Author and attorney Scott A. Lerner resides in Champaign, Illinois. He obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and went on to obtain his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. He is currently a sole practitioner in Champaign, Illinois. The majority of his law practice focuses on the fields of Criminal law and Family Law. Mr. Lerner lives with his wife, their two children, and their cat Fern. Lerner collects unusual antiques and enjoys gardening, traveling, reading fiction and going to the movies. Cocaine Zombies is his first published novel. Coming soon, the sequel: Ruler of Demons.
You can find Scott online at scottlerner.camelpress.com.
Q: Thank you for this interview, . Can you tell us what your latest book, Cocaine Zombies, is all about?
A small town lawyer gets involved in a criminal case only to discover there is a whole lot more going on—such as a conspiracy to enslave the world. It combines voodoo, black magic and an evil multi-national corporation. It also involves a new derivative of cocaine that is more addictive and potentially dangerous than any drug that has existed to date.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
Samuel Roberts—Sam—is a small town lawyer who is practical but flawed in many respects. At the same time he has a strong sense of right and wrong. Although far from virtuous he does fight for what he believes, even if it means putting his life on the line.
Sam teams up with his friend Robert Sizemore. Bob is a loyal friend and sticks by Sam in situations where most people would hide under their beds. Bob is part hippie, part technology geek. He also does not trust the government or big business. Bob believes in the right to bear arms. He thinks our forefathers insisted on the second amendment to protect ordinary citizens against the government overstepping their authority.
Sam meets the beautiful femme fatale Chloe because she is the one who is paying him to represent a client—a client whose head ends up in Sam’s fridge early in the story. When she starts visiting his dreams—or rather, nightmares—he suspects that she has supernatural powers. Chloe believes mankind has become evil and indifferent to the suffering of others.
Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
Mainly on my imagination. Like me, Sam is a lawyer and lives in Champaign County. He also has my sense of humor. Other than those obvious similarities, we are quite different—at least I like to think so. Some of the characters were inspired by real people but everyone is really a hodgepodge of characteristics I have observed in friends and strangers. Aside from not wishing to get sued, I would feel bad if I had to kill off someone who too closely resembled someone I knew in real life.
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
I have a pretty good idea of where I want to go when I start writing. Yet as I write I do end up going in unexpected directions. In Cocaine Zombies, as I got to know my characters, they led me along some twists and turns I hadn’t anticipated. From what I’ve read, most novelists seem to experience this phenomenon. The story did end differently than I originally planned. I would say it evolved rather than changed.
Q: Your book is set in ChampaignUrbana (Twin Cities). Can you tell us why you chose these cities in particular?
I grew up in Champaign, Illinois, so frankly it was easier to have the book take place there. However, I had other reasons for choosing that location. The antagonists needed an educated work force of chemists and researchers, and the University of Illinois could fulfill those needs. They needed to transport their product all around the world, and Champaign has good access to highways, trains and airports. Also, Central Illinois is a good place to avoid drawing attention to an evil plot. People tend to mind their own business in small town Illinois. In this day and age drugs are no longer a big city phenomenon so why not Champaign? Lastly, I thought it was about time someone portrayed Champaign as a place where exciting things can happen.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
It does. Champaign-Urbana is a University town, so in some ways it feels like a bigger city than it is. We have big city problems as well as advantages. However, if you go out into the country at night, you could be in the middle of nowhere. The Midwest is so flat and isolated in parts that a person can feel almost invisible. There are scenes in the book where it plays on this sense of isolation to make the characters—and hopefully the reader—feel alone and hopeless. At the same time the book relies on more crowded locations. Sam spend some time in Chicago. It is just too hard to find a voodoo priest in Champaign.
Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
I am looking at an Advanced Reading Copy so this may change in the final version.
Sam realizes he is in deep trouble and is wondering when the authorities are going to arrest him. One of his clients has been found decapitated in the middle of nowhere and Sam is a suspect. On top of it all Sam has just learned that an inmate he recently visited at the county jail has been found dead in his cell. Sam arrives home to find Bob sitting at his kitchen table. Sam had planned to go with Bob to look at an empty apartment complex for sale. This building has something to do with a much bigger plan.
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
I looked over at Frank. He was pointing at the ceiling of the bedroom. In large bloody letters were written; “Join me Sam.” No wonder they wanted me here. I was a suspect.
“Can you come down to the station and talk with me?” Frank asked.
“Do I need a lawyer?”
“You tell me.”
“Look you just scared the shit out of me. If I’m not under arrest I’m going home. I need a drink and a good night’s sleep.”
“I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye but I’m just doing my job.” Frank said, trying to seem sympathetic.
“Can I go home?”
“Go ahead; if it means anything, I can’t picture you as the ritual murderer type.”
“Gee, thanks.” I responded.
“By the way, did you find his head?” I asked.
“No, still looking. It’s like trying to find a bowling ball in a compost heap with all that long, dry grass out there.”
When I got home the first thing I did was pull a bottle of Makers Mark out of the liquor cabinet. This can’t be good for business, I thought. A dead client writing my name in blood at the murder scene is not going to attract clients.
Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?
So far that has not been much of a problem. I am lucky and have not been under time pressure to complete a manuscript. If I can’t think of anything to write I just stop and come back to it later.
Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?
I would like to say I would be resting in a hot tub while eating KFC and sushi. If I were single, rich and better looking I might invite a movie star over. In truth I would probably end up wasting my hour by watching television or doing something on the computer.
Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?
That is tough because my taste in books depends so much on my mood and what I was going through when I read them. The Damnation Game by Clive Barker or anything by Kurt Vonnegut. I have not read those books in years, yet I remember the intense impact they had on me.
Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?
Cocaine Zombies is my first published novel. So my spouting wisdom is like a nun providing guidance on sexual positions. I guess the best advice I can come up with is, be persistent and believe in your work no matter how much rejection you receive.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Scott. We wish you much success!
Thanks, I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.