We have a special guest today! Joshua Graham, author of the suspense thriller, Beyond Justice (Dawn Treader Press), is here with us to share a few writing tips!
by Joshua Graham
It’s one of the basic guidelines (I don’t like rules, when it comes to creative work) of writing. That’s why lawyers like Linda Fairstein and John Grisham write legal thrillers. It’s why so many of Dean Koontz’s books are set in Orange County, CA. With firsthand knowledged and experience, authors can write with authenticity.
Does that mean writers can only use subject matter in fields in which they’ve worked, places they’ve lived in or visited? Absolutely not. But does it help? Of course!
My book BEYOND JUSTICE is set in San Diego, known as “America’s Finest City.” It’s a gorgeous part of the country with near perfect weather all year round. Friends from the Pacific Northwest hate it when I complain about the occasional cloudy day (Sorry, we’re all kind of spoiled, I know.) Over a decade ago, my brother first invited me and my wife to come out to San Diego for a visit from Brooklyn, NY, and we fell in love with the place.
Granted, you don’t have the diversity and “city that never sleeps” spirit of the Big Apple here. But the tradeoff is more than worthwhile, in my aging opinion. It’s a great place to raise a family; you have Sea World, the world famous San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park in your backyard, Disneyland just a stone’s throw away, and beautiful beaches along the coast straight up through Los Angeles County.
You’ve probably read plenty of books set in New York or Los Angeles, with all the grit and tension of those cities infused it’s quite familiar to most readers and movie-goers. But things that happen in suburbia are generally not as well-known. For example: We had the infamous 2002 David Westerfield murder case where a young girl (Danielle Van Dam) was abducted right out of her house and found murdered later by her neighbor. This happened in the same neighborhood where my friends lived. It rocked the deceptively peaceful foundations of our quiet and pleasant existence.
For me, “write what you know” also applies to being a husband and father. When I set out to write BEYOND JUSTICE, I asked myself what my greatest fear was. That fear was not for myself, but for the suffering of my wife and children. The opening chapters were perhaps the most difficult chapters I’ve ever had to write because I had to imagine in graphic detail my absolute worst nightmare. Anyone can imagine how terrible a crime like that of the opening pages can be, but these chapters resonate even more deeply with anyone who has a spouse or child.
I’ve written other books and stories that draw upon my experiences in my faith, my previous occupations (a classical musician, an IT professional/executive, etc.,) countries I’ve visited (Egypt, South Africa, Jordan, Israel, Italy, France, Canada.) All of these contribute to my fiction, and makes it easier to write, but the most important thing is the story.
Writing what you know is a great starting point and I recommend it for all emergent writers. But don’t limit yourself to these things. Branch out. If you want your readers to use their imagination, you as a writer must use yours.
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.