Interview with mystery author James Blakley

Today’s interview is with
mystery author James Blakley. He’s in the hot seat talking about his new
thriller, The Diamond Head Deception.
  
Bio:   
James
Blakley was educated at Missouri Western State College and Washburn University.
While at MWSC, he was a local and national award-winning columnist and section
editor of “The Griffon-News.” Blakley worked 10 1/2 years as a page
and as an Assistant Librarian for the River Bluffs Regional Libraries of St.
Joseph, MO. He currently lives in Topeka, KS where he worked for The Topeka and
Shawnee County Public Library and several years in clerical and customer
support capacities for international computer companies, such as EDS and HP.
Please tell us about your current release.  
The Diamond Head Deception is the second book in a mystery series
that involves a freelance Cherokee Indian insurance investigator named Luna
Nightcrow (who is always armed with a concealed .38 caliber revolver and a
Yellow Jacket mobile phone stun gun). She also brandishes brains and beauty
that are more formidable. In “The Diamond Head Deception,” Luna puts
Iowa crop insurance cheats out to pasture, and then heads to Hawaii to find a
“lost” rare diamond called “Pacific Splendor.” The trouble
is that she’s not the only one looking for the diamond. Secessionists,
sportsmen, and other suspects might sink to any level to recover or smother
“Pacific Splendor.” 
What inspired you to write this book?
The inspiration
for choosing a non-white female as the leading character and solving offbeat
insurance frauds as her métier came from the stylish, often groundbreaking, TV
crime fighters of my youth. Whether it was “Get Christie Love,”
“Hawaii Five-O,” or “Miami Vice,” a lot of minority sleuths
cropped up in the 1970’s and early 80’s. Also prevalent were then-exotic
locations and professions for these crime fighters. Honolulu, Hawaii and Des
Moines, Iowa serve as two rather unusual settings for “The Diamond Head
Deception”: Made so by the fact that neither has a historic connection to
diamonds.  
I liked the
old NBC Wednesday mystery series “Banacek”, starring George Peppard
as the titular Boston bon vivant who handled high-end, hard to solve insurance
frauds. Though white, his Boston base and jet-setting sleuthing were refreshing
changes from the usually hardboiled, urban gumshoe image. Thematically, Luna
Nightcrow is more in the vein of “Banacek”, minus the Polish proverbs
and doting chauffeur. She is witty and charming, but equally determined,
daring, and even caring.
Luna also
draws conceivable inspiration from the then avant-garde TV show “Charlie’s
Angels.” You might say that she exhibits Sabrina Duncan’s brains, Kelly
Garrett’s penchant for dressing to impress, and Jill Munroe’s…well,
everything else. (lol) Coupled with Nani Nyoko (a jewelry appraiser) and
Narmata Buddhiman (an Indian interpreter) and you have a nice multicultural
trio of female crime fighters for “The Diamond Head Deception.” This
also allows more glamor and even romance to creep into this outing, thus
appealing to a broader range of readers.
As far as
Luna’s cases themselves, they often come from actual fraud scenarios (like
identity theft, heists, arson, et al.). I take license with certain aspects (to
punch up the pace or make the characters more interesting). A way that Luna
Nightcrow is made into a colorful, non-cookie cutter character is making her
Native American: A still often underrepresented racial group in a variety of
literary and cinematic settings. But instead of relegating her to traditional
Native American regional settings, she travels across the U.S. and is very
cosmopolitan. Some aspects of her Cherokee heritage are explored, but they
don’t drive the story. 
So, Luna
Nightcrow is a stylish literary heroine whose modern sensibilities have roots
in 70’s and 80’s entertainment. She’s a beautiful, middle-aged woman who cracks
cases and the gumshoe glass ceiling by using her head first, and whose often
underrepresented lineage presents an additionally fresh feel.
  
Excerpt from The
Diamond Head Deception
:
When dispatch confirmed, Valerosa hit
the brakes and twirled a U-turn. The squad car took off in the opposite
direction and didn’t stop, until it reached a small, red-and-white colored
light house state park off the highway. And parked on the road that led to the
historic marker and small picnic area was a battered, gray cargo van with a
blown back tire.
Valerosa brought the squad car to a
screeching halt. She drew her Smith & Wesson 9 MM pistol and got out. Luna
followed, but Valerosa signaled for her to stay back. The Detective Sergeant
moved swiftly toward the van. Once there, she peeked through the driver’s
side window. No one was inside. Then, Valerosa proceeded to search around and
below the van.
Meanwhile, Luna decided to try the
light house. She crept down the narrow dirt path to the cliff on which the old
structure stood. Once there, she noticed the door was ajar. The insurance
investigator drew the Browning semi-automatic handgun from her back pocket. She
pushed the door open and stepped inside.
What exciting story are you working on next?
There are
two, actually. 
One is
another Luna Nightcrow entry that sends the insatiable insurance sleuth to
Alaska on a case. It will feature plot twists aplenty and Alaska Native characters,
in addition to Luna and other races and ethnicities. 
The other
“exciting story” is a departure from purely geocentric mystery to
deep space sci-fi. Called “Moon Buggy,” it will either be a short
story (as part of a NYC indie film producer’s podcast pulp fiction heroine
“Atomic Annie”) or an original Inkwater Press novel. Either way, the
sci-fi story deals with an exotic substance called “helium 3” that is
all the buzz in real-life energy production circles. It is roughly a component
source for “clean” commercial fusion; and while rare on Earth, is in
comparatively higher abundance on the Moon (hence the plot of “Moon
Buggy”). 
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As young as
8 years old, I wrote mainly short sci-fi, horror, and adventure stories on
ruled paper, illustrated them with magic markers, and stapled everything
together. I must have written nearly 100 of them and gave most to friends and
family. I have about a dozen left that I look back fondly on.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day
like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to
write?
 I write full-time, in so far as always formulating new
stories, but not as a “full-time” job. If I were writing
professionally, in say Hollywood, more than likely, I would have to conform to
trends and fads (as writing professionally is about making a living–money). So
for over a decade, I was an Assistant Public Librarian and for many years
afterward continue to do research and high-level customer service work for a
variety of private sector businesses, some even Fortune 500 caliber. So, I am
always “writing” and researching, if only sometimes for business or
consumer reports. 
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I always
strive for a diverse cast of characters in my stories. Whether black, Asian,
Native American, etc., as minorities we enjoy seeing ourselves represented
“differently” in popular media, as well as in sectors of real life.
As action and romantic leads, leaders of nations, or defenders of
interplanetary federations, for example. 
Luna
Nightcrow, Sonny Busco, Rupee Sabal, Nani Nyoko, and Salvador Khan are but a
few of the myriad of nontraditionally-cast multicultural characters that
inhabit my novels.  
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An
astronaut, until I discovered I was too tall (for the then Space Shuttle
program requirements) and didn’t possess essential higher math skills. 
Anything additional you want to share with the
readers?
The Diamond Head Deception was recently awarded Finalist status
for Multicultural Fiction in the international 2016 Next Generation Indie Book
Awards.” I attribute this success to God, who gave me
 a wonderful, hard-working family,
who raised me, supported me when I was nothing, and encouraged me to achieve my
first feat of fiction. For the blessing of tremendously talented teachers,
professors, friends, and colleagues who helped broaden my mind. For the flair
for fiction and for the guts to go where I’ve had to in order to make it grow.
And finally, for three great states: Missouri (where I learned what I know);
Kansas (where I’ve used it to survive); and Oregon (where Inkwater Press has
given me the opportunity to thrive).”
Links:
Thanks for being here today, James!

One thought on “Interview with mystery author James Blakley

  1. James Blakley says:

    I appreciate the opportunity to be interviewed, particularly in such diverse literary venues as yours. Continued success with "Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews." And thank you again, Ms. Haselton, for the invitation to appear on it.

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