If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews
10/2 Debra H. Goldstein, Two Bites To Many
10/10 Connie Berry, A Legacy of Murder
10/17 Lida Sideris, Double Murder or Nothing
10/23 Toni L. P. Kelner writing as Leigh Perry, The Skeleton Stuffs A Stocking
10/30 Jennifer David Hesse, Autumn Alibi

Saturday Guest Bloggers:
10/5 Ang Pompano
10/12 Eyes of Texas Anthology Writers
10/19 Neil Plakcy

WWK Bloggers: 10/26 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Lyrical Press will publish Kaye George's Vintage Sweets mystery series. The first book, Revenge Is Sweet, will be released in March. Look for the interview here on 3/11.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology was released on June 18th.

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files.

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

An Interview with James M. Jackson

by Grace Topping

Doubtful Relations
by James M. Jackson

What will Seamus do this time?

Financial crimes investigator Seamus McCree has wife problems, and Lizzie’s not even his wife anymore. Her current husband disappeared on a business trip to Savannah. Was he kidnapped? Dispatched by his hedge fund partners? Or did he run off with another woman? Police assume he’s AWOL, and Lizzie turns to Seamus for help.

Seamus has no desire to be sucked into Lizzie’s drama again, but her angst is also affecting their son, Paddy. Seamus agrees to help discover the truth, a quest that soon involves the entire extended family. Long buried secrets surface and each member must confront the question, “How far can you trust your family?”

Equal parts road trip, who done what, and domestic thriller, book four in the Seamus McCree series takes psychological suspense to a new level. Seamus McCree fans and newcomers alike will delight in this fast-paced novel that leaves no one in the family unchanged and keeps you guessing until the very end.

I’ve heard other writers comment about James M. Jackson’s character Seamus McCree and wondered what the buzz was about. So when I had the opportunity to interview him and learn more about Seamus, I jumped at the chance. What I discovered is that Seamus is a terrific character, and if he were real, someone I would enjoy having as a friend. That’s high praise for a fictional character.

Jim Jackson is one of the contributors to Writers Who Kill and also the president of the Sisters in Crime Guppy (Great Unpublished) Chapter. Whether he’s blogging on his own site, writing as a guest on another blog, or serving as Chief Guppy, Jim is always reaching a helping hand out to other writers. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to interview him about the latest book in his Seamus McCree series.

Welcome, Jim.

Frequently books are categorized as being character or plot driven. You have a wonderful balance of both. How do you keep that balance in your books?

I want my books to be driven by character motivations and reactions to the events that occur. When I realize a scene is there “because the plot needs it,” I develop another approach to organically reach that plot point. Similarly, if my characters engage in extended navel-gazing, I cut it back to the important observation.

When character motivations impel their actions and I follow Elmore Leonard’s advice to “leave out all the parts readers skip,” I’m confident folks will keep turning the pages past their bedtime.

Seamus worries about everybody, even his ex-wife. What is it about him that makes him feel responsible for what happens to his family and friends?

Seamus’s father died when he was young. Subconsciously he accepted the message that he needed to “be the man of the family.” He conceptually understands that feeling responsible for things out of his control is not healthy, but when a new crisis arises, he reverts to what he knows. To be “in control” he must take charge, and if he is in charge, he must be responsible. He’s getting better about dealing with this issue, but he still has many steps remaining on his journey toward wholeness.

The pace of Doubtful Relations is one of its strongest features. Even with a complex story line it moves and is hard to put down. Definitely no slumps in this story. Is there a secret to good pacing? What advice would you give new writers about pacing?

Excellent books have been written about pacing, but I think it boils down to two basic concepts. (1) Every scene must include tension. If one source of tension resolves, another source must become apparent so the reader always wants to know what happens next. (2) The reader has to be invested in the story. Usually that results from being interested in what happens to at least one character.

Doubtful Relations has multiple mysteries but no body until much later in the book. Do you consider it a murder mystery? If not, how would you categorize it?

I think of the Seamus McCree novels as crime fiction. I haven’t wanted to be pinned down any more than that. Although Ant Farm and Bad Policy could properly be called murder mysteries, Cabin Fever is much closer to a domestic thriller, and Doubtful Relations is probably a combination of road trip, psychological suspense and domestic thriller.

They all involve crimes, and have a focus on financial shenanigans. They all have at least one dead body, but as you note, not necessarily in the first pages of the story.

Computers and high finance play a major role in this story. In fact, you have me afraid to use a computer again. Do you have a background in those areas, or did you have a lot of fun doing research?

I first programmed a computer in 1967, have an MBA with a finance concentration, worked for thirty years in an arcane area of financial consulting, and I’ve always been interested in financial crimes. That background and an active imagination are sufficient for most things I write about. For more technical computer-related information, I rely on experts, including my son.

So many things writers love or hate appear in their writing, such as your love of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which Seamus shares. How much autobiographical material do you allow to creep into your writing?

Seamus and I think alike and share many of the same interests, although not the same skillsets. Unfortunately for me, he is younger, stronger, smarter, richer, and better looking than I. I do have the advantage: No one has tried to kill me.

Because I enjoy reading books that use real locations, I incorporate actual locations into my writing, mostly from my own experiences. I know where Seamus hangs out in the Upper Peninsula and I know his Clifton neighborhood in Cincinnati because I’ve lived in both places.

Doubtful Relations kept me guessing throughout the book and then had a zinger of an ending. Did you start out knowing who your villain was? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I am a pantser writing my first draft. I start a novel knowing the inciting incident for the story and not much else. By the time I finish the first draft, I’ve learned the who, what, where, when, and why of the novel. I never know “who done it” before I start writing, and I often change my mind about perpetrators and their motivations in the course of writing the first or second draft.

I suppose you could say I write a 90,000-word outline and then start the real writing, which for me is rewriting.

Seamus McCree’s mother, Trudy, is quite a character, starting with her dartboard performances and most unusual friends. I always worry that people will think I based my character’s awful mother on my mother. Do family and friends ever accuse you of basing your characters on them?

I am very fond of Trudy as a character because she is complex. The only character that bears any strong intended resemblance to an actual person is Seamus (as I described above).

However, sometimes people think they know who I used as a model for a character. After Cabin Fever was published, I had several people tell me they knew “exactly” who I based a particular character on. Since I had never met that person, I took it as a compliment that I had done an excellent job providing the character with realistic motivations to justify her actions.

You have a reputation for sharing your knowledge and helping other writers. What do you wish someone had told you when you first started writing? What would you tell your younger self?

Thank you for your kind comment on my behavior. Although I have a strong business background, for too long I treated writing as solely a creative endeavor. My original objective was and continues to be to write books people will want to read.

I don’t want my creative process to become subservient to the business of writing. I am not going to write something just because it will sell. However, by not paying sufficient attention to the publishing aspects of the business, I overallocated time on crafting the story at the expense of finding readers who would enjoy the kind of books I write. “If you write it, they will come” doesn’t work very well in today’s world.

Many writers are faced with the decision of whether to continue pursuing traditional publishing or taking their careers into their own hands and self-publish. What advice would you give writers facing this decision? What is the most challenging thing about self-publishing?

Writers need to be honest with themselves about why they write and make career decisions based on their goals. I am fortunate that I do not need to make money on my writing, although I would like to be fairly compensated in the long term. To reach my objectives, I need to expand the pool of people who know of my writing. With each book in the series, I’ve had the choice of sticking with Seamus McCree or starting something new. Because I have a longer story arc in mind, I have stayed with Seamus.

Given that I decided to stick with the Seamus McCree series, I decided that I could better utilize the available marketing and sales tools on my own rather than continue working through a publisher.

What’s next for Seamus?

Empty Promises will be the fifth Seamus McCree novel. In it, we follow Seamus back to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The first draft is complete and I am in the rewriting stage. False Promises is number six. Seamus returns to Boston after his Uncle Mike has been killed. I am about half way through its first draft.

Thank you, Jim.

Doubtful Relations is available for pre-order in paperback and e-book format with an August 23, 2016 publication date. You can check Jim’s website www.jamesmjackson.com for the current list of online retailers, to order a signed print edition of the book, or to learn more about Jim and his writing.


Kait said...

Jim, Seamus sounds like the perfect mix of analytical and heart for a sleuth. The premise for this book is so intriguing. It says a lot about Seamus and his interpersonal relationships. I love the emotional undercurrents. Even though Seamus is clear he is involved because of Paddy, there's still a hint of the love and respect he once had for Lizzie as his motivator.

Grace, great interview.

Jim Jackson said...


Send proof of your pre-order or purchase of Doubtful Relations during August to jmj@jamesmjackson.com, and I'll send you a link so you can download a copy of the not-yet-published story, "Power of Attorney."

The story takes place in the future after Empty Promises and False Bottom and features Seamus and Niki (from Cabin Fever) and is set in Chicago.

Jim Jackson said...

Thanks Kait -- I really enjoy writing the scenes in which Seamus and his son, Paddy, interact and learning about them both as Paddy moves through the series starting as a college-kid and now he's about to be -- we'll I won't give that part away.

Warren Bull said...

You are out there exploring the options for writers and writing about your experiences. Can you outline briefly what's available?

Art Taylor said...

Enjoyed the interview, Jim — and congrats again on the new book! Great getting some glimpses of it here, and looking forward to it.

Jim Jackson said...

ART -- thanks so much; I hope you enjoy.

WARREN -- Oh gosh, where to start on what's available? If you can imagine it, it is probably possible or you can hook up with someone to make it possible.

I think the biggest recent change is when the big online booksellers started allowing pre-publication sales for small publishers. That allowed me to expand the marketing window by a couple of weeks and provide me an opportunity to offer fans a little gift to show my appreciation.

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, I love the cover and can't wait to read your latest book since I totally enjoyed your others. I've ordered it and will be looking for it to come in the mail.

Jim Jackson said...

Thanks for your pre-order, GLORIA. I'll be sending you a link to download "Power of Attorney" tomorrow (I expect) when I have all three versions available (PDF, mobi, ePub). It would be today, except I have to go to the dentist this afternoon, and its 1.5 hours in each direction, which kills the afternoon!

Shari Randall said...

Pre-ordered! Best wishes on this latest book, Jim. I am looking forward to seeing what is up with Seamus and Paddy!

Julie Tollefson said...

Congratulations, Jim! Great interview.

KM Rockwood said...

I've enjoyed Jim's other books, and I'm sure I will like this one, too.

Margaret Turkevich said...

It looks like a winner already. Looking forward to reading it.

Jim Jackson said...

Thanks everyone for your best wishes. I've now set up the free Seamus McCree story giveaway for pre-orders on Bookfunnel. It's another experiment for me; you might hear something about it in a future blog.

If you have pre-ordered online, shoot me a copy of your notification and I'll send you a link to the story on bookfunnel where you can download it as ePub, mobi or PDF as you and your devices prefer.

You folks have already brought Doubtful Relations into the top 100 Financial Crime novels on Amazon. Thanks so much.

Marian Stanley said...

Pre-ordering today, Jim - almost to the release date! So exciting. Thanks again for your generosity to fellow writers. If you had not been a financial consultant, perhaps you would have had a memorable teaching career. Look g forward to Doubtful Relations.

Jim Jackson said...

Thanks Marian. My website has one of those countdown clocks, and it stands at 3 days, 17 hours, and 1 minute! Make sure to send me a copy of your receipt if you'd like the free Seamus McCree story.