Monday, November 5, 2012

The Fading Power of Marriage and the Growing Power of a Prosecutor: An interview with Daniiel Q. Steele about When We Were Married

1) Tell us about your book.

When We Were Married is a 220,000-word novel basically about a marriage that fails and what happens to the two people involved after the marriage blows up in the early part of 2005 in Jacksonville in Northeast Florida. It is a love story, a story about modern marriage, a story about two very mismatched and psychologically wounded people.

It’s a story about what happens AFTER“they lived happily ever after,” ends. It’s a story about starting over in your 40s and trying to make new lives after spending your entire adult life as one half of a couple.

WWWM is also a novel set in the courthouse world of prosecutors, defenders, cops and criminals and trials. The husband in the story, Bill Maitland, is a work-obsessed prosecutor who actually runs the prosecutor’s office in Jacksonville, Florida, and will eventually become one of the most famous prosecutors in the world.

The novel features child murders, mercy killers, murderous drug thugs and the infamous 67-year-old Granny Killer, as well as a savage South Florida drug dealer who’s killed over 100 men but goes to bat to save Maitland’s family even though Maitland sent him to prison.

 WWWM examines the power of the office of the prosecutor and the central role it plays in the criminal justice system, which has a lot of resonance in the era that has seen huge criminal trials like OJ Simpson, Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin.
 
2) This is a the first of four volumes, but this isn't a series of novellas, but full-length novels. Please tell us about your focus over the entire series and what went into your decision to structure your work this way.

This series is written as four novels, and there are breaks for intros to each new novel as well as characters sketches of the important players in the stories, but were it not for the fact that a 750,000-1 million word novel would be hard to sell I’d have released it as a single novel. Despite all the plot threads, the characters introduced as the story goes along, the mini-climaxes that close each volume, there is really only one focus.

And that is on Bill Maitland and his wife, Debbie Maitland-Bascomb. Each volume moves from one character’s story to the other and they never manage to completely remove themselves from the other’s life. The novels explore the forces that destroy the marriage, the people they become involved with trying to make new lives, and the forces that bring them back together.

But in the end, there is only one question to be answered. Will they, or can they, ever rebuild their marriage and lives together, or will they finally call it quits and make new lives with other people.
It sounds egotistical as hell, but I’ve made the comparison between WWWM and Gone With The Wind. That’s not comparing the literary quality, but the fact that GWTW is an enormous book that covers a huge canvas: Pre-Civil War life in the South, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the re-building of the South. But it was predominantly and most people remember it as, the love story of two people = Scarlet Ohara and Rhett Butler.

WWWM explores the world of the courthouse, drug rings, corrupt killer cops, child killers, racial relations in the south, sex smuggling rings from France to Florida, killing grounds in an embattled African country, drug wars moving from South America to rural Florida counties, and all-out war on the streets of a southern city.

WWWM also features a huge cast of characters, ranging from prosecutors who want to become governor, public defenders who hate cops and prosecutors, mild-mannered professionals who can kill with their bare hands, a genius slut wife who has made millions with her brains and body, an incredibly evil and dangerous Florida Sheriff, the head of one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in the world, a highly placed French federal prosecutor, a heroic and talented novelist, an empathetic psychiatrist, CIA Black Ops team leaders, newspaper reporters, a famous New York moneyman on trial for arranging the murders of his wife and her lover but relenting at the last minute and saving them from paid killers, and more.

But again, the spine of the series and the four novels is the relationship of a short, flabby, balding, insecure husband who married way out of his league to a gorgeous maneater who men drool over and dream of separating from her loser husband. But Bill Maitland is an incredibly tough, and smart, and stubborn and decent prosecutor who “always does the right thing” and who never forgets victims and turns even some of the criminals he prosecutes into defenders because he sees them as people instead of criminals.

And Debbie Maitland is a stacked sex symbol/MILF who just happens to be smart, loyal, a loving mother, a dedicated professor/teacher,and the best thing that ever happened to Bill Maitland until he walked away from his marriage without bothering to get a divorce.

As to why the novel is written that way, it just organically grew in that form. It started out as a novella or long story (25,000 words) about the four words that destroyed the Maitland marriage. Then I started writing a chapter about what happened after “the end” of what became the first chapter. I knew the broad outline of what would happen to the marriage, how it would bring them to a divorce, and how their story would eventually end. But as I wrote, I started filling in the blank spaces and the story grew to the point that I couldn’t finish it in two volumes, and then three and finally it required four volumes to tell the entire story.

3) Your book tackles a lot of subjects: marriage, fading love, the complexities of criminal justice, crime cartels, violence, among others. Did you always want to weave this sort of layered novel or was it something that grew out of the writing process?

I’ve written five novels – and sold one – conventionally prior to going the e-book route. The previous five are traditional novels with more focused and limited plots and character casts. In the case of When We Were Married, marriage and fading love and the struggle to find new lives was the core, but because of Maitland’s job and the world he lives and works in, crime and criminals and the issues involved in prosecuting and defending them grew until this side of the story actually took up as much or more space as the story of the Maitlands.

4) What do you feel are the primary themes of this first volume?

The primary theme of the first volume is the unraveling and destruction of a long term marriage between two basically very unequal partners, a marriage that logically should never have occurred at all. Bill Maitland is a man obsessed with living up to the memory of a father who died heroically and to that end he sacrifices his sexual and romantic relationship with his wife and his relationship as a father with his two teenage children. He also is physically not a match for a very beautiful and sexual wife who could have had her pick of any man she wanted, but chose a short, poor, physically not impressive partner for love. The marriage almost didn’t occur and while he’s been happy in it, Maitland has never been secure in it. He’s always expected in some corner of his mind that his still gorgeous wife would eventually leave him.

From Debbie Bascomb’s side of it, she’s a very attractive woman, sexually active from an early age, who fell in love with a college boy who was far from the ideal candidate for a life partner. She has supported him, helped him succeed in college and in his legal career, been mother and absentee father to their two children, endured his absence from their marriage and marital bed but finally has decided to leave him and then meets a seductive younger man who tempts her into an emotional affair which Maitland discovers.
But while she has made the decision to leave him before Maitland’s discovery, she will spend much of the first volume trying to unravel the perfect storm of emotional issues that led her to give up on the marriage to a man who still has a strong hold on her.

A second major theme is the operation of justice and the key role the prosecutor’s office plays in the courthouse world in which Bill Maitland has become a major player. In this world, he is everything that he is not in his marriage. As the defacto head prosecutor for a three-county circuit in Northeast Florida, he is the man who oversees the smooth running of the prosecution side, the man who decides how those charged with crimes should be dealt with. While he doesn’t do a lot of courtroom theatrics, he is capable of surprising some big city opponents as he pursues justice for victims with bulldog tenacity and an ability to surprise lawyers who underestimate him because of his physical appearance. He outworks his opponents, knows the law, and dreams of victims years after he fought to convict their murderers.

A third theme only touched on in the first volume are the secrets that Maitland and Debbie both hide from the world and each other. Maitland’s secrets don’t jibe with his reputation as a man who always does the right thing, secrets that will impact not only on his life but on the fate of the city of Jacksonville and even international relations later in the series. Debbie’s secrets will focus the attention of an empathetic and determined psychiatrist, Dr. Ernst Teller, as he attempts to solve the psychological mystery of the illness and rage against her husband that overcomes Debbie during and following the divorce.

5) This certainly isn't an idealistic work in many ways, but nor does it descend into, arguably, a purely cynical nihilism that would be easy given much of the subject matter. Given the emotional contours of this book, and your series as a whole, do you feel it is, ultimately, an idealistic or cynical?

I see it as ultimately idealistic. It is in its essence a love story about two people that met in college who were objectively extremely ill-suited for a long term relationship. In the end their physical and emotional differences, the stresses of life, break the marriage. The pain and turmoil that each undergoes in different ways causes them to strike out at each other, but neither one is able to completely break the bonds that tie them together. Their marriage didn’t work, and their divorce doesn’t work.

They wind up falling for and bedding other men and woman, which is going to happen because humans are sexual creatures and will find partners to have sex with. Sex is a major element that draws them together initially, and it is a major element as well of their marriage failure, but again people are creatures of flesh as well as spirit and that is simply a reality.

In the world in which we live people murder each other, they kill their children, they kill spouses, they sell drugs and kill rivals, large criminal organizations murder scores and battle with each other and governments. That is simply reality. And the cops and prosecutors and defense attorneys and judges who sit above it all are people who make mistakes, get angry, lust after people they shouldn’t lust after, use the law as a weapon, and sometimes guilty people go free and innocent people go to jail. That’s not cynical, it’s reality,

6) There have been some who have read your book and felt that the POV, male-female character interface, nature of the sexual content, and other elements of your book make it definitely geared toward male readers. In so far as there is such a thing as general male and female reading patterns, do you feel that is a fair assessment, or do you feel your themes and content are more universal?

I would love to say that just as 50 Shades of Grey has been dubbed ‘mommmy porn’ you could call When We Were Married daddy porn. But while that would be a fun description, I don’t think it’s accurate.

I think there might be a perception that this is a male-oriented novel because it begins as a first person narrative by the male half of this marriage and the immediate emotional impact is felt by the male character. We don’t see any of Debbie Bascomb’s side of the story until we’re already 30-40,000 words into the story, although as time goes on she will have a greater and greater share of the wordage.

A female reader made the point that the novel was offensive to her because EVERY female is described in terms of her physical appearance, breasts, legs, behind, facial beauty and hair. That is a valid comment. But it’s written that way because my experience as a male working with men and women is that this IS how women are regarded by men, whether men actually make those comments out loud or around women. As said earlier, we are all creatures of flesh, and men are visual creatures and I would bet my life that if you could get men – young, old, married, single, educated, uneducated, professional, blue collar, with the exception of homosexual males – to comment honestly, the FIRST thing men note is a woman’s physical appearance. And it’s probably the last thing as well. Men usually start thinking about a woman’s personality, loving nature, sense of humor, AFTER they have sex.

The criticism that the sex scenes – the relatively few in the first novel – are raw and lacking sensitivity and the soft porn focus of most novels written for women is valid. The words that man and women use about sex and during sex are the words that men and woman in the real world use about and during sex. And I think the scenes are written relatively realistically in the context of the novel.

So, the bottom line is the writer is male. A major viewpoint character is male. There’s a strong emphasis – if not on actually having sex – at least thinking about it and planning for it. Which is a fact of life for men and woman from puberty onward. But I do think the woman’s point is view is given and given a fair share of the novel through Debbie Bascomb’s viewpoint. However, I’ll admit that this is probably a man’s novel.

7) Your background helps add great versmilitude to many aspects of your work. Please tell us a bit about yourself and why you decided to parlay your background into a series of novels.

I was a police reporter for three Florida newspapers including the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville for nearly 20 years, and covered the courts, prosecutors and public defenders in Jacksonville for five years. I’ve ridden with cops, covered them on a daily basis, sat through numerous trials and developed fairly close relationships with judges and attorneys while doing so. I’m a long time resident of the Northeast Florida region that is the setting for not only We Were Married, but a number of other already written and forthcoming stories of The First Coast. I have lived and worked in the academic world, as well as public relations and Florida politics.

8) Please share with us about your other work.

I’ve written one novel published under the William Marden name that was published in the U.S. by Doubleday and in England by Robert Hale. The Exile of Ellendon will be re-published as an E-book in 2013. That novel as well as Lady White Eyes currently selling on Amazon Kindle are fantasies that could be termed G or PG, meaning no adult material, as are five other novels that I’ve written but haven’t yet released. The remaining William Marden novels, and one anthology, are all genre – science fiction, mystery, fantasy, high fantasy (Lord of the Rings stuff). These should all come out in 2013 to 2014.

I have two more major novels in the When We Were Married series coming out in 2013 as well as several short story collections under the Daniel Quentin Steele name, meaning adult mainstream material, in 2013. Those will be listed below.

UNDER DANIEL QUENTIN STEELE

Link 1: When We Were married – VOLUME ONE – THE LONG FALL
AMAZON:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008YPL9R6
SMASHWORDS: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/115234 and
BARNES AND NOBLE: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-we-were-married-volume-1-the-long-fall-daniel-steele/1106754384?ean=2940013654587

Link 2: When We Were married – VOLUME two – second acts
AMAZON:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0091FOWWC
SMASHWORDS:https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/124503
BARNES AND NOBLE: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-we-were-married-2-second-acts-daniel-steele/1108241609?ean=2940013760448

UNDER WILLIAM MARDEN
Link 3: LADY WHITE EYES ––
AMAZON:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008SUSE8O

UNDER DANIEL QUENTIN STEELE

FORTHCOMING:

1. WHEN WE WERE MARRIED – VOLUME 3 – THE WIND IS RISING
2. WHEN WE WERE MARRIED – VOLUME 4 – NOBODY GETS OUT ALIVE
3. GHOSTS AND SHADOWS – CONTENTS:
1. BREADWINNER– END OF THE BEGINNING
A short story of the end of a marriage between a school teacher and the heir to a multi-million dollar banking fortune. Except that it wouldn’t be the end.
2. A MIRACLE FOR MARCY
The Patrolman’s wife was dying in an irreversible coma, he had just killed two men on Christmas, Eve, he’d been taken off the street, and he was in dire need of a miracle.
3. GHOSTS AND SHADOWS
Are you ever too old to have your heart broken? What do you do after your world ends.? And, exactly who is haunting whom? Those are the questions facing 57-year-old Jacksonville banker Hugh Davidson when he learns that Mary, his wife of 36 years, and mother of their two grown children, has been involved in a blazing sexual affair with a younger man for six months.

4. MOMENT OF CLARITY - ANTHOLOGY
CONTENTS

1. MOMENT OF CLARITY

It’s the moment when you see the truth of your life, stripped clear of the daily debris that blinds us to reality. It’s the moment when you can’t lie to yourself any more.

2. DREAM WIFE
His first wife had thrown him out without explanation and broken his heart. His second wife announced she was cheating on him and leaving him. It was like a bad dream.

3. SEPARATE VACATIONS
His wife went on vacation without him and she could never understand why he left her. She had done it for his own good.

4. THE LASTGOODBYE
His wife had betrayed him with his oldest friend. But said she still loved him. He knew what he had to do and did it. Until the moment that he stared into the clear eyes of death and had to decide who he wanted to say Goodbye to.

5. MESSAGE FOUND IN A FORTUNE COOKIE
Is it possible to be too careful? When should you follow your head, and when should you follow your heart?

6. TIME WOUNDS ALL HEELS
A 24,000-word romantic novella set in Palatka, Florida about The Wheelchair Lady, a good woman who hadn’t had that good a life, but had made a good life. And on a Saturday that became the worst day of her life, a big city reporter from Jacksonville came to town to do a story about her and her world and everything in it changed – forever.

Where can people learn more about your books?

PRIMARY WEBSITE: http://wempublishing.com/Daniel_Steele.html
Older Website: http://www.dqsteele.com/index.html
Facebook: Facebook profile
Blog: http://www.dqsteele.com/blog.html

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