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The Legal Thriller Challenge…with Outlaws

Sometimes Twitter gets me in trouble. Right now, It’s got me trying to plan and plot a legal thriller. Mind you, I’m not a lawyer. I don’t even play one on TV. I had to take a couple of law classes in college as a part of my major (Business Administration), I’ve had jury duty and I’ve been to court a time or two – stories for another day – but that’s it.

So one day, there I was, scrolling through Twitter (when I should have been writing) and up pops this tweet by Sheena over at The Lesbian Review. She had a little survey question she was looking for answers to:  What would you love to see more of in lesbian fiction? She gave a few options and asked for comments if we had other ideas.

Silly me! I suggested seven or eight things I’d like to see in lesfic…

Legal Thriller Challenge 1

I wrote, in case you can’t read it: ‘Age 40+, children/families, investigators, outlaws, heroes, action and adventure, thrillers, legal thrillers.’ Those are all genres and characters I enjoy reading about that I find somewhat lacking in lesbian-themed fiction.

Missing from the thread pictured is where Sheena came back and said she wanted to see a legal thriller and outlaws. As you can see though, a fan jumped in. A big fan. A loyal fan. How could I resist?

Legal Thriller Challenge 2

So now I have until May 2nd, 2019 to produce a book that includes all of those things. I’ve opted for a legal thriller, a favorite genre of mine to read and the one that makes sense to work all of those other elements in.

I’m taking this seriously. Writing about law isn’t hard, it just requires research. I can do that. Actually, I love that. And, If I get stuck, I certainly know lawyers I can consult. The hard part is going to be putting together a good, plausible thriller.

Legal thrillers are a bit (a lot) more involved than writing your average romantic suspense or Sue Grafton style mystery like I write. They’re longer, more descriptive and often tell you who the killer is up front. The lawyer’s job is to prove it or to prove their own client innocent.

I admit, since I started writing a few years ago, I stopped reading legal thrillers. They’re long and involved and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to sit and devote three to four hours for two or three – or four – days to finish one. But, I figured, if I’m going to write one, I better read a few and deconstruct them…see what I need to do to put a good one together.

I went upstairs to my old office and rooted through the boxes of books we moved here that I’ve never unpacked. I pulled out a few oldies but goodies:

  1. The Client by John Grisham
  2. The Burden of Proof by Scott Turow
  3. Mistaken Identity by Lisa Scottoline

I read all of those years ago. I have to admit, I’ve forgotten more about all three of them than I remember. I’ve already re-read The Client, with a writer’s eye.

Not satisfied with just those three, I started rooting around online, looking for legal thrillers that fit a certain profile for me to read, dissect and ponder. I ordered paperback/hardbacks of:

  1. The Jury by Steve Martini (I just finished it)
  2. The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
  3. True Blue by David Baldacci
  4. Ties that Bind by Phillip Margolin
  5. Motion to Suppress by Perri O’Shaughnessy
  6. Degree of Guilt by Richard North Patterson
  7. The Rooster Bar, also by John Grisham (his work is a favorite of mine…can you tell?)

Then I went out and picked out a few more to read via Kindle by writers like John Ellsworth, Pamela Callow and Scott Pratt. For Kindle, I also picked up a couple of thrillers by Jay Nadal/Adam Nicholls and by Kristi Belcamino because remember, outlaws and heroes are part of the challenge too.

Some of these books are newer. Some are older. A few are by author’s I’ve read – just not those books (other than the three I pulled out of my own collection). The rest are new to me authors. All piqued my interest. I think I got a great cross-section of what’s out there to work with.

I’ve laid out a schedule. I’m spending time every morning and most evenings reading and taking notes on construction, twists and so forth. I’ve always tried to write in the morning, before work. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. Since I’m always reading stuff on the net anyway, I figured I ought to put that wasted morning time to better use.

I’m enjoying these reading interludes immensely. I imagine it will take me a few months to work through nearly 20 books…lengthy books. If you see me at the GCLS con in Vegas in early July, nose in a book that isn’t lesfic, you know why!

Once the reading is done, the planning and plotting begin, in earnest. Oh, I already have some basic plot ideas given the seven points or so I have to hit. I’ve got a title and I’ve got my designer working on a cover. I’m even thinking three book series!

Yes, I’m really doing this and I am going to enjoy every last minute of it. Stay tuned!