The week I’m happy to feature an interview with my friend, Henry McLaughlin. He’s talking about his latest book in the Riverbend Sagas series. Watch for my review of this novel coming later this week!
Tell us a little bit about your newest release, Riverbend Justice.
This novel is book two in the Riverbend Sagas series. It follows Michael Archer and Rachel Stone into a new adventure where they seek to clear the name of a young man, Ben Carstairs, hung for a murder he didn’t commit.
It begins with Michael returning to Riverbend with the posse after failing to save Sam Carstairs from kidnappers.
Michael is wracked by guilt and shame over having killed again when he thought that aspect of his past was behind him. This threatens his relationship with Rachel and he decides to leave Riverbend because he is unworthy of her love.
Sam Carstairs’ dying wish is that Michael clear Ben’s name. Michael uses this as an excuse to leave Riverbend, leaving only vague promises to return. Rachel follows him after receiving a vision he is beaten and shot.
Michael with help from friends from the first book enters a world twisted beyond any he knew in his old life. Corruption, adultery, and criminals who believe they are above the law lead to more killing and a climax that threatens both Rachel and Michael.
Why do you write what you write?
One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth George, once said, “I write because I was meant to write, I was called to write, I was told to write. I write because that’s who I am.”
I write in response to the call of God on me to be a writer. Through his inspiration, my work explores the themes of restoration, reconciliation and redemption.
My characters are all flawed even if they don’t appear that way on the outside. Like real people, they carry internal wounds that need to be healed. These wounds affect how they live in my stories, how they deal with conflict and tension, how they handle relationships, how they face death.
A valuable lesson I learned from James Scott Bell is that my main characters must face death in some form. It can be physical, professional, or psychological/spiritual death. To achieve the story goals of the opening pages, my characters must overcome challenges that could kill them in some way.
I want my readers to be entertained by my stories. So I write the best story I can. And I also want them to be touched by the events and the emotions my characters experience. In some small way, I hope the experience of my stories will encourage them in their own lives.
What inspired you to write your current release?
When my debut, Journey to Riverbend, was released, readers asked me if there would be a book two. The first book ended on a note that the story of Michael Archer and Rachel Stone might not be finished. I knew there was another story in me but I wasn’t sure what it would look like or how to get it out.
Three things from the first book propelled me to start taking notes about possible story lines.
The first was Michael’s guilt and shame over having killed someone. A past he thought was behind him resurrected itself with all the negative self-talk you can imagine.
The second was a promise Michael made to Sam Carstairs to clear the name of Sam’s son, Ben, the young man who’s request to be reconciled with his father launched Michael on his journey to the town of Riverbend.
The third was Rachel’s vision that she and Michael were to be married.
So, I had three plotlines begging to be written. My challenge as an author was could I do all three in one book. The readers will be the judge of that.
What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Trusting my characters. When I began writing this book, I was still a dedicated outliner. I spent six weeks outlining the entire book, scene by scene. The initial writing went smoothly. Then, a little more than hallway through the middle, I realized I was no longer on the outline. The characters had gone if in a completely different direction. I spent at least a week trying to get them back on the outline. They refused. Feisty Rachel stood up and said they wouldn’t go back. Her exact words: “We’re telling a better story.” I reviewed the manuscript and compared it to my outline. She was right. My characters were telling the story better, revealing things I hadn’t considered when drafting the outline. Things that uncovered more of they are, that added tension and conflict and suspense. Things that made making moral choices and facing death more realistic and believable.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Besides being entertained by a gripping story, I hope readers will also take hope for themselves through the themes of reconciliation, restoration, and redemption. As they follow Michael and Rachel on their internal and external journeys, I hope they see possibilities for a way through all the difficulties that dog us.
Of the novels you’ve written, which is your favorite?
My favorite novel is one that has not been published yet. My goal is to release it in 2016. It’s called Mr. Latham’s Lincoln. It’s the story of Charlie Latham. When his daughter-in-law, Amy, disappears, Charlie joins his son, Jake, in the search for her. When she isn’t found and evidence appears that she planned to leave, Charlie and his best friend Buck, try to help Jake through his grief. Along the way, Charlie struggles with his son’s rejection of God and his own attraction to a female detective assigned to the case. When the truth is uncovered, Charlie’s world is destroyed when he learns people he loved and valued most highly broke their trust to deceit and lies.
What do you like most about being a writer? Least?
Most, I like the thrill, the joy, of creating. I like working with my characters and telling their stories. I like how writing reveals more of myself as I reveal more of them.
Least? Building a platform and marketing. But it’s a necessary part of the business now and every writer must learn it.
Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?
Dorothy Parker is quoted as saying, “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”
Seriously, the one piece of advice I would give is Never Stop Learning.
Learn by writing. Write what you want to write. Write in other areas as well. If you write novels, try short stories and flash fiction. Write blog posts, articles, devotionals. Trying other genres and forms will sharpen your skill set.
Learn by reading. Read what you write. Read other genres. Read bestsellers. Don’t just read to be entertained. Attack the books with highlighter and pen. Study the books and how the authors did what they did. What worked for you in their writing and what didn’t? How can you apply this to your own work? Read books and magazines on the craft.
Learn by connecting with writing partners who will both challenge and encourage you. My five writing partners have taught me so much about being a writer and being a person.
Learn by attending conferences, workshops, and seminars. Open yourself to receiving from the best in the business.
If you could go back to the pre-published writer you were, knowing what you do now, what advice would you give him?
Buy Apple and IBM. My other advice is to be patient. It took seven years and drafts to numerous to count to have Journey to Riverbend published. If, like me and many other authors, you can’t not write, then write. Make the time. Get up at 4:00 a.m. if you have to. Write in those small blocks of time that appear throughout the day. Be ready to get rejected. People will tell you not to take rejection personally. That is almost impossible but you can control it. Develop a thick skin. Allow yourself a five-minute pity party. That’s it. Then get your butt back in the chair and keep writing.
Where can readers find your books and more about you?
Purchase Riverbend Justice here: