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Many authors come to writing via other careers. For Jim Daher, the travel required for his career in health care management provided the perfect opportunity to read mysteries and thrillers by authors such as John Grisham, Robert Ludlum, Jonathan Kellerman, Faye Kellerman, Robert B. Parker, Stuart Woods, Lisa Scottoline, Michael Connelly, Daniel Silva, Lee Child, David Baldacci, and Greg Iles. He became fascinated with how these authors "created characters, devised plots and most importantly 'entertained' their readers" and vowed to write a novel when he had time. That time came eventually, and Daher wrote his first novel, Righteous Kill. His latest book Blood Money is the sequel.
Contributing Editor Janice Gable Bashman chats with Jim Daher about Blood Money and his writing process.
Tell us about Blood Money and why it's so compelling?
The characters, the plot and the unknown of what's next makes Blood Money a must-read. Scott Justice, Sarah James' groom, is shot in the middle of his wedding vows and Sarah is devastated. After she is certain he will survive, Sarah becomes frustrated with the FBI's botched attempts to protect Scott and their lack of progress in identifying the shooter. As a result, she decides to "handle it" herself and deal with him "her way." The FBI forbids her to get involved in the case, but that's impossible for Sarah James. She wants, no needs, revenge.
What makes FBI agent Sara James such a formidable character?
Kidnapped and brutally abused when she was a teenager, Sarah changed her name to escape the stigma of the ordeal. Determined to find the man who had beaten the legal system, walked away a free man and gone on with his life, she changed the course of hers with a single purpose, vengeance. Sarah James goes on to become a top field agent with the FBI. But unlike her fellow agents, Sarah believes the end justifies the means where crooks and murderers are concerned and will go "rogue" to see that justice is done. She had given up on love until she met fellow agent Scott Justice. Then the unthinkable happens, an assassin makes an attempt on Scott's life in the midst of his and Sarah's wedding. With revenge as her motivation, Sarah goes rogue.
As a male writing a female protagonist, what obstacles have you encountered in getting inside your character's head, and how have you overcome them?
Thinking like a woman: To solve the problem I spend countless hours talking to women in their twenties and thirties, questioning their reactions to various scenarios. Their views on life, love, and crime. I've also discussed the same issues with a couple of psychiatrists I knew during my health care career.
Blood Money, like many thrillers, occurs in multiple locations where the characters encounter a plethora of nasty characters hell-bent on destroying them. In Blood Money, Sara James must deal with ex-cons and the mob, among others. Tell us about your research process for this book and how you made these situations real for the reader.
During my years in the psychiatric field, I attended numerous group therapy sessions, as an observer, and learned about the "mind set" of those in treatment for addictions, criminal activities and various acts against society. I also observed the other side of coin, the "victims". The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) is located in Brunswick, Ga. ATF, Border Patrol, Custom Agents, and other Law Enforcement agencies train at FLTEC. I eat lunch at Willie's Weiner Wagon, a popular lunch spot for those in training, and meet many of them. Most will openly discuss different aspects of their jobs, agencies, training and routines. A key facet I always work into the conversation is the nature of the criminals they seek and capture. This has helped in making situations and scenes in my novels real. That and trying to put myself into the characters mind and living the situation.
Writing sequels can be difficult because the writer must address storyline and character backgrounds that were established in the first book. What other factors did you have to consider in this process, and how did you address them.
The hardest element for me is back-story; how to tell the reader about Sarah's and other reoccurring key characters' past. To do this I read and reread some of my favorite author's books to see the techniques they use to "fill in" the reader on a character.
What advice would you give to aspiring thriller writers?
Fully develop and understand every character in your books. You must know by instinct how your character(s) will react to a given situation. Don't ever ask yourself, "How do I want my character to act in this situation . . . know how your character will react to the situation!
How has your background informed your writing?
My background is instrumental in my writing. I was on my own at an early age and quickly learned that to survive/succeed, I had to understand people and know when to act or react in any given situation. During my health care career I worked in both medical/surgical and psychiatric hospitals, dealing with medical staffs, county commissioners, community organizations, employees at all levels, "Wall Street" executives for IPO's and LBO's. To succeed, I learned to communicate with others by observing people/human nature: the best and the worst, evil and good, egotism, those with deity complexes . . . all forms of human behavior. My psychiatric experience was particularly helpful in gaining insight into the negative side of human behavior and how people use the truth or lack thereof to gain their way.
What's next for Jim Daher?
I'm working on a new novel that involves corporate crime and arson, using characters introduced in Blood Money. I want to create a second series and alternate it with Sarah James.
Janice Gable Bashman is co-author (with Jonathan Maberry) of WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil (Citadel Press 2010). She wrote sidebars for THEY BITE: Endless Cravings of Supernatural Predators (Citadel Press 2009) by Jonathan Maberry and David F. Kramer. She also writes for leading publications, including the NOVEL & SHORT STORY WRITER'S MARKET, THE WRITER, WILD RIVER REVIEW, INDUSTRY TODAY, and FOOD & DRINK QUARTERLY. And, her writing won multiple awards at the 2007 Philadelphia Writer's Conference.