Meet Bill Hopkins, one of my favorite writers and characters. Bill has writes the award-winnng Judge Rosswell Carew mysteries. I'm currently reading and enjoying "Courting Murder." Bill is a retired trial judge, prosecuting attorney, and attorney. He also advises a slew (that's a legal term) of authors about legal procedure, including me. Bill and his wife, author Sharon Woods Hopkins started their own publishing company. Today, Bill tells us about his first and most important reader. Welcome, Bill. -- Elaine Viets
By Bill Hopkins for the Femmes Fatales.
Sharon Woods Hopkins, my wife, and I write under the brand name The Deadly Duo, with a slogan of Our Villains Give Murder a Bad Name®. Although such a project is in the works, we do not yet write the same book together. We each have our own series.
Sharon writes the Rhetta McCarter mystery series, featuring a banker/insurance agent who finds herself in the middle of some of the awfulest messes an amateur sleuth can fall into. My series involves Judge Rosswell Carew, who really wants to be a detective since it is a lot more interesting than sitting in a stuffy courtroom, listening to people lie.
A married couple who fits our description (both mystery writers) must be scarce since we rarely run across such a critter. I say that to say this: I’m going to tell you how we handle this blessing. I can’t tell you if it’s typical or good or workable. All I can tell you is this is the way we do it. Each of us criticizes the other’s work with love and compassion. If Sharon tells me she can’t understand some word (or sentence or scene or chapter), it’s cut without argument from me. She reads a huge amount of mystery novels and writes mystery novels. How could I find a better critic?
Sharon sees life playing itself out in front of a movie camera in her mind. She will edit my work with such criticisms as, “How can this character be there when two pages back, you say she is here?” Not everyone views things like this, especially me. So Sharon’s criticism helps me set the stage for my story.
Sharon also is heavy into motivation. Since she has read all my books, she’s clearly in tune with the hopes and desires of all my characters, even the evil ones. Often times, she will read part of my book and point out, “Rosswell wouldn’t do that” or “He wouldn’t take that action, he’d do this instead.” Obviously, I’ll use her suggestion, because I want my story to make sense.
Which brings me to a third way my wife helps me with my writing. Plot. Sometimes I write myself into a corner and can’t get out. Sharon will always find a way to cure this problem, even if it means climbing back three or four branches of the plot tree, where I have to start over.
Dialogue is one thing. All my professional life as a judge and lawyer has been devoted to listening people talk. That’s helped me hone my dialogue skills. Another thing that’s helped is something I’d recommend to every novel writer: I write plays. It’s a lot of fun for me to scratch out pages and pages of dialog and then go back to fill in nonverbal necessities.
Another thing is I’m a good source of how our legal system works. And, if Sharon says something like, “I want this no good to be found guilty in a jury trial,” we can always make it happen. If I can’t figure out exactly how to answer a question, I’ll make up something that’s “almost” right. After all, our novels won’t be sent to an appellate court for review.
There’s no question that having a critic who is the person closest to me in the whole world is wonderful!