Part of my job while putting together the suspense collection, And Then There Were Nine, was to interview the authors. When I asked Jason A. Adams what inspired his story, “Angel of Mercy,” he said he started by asking: “What if the villain thinks they’re the hero?”
An intriguing question indeed. I enjoyed reading Jason’s answer in the story, which is set in early 20th century New Orleans. I also had fun with the rest of the interview, which I’ll share with you here. But first…
A short excerpt from “Angel of Mercy”
Ted Mooney, newly appointed Captain of the New Orleans Police Department’s 1st District, was having second thoughts about accepting his promotion.
He’d been called down to the derelict Storyville area, supposedly cleaned up by Mayor Behrman back in ’17, but still running its various vice dens undercover. More dead bodies had been found, and the mayor was after him to find the cause.
Ted walked along the filthy, rubbish-strewn alley behind Conti Street, kicking up clouds of noxious foulness as he waded through the piles of rotting garbage and over rotting drunks and opium eaters. His watch read two-thirty, but time didn’t matter down here. Bottles and pockets emptied all day and all night under the glowing red lights.
Sergeant LeCroix, the local beat officer, stood beside a tarp, the humped shapes underneath unmistakably human.
“What do we have, Lee?” Ted said, lifting an edge of the stained cloth. “More fever victims?”
“I don’ think so, me,” LeCroix said. “These got no sign of the sickness.”
And now (interrupts Joslyn Chase) on to the interview.
How do you come up with names for your characters, and do they hold significance?
Most of the time, I’m mixing and matching names. I try to pick names that match the time and place, or punny names if I’m writing a comedy story. I will occasionally name a character after someone special to me, but I’ll let readers guess at which ones those are.
Where did you get the idea for the story in this collection? How did you develop it?
“Angel of Mercy” started as a writing assignment, which was simply to write a mystery. I started with the rather thorny question of “what if the villain thinks they’re the hero?” and went from there. I chose New Orleans and the early 20th century because it was such a tumultuous place and time, and I hadn’t written there before.
How important is research in your plotting? Tell us how you go about it.
I don’t research deeply, usually just enough. It’s fiction, so I don’t mind making up a few extra details. I don’t research enough to fool a master of whatever topic, but I do try to make everything at least plausible in the context of the story. For this story, I studied maps, checked the timeline, did a little reading on Lulu White. The underground hospital at the beginning is based on a real place, but only loosely.
What’s your favorite part about the writing process?
Finding out how the story ends! I write by the seat of my pants, without an outline or advanced plotting, so I’m as surprised as (hopefully) the reader is.
What’s your biggest challenge, as a writer?
Procrastination, by far. I’m a fundamentally lazy person.
How do you view your relationship with your readers?
I believe that no story is complete until someone reads it, so my readers complete my writing.
Which authors have influenced you the most, and why?
Gosh, that’s a question. Alfred Bester, for writing the first grown up novel I ever read. Anne McCaffrey for blending science fiction and fantasy so well. Andre Norton, because Andre Norton. Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs for spinning such fun yarns with great characters. Stephen King for blending all the genres and making human beings the real monsters. Robert Aspirin for his great M.Y.T.H. books.
There’s more, a lot more. I get something from every author and book I’ve enjoyed.
How to learn more about Jason
Jason A. Adams writes across the spectrum. His stories include science fiction, fantasy, horror, Appalachian folk tales, and even a little romance here and there.
You can find more of his work and sign up for updates from his Brain Squirrels at www.jasonadams.info, and in the pages of Pulphouse Magazine, most recently in issue #9. His stories have also appeared in the 2019 Winter Holiday Spectacular from WMG Publishing. Several more stories will appear in upcoming issues of Pulphouse Magazine and Holiday Spectaculars, so stay tuned!
Jason, a recovering Air Force brat who grew up all over the US and Japan, now perches in the mountains of Southwest Virginia with his beautiful wife, Kari Kilgore, four spoiled cats, and assorted wild visitors from the nearby forest.
I hope you enjoyed this interview with Jason A. Adams and the sneak peek into his story, “Angel of Mercy.”
How about you? Have you read And Then There Were Nine? If not, what are you waiting for! Get your FREE copy when you join the growing group of readers who’ve discovered the thrill of Chase!
I’ve heard authors say their villains are bad all the way through–no redeeming qualities. Such stories do not interest me.
Interview any villain and what do you find out?
— Very few say, “Heh heh HEH! I’m evil and I love being evil.”
— Many will have rationalizations. “I have to do this because otherwise my family would starve.” “I’m really kind of a Robinhood. To my friends and family I’m a hero.” “He deserved to die.”
— Many are on the other side in a battle. They are loyal and heroic to their community or nation, even as they kill those you consider the “good guys.”
— Many are cast as villainous by those who think differently. We’re seeing a lot of this in politics today, where each side excoriates the other.
Authors need to find out what makes their villains tick. Otherwise they end up with boring, one-dimensional antagonists.
Absolutely, Mike! Your observations are spot on. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.