Aug 25

Saturday Six Pack – Stephen Woodfin – Author of The Sickle’s Compass

This week’s installment of Saturday Six Pack is with Stephen Woodfin, author of legal thrillers, including The Sickle’s Compass. Stephen has kindly agreed to chat about his work as well as his career as an attorney.

When Battle of the Bulge veteran, Woody Wilson, realizes that Alzheimer’s is about to ground him forever, he goes on the run. While the police, his wife of sixty years, and his only son search for him, a diabolical mystery man from Woody’s past tracks him down and kidnaps him. He escapes his captor only to find himself facing an automatic life sentence in a criminal justice system gone haywire. Thrown into events he neither controls nor understands, he demonstrates in his last heroic battle the depth of his inner resolve never to fail those he loves. The Sickle’s Compass, Stephen Woodfin’s fourth novel, is a fast-paced legal thriller, a poignant story of threadbare yet resilient love, and a scathing indictment of America’s refusal to make preparation for the coming tsunami: Alzheimer’s Disease.

1) You’re a lawyer and have written five legal thrillers. And if you tell me you watch all the lawyer-based TV shows I’m going to start wondering, Stephen. I have a hard enough time just dealing with jury duty. Are you a devotee of the “write about what you know” theory or is there something about our legal system and process that fascinates you?

I have spent more than twenty-five years practicing law. I didn’t realize that trial work was a metaphor for anything until I started writing. Now, I understand that the conflict inherent in legal cases is what makes them such good fodder for novels and TV shows. And, yes, there is no substitute for writing about what you know. Usually, when I read a courtroom scene that a non-lawyer has written, I find that it doesn’t have the ring of truth, i.e., it’s not the sort of thing that happens in real life courtroom drama. I don’t know if that bothers most readers, but when I see it, I think the author has not done his homework. And, yes, the courthouse is a fascinating place. The dramas that play out at the courthouse or a snapshot of what our society believes about certain values. That can be good or bad, but it’s always interesting.

2) Your book, The Sickle’s Compass, deals with Alzheimer’s disease. Can you talk a bit about where the genesis for the book started and the process you used to weave it into a fast-paced legal thriller?

The Sickle’s Compass is the story of a WWII vet with Alzheimer’s who goes on the run and encounters the American criminal justice system. It is my effort at a tribute to the members of the greatest generation. My father was a WWII vet who fought at the Battle of the Bulge and my mother died after a ten-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. My wife and I have worked with Alzheimer’s organizations for many years in their attempt to find a cure.

In Sickle, I hoped to portray a person who retained his dignity even in the throes of the disease, a person who rallied for one last heroic battle.

Also, when I first begin to write seriously, I did a series of short stories featuring a protagonist with Alzheimer’s. Writers’ Digest published one of these stories, He Ain’t Leaving; He’s Gone in its annual short short story collection a few years ago. I have collected all these stories in The Promiscuity Defense and Other Short Stories, which is available on the Kindle Store at http://amzn.to/TEOW7h

3) Can you talk a bit about your relationship with Venture Galleries? I’ve been on the site and it appears that its focus is much broader-based than a traditional publishing house?

Venture Galleries is my writing home on the Internet. Caleb Pirtle and I are partners in the project. We envisioned it originally as a place where writers and artists could blog and sell their work. Over the course of the last year, VG has morphed more into a home for a group of writer/bloggers and an online bookstore that offers a hand-picked selection of books.

4) If you had to choose three elements that a legal thriller has to have in order to be successful, what would they be?

A battle that can’t be won, a client worth fighting for and a lawyer foolish enough to take the case.

By the way, I write a how-to column on legal fiction that appears most every Friday on Venture Galleries. Your readers can visit it at http://venturegalleries.com/author/stephenwoodfin/

5) What are you working on at the moment and when can we expect to see a new book launched?

I am in the middle of another legal thriller that has an really different sort of Alzheimer’s tie in. I hope to launch it in October-November.

6)Last question, and it’s the one I ask everyone because I’m intrigued by every writer’s ongoing effort to improve. If you could change one thing about yourself as a writer, what would it be?

I like these sorts of questions. Recently, I looked back at some of my early work in connection with a new project. When I compared those pieces to what I am doing now, I could see my evolution as a writer. I think there is always a tension between putting flesh on a character’s bones and focusing on the action in the story. So far, I have allowed the story to carry my books and have not always given the characters the attention they deserved. I know my writing style is shifting toward more character detail, but I have no idea where it will shake out when it is all said and done. But I do know for sure that as I spend more time writing, I get better at the craft of it. I hope that means the final work product will be something readers enjoy.

I really enjoyed getting to know you a bit, Stephen. Take care and best of luck with all your books.

Be well.


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