The Cross & the Pen: A Greater Glory
- Friday, May 09, 2003
Several years ago, when I took my first stab at writing fiction, I was greatly influenced by the work of James Scott Bell. Some time later, at a convention and with my heart pounding, I met Jim for the first time. Recently we enjoyed a writer's conference together where I felt I got to know him better. On the last night of the conference he autographed a copy of his latest work for me. After I returned home, I snuck away to the beach where I enjoyed surf, sun, and A Greater Glory, by James Scott Bell (Bethany, 2003). As quickly as I could, I interviewed him. Here's what he shared with me:
Eva: Jim, what fiction authors inspire you?
Jim: I've had so many influences in my life: Hemingway, Saroyan, Chandler, Hammett, John D. MacDonald, Lawrence Block, Dean Koontz, Stephen King. For style and storytelling, of course, not necessarily content. I enjoy bringing the suspense style to Christian books.
Eva: Your newest book, A Greater Glory, begins a new series from the "Shannon Saga," a trilogy written with Tracie Peterson. What made you decide to continue with Kit Shannon's story alone?
Jim: I had the concept for this series and when Bethany bought it they offered a suggestion about teaming me with Tracie. I wasn't entirely sure about this, but they flew us to Minneapolis to meet and we just hit it off. Tracie is such a great person, both as a writer and partner. But we sort of agreed from the start that after the first three, if Bethany wanted more, I'd do them myself. Tracie has other series of her own to attend to.
What's so great is that the voice we developed together is now in my head, and that's how I'm doing the current series.
Eva: We are both novelists. Novels are born out of a passion. What was yours for Kit's story?
Jim: I wanted to do something that was a legal thriller, but also a little different. No one had done a historical legal thriller, and I thought about what period of time might be exciting. Well, early 1900s Los Angeles was a really exciting period, and not much has been done on it. Since I grew up in L.A. and love the history, it was a natural.
So who should be the hero? It also happens that women were just getting into the law at that time. I thought that a young Christian woman, whose mother had been defrauded by lawyers, might have the grit to try it. Kit Shannon was born, an Irish American with moxie and a Christian heritage. I hope that my Kit Shannon books can become a real alternative for many readers.
Eva: Okay, Jim, I will have to say you impressed me with your pick of time and place. Why that period and why that city?
Jim: To expand on what I said above, this was a time when L.A. was moving from an Old West and Mexican Rancho sort of feel to a real city, with intimations of greatness. It was like America at the time, too, as people were starting to move from the rural areas into cities in greater numbers. The auto was coming into vogue, a little item called moving pictures, airplanes. There were big men with big ambitions--Harrison Gray Otis of the L.A. Times, and William Randolph Hearst of the L.A. Examiner. There was just a lot going on.
And the courtrooms were wild places, too. Earl Rogers, a character in the series, was a real person, and many consider him the greatest trial lawyer who ever lived. Unfortunately, the bottle caught up with him. Other people of the time who pass through the books are John Barrymore, Theodore Roosevelt, Jack London, Harry Houdini and Carry Nation.
Eva: In A Greater Glory, you spin several stories of intrigue at once...and manage to do so very well, by the way. You draw in the magic of Houdini, the spies of pre-World War I, the tricks of journalism and what we, today, call "rag mags." How did you do the research for all this?
Jim: I spend a lot of time at the Los Angeles Central Library, going through the microfilm of the two big newspapers, the Times and the Examiner. I read biographies and history. And sometimes I make stuff up.
Eva: I have to be honest with you, Jim. One question that ran through my mind over and over as I read A Greater Glory was this: How does masculine Jim--an attorney of the millennium--get into the mind of feminine Kit--an attorney from a hundred years ago?
Jim: The dress I wear while writing is a little tight, but helps tremendously. (Ahem.) A note of seriousness now. I have written four contemporary thrillers with female leads:
Circumstantial Evidence, Final Witness, The Nephilim Seed, and Deadlock. I get a lot of help from my wife, who is always the first to read my manuscripts. And I enjoy the challenge. It stretches the writing muscles.
Eva: Tell me about Kit's passion to expose "spiritualism," such as tarot card readers, etc.
Jim: It comes from her commitment to Christianity. It is also true historically that L.A. was rife with phonies like this--palm readers, phrenologists, spiritualists, people peddling all manner of nostrums. It's not unlike the L.A. of today, is it? Only now these people make a lot more money.
Eva: I think your most powerful line is, "As I study Scriptures, it seems to me that the moment mankind turns its back on God, evil acts are not far behind." Author-to-author, what a moment it must have been when you penned those words. What part of Jim's heart do we see here?
Jim: This is one of the themes that runs through all my books. History shows us the truth behind this, and current events only continue to confirm it. I believe that the IDEAS we hold have enormous consequences for our lives and society. As God drifts away from us as a controlling idea, so does the restraint on evil that used to be in place.
Eva: Jim, would you pray for those who have been fooled by "spiritualist," and those wounded by the vicious acts of others?
Jim: Father, we ask in the name of Jesus for your protection against false claims and false gods. We pray especially for the young and vulnerable who are being led astray by those who teach lies. Raise up teachers of the truth who will be an influence on these lost lambs. Heal their spirits and cleanse their minds. And give us all boldness in standing for your Word. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Eva Marie Eversonis the author of Shadow of Dreams, Summon the Shadows, and the upcoming Shadows of Light (Barbour Books). She is an award-winning national speaker and can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at PenNhnd@aol.com or you can go to www.evamarieeverson.com.
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