Legacy of Lies is my fifth legal thriller and first without Professor Tom McMurtrie as the main character. This story begins a new spinoff series of books featuring Bocephus Haynes, a supporting character from my first four novels.
I was nervous to write a story without the Professor in it, but also excited as the character of Bocephus Haynes has so much potential for growth. To be able to dive deeper into the conflicts in Bo’s life was one of the major draws of writing this book for me. Of course, I also needed an explosive plot and for that I turned to another character from the McMurtrie & Drake series. “General” Helen Lewis is the longtime district attorney general of a four county district in southern Tennessee, which includes Pulaski. Since reading “Presumed Innocent,” I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a prosecutor on trial for murder, and, in Legacy of Lies, Helen Lewis is charged with the brutal murder of her ex-husband in her own county. At the end of her rope, she turns to former adversary and now friend, Bo Haynes, for help.
As this story involves a criminal case in Tennessee and I practice mostly civil law in Alabama, I had to do some research regarding the sentencing guidelines of several crimes referenced in the novel and also refresh my knowledge of the different procedural steps for a murder trial. I also traveled to Pulaski several times to make sure I had the names of streets, restaurants and local establishments correct. Most of my novels are set in real places, like Pulaski, and I want the reader to feel that the stories have an air of authenticity. Additionally, for readers who have eaten at the Yellow Deli in Pulaski or had a drink at Kathy’s Tavern or Hitt’s Place, having scenes take place in these real places is a way to connect with the reader. I call such nuggets “Easter eggs,” which are little surprises for the individual reader who has been to one of these places. I have always enjoyed reading books that have a few of these surprises in them, such as when Mitch McDeere is being chased down the Gulf Coast in The Firm and stops at the Flora-Bama, so I like to include them in my stories.
My process for this novel was the same as it has been for my prior books. Structure is important for me, and I tend to write first thing in the morning. During a first draft, I try to get at least a thousand words a day. As I get closer to deadline and those magic words, “THE END,” my writing pace will tend to pick up speed. For me, reaching “THE END” on the first draft is the most important part of the craft. If you don’t finish the story, you can never go back and fix it. Revising is hard word too, but you never get to that point unless you force yourself to finish. In terms of outline, ...(to be continued Monday, July 6)