A former trial lawyer, Jim now writes and speaks full time. He lives in Los Angeles. His website is www.JamesScottBell.com.
You can follow him at Twitter.com/jamesscottbell.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
In college I got into some writing classes, including one taught by Raymond Carver, and got convinced I didn’t have what it took. I mean, Raymond Carver? And I couldn’t plot. I thought writers just sat down and great plots flowed from their fingertips. I believed what I now call The Big Lie: you can’t learn how to write fiction.
I believed that for a long time. Then one day I realized I had to try to learn to write, that it was what I wanted to do, and I was darn well going to give it a go. And lo and behold I did learn. It took time and effort, but I began to figure it out. And sell my work.
And once I started selling I never stopped.
Tell us about your latest release.
I'm currently re-releasing the Kit Shannon series of historical romances / legal thrillers. I'd come up with this idea: a young woman comes to turn-of-the-century Los Angeles with a determination to practice law. It was a perfect historical moment, rife with conflict, because at that time women were barely getting into the legal profession. There was a lot of male resistance to the idea. And Los Angeles in 1903 had all sorts of fascinating cross currents. It was moving from western boomlet toward urban adolescence. There was high society and low criminality. It was then (and still is) a city for dreamers and charlatans alike.
My idea, then, was to follow this young woman from her arrival in L.A. through the growing pains of the city. This would mirror her own growth and quest to practice law. I would include real, historical figures in the plots (e.g., William Randolph Hearst, Earl Rogers, Teddy Roosevelt, Houdini, John Barrymore).
Bethany House contracted me and asked if I'd consider being paired with Tracie Peterson for the first three. Tracie and I met and hit it off immediately. She's still one of my favorite people.
The first book is CITY OF ANGELS and is now available. I plan to re-release all six this year.
Did you have any experiences that prompted your love of historical fiction?
I just liked reading it. John Jakes, James Michener, James Clavell, Jack Cavanaugh, Taylor Caldwell. I'd always wanted to try it and got my chance.
How much time does it take to research your stories – what balance would you say there is between research and actual writing?
Describe for us, if you will, your writing style, as in plotter vs. seat of the pants, and do you put more time into developing characters or plot or are they equal?
Well, I wrote a whole book on the subject, Plot & Structure, so I am very big on those elements. Especially structure. This is where a book can fail from the start, at the foundation, and no amount of prose can undo that weakness. So I spend a good deal of time looking at what I call "signpost scenes," those places that are crucial to get right if the structure is to hold.
Regarding characters, I like to use a Voice Journal (free form, ongoing document in character's voice) until I can "hear" the character. I also like to have a visual representation, usually a headshot. If I can see and hear the character, much of the rest falls into place.
When Bethany House did the cover for CITY OF ANGELS, it literally took my breath away. The model they chose looked exactly the way I had pictured Kit Shannon. That doesn't always happen.
To enter the contest to win a copy of City of Angels, answer Jim's question in the comment section by Friday, June 15th, 8 a.m. EST. Please be sure to include your email address.
Come back tomorrow for part two of our interview with James Scott Bell!