You have to be very methodical when you write a mystery novel, because it’s usually a very analytical process. I start and build up the characters in anticipation of the problem. The problem is usually a murder that the reader must try to figure out who did it or an event that leaves the reader trying to figure out why it happened or why other things in the story are happening. You’ve got to be very careful in what you give the reader in the way of clues because that obviously has an impact on how the story ends. And of course, as the writer you get to choose who did it and why. So I think it’s pretty exciting to be able to present a problem, lead the reader along with some series of events and clues that lead up to the dénouement, and then come up with whatever ending you as the writer want. A lot of times it may not be the ending that the readers want, but as the author you get to decide how you want it to end.
It’s exciting for me to be able to start with a blank piece of paper and make the story and the characters and the places come to life for the reader. It’s sort of like an artist with a blank canvas. You start with nothing and you can do whatever you want with the art you create. You get to fill the pages with a world of your own creation. You can bend the rules or you can suspend reality, because in the end it’s about creating something enjoyable for the readers, and to do that sometimes you have to let your imagination run wild and see where it goes. You can be bold if you want in your characters or your storyline. The writer has great freedom of expression in writing the story, and it’s exciting for me to pull a lot of different elements together into a story that makes the reader want to keep turning the page for more.
A psychological thriller like The House of Dark Shadows is basically writing about a mind game. Not only does it involve a mind game among the characters, but as the writer you’re also playing a mind game with the readers. As the writer, you’ve got to be very careful and very creative in how you present the story. In The House of Dark Shadows you’ll notice that the story is told complete from one character’s point of view. You’re privy to some of his thoughts and emotions, and the reader can get in his head a little bit. However, the readers don’t get any insight into what the other characters are thinking. Instead, you get one character’s perception of what he thinks they may be thinking or what their emotions are; you get his perspective and his perspective alone. Obviously, if you were able to get inside other characters’ heads in the book, you would be able to figure out what was going on pretty quickly. Because of the set up of all of this, you leave the reader wondering whether their take on the book is right or not. Did this really happen or was it part of the character’s imagination or what? Can you take the explanation at the end at face value or was there more to it? Who was the good guy and who was the bad guy? Was everything really as it seemed or not? I’ve had readers tell me that they weren’t sure how to take the ending of the book, that it could go a couple of ways, and I’ve had readers argue both perspectives and not come to a firm conclusion about it. Thus, that’s the nature of the psychological thriller, in my opinion. Some people don’t like that there isn’t a fully explained and clear conclusion, but I liken it to the twist in Alfred Hitchcock’s works—it leaves you wondering for days after you’ve finished the movie or in my case the book.
I have written a number of articles and opinion pieces on business, the economy, politics, and other current matters or events. A good deal of what I’ve done in the past few years outside of writing mystery novels has been for Thinking Outside the Boxe, which is a private think tank that writes commentaries on a wide range of issues. They have a symposium every year with panelists to discuss currents events. I’ve participated in that forum several times over the last six years. It’s a good way to step away from the fictitious world that I immerse myself in when I’m writing a mystery novel and talk about real life events and every day issues that affect people throughout the world. I’m a problem solver. I have to solve problems in my businesses all the time, and there are plenty of problems in the United States and elsewhere, both political and economic problems, that need to be solved. I stay current with what’s going on in the world, so I like to contribute my thoughts and opinions on how we can fix some of these problems. Sadly, I haven’t gotten any calls from anyone who has read any of my commentaries to say they liked the idea or that it was a good or a bad idea or that they’d like to try out my idea to see if it would fix some of our problems here in America. But I like expressing my opinions and giving my solutions, and Thinking Outside the Boxe has been kind enough to let me contribute to their website and their efforts, so I’ll just keep talking about what’s important in the world we live in and try to make the world a better place.
So, there’s the economic and political articles that I write as well as the mystery novels, but my newest book that is coming out at the end of April is a motivational book called Conversations on the Bench. It’s about a very inspirational person that I had the pleasure to meet a few years back. He was a great thinker who also liked to solve problems and who had an abundance of personality and charm and wisdom. He had a lot of life lessons to share with people, and he did just that. Even I got the benefit of some of his words of wisdom and anecdotes. This was really stepping out of the box for me to write a story that wasn’t a mystery but that was inspired by actual people and events. I certainly enjoyed the experience, and I hope readers like Conversations on the Bench, but after that I’m going to stick with fiction with a mystery theme.