Interview With Author, James Irving.
James Irving has led a fascinating life. From a private detective to a lawyer practicing criminal law, James has written a gripping mystery called Friends Like These, in which you can see his life influences color the characters and their surroundings. We talked about how certain life experiences can inform your writing, having a strong personal code, and how as a writer you must take the disciplined steps beyond daydreaming to be successful. Can you tell me about your background and how you got into writing? I always had an interest in reading and writing. When it came to what to major in college, I didn’t think too much about what would make money, I wanted to do what I enjoyed. I really liked creative writing. I also knew I didn’t want a desk job, so I ended up taking a job as a private detective which allowed me to experience something different each day. Plus, it means I could be outside. Can you tell me more about your experience as a private detective and how that led you to get your law degree? It was an interesting job, and once there was an incident. I was following somebody and they knew that an investigation was on. I was eventually spotted and actually held captive for a night. I had a big realization this wasn’t what I wanted to do and the next day I applied to law school. Do you feel that your job as a private detective informed your writing later on? Well, I was a writer before I was a private detective. I read a lot of detective fiction in college. I did recognize that what I was doing was potential fodder for stories. The private detective job was grim, boring, and dangerous—but once a week something really interesting happens. I kept a journal and thought, ‘one day, I’m going to sew these stories together in a work of fiction.’ Had you always wanted to be a writer? In the fourth or fifth grade, I had a few teachers that really spent time instilling interest in stories in us children. There were probably fifteen kids in that class but I don’t think the majority of them had the same feelings towards stories as I did from that experience. The teacher made the effort knowing only a few would respond to it. So, I also think it was already in my nature. It seems like you had an active imagination even from a young age. Is that crucial to be a writer? I was always daydreaming, thinking about how things could be, etc. I always had an inclination to be dreaming up stuff. The reality is though, you have to go from being a mere daydreamer to someone whose willing to take disciplined steps to be a writer. Tell me about your new book Friends Like These? it’s the first of a trilogy and this is the first of the Joth Proctor Fixer Mystery series. The second book is out now as well. The stories deal with an underemployed criminal defense lawyer—Joth
Proctor. He hasn’t been very successful, so he ends up getting cases that no one wants. He ends up dealing with people who have questionable intentions and these seedy cases put Joth in volatile circumstances. Joth experiences unpredictable twists of fate that put his career, his life, and the lives of those he loves in jeopardy.
What was your favorite character to write? It’s a first-person narrative. I have some superficial similarities between myself and Joth that I put in place to allow me to build a fictional character from things I understood. However, I also think Joth is important as a tool to the narrative but some of the other characters have other elements I love. The county prosecutor, Heather Burke, dumped him, and yet because she’s a prosecutor they have to work together. So, the dance between remaining integrity and friendship between the two of them as well as the residual affection was really fun for me.
Can you describe your writing process? I write all the time, but I started this book not more than three or four years ago. Once I had the general framework I just started writing. Once it got to a point where it was more developed and I could see the whole picture, then I started outlining. I needed a loose structure. What’s the main message or theme you want readers to take away? I’ve tried to lay into these stories a moral dimension. Joth is a guy with a strong personal code. It's important for him to do what’s right.
He lives in a world where the lines between right and wrong aren’t always clear and people act unethically for their own interests. He’s tested in that way. I think I ask people to consider their personal codes, their integrity, what it takes to adhere to them, and what it costs to adhere to them too. Are you working on any other projects or books right now? I’m working on the third book in the Joth Proctor trilogy right now. They’re standalone books but also the characters develop through the course of these books which you can see throughout the series. It’s fun for me to drive that so that it’s not just a series of stagnant books. At the end of the books, they’ll have all changed which I like. You can read more about James and order his book at https://www.jamesvirving.com/