Q&A with Steven James

steven-jamesSteven James joins us today to talk about his latest book Checkmate.

Melissa: Checkmate closes out this chapter of the Patrick Bowers series.  While all the books have some common elements, they’re each quite unique.  Tell us what readers can expect this time around with Checkmate.

Steven: You’re right; I try to make each book unique rather than following a particular format or template. Some of the books are more terrorism centered (The Rook and The Queen), others more psychological suspense (Opening Moves and The Pawn). This final installment weaves together some of the most intriguing aspects of the previous books with the most deadly terrorist plot on American soil.

Melissa: For the most part, I don’t think this series needs to be read in a particular order.  However, I really felt likeCheckmate should be read last, given that it has some spoilers for earlier books.  However, I’ve thought that about other series and in a couple of cases the author has disagreed with me.  What are your thoughts about the reading order for this series?

Steven: I know a lot of people like to start at the beginning and move through the books so that there are more surprises. I’m the same way. However, I don’t want anyone to ever think that he needs to read one book to understand another one. So, if you want to try just one book, I’d say take a look at Checkmate and see if you like it. If you’re ready to start the ride from the beginning, try Opening Moves (the prequel) or The Pawn (the first book I wrote in this series).

Melissa: There comes a part in Checkmate where I actually struggled to dislike Richard.  Okay, to be more honest, I almost liked him. First off, how did you pull that off?  Secondly, as you were writing this, how did you respond to Richard?

Steven: We, as authors, have a strange relationship to the villains we create. I think in a certain sense we have to like them—or be repelled by them, I suppose. But they’re most memorable when we have strong feelings toward them. In Checkmate, Richard fights for a cause I believe in and so, in a sense I wanted him to be successful. To pull that off, I let him exhibit some characteristics that we admire. I knew what was really going on in his heart, though, and it was always as dark as ever.

Melissa: Tessa has been involved a lot in this series and she’s provides some great ideas for readers to consider.  However, with her sharp mind and puzzle solving abilities, I’ve always been a bit surprised she hasn’t been more involved in solving the crimes.  She gets a chance to participate a bit in Checkmate, but not as much as I thought she would.  Why has she not had a more prominent role in solving crimes Any plans for a spin-off where she’ll get her chance?

Steven: Well, I do like to give her a small role in each book in solving things, or helping Patrick piece things together. She usually ends up at least offering her two cents’ worth. Fans of the series have been asking me for years to do a spin-off book featuring her. I’ve started pulling together ideas, but don’t have a publishing date set yet.

Melissa: Throughout this series, you’ve brought up some interesting technologies and advances.  In Checkmate you bring in nanotechnology.  What are your thoughts on how nanotechnology is used in this book and how far away are we from seeing what you describe?

Steven: The nanotechnology listed in the book is available today, just not widely available. Honestly, studying where technology is heading and how much it’s going to impact us, well, it’s a bit frightening.

Melissa: Margaret surprised me.  I did not see her developing the way she did.  What about you?  When you started this series, how did you envision her journey?

Steven: I had no idea she would have any journey at all. As I wrote the first few books in the series it was like she was nagging me, trying to edge into the story more, and finally, with The Bishop, I let her have her way and I ended up liking where that went. Since I don’t outline or plot out my books, I’m constantly surprised by where they go and the way the characters develop. It’s part of what I love about this job.

Melissa: Checkmate tidies up a lot of lose ends, but what about Cheyenne?  As you may recall, I love her character.  Will we ever get a chance to hear from her again?

Steven: I’m hoping that Cheyenne will be back in a future book. I also dig her and would like to see her around some more.

Melissa: I hear there will be another Patrick Bowers book.  Yay!  When can we expect it and what else do you have coming out in the near future?

Steven: A spin-off book featuring Patrick is in the works for next winter, and Fury, a young adult thriller, will release this spring. I hope the adventure never ends.

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