I’m happy to introduce a fellow Tennessean and acquaintance, mystery thriller writer, Scott Pratt. Scott’s passion for his stories flows out of him when you meet him and his background as a lawyer only adds to the intensity of his books. As you’ll discover below, his personal experiences have played a big role in the development of his fascinating protagonist in his novels.
Scott even attended college where I’m an instructor. East Tennessee State University. Woohoo, go Bucs.
Scotts first book, An Innocent Client, came out in 2008, his second book, In Good Faith, released in April 2009, his third is set to release in 2010, and he’s currently working on book #4. Busy guy.
1. Who is your favorite character you’ve ever written and why?
My favorite hero is easy, because he’s my only hero. His name is Joe Dillard, and I’ve written three novels that feature him (I’m nearly finished with my fourth, just a couple more days.) The books are published by New American Library, a division of The Penguin Group, in mass paperback. My agent has sold the series in Germany, France, Holland, Japan and Bulgaria, and thinks it will eventually become a huge hit. I hope so, but no matter how the sales turn out, I’ve enjoyed creating the books and the characters that drive them.
I appreciate the opportunity to introduce Joe Dillard, Pepper, because he’s different than the characters many of your readers are accustomed to. Dillard’s father was killed in Vietnam when he was still in the womb, and as a result, his mother became bitter and attempted to raise him as an atheist. Four books in, he still isn’t a Christian, but each novel puts him in situations that cause him to examine himself and his faith and try to make some sense of the world around him.
At his core, Joe Dillard is a good man who finds himself trying to do the best he can in an extremely difficult world. His wife, Caroline, was his high school sweetheart and is the only woman he’s ever loved. He has two children and has devoted himself as a father. But he’s chosen a profession — criminal law — that challenges his morals, his fortitude, his very soul, each day. The novels are gritty, and I wrote them that way because I practiced criminal defense law for many years and I wanted to protray an accurate reflection of a bizarre, sometimes unbelievable, world. I want to warn the readers of your blog that if they choose to pick up one of my books, they’ll find rough language, violence (sometimes graphic), and situations that might make them uncomfortable. The novels don’t reach the level of noir, they’re much more realistic, but they will cause the reader to wonder how in the heck things like this go on in a “civilized” society.
I have to confess that I’ve come to love Joe Dillard. Whatever failings he has (and he isn’t an alkie or a recovering druggie — I’m so sick of that stuff) he tries to make up for them by trying unfailingly to do what he believes is right. Sometimes what he believes is right may not necessarily be legal, but since I practiced law, I recognize those nuances and try to present them to the reader in a way they can understand and, hopefully, sympathize with. I torture him, which I think is important for any writer. If you’re writing a novel, your protagonist needs to undergo trial after trial, tribulation after tribulation, and you should be merciless when it comes to that. Dillard always overcomes, but he doesn’t do so unscathed. He changes, he evolves, (he quits criminal defense after the first novel and becomes a prosecutor in the second and subsequent books, but he finds there isn’t much difference) he recognizes his own frailty and weaknesses, and he does his best to overcome them, or at least deal with them. I’d give you some examples of what I do to Dillard in the books, but that would spoil the fun.
2. What is the behind the scenes story for your character?
Joe Dillard has evolved into a reflection of the person I am and the person I’d like to be. He and I have a great deal in common, but we have some differences, too. When I first started writing, his name was Joe Bob Cooter, then he went to Joe Bob Jackson, then Joe Jackson, and finally, Joe Dillard. Before Philip Spitzer agreed to become my agent and started selling the first book, I wrote at least a thousand pages of what ultimately turned into a 370-page novel. What I think finally caused the books to sell was that I decided to “get out of the way” and just tell the stories. As things have progressed, I’ve created at least a dozen characters that I’m truly proud of. Some of them I like, some of them I don’t, but I put a tremendous amount of thought and effort into each character. Ultimately, I believe that writing novels comes down to how much the writer is willing to think. It’s a constant process of creating problems and solving them, and coming up with characters who fit both the problems and the solutions. I don’t look at myself as an artist. I’m an entertainer. Eventually, perhaps, after I’ve written a hundred thousand pages and have been thinking through situations and characters and plot lines and settings and physical descriptions and adverbs and adjectives and…. you know what I’m talking about… after I’ve done that for many years, maybe I’ll write something that somebody might call “art.” Until then, I’m just trying to have some fun, and if you’re writing, I hope you do, too.
Thank you, thank you, Scott for sharing today. There will be some readers on here who will really enjoy the reality of your books – even the hardcore stuff. Your passion really shines through in your answers, as it does in your writing. Congrats on book # 4.
To read some reviews of Scott’s books, check this link out:
Character Creation Tip of the Day:
Funny, I had two possibilities for today – and total opposites 🙂
Love the one you’re with. As authors, or aspiring authors, our passion flows out through our writing to hopefully touch the reader’s emotions that’s why when we love our heroes and heroines; we’re more likely to write effective characters.
When we know them…and grow with them through the maze of a story, we provide a more realistic character who will prick the reader’s emotions just as they did our own.
Torture your protagonist – the real stuff we’re made of comes out in trial. One of the best ways to add depth to your character is to give him trials. The true nature of a person comes out in trial and the same is true for character development. Sometimes, to get to know my characters better, I’ll place them in the middle of an arguement, a life-death situation, or an intense romantic scene. How they sink or swim in those situations gives me vital insight into ‘who’ they are.
Another fabulous Seeker, Myra Johnson is sharing the secret behind her favorite characters. Join in on the fun.