Author of the Month
With a Masters in Storytelling and over twenty books in his arsenal, it is shocking to us that critically
acclaimed author Steven James has managed to virtually fly under the radar for so long. His latest
series of thrillers—The Bower Files—focus on FBI Agent Patrick Bowers who hunts down the
worst monsters our world has to offer. After reading “The Knight”, it was an easy choice to
include Steven James in the Suspense Magazine list of Top Ten Books of 2009 (November 2009
Issue). We have no doubt that “The Bishop” (scheduled for release summer 2010) will follow suit.
A few weeks ago, Steven was kind enough to permit us to interrupt his writing schedule (which we
can’t thank him enough for) and we hope that you’ll enjoy getting to know him as much as we did.
Suspense Magazine (S.MAG.): How are you doing?
Steven James (S.J.): I’m good. I am working on my next book you know and I am a little bit behind but it is coming
together. My stories are a little bit complex.
S.MAG.: I am very picky about what I choose to read and I am one of those readers who will
often put a book down within fifty pages if it doesn’t draw me in. I picked up your book and
couldn’t put it down. I lost track of time. Even though I read the third one in the series first, I
found it to be a great stand-alone.
S.J.: That is one of the things I really do try to do. I never want a book—that I write—to require reading another
S.MAG.: The only item I worried about, after starting with the third book in the series was whether
Patrick Bowers, your main character, was going to Chicago to testify in the trial of a killer from one
of the two previous books.
S.J.: That makes sense. His name appears in “The Pawn” and he actually grows in importance. You kind of hear
about him and then in “The Rook”, he begins to emerge a little bit more and obviously in “The Knight”, he becomes
more significant and he figures into the next book as well. It is hard because you have story threads that you need to
pick up and you don’t want to give too much away but…
S.MAG.: A major strength for your character Patrick, and I don’t know how much thought you
put into this, was how much you humanized him. His softer side was very strong.
S.J.: I think that characters become multi-dimensional when you show them in relationship to other characters. When
you see him relating to Tessa and the struggles he has there or when you see him relating to the women in his life, his
buddies at work, his boss; each one of those relationships opens up and reveals another facet of the main character. I
try to keep in mind that in every relationship he has a different attitude and goal in that relationship. That is reflected
in how he treats that person and then when we read it we see that he is like a real guy. He relates to people and has
attitudes about differences.
S.MAG.: It is more of a humanizing of the character. I think that many of the suspense writers who
tend to write several books a year, their characters seem to become too much of a Superman. They
lose the human side.
S.J.: It takes me almost nine months to write one of my books. Because I continually am editing and going back
through the book and am definitely not and will never be one of those guys who can pump out five or six books a year.
S.MAG.: When do you expect “The Bishop” to be released?
S.J.: Summer of 2010. I actually have four more books in the series contracted “The Queen”, “The King”,
“Checkmate” and a prequel called “Open Moves”. It is pretty exciting to have a broad scope and as I am writing to
think ‘Okay, two books from now… what do I want to have happen?’ Obviously, I don’t plot out everything. I am
still working on this.
S.MAG.: Will Patrick and Tessa be continuing forward? They were last seen in Minnesota with the
scene of her real father. Will that be explained any further?
S.J.: Yes, each book does pick up where things left off. Again, it is a challenge to try not to do it in a way that it
doesn’t give up too much in the event that people choose to go back and read. In “The Bishop” they do locate her real
father immediately and that really ignites the main story threads.
S.MAG.: [laughing] He’s going to start killing people isn’t he?
S.J.: It would be too cliché to do anything like that. When I write each book, I write from the perspective of a question
and so in “The Knight” the question that drove the book was what is more important, truth or justice. Should I
protect the innocent or should I tell the truth? In each of the books Bowers has to face these moral dilemmas. In the
first, the question was what makes me different from those who do the unthinkable. In each book, I have him struggle
through these personal moral dilemmas and so in a sense every book is a different struggle.
It is a broad scope of him turning into character in relationship to the other characters, like his daughter. It is
interesting with Tessa because I don’t want it to ever become like, OK, here’s this guy and his daughter just has a
problem and they’re parallel stories and they have nothing to do with each other or every book she’s in danger and the
serial killer comes after Tessa or something like that. It is pretty safe stuff, so trying to craft an overarching view of the
books where each one is unique and different but also there is stability in the characters, it is not easy. I also try to
keep the flavor a little different. First, “The Pawn” was a little bit like “The Knight” in the sense that it was gritty
almost not “Silence of the Lambs” ish or anything but kind of more of a gritty serial killer, psychological, climbing
into the head of a killer sort of book but in between them “The Rook” was more of a techno-thriller. People kind of
compared it to CSI meets 24. “The Bishop” is a little bit more of a political thriller. By trying to have a little
different perspective, I want readers to read all of my books. I don’t want them to think that this is the same story
just rolled over with a different girl and a different killer and doing the exact same thing. I really strive to make every
one of them distinctive so people can’t wait to read the next one because they know it is going to be a different story.