I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Seeley James to Layered Pages. Seeley’s near-death experiences range from talking a jealous husband into putting the gun down to spinning out on an icy freeway in heavy traffic without touching anything. His resume ranges from washing dishes to global technology management. His personal life stretches from homeless at 17, adopting a 3-year-old at 19, getting married at 37, fathering his last child at 43, hiking the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim at 59, and taking the occasional nap.
Seeley’s writing career ranges from humble beginnings with short stories in The Battered Suitcase, to being awarded a Medallion from the Book Readers Appreciation Group. Seeley is best known for his Sabel Security series of thrillers featuring athlete and heiress Pia Sabel and her bodyguard, the mentally unstable veteran Jacob Stearne. One of them kicks ass and the other talks to the wrong god.
His love of creativity began at an early age, growing up at Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture in Arizona and Wisconsin. He carried his imagination first into a successful career in sales and marketing, and then to his real love: fiction.’
How did you discover indieBRAG?
Joanna Penn mentioned it in an author’s forum.
Please tell me about your book, Element 42.
Element 42 has two facets, the story itself and the change it represents in the series. The story begins at a turning point for the characters of Sabel Security. Jacob decides to stop taking the meds that quieted the voice in his head: Mercury, winged messenger of the Roman Gods. Is he gifted or insane? No one, character or reader, is quite sure. Whatever the case, Jacob accomplishes more with his inner voice than without and this bad-boy becomes an important part of the team.
The story takes us from the jungles of Borneo, where Pia and Jacob stumble on a clinic of death, to the drug company CEO that engineered a disease that only their patented drug can cure. But before they can bring the guilty to justice, someone kills the suspects and steals the deadly virus. Over the course of events, we learn about aging populations, droughts, and drug treatments that bring more profits than cures.
What was the inspiration for your story?
As I reached the age to contemplate my legacy, I’m shocked at how my generation of Baby Boomers is leaving a pretty sad state of affairs for our heirs. Our successes in science and technology have exceed our responsibility for their side effects. Eager to excel, we’ve ignored the need for elder care, healthcare, climate change, clean energy, and education. How can an author point that out to the general population without being pedantic? Look into the future and ask how people and companies will profit from these problems over the next decade, then write a cautionary thriller about those potential directions.
Please tell me about Pia Sabel.
Pia Sabel was inspired by the three-year-old girl I met when I was nineteen. I adopted her and raised her, making all the mistakes one might expect of a single, teen dad. But she persevered through the difficult psychological terrain adopted kids often feel: rejection, loss, longing, displacement, abandonment, and so much more. Her ability to remain positive in heartbreaking situations led me to create a fictional character who could do the same. Like my little girl, Pia Sabel was raised by a stranger who stepped in when no one else would.
What is the friendship like between Pia and Jacob?
Element 42 changes their relationship dramatically and permanently. While Jacob will chase any skirt that passes by, he’s intimidated by Pia Sabel. Throughout Element 42, he believes he’s in love with her but she changes his mind with one big admission (you’ll have to read the story to find it). We then hear his thoughts in reaction:
In that instant, I thought about life and death and love and admitted that I was in love with Pia Sabel. Not as a romantic lover, but as a sister in the family of damaged souls. We weren’t star-crossed lovers. We were fragments of the same shooting star.
Was there any research you had to do for this story?
Research is where my inner geek ruins my working day. I can look up something simple and end up reading a book well into the night. I’m an avid reader of arcane non-fiction from which I glean ideas and thoughts. For Element 42 I read a stack of non-fiction books about how aging affects the global food supply, how droughts are wreaking havoc on global farming, how pharmaceutical companies can pay $3 billion fines and still present investors with a 20% pretax profit. Then there is the fun part: setting scenes in places I’ve never been, like Guangzhou and Milan. To get those places right, I read travel blogs and creep on people’s vacation blogs. The detail you can pick up from vacation posts is astounding.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
Editing out the blue irises that opened the early version of the book nullified the working title “Blue Plague”. Beta readers pointed out that the virus was freeze dried and shipped undercover as “Element 42”.
Who designed your book cover?
A friend who doesn’t do book covers. It wasn’t optimal but I liked it. I’ve been meaning to get it a proper cover but…
Tell me about your writing habits.
I wish I had writing habits. I think I’m getting some. For the first three books (Element 42 is the third), I would write and re-write and make outlines and make new outlines then hike a mountain and realize it was all going in the trash because where the story really needed to go was… It was like I had literary ADHD.
For the fourth book in the series, Death and Dark Money, I adapted Macbeth as the structural plan for the bad guy. That kept me focused and helped me understand why I went off the rails so many times in the past. I never lacked for a good plot, I lacked a good bad-guy.
For my fifth book (in progress), I’ve already written Dr. Evil’s “Master Plan to Take Over the World” which allows me to see where Pia and Jacob will intersect his efforts and overturn his apple cart. My next step will be to sketch a short outline conforming to the twelve-segment, four act structure and then write.
As for daily habits, I start my writing day with a journal entry to prime the writing-pumps and then write as much as I can as quickly as possible. Sometimes I spew literary gems like flakes from a snow blower, and other times, I’m typing soon-to-be-deleted-excrement. But I write no matter what.
Who are some of your influences when it comes to writing?
I’m easily influenced. Lee Child and Zoe Sharp are two authors I devour and note for technique and phrasing, along with a host of others such as Dean Koontz, Daniel Silva, and David Baldacci. But I never stop listening for new sources and influences in the world around me. Halfway through my most recent work, Death and Dark Money, I was on vacation in San Diego and heard someone use the phrase “wicked smart” as he passed by. I made a mental note to change one of my characters to a former surfer and spent the rest of my vacation picking up the surfer patois. It’s not enough to pepper dialogue with “gnarly” and “awesome”, there has to be a natural flow to it. Once I had the vernacular down, I then had to put it in a straight-jacket because the man had left the beaches for a job as a lobbyist. He was fighting his inner word pattern, trying to be a button-down professional. Hopefully, you can feel his inner conflict.
A message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to Seeley James who is the author of, Element 42, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Element 42, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money