James Spoonhour is a lifelong reader turned mystery writer. Incentive for Death is his debut novel.
Describe your current role.
I have been a compulsive reader since age 12 and have consumed 2 or 3 books per week my entire life. After retiring, I decided to pursue my dream of writing novels. I started by reading about a dozen “how to” books on writing, taking online seminars, and attending writing classes with published authors.
I then outlined my first book in about a month and then wrote the first draft in four months. Then my editing experience from law practice came into play. Writing is really about editing. And more editing. After six months of editing, I started submitting my manuscript to literary agents. All the while continuing to edit and refine. Eventually, I lucked onto a publisher of mystery novels who bought my book. Even then there was more editing. My debut novel, INCENTIVE FOR DEATH, will be released by Oceanview Publishing on October 3, 2023. Another item checked off the bucket list.
My author website has direct links to all major booksellers: jamesspoonhour.com
What have been some of the biggest challenges or opportunities you’ve found in your current role?
Lots of people (particularly lawyer types) say they want to write a novel. I was one of them for a long time. In addition to having a modicum of talent, writing a novel takes focus and discipline, much like preparing for a major trial. Some days I write three hours. Some times I write five or six hours in a day. Some days, I write nothing or only edit the prior day’s draft.
What is one of the most interesting projects on which you’ve worked?
So far, my first novel, INCENTIVE FOR DEATH, was my biggest challenge. It is a murder mystery set in D.C. Main characters are two D.C. homicide detectives, a tattooed hacker, the ex-wife of one the detectives, and three bad guys who kill eight people who sold their life insurance to the same viatical company.
What do you think is the key to success in your current role?
Reading, reading, reading. And researching. And a passable facility with the King’s English.
Describe your time with Lowndes.
I joined the Lowndes firm in June of 1974 and worked there until January of 2016 (other than the 1976-77 academic year when I taught law at the Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans). My areas of specialization were primarily eminent domain and property taxes, as well as appellate cases.
How did your time at Lowndes prepare you for future steps in your career?
One of great things about the Lowndes firm was that we had substantial clients with significant or challenging matters to handle. Creative thinking was critical. The most fulfilling part of practicing law were the trials (both jury and bench). Second best were contested hearings. Third best were depositions. Everything else, not so much.
The most important lesson learned over time was how to write well and make a persuasive case. Write, edit, rewrite, edit, edit and edit. Much like writing novels now.
Who inspires you?
People who can discuss contentious issues with civility. Very rare anymore.
What hobbies/activities do you enjoy when you’re not working?
I still play tournament croquet. Am playing fairly well these days. I am currently the reigning singles and doubles champion of the Pinehurst Croquet Club.