Seeley James’ near-death experiences range from talking a jealous husband into putting the gun down to spinning out on an icy freeway in heavy traffic without touching anything. His resume ranges from washing dishes to global technology management. His personal life ranges from homeless at 17, adopting a 3-year-old at 19, getting married at 37, fathering his last child at 43, hiking the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim at 59, and taking the occasional nap.
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As a book bloggin’ and book luvin’ Princess, I’m always curious to find out how authors got the ideas for their books. Can you tell us how you got the idea to write your book?
I spend a lot of time thinking about ideas. I’m not like Mary Chase who, when asked how she thought up Harvey, said, “I looked up from the breakfast table and there he was.” For me, ideas take a lot of mulling over, looking at them, setting them down, picking them up again, polishing some and tossing others out the window (where David Baldacci picks them up. Apparently. Compare Atlee Pine circa 2018 to my Pia Sabel created in 2012.) Most ideas come to me while I’m reading other books. I notice how a character acts or reacts; I might read a plot twist I like, or a conspiracy that works but I think I could work it better. Using OneNote, I jot down every stray thought until I have time to sort them out.
When the time is right, I start editing my idea list. For The Morpheus Decision, I liked Agatha Christie’s The Pale Horse, but I didn’t think it clicked as well as her others. The hero wasn’t motivated by anything solid. He fell into the plot by accident. I also read a book called Behind Her Eyes, which had a great twist at the end, but the premise wasn’t quite believable for me. Then the movie Parasite came out laying bare social and economic issues in a brilliant story. I loved pieces of all three of these works and drew a bare bones concept from each to form a framework for mine. I wanted it a little more plausible than Behind Her Eyes, a lead character more driven than The Pale Horse, and hitting more American versions of social issues than Parasite. Judging by the early reviews, I hit my target—bullseye.
Can you tell us a little about the main characters of your book?
Pia Sabel is my longest running character and a fan favorite. She has everything and nothing. Rich but bereft of family and suspicious of friends, her wealth has become her albatross. She must navigate a world in which some dismiss her intelligence because of her gender, others excessively hate or fawn over her because of her wealth, and the unwary underestimate her tenacity. Coupled with her insomnia, her doctor warns her she stands on the cusp of mental health problems. Putting all that behind her, she fixates on the murder of a former rival in international soccer and is determined to reveal who killed Chloe England.
Pia’s best friend is an unusual character in modern literature: an educated, high-income African American executive. While Tania Cooper retains her wit and humor, she faces even more challenges than Pia and doesn’t let them slide by unnoticed. Tough and determined, this West Point grad and former MP officer fills in the blanks when Pia’s experience falls short. Tania’s been by Pia’s side since she saved Pia’s life in their first outing, The Geneva Decision.
New to readers are Liam Pickford, Jeff Benton, and Abby Stokes. These three play important roles in this book but we don’t want spoilers here, so I’ll leave them in the book.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would that be?
Deconstruct and analyze everything you read in terms of Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth.
What would you say is one of your interesting writing quirks?
I love planting easter eggs, some obscured and others hiding in plain sight. For example, in Death & Dark Money, several characters’ names were taken from Macbeth. While Duncan, the murder victim, was obvious, only one person deciphered who Rip Blackson was named after (it requires a wee bit of Gaelic). In The Morpheus Decision, a running joke revolves around another Gaelic term in Claigeann Cottage. But that one is revealed by the butler. You’ll have to read it to find out. Also, at least one person in every book is reading a Seeley James novel—usually to help them sleep.
Do you hear from your readers? What do they say?
Nothing beats getting a note from a reader. Whether it’s an email, a text, an instant message, I hear from several readers every day. They have questions, suggestions, corrections, but most of them are simple thank-you notes for writing great books.
What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
After my second book came out, a man I hike with a couple times a year said, “Your characters are flat. I can’t tell them apart.” While flat characters doesn’t impede Daniel Silva, it bothered me. I’m always looking to improve and that was one of the first things I specifically dove into fixing. The fact is, it’s hard to do without dipping into stereotypes. While stereotypes are easy and used by many accomplished authors for their efficiency from Stephen King to Janet Evanovich, I endeavored to make distinct characters who come from different places, speak in different patterns, and react in different ways. I don’t always hit those marks being that they’re pretty tough, but I strive for them in every paragraph.
What has been your best accomplishment?
Adopting a three-year-old girl when I was nineteen and raising her. For details, see my story about it at http://seeleyjames.com/adopted . If you were referring to books, I’d have to say The Morpheus Decision because it embodies everything I’ve been trying to do for fifteen years. Of course, that will change when the next book comes out because the best book I’ve ever written is the one I’m working on.
Do you Google yourself?
Once in a while. I know who I am, so I check to see if someone is trying to scam people using my name. I don’t allow that. If anyone’s going to get scammed, I’ll do it myself.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Two. Precursors to the current character list, they were aimed at YA adventure, but I lost interest in the genre. The books were OK and may get revised and published one day. I doubt it though. I’d rather spend the time and energy on a new project.
Fun question – if you were princess or prince, what’s one thing you would do to make your kingdom a better place?
I’d make college education and healthcare available to everyone who wants or needs it. Smarter, healthier people work harder, and produce and contribute more. Simple math.
Do you have anything specific that you would like to say to your readers?
I LOVE YOU! YOU’RE THE BEST!