KAREN’S KILLER BOOK BENCH: Welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench where readers can discover talented new authors and take a peek inside their wonderful books. This is not an age-filtered site so all book peeks are PG-13 or better. Come back and visit often. Happy reading!
BY JAMES BYRNE
Desmond Aloysius Limerick (“Dez” to all) is a retired mercenary, and enthusiastic amateur musician, currently in Southern California, enjoying the sun and sitting in on the occasional gig, when the hotel he’s at falls under attack. A skilled team attempts to kidnap the Chief legal counsel of Triton Expeditors, a major military contractor – in fact, Petra Alexandris is the daughter of the CEO – but their meticulously-planned, seamlessly executed scheme runs into the figurative ‘spanner-in-the-works,’ Dez himself.
After foiling the attack, and with nothing better to do, Dez agrees to help Alexandris with another problem she’s having – someone has embezzled more than a billion dollars from her company and left very few tracks behind. But Dez is a gatekeeper – one who opens doors and keeps them open – and this is just a door of another kind. And the door he opens leads to a dangerous conspiracy involving media manipulation, militias, an armed coup, and an attempt to fracture the United States themselves. There’s only one obstacle between the conspirators and success – and that is Dez, The Gatekeeper.”
Before we get started talking about your writing, tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, what you do for a living (if you’re not a full-time writer) what hobbies you have, etc. Whatever you’d like to share to introduce yourself.
I’ve lived my whole life in the Pacific Northwest; born in Idaho, lived for a while in Washington, and I’ve been in Oregon since I was 20. My wife and my cat and I live in Portland, Oregon, one of the coolest cities in the world!
When I was 20, I wanted to be either a journalist or a novelist. Now I’m both. I’ve worked in newspaper newsrooms in Oregon for the better part of 25 years.
I’m an avid collector of comic books and action/adventure comic strips, a medium that has all but faded now. Who knows? Maybe I can help bring back the adventure strip to American newspapers!
- How did you get started writing?
My father was an avid reader of mysteries and classic adventure stories (like “Beau Gest”). He passed that love on to me. I took my first swing at writing a novel when I was a community college student. And while that story was terrible (it would have benefitted from having characters and a plot), it convinced me that I could do this. I got serious about it, writing pretty much every day, and I’ve never looked back. My first novel was published, under a pseudonym, while I was still in college.
It helps that writing is so much fun. Listen: I worked my way through college as a janitor at a car dealership, The very worst day I’ve had as a writer beat the ever-loving crap out of the very best day I had as a janitor.
- What genre(s) do you write in and why?
My current series is an action/thriller, but my pivot foot is still solidly in the mystery realm. All of the running around and yelling and whatnot hides a good old fashioned whodunit.
These are the stories I read, too.
- What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
I often “run” dialogue when I’m driving. I say lines from my books out loud to see if they sound good to my ear. (You often won’t see a clunker on paper, but man, can you hear ’em.)
Since I don’t outline my stories, I like to put my protagonists in tough spots, then, when I’m driving about or on a walk, think of ways to get them out of their predicament. “You know what could work? What if I have her do….?” Sometimes the ideas are grand. Sometimes they’re dreadful. I didn’t say it was an efficient way to write; it’s just my way.
- What is your favorite part of writing?
It’s all good, all the time. I love it. And I have the advantage of years of being a reporter, covering school boards and county commissions and what have you, which means I can crank out “copy” at the drop of a hat. I write first drafts longhand in a Steno pad. So if I’m in my physician’s waiting room, or sitting down to grab some lunch, I can dash off part of a chapter. I’ve written scores and scores of pages in airport terminals and during flights.
Journalism also means I never have writer’s block. In the newsroom, we don’t call it writer’s block, we call it “unemployment.” To paraphrase journalist A.J. Liebling, I can write faster than anyone who’s better than me, and better than anyone who’s faster than me.
- What is your least favorite part of writing?
Outlining or planning. I’m not good at it. It gets me stuck in directions I don’t want the story to go. I think it’s better to be organic. “I was going to have this character do X, but, y’know, it’d be kinda cool if she does Y instead. Let’s try it and see if it pans out.”
I’m a former theater geek, and I write in Act I, Act II and Act III. I usually start a book knowing the big events of Act I, and the super-massive event at the end of Act II that really kicks the story into high gear. But I rarely if ever know how Act III will come about.
- Pick two celebrities to be your parents. Who would they be and why?
Ha! I’m a journalist for a living, and that’s just a flat-out great question!
Real-life couples? Ah, probably Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. Very funny, very creative, and they were married from 1964 until her death in 2005.
Contemporaries who weren’t ever a couple? That’s tougher. Let’s say Edward R. Murrow, the famed war correspondent, who would have taught me to care about the world, and to write what you care about. And Dorothy Parker, who would have taught me that sometimes writing can be simply clever, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
People who weren’t contemporaries, whom I could pick using a time machine? Imma go with Mel Brooks and Edward R. Murrow. And yes, in this context, my dads are gay.
- Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
Two answers: One is, I write stories for myself. I’m my first reader. I want to tell a story that I’d go out and buy. So my stories usually begin with, “Wouldn’t it be cool if….” Second, my journalism career and my bachelor’s degree in political science mean I often take stories from the real world and twist them just a little. “Ripped from the headlines” is such a clunky cliché — especially for a guy who writes actual headlines for a living. But that does describe my books to a degree.
- Tell me about your ideal reader.
Same as question 7: I’m my own ideal reader. I know a manuscript is going well when I wake up and think, “Wow, how is that character going to get out of this situation. I can’t wait to find out!” Another answer: My younger brother. He lives in another state, but he’ll call and say, “Did you read that comic book… have you watched this movie… did you stream that show….” And then we’ll just blather for an hour about the cool stories we’ve loved. He’s so freaking excited about the stuff he likes! He is never “cool” about stories. If he loved it, he gushes about it. That’s my ideal reader.
- What is your “go to” routine that helps you get in the mood to write? Special beverage? Music? Etc.
I cannot have music on with lyrics when I write, because I’ll get thinking about the lyrics too much. And I write action/adventure stories, right? So my go-to is movie soundtracks. (Generally speaking, the soundtrack is any music that we, the audience, hears but the characters do not.) If I’m writing a chase or a fight, and I put on John Powell’s music from the “Bourne” trilogy, or Michael Giacchino’s music from season one of “Alias,” or Brian Tyler’s kick-ass music from “The Fast and the Furious” franchise, it instantly gets my heart pumping.
- Tell us about your next book & when is it being published?
It’s the sequel to “The Gatekeeper.” In it, two sisters in Portland, Oregon, including a friend of Dez Limerick, run afoul of several criminals from all around the world, working together. And as Dez looks into the situation, he discovers that these criminals are, supposedly, all doing time in prison. I don’t have a pub date yet, but it’s with my amazing editor, Keith Kahla, at Minotaur. I’m maybe 200 pages into the third book about Dez. And I’m having more fun than I could possibly tell you.
“JAMES BYRNE is the pseudonym for an author who has worked for more than twenty years as a journalist and in politics. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he lives in Portland, Oregon.”
Links to James’ website, blog, books, #ad etc.:
Powell’s City of Books:
Annie Bloom’s Books: https://www.annieblooms.com/book/9781250805768
Thanks, James, for sharing your story with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!