Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Mark M. Bello, author of Betrayal in Blue (A Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Book 3).
FQ: As violent or as dark as stories get, you manage to somehow keep it light and add friendship in your books. How do you add levity to these plots? Does it just flow easily, or do you already know the characters so well that they’re easy to write when it comes to dialogue?
BELLO: Interesting question. I think it’s a reflection of my personality. I like to have a good time, joke around, etc. I think I have a good sense of humor. Even with some dark subject matter, a character can have a good time once in awhile, right? Without a sense of humor, in this day and age, we’d all go nuts!
FQ: How difficult was it to build up the audience for Zachary Blake? With so much competition out there in regards to criminal/legal thrillers, how did you make him stand out from the rest?
BELLO: I don’t think about competition. I think about Zachary, who he is, where he came from, and what a kick-ass lawyer like him would do in this situation or that one. I try to stay true to my vision for him without concern for what some other author’s protagonist might do. Hopefully, I’ve made him someone my readers enjoy. He will continue to grow and develop; so will other characters. Jack Dylan’s development as a character and as a human being from Betrayal of Justice to Betrayal in Blue is a good example. So is Kenny Tracey’s development from Betrayal of Faith to Betrayal High (coming at the end of this month). Returning characters will continue to grow. I want readers to keep coming back for more.
FQ: Do you find it more difficult or easier nowadays in this world of digital technology for an author? Is there a certain positive that digital publishing offers; what is a negative that you believe comes from the Internet?
BELLO: For me, it’s easier. It is easier to write and correct using a computer. Technology finds many of my mistakes. Research is easier Most of my novels are “ripped from the headlines” and the headlines are a mouse click away. Online resources are vital to my work and sincerely appreciated. Auto-correct and various editing software products are invaluable.
FQ: Editing is a difficult process. There are authors who are obsessive in this respect and do it themselves; others want that other set of eyes on their material. Do you have a go-to editor that you’ve worked with over the years? If so, how difficult was it to create that give-and-take relationship when it came to your material?
BELLO: I am obsessive; that’s for sure. I hate finding mistakes in my books. But, of course, we are all human. I’ve used a couple of services and was not impressed. I prefer to self-edit with the expert assistance of my in-house staff people. I don’t have a problem taking criticism or advice on plot or structure. I do not like finding simple editing mistakes when using so-called professional editing services.
FQ: Reviewing is also another huge facet of the book market. Do you review books for other authors or publications? And do you read a great deal of ones written about your own, or tend to shy away from them?
BELLO: I have not been asked to review anyone else’s work. If I love a book, I will often write a positive review on Amazon or elsewhere. If I don’t like a book...my mother always said: “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.” As to reviews of my own work, yes, I read every one of them. Thankfully, most reviews of my work have been very positive.
FQ: Can you tell us about one high-profile case that you weren’t a part of that you would love (even if this is a historical case, like The Ripper) to take the lead on and serve justice?
BELLO: I’m not a criminal lawyer, so it would not have been someone like Bundy or Manson or the Ripoer. I would certainly have liked to make a difference on behalf of justice. Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s contribution to women’s rights comes to mind. Many of Blake’s clients are strong women. I like to represent David when he takes on Goliath, however that dynamic might present itself. Zachary Blake is that kind of lawyer, but he is far more successful and talented than I was.
FQ: Instead of the age-old question of what you would tell new authors to do to get better at their craft, what loopholes would you advise a new author to avoid?
BELLO: I would love to have my books discovered and read by large numbers of readers. I have had great difficulty growing my readership, despite an overwhelming positive response to my novels. I find this very frustrating. So, I would tell an author to write for him or herself and do not expect to connect with a broad audience. If your purpose for writing is to become rich and famous, you may be in for a huge let down. Then again...
FQ: When you’re stuck, or wish to bounce something off someone (Dean Koontz actually used his canine friends to do this with), who do you go to if needing to mull over ideas or get some advice when, or if, you don’t quite know the next turn?
BELLO: My assistant, Christine, has been extremely helpful and family members are great for bouncing ideas off of. Candidly, I have not experienced writers’ block or getting “stuck.” So far, I’ve been lucky that way. Once I have an idea and start to write, the juices flow, and a novel miraculously appears. It sometimes feels like an out-of-body experience. I had no idea I could do this, which is why I wrote my first novel in my 60’s.