For years, my wife encouraged me to adapt some of the more bizarre situations I encountered during my career into a short story or a novel. I resisted, assuming no one would be interested. But something happened in 2007 that made me change my mind. We were talking about what to buy our three grandchildren for Christmas besides more video games. Then it hit me; write a Christmas story with them in starring roles, and Santa’s Super Rescue: How Beezle T. Claus Tried To Steal Christmas, was the result. The experience was a lot of fun, and so many people enjoyed the story besides just the kids that I decided to take a chance and write a novel. In early 2008, the Detective Clay Randall Series was born.
Some are; some aren’t. In Perception of Power and The Domino Event, a few characters are based upon friends and family who allowed us to use their real names. Some are a combination of personality traits and physical characteristics of police officers and other people I encountered during my career.
JD, you were the content editor on the first three novels. What made you decide to shift to the creative side of writing?
Being a content editor is creative to some extent in that you recommend plot changes, character development, and even suggest wording alternatives. The difference is that you are not actually creating something but merely making that which exists better. With The Domino Event, those editor functions began to go way beyond just suggestions and grew into new scenes and major changes to some of the characters’ personalities. The short answer is that the creative side took over. I also like to think the characters in the book banded together and begged me to get involved.
The definitive answer is yes and no. JD are the initials of my real first and middle names. “Hunter” is another matter. It’s a twist on my middle name, Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt.
That’s a good question, and I have to laugh at the word “resolve.” Early on, we decided to use a logical, reasoned approach if we couldn’t agree. We would try to come up with a third alternative that was different from either of our original ideas. I think we used that method two or three times, max. Then we thought about using a coin toss. I won the first toss, and we didn’t use that approach anymore. In the end, I like to think I was more persuasive. Bruce might be inclined to use the terms doggedly relentless and unyielding, but, then again, you’d have to check with him on that.
To answer that, I need to provide a little background. As JD noted, she was my content editor on the first three novels. When we disagreed on a character’s motivation or a scene, we discussed it, occasionally for days. Finally, if we couldn’t reach a compromise, I would say, “My name on the book.” Since we’re now co-authors, that tie-breaker is off the table. So, we discuss, we debate, we argue, and, eventually, we resolve it. Is she more persuasive? Sometimes. Is she doggedly relentless and unyielding? Sometimes . . . okay, more than sometimes! But, ultimately, in every case, we come to an agreement.
I tend to like the antagonists. They’re just more fun to write. I think it’s a healthy alternative for unleashing the dark side of your personality in a safe, acceptable way. By far, my favorite in The Domino Event was Dmitry Volkov. He was very tricky to write since he is such a pathological liar, forever spinning situations to his own advantage. He was also a worthy adversary for Clay Randall. That made it even more fun.
JD is much more structured than I am, but that style usually doesn’t work for me. I start the story with an overall plot in mind, including a general idea of the opening and closing. But the part in the middle? I wait for the characters to take over and drag me in directions I never imagined when I initially began. I like to use the analogy of a road trip. I plan to leave Florida and travel to California, with several stops along the way. I head out as intended, but, at some point, I veer off. Eventually, I might make it to California, or maybe not. I’m just along for the ride!
JD, not having a long career in law enforcement like Bruce, did you find it difficult to write scenes involving police procedures, and was it hard to get into the mindset of a cop?
You’re right in that I didn’t have a long law enforcement career, but I did work for a police department for 13 years as a sworn communications officer. While I don’t have Bruce’s street cred, I do have insight on how police officers think. Plus, being married to a cop for almost 30 years hasn’t hurt.