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Stories have arcs. Characters have arcs. Writers have arcs. We write, we get better at our craft. We read, we get better at our craft. We interact with other writers and our readers, we get better at our craft. Whether you are a professional writer or just starting out. Hobby or career. We are all in this together. Welcome.

Contact: Elena Hartwell - elenahartwell@gmail.com and visit me on the web at www.elenahartwell.com

Hart Hanson, Kellye Garrett, and Roger Johns Discuss Their Debut Novels

I'm going to continue interviewing International Thriller Writers' Debut Authors, but I'm changing up the format. I'm going to include multiple authors in each post, giving readers an even greater opportunity for finding new authors. I'm thrilled to launch this new format with three exciting debut authors: Hart Hanson, Kellye Garrett, and Rodger Johns.

HART HANSON

Hart Hanson is best known for his Television writing, including "Bones," which he created, produced, and wrote from 2005 to 2017.  

(For the record, I'm a big fan of anything that includes David Boreanaz. I met him once and managed to get out the words, "Great shoes." I hope that was a memorable experience for David as well.)

Now a debut novelist, Hart's first novel The Driver, launched August, 8, from Dutton.  Learn more about Hart online with the following links: Twitter and Facebook


THE INTERVIEW

What is one of your favorite elements in your debut novel?

I found I became quite fond of my main character's father—Abel Skellig. First of all, he shouldered his way in and demanded an entire chapter that had nothing to do with the plot but a lot to do with the childhood character development of the protagonist, Michael Skellig. I was delighted that Abel appeared later and lived up to his son's view of him. (I love this! Eddie's mother Chava is one of my favorite elements of my debut) 

What led you to writing your first novel?


I've been a television writer for decades. I had a network show ("Bones") that ran on Fox for twelve seasons and I found that I wanted to stop doing TV for a while and take a look at the world. But, you know how it is, a writer writes. After a few days of not writing I was filled with self-loathing so I went through the "Bin of Ideas" I have on my computer and found the idea for a limo driver who is the type of guy who engages in life even when he shouldn't. I started writing in longhand (which I've never done in scripts) and a year later I had a book.

What are you working on now?

I have a few TV projects at various levels of development ... but I've also started the second Skellig novel in the hope that somebody might want to know what happens to him and his friends next.



KELLYE GARRETT

Kellye Garrett spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for Cold Case

(I'm also a fan of Cold Case, but I never complimented any of the stars' shoes...)

A former magazine editor, she holds a BS in magazine writing from Florida A&M and an MFA in screenwriting from USC’s famed film school. 

Hollywood Homicide is her first novel. To learn more about Kellye, visit her online through the following links: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

THE INTERVIEW


What is one of your favorite elements in your debut novel?

My favorite element of my book is definitely my last line. I knew what I'd write even before I had most of the story figured out. It’s literally just one word and I've refused to change it the few times folks suggested I do so. I love it for a variety of reasons: It sets up a bit of a cliffhanger. It sums up my main character Dayna's emotions in just one word and the severity of how she’s feeling. And finally, Dayna and I are pretty similar. We're both super sarcastic black chicks. However, we differ in one key way. And that difference is a constant struggle for me to write. So the ending is my lone shout-out to me writing how I would handle the situation. (This totally made me buy the book!)

What led you to writing your first novel?

Short version: being broke. Long version: At the time I was a semi-successful, mega broke television writer. I was driving down the street in Los Angeles one day and saw a billboard offering a reward for information on a murder. My first thought was, "I should try to solve it for the money." Of course, that was a horrible idea for real life but it turned out to be a great idea for a book.

What are you working on now?


I just finished book 2 in the Detective by Day series. It's called Hollywood Ending and it'll be out next summer. I'm starting Book 3 and have no clue what I'm writing. So please send good vibes and chocolate asap. (A woman after my own heart ...)

ROGER JOHNS

Roger Johns is a former corporate lawyer and retired college professor with law degrees from Louisiana State University and Boston University. 

During his nearly two decades as a professor, he served on the editorial staffs of several academic publications and he won numerous awards and recognitions for his teaching and his scholarly writing. Roger was born and raised in Louisiana. He and his wife Julie now live in Georgia. Dark River Rising is his first novel.

You can visit Roger by clicking on the following links: on his website, Twitter, and his blog.


THE INTERVIEW

What is one of your favorite elements in your debut novel?

Wallace Hartman, the main character in my debut novel DARK RIVER RISING, is my favorite element in the book. Wallace, a homicide detective in Baton Rouge, LA, is confronted with a horrifying murder, and she must discover not only the ‘who’ behind the crime, but the ‘why’, as well. Both discoveries will prove costly. The reason I like her so much is that she is an aspirational personality, for me. It wasn’t until after I had finished the book and had a chance to see it from a bit of temporal distance that I realized I had projected a lot of traits on to her that I wished I possessed (or possessed in greater abundance) myself.

Like all of us, she carries the weight of her trials and tribulations and mistakes, but she does so with a great deal more grace than I can seem to muster. And she’s at ease with fact that she must do the things that her life and her career demand of her. While she does not welcome all the challenges things, she doesn’t whine or shy away, either. Nor does she make more of herself than she is. When it’s time to be steely, she is. When it’s time fight, she soldiers-up and enters the battle. But she also has a well-developed sense of humor. And like most of us, she has a tender side which, to my way of thinking, is the most powerful part of her personality because when she exposes it, it leaves her open to great joy, while it also leaves her quite vulnerable––but she’s not afraid. (I love a protagonist with a sense of humor!)

What led you to writing your first novel?

The initial catalyst for the first book was a question that just popped into my head, one day, about why the South American cocaine cartels operate the way they do. After a little bit of exploration into that topic, I realized it might be a good premise for a crime novel. However, the chasm between that realization and a presentable manuscript was deep and wide. Even after a series of rather frustrating false starts, however, I could not make the idea go away. Eventually, I figured out the proper way to tell the story. It turned out to be a story about Wallace Hartman, my main character, and not a story about the ‘business practice’ I had been ruminating about for so long. So, that initial idea turned out to be a way to write about a character I’ve developed a great affinity for. And this is another big reason she’s my favorite part of the book––without her, there would be no book.

What are you working on now?

The second Wallace Hartman mystery is in formal edits, and I’m hard at work on the third. In the second book, Wallace is dealing with a murder that implicates race and politics. And, in the third book, Wallace journeys deep into the darkest, ugliest, most dangerous side of the human species. I think I’ll just leave book three hanging there, for the time being. (I'm hooked!)


Bruce Robert Coffin on Homicide Investigation, Novel Writing, and Working with the FBI

This week I'm hanging out with novelist Bruce Robert Coffin. Bruce is the bestselling author of the Detective Byron mystery series and former detective sergeant with more than twenty-seven years in law enforcement. 

At the time of his retirement, from the Portland, Maine police department, he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine's largest city. Bruce also spent four years working counter-terrorism with the FBI, where he earned the Director's Award, the highest honor a non-agent can receive.


THE INTERVIEW

Before launching your writing career, you worked in law enforcement for twenty-seven years. With that incredible base of knowledge, did you find yourself staying completely accurate to police procedure? Or did you take any liberties for the story? What was difficult about knowing the real world of law enforcement so well?

I try to incorporate as much reality as possible into my novels so that they read true to folks in the law enforcement field and to those with no experience whatsoever. That said I will take liberties for the sake of good storytelling. For example it would be rather tough to build excitement if I made John Byron or Diane Joyner wait a year or more for a DNA comparison. (That would slow the pace a bit! I’m always amazed when I interview experts how long things take in the real world.)

As a Maine writer, how does your geography impact you? 

I think there's just something about Maine that makes for good mystery writing. It's a huge area with a relatively small population. People love to say it’s a small world. Maine quite literally is a small world where everybody knows everybody else. That closeness and familiarity can create great motives for murder. Plus as a mystery author it's fun to create chaos in the midst of Maine's tranquility. (And such a beautiful state!)

In your first Detective Sergeant John Byron novel, your victim is a police officer, in the second it's a lawyer, so you went with people who have careers that intersect with criminals. What made you choose those two professions for your victims?

I’m not sure it was a conscious decision to pick intersecting careers as much as a desire to explore societal opinions about those two professions. All of my stories are scooped out of the primordial ooze of what if. In the first John Byron Mystery, Among the Shadows, I wanted to tell the tale of a modern day investigator confronted with the unenviable task of delving into his own father’s past and uncovering secrets that were buried long ago.

In the second novel, Beneath the Depths, I set out to paint a picture of what it’s like to try and solve a murder when the victim is a despicable person. As I often tell people, police officers aren’t allowed the luxury of picking and choosing which homicides to investigate. Many homicide victims become victims as a result of their own vices and lifestyles. In cases like the Ramsey murder, detectives have to constantly remind themselves that no matter how bad the victim was there is still someone worse out there. The killer. (Great point. I’ve never heard it phrased that way, “there’s someone worse out there” … filing that one away! J)

In addition to the police force, after 9/11, you also worked alongside the FBI in counter-terrorism. How different was working with the FBI versus the police department?

Not as different as you might think, except for the travel. My FBI assignment dealt specifically with counter-terrorism (CT), which is of course very different from criminal investigations. Criminal cases are generally investigated after-the-fact, while CT cases are more intelligence based, directed toward uncovering or preventing a crime in the making. (A lot like mystery vs. thriller!)

But working with the FBI was just like working for my own department. Both agencies are comprised of the same type of men and women, people who want to make the world a safer place for everyone. I really enjoyed my time working with the FBI. Much like the PD, they treated me like family and I forged some lifetime friendships along the way.  

Do you believe there is a "type" of person who goes into law enforcement? Are there characteristics that all police detectives/FBI etc. have? What makes the best detective? The best beat cop?

I think many people believe there is a certain type of person who goes into law enforcement as a career. After serving in that capacity for almost three decades, and coming into contact with thousands of officers, I can tell you that the only thing we all have in common is the desire to help others. It truly doesn’t matter if talking about beat cops or detectives, taking control of a bad situation and helping those who are unable to help themselves is what it’s all about. If you can see yourself doing that then law enforcement might be for you.

What are you working on now?

At the moment I’m hard at work on the manuscript to Byron #3, tentatively titled BEYOND THE TRUTH. In this novel Byron will face his biggest challenges to date, both personally and professionally. It is my hope that this book will generate a lot of meaningful discussion.

Final words of wisdom:

And here I thought the last question would be the easiest. Stick with it. That’s the key to this business. Getting noticed is hard. There are many good writers out there already. Find something that you care enough to write about and then put your heart and soul into it. Repeat. That’s all there is to it. Work at it constantly. Tess Gerritsen once told me that writing novels is a marathon not a sprint. She’s absolutely right. If you’re not ready to put your heart and soul into it, then you’re not ready. Write on!

Great final words, Bruce. Great to have you here, I’m enjoying your first novel very much. 
Best of luck with the new book!