour early bird workshop at the ACFW Convention in St. Louis, on Sept. 8. Info can be found here: https://acfw.com/acfw-conference/
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
The main hub is JamesScottBell.com
I can be followed on BookBub: bookbub.com/authors/james-scott-bell
Those who enjoy short fiction can try out mine at patreon.com/jamesscottbell
For writers, I offer a complete course at knockoutfiction.teachable.com/p/novel
And of course people can join you and me and our colleagues each day at our group blog: killzoneblog.com
Thank you, Jim, for being with us today.
James Scott Bell talks about the Mike Romeo Thriller series. Click To Tweet
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James Scott Bell is a winner of the International Thriller Writers Award and the author of the #1 bestseller for writers, Plot & Structure (Writer’s Digest Books). His thrillers include Romeo’s Rules, Romeo’s Way and Romeo’s Hammer (the Mike Romeo thriller series); Try Dying, Try Darkness and Try Fear (the Ty Buchanan legal thriller series); and stand-alones including Your Son Is Alive and Final Witness (which won the first Christy Award for Suspense). He served as the fiction columnist for Writer’s Digest magazine and has written several popular writing books, including Just Write, Conflict & Suspense, and The Art of War for Writers (all from Writer’s Digest Books). He’s also published How to Write Dazzling Dialogue, Write Your Novel From the Middle, Super Structure, and How to Make a Living as a Writer