Interview with Joshua Graham: ‘My characters dictate where the book will go’


Joshua Graham grew up in Brooklyn, NY, where he lived for the better part of 30 years. He holds a Bachelor and Master’s Degree and went on to earn his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University.   During his time in Maryland, he taught as a professor at Shepherd College (WV), Western Maryland College, and Columbia Union College (MD).

Today he lives with his beautiful wife and children in San Diego.  Several of Graham’s short fiction works have been published by Pocket Books and Dawn Treader Press under different pen names.

Beyond Justice is now available in Trade Paperback through Amazon.com as well as Barnes and Noble.  It’s available at the Kindle store for $2.99 for a limited time, and can be purchased for other ebook readers at Smashwords, and is now available for the iPad and iPhone at the Apple iBooks store.

A member of the Oregon Writers Network, Graham is a graduate of the Master Classes and professional writing workshops held by Dean W. Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.  Dean and Kris and the entire OWN, have been a major influence in his journey to become a published writer.  You can visit his website at www.joshua-graham.com, connect with him on facebook at www.facebook.com/j0shuagraham or twitter at www.twitter.com/j0shuagraham.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Joshua. Can you tell us what your latest book, Beyond Justice, is all about?

Beyond Justice is a story about a man who is falsely accused and convicted for the brutal murder of his wife and daughter and the human struggle for redemption, forgiveness and truth.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Sam Hudson, the protagonist is a attorney at a reputable law firm.  He’s a straight shooter, a bit self-righteous, but overall a likeable person who strives to do right by all people, especially his family who he loves more than life.  His worst fears are not for himself, but rather, the suffering of his wife and children.  And of course, his worst nightmares come true.

Rachel Cheng is Sam’s wet behind the ears defense attorney.  She’s really good at her job, but must deal with a powerful district attorney’s office in trying to get Sam acquitted.   This is by far the most difficult case, emotionally and technically, she’s ever had.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Most of the characters are an amalgam of people I’ve had the honor of knowing, as well as people who have left a less than positive, but memorable impression in my life.  The protagonist’s fears are very personal and ones I’m sure every spouse or parent deals with in their darkest moments.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  I do have an overall feeling of the beginning middle and end (this book is in three acts), but even with mini-outlines, my characters dictate where the book will go.  Within my given parameters, of course.

Q: Your book is set in San Diego.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Write what you know, right?  Plus, we’ve all seen movies and read books set in New York, or Los Angeles.  San Diego is a beautiful part of the country and well deserving of more attention.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Absolutely.  For the entire second act setting is everything.  And it’s a place you don’t want to imagine being, but I’m confident you won’t want to close the blinds on the picture window I’ve opened for you.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

69? Not 42?  J  Okay, on page 69, Sam, who has just dodged the bullet and made bail, having been arrested as the primary suspect in the murders of his wife and daughter remains under house arrest. He’s already lost his job, and struggles to pay the medical bills for his 4 year old son, who lies in a coma—the only survivor of the killer’s attack.

Believe it or not, things do get even worse for Sam.  It’s only page 69 out of 430!

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

This is from the opening chapter, Sam has just returned from an important dinner meeting with a potential client.

…I entered the house, greeted by the sweet scent of Lilac—her favorite candles for those special occasions.  So much more than I deserved, but that was my Jenn.  Never judging, never condemning, she understood how much stress I’d been under and always prescribed the best remedy for such situations.

From the foot of the stairs I saw dimmed light leaking out of the bedroom.  It wasn’t even date night, but I had a pretty good idea what she was thinking.  So before going up, I stopped by the kitchen, filled a pair of glasses with Merlot and set out a little box of chocolates on a breakfast tray—my secret weapon.

As I climbed the stairs I smiled.  The closer I got, the more I could smell the fragrant candles.  From the crack in the door classical music flowed out:  Pie Jesu from Faure’s Requiem. Must’ve been writing a love scene.  She always used my classical CDs to set her in the right mood.

A beam of amber light reached through the crack in the doorway into the hallway.  The alarm system beeped.  She must have shut a window.  It had just started to rain and Jenn hated when the curtains got wet.

Kathleen Battle’s angelic voice soared.

Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem,
Requiem sempiternam.

Jenn didn’t know a word of Latin.  She just liked the pretty tunes.

I nudged the door open with my foot.

“Honey?”  Caught a glimpse of a silky leg on the bed.  Oh, yes.  I pushed the door open.

Shock ignited every nerve ending in my body like napalm.  The tray fell from my hands.  Crashed to the ground.  Glasses shattered and the red wine bled darkly onto the carpet.

Jenn lay partially naked, face-down, the sheets around her soaked crimson.  Stab wounds scored her entire body.  Blood.  Blood everywhere!

“Jenn!”

I ran to her, turned her over.

She gasped, trying to speak.  Coughed.  Red spittle dripped from the corner of her mouth.  “The kids…”

I took her into my arms.  But her eyes begged me to go check on them.

“You hang on, honey.  With all you’ve got, hang on!”  I reached for my cell phone but it fell out of my belt clip and bounced under the bed.

On my knees now, I groped wildly until I found the cell phone.  Dialed 9-1-1.  Barely remembered what I said, but they were sending someone right away.

Jenn groaned.  Her breaths grew shorter and shorter.

“Bethie… Aaron.”

Her eyes rolled back.

“I’m going.  Hang on, baby.  Please!  You gotta hang on!” I started for the door.  Felt her hand squeeze mine twice:  Love-you.

No.

Tears streamed down my face.  As I began to pull away, she gripped my hand urgently.  For that split second, I knew.  This was the end.  I stumbled back to her.  Gathered her ragdoll body in to my arms.

“Jenn, oh God, Jenn.  Please don’t!”

“Whatever it takes,” she said.  Again, she squeezed my hand twice.  “Mercy, not…sacrifice.”  One last gasp.  She sighed and then fell limp in my arms, her eyes still open.

Holding her tight to my chest, I let out an anguished cry.

All time stopped.  Who would do this?  Why?  Her blood stained my shirt.  Her dying words resonated in my mind.  Then I remembered.  The kids.  I bolted up and ran straight to Bethie’s room.

Bethie’s door was ajar.  If my horror hadn’t been complete, it was now.  I found her exactly like Jenn—face down, blood and gashes covering her body.

Though I tried to cry out, nothing escaped the vice-grip on my throat.  When I turned her over, I felt her arm.  Still warm, but only slightly.  Her eyes were shut, her face wet with blood.

“Bethie!  Oh, sweetie, no!” I whispered, as I wrapped the blanket around her.

I kissed her head.  Held her hand.  Rocked her back and forth. “Come on, baby girl.  Help’s on its way, you hold on,” I said, voice and hands trembling.  She lay there unconscious but breathing.

Aaron.

Gently, I lay Bethie back down then got up and flew across the hall.  To Aaron’s door.  His night light was still on and I saw his outline in the bed.

Oh God, please.

I flipped the switch.

Nothing.

I dashed over to the lamp on his nightstand, nearly slipping on one of his Thomas Train toys on the carpet.  Broken glass crackled under my shoes.

I switched on the lamp on his nightstand.  When I looked down to his bed, my legs nearly gave out.  Aaron was still under his covers, but blood drenched his pillow.  His aluminum baseball bat lay on the floor, dented and bloodied.

Dropping to my knees, I called his name.  Over and over, I called, but he didn’t stir.  This can’t be happening.  It’s got to be a nightmare.  I put my face down into Aaron’s blue Thomas Train blanket and gently rested my ear on his chest.

I felt movement under the blanket.  Breathing.  But slowly—irregular and shallow.

Don’t move his body.  Dammit, where are the paramedics?

I heard something from Bethie’s room and dashed out the door.  Stopping in the middle of the hallway, I clutched the handrail over the stairs.  Thought I heard Aaron crying now.  Or maybe it was the wind.

My eyes darted from one side of the hallway to the other.  Which room?

Faure’s Requiem continued to play, now the In Paradisum movement.

Aeternam habeas requiem.

Something out in front of the house caught my attention.  The police, the paramedics!  Propelled by adrenaline, I crashed through the front door and ran out into the middle my lawn which was slick with rain.  I slipped and fell on my side.

Nobody.  Where were they!

Like a madman, I began screaming at the top of my lungs.  My words echoed emptily into the night.

“Help!  Somebody, please!”

A dog started barking.

“Please, ANYBODY!  HELP!”

Lights flickered on in the surrounding houses.

Eyes peeked through miniblinds.

No one came out.

I don’t know if I was intelligible at this point.  I was just screaming,  collapsed onto the ground,  on my hands and knees getting drenched in the oily rain.

Just as the crimson beacons of an ambulance flashed around the corner, I buried my face into the grass.  All sound, light, and consciousness imploded into my mind as if it were a black hole.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Joshua.  We wish you much success!

Thank you for the opportunity.  It’s really been a pleasure.  I hope your readers will visit me at www.joshua-graham.com or facebook: www.facebook.com/j0shuagraham .  Trade paperback and Kindle editions are available at Amazon.com, all ebook formats available at Smashwords.com, and for the iPad and iPhone through the iBooks store.

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