Interview: Jim Magwood (The Lesser Evil)
What is your book about?
In 2008, I published my first novel, SANCTION, about a secretive group of men trying to take over complete control of the world. Another group of civilians and government agents gradually learns of the conspiracy and works to stop it.
This novel, THE LESSER EVIL, isn’t a sequel to SANCTION, but it’s the same type of story looking at the question of what is going on in our world today? What is happening, and why?
A group of “vigilantes” campaigns to stop the spread of the evil and the question becomes, “Is the group right in what they are doing or are they just another evil influence themselves?”
Computers and bank accounts are raided and criminals are left destitute. Cayman Island banks are raided by computer and lose billions in secretive client funds. A missile attack wipes out a rogue country’s nuclear facilities and stops a threat to destroy Israel.
Is the fight an essentially good, though illegal one, that will drive the evildoers out and which should be continued, or is it essentially evil itself—and who makes that choice?
What inspired you to write this particular story?
I’m an avid reader of just about everything that comes out, especially dealing with world events today. The more I see of the world, the more I look at the question, Why is this happening? What I want to do is put our daily news reports into a good, suspenseful novel that will get people thinking about that same question. The same world conditions Rand described in her novels are in effect today and are driving us into the chaos we observe daily, and my mind continually comes up with story ideas that incorporate the world events.
How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?
I’ve “been there, done that,” as they say, but the stories aren’t about me. They aren’t history, so to speak, and they aren’t science fiction. They are “today.”
Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite?
My main characters are taken from around the world, people who get together more by chance than plan. Jacob Asch is an ex-Mossad agent from Israel who still has his contacts in the underground network. He meets a Canadian computer expert who works with him to try to follow these vigilantes. They work with some CIA and FBI agents and several government leaders as they all try to unravel what is happening.
As in our world now, there are people from all walks of life who are either on the right or wrong side of things, and I want to highlight them all, not just concentrate on one hero or villain.
How long did it take you to write your book?
I started writing THE LESSER EVIL almost within minutes after SANCTION was published. My mind started whirling again, and another story just started coming out.
How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?
As I said earlier, I watch events around the world constantly and so many of them inspire new ideas for novels. I have another one finished and in my own heavy editing phase and another half a dozen already started in my computer. I don’t have a full story, just a concept. As I work on it, I flesh out the ideas.
Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching the Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)
I’ve been very acquainted with some events in my stories, but I do a lot of research as I begin. So much is available on the Internet today, whether it’s medical techniques or weapons or names of heads of state. I want things in my stories to be real. I want people to say, “I just read about that,” and maybe look things up to see if I know what I’m talking about. I do love the research, whether it’s talking to people or digging into the ‘net.
How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?
So far, I have had a basic theme I want to deal with, maybe a beginning and several possible scenes, and a rough idea of how I want to end. From there I just start writing and see where it all goes. I’ll write most of the book, then start chopping and re-writing until I finally see the story as I somewhat envisioned it. Once basically finished, I’ll pass it around to a few “reader” friends and get their ideas and criticism. After that, it’s read and re-read with the nasty red pencil. Move chapters, re-write events or characters or scenes, change dialogue and so forth until it comes out the way I want.
I’ve written a 40+ page mini-book entitled “So You’ve Written a Book. Now What?” in which I try to advise writers how to put their book together and then market it. The ideas all come from my own experiences working in this crazy writing world and it touches the ideas I’ve just mentioned. It’s available free to anyone, by the way, from my website, JimMagwood.com (http://www.jimmagwood.com).
What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?
I want my writing to reflect what is actually happening in today’s world. Data theft; political intrigue; espionage and conspiracy; the people acting like sheep. I would hope that some would really see the truth of events taking place through what I’ve written and maybe even decide to do something about it.
What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?
The main one is time. Time to write in and around household chores, community events and so on. I would say generally that if you are going to seriously write you have to make the time. It won’t just give itself to you.
How has your background influenced your writing?
I’ve lived a few of the things I write about, but more than that I’m naturally inquisitive and love researching. I naturally “think” stories and often “talk” scenes to myself. (I do try to be careful about who might be listening as I’m talking, though.)
What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?
No, I don’t try to write a number of words. I write as the scenes play out in front of me. I don’t have a schedule as to when I must finish the novel. When it gets there, it gets there. I do try to write a lot every day, though. Ultimately, the only way to get a story written is to write, so that’s what I do. Early morning, late night. Just keep on writing.
What are you working on right now?
My next novel finished now and in my own editing phase, is entitled COP. It’s the story of a Washington, D.C. detective who is dedicated to living The Job, as they say, but who is also trying to live a normal life. Any law enforcement agent will tell you that this is likely the hardest part of their job and where they most often lose their way.
The story is about a series of terrorist events taking place all over the city and how he is thrown into them. It also tells how the events and the fear he so carefully tries to hide begin to affect him and how he struggles through life.
Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?
Generally, people who want a really good suspense novel but who want it “real.” While my novels are fiction, I want everything possible in them to be real people, places and things that we see in our news every day.
What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?
So far, I’ve had a theme in my mind for the stories and a possible way I want to end. (I don’t give a traditional ending. As I say in my little book on writing, consider killing off your hero at the very end and leave the readers screaming. Haven’t done exactly that yet, but…) Trying to fill in the scenes to get to the ending, while also trying to keep the book “real,” is usually the hardest thing for me.
What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?
Without a doubt, Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand.
What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?
For me, the story needs to be “real,” and get people to think that way. Even if it’s science fiction, the characters should act and emote like real people would. Events and actions need to have people “living it” rather than just reading it. My first editor gave me some advice that I’ll never forget. He said, “Don’t tell people about the action. Give them the story line and let them live it themselves. Don’t tell about the story; tell the story. Make it real.”
What advice you would give to an aspiring author?
From my little mini-book on writing:
“Inside many of us is a story that is crying to be delivered. There are many people who will give you many reasons why you should NOT consider this venture. However, there ARE many people out there who are waiting for your story—looking forward to it. Whether you make money on it, or thrill your family and friends with your story, or just feel the satisfaction within yourself when you finally say, “I did it,” you need to write that story. There will be naysayers—turn your back on them. There will be scoffers—smile and keep typing. There will be rejection letters—read them, file them, and send out more proposals.
Never give up. Keep on writing.”
How have you marketed and promoted your work?
“Let me count the ways.” You name it and I’ve probably tried it. I don’t have money to throw at this, so almost everything I’ve done has been basically no charge stuff. I put together a site to showcase authors for almost no charge called The Author’s Inn ) and, of course, I’m in it. I write articles and blogs that I’ve had published and syndicated. Any place that will have me as a writer or speaker (thank you, Pat), I’ll be there. There is no easy and sure-fire way to market your work, but you have to try everything and anything. And keep on trying.
What words would you like to leave the world when you are gone?
Some goals are so worthy that even to fail is glorious.
Where can people learn more about your books?
My books are both in Amazon and Kindle, but you can best learn about them and me, and even purchase the books directly, at my website, JimMagwood.com