MEET JAMES OSBORNE
James Osborne is the bestselling author of three novels and more than 120 short stories. His varied career includes investigative journalist, college teacher, army officer, corporate executive and business owner. Osborne’s thriller novel, THE ULTIMATE THREAT, twice hit #1 on Amazon. In 2017, his mystery novel THE MAIDSTONE CONSPIRACY was named Best Mystery Novel of the year in a readers’ poll conducted by McGrath House, London, UK. In 2016, his ENCOUNTERS WITH LIFE was chosen as Best Short Story Collection, in an international competition run by the respected website Editors & Preditors.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW BOOK.
In many ways, SECRET SHEPHERD is a classic mystery/suspense novel, charting that gripping perpetual struggle between good and evil. But it is also about the enormous, unstoppable power of hope.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE TITLE FOR THIS BOOK?
My publisher and I were well into editing when the title was finalized.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?
That came from two sources. First, it came from my lovely wife Sharolie and her remarkable philosophy on life. And second, it came from a quote in a book by Michael Kelly: We all need people in our lives, who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the best version of ourselves. (The Rhythm of Life)
IS IT PART OF A SERIES?
Yes, SECRET SHEPHERD is Book Two in The Maidstone Series. It follows THE MAIDSTONE CONSPIRACY, which introduced our main protagonists, Paul and Anne Winston, a wealthy American-British couple who find themselves embroiled in an abundance of heart-stopping adventures.
HOW MUCH OF YOUR BOOK IS BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES OR THOSE OF SOMEONE YOU KNOW?
There’s a wee bit of both in THE MAIDSTONE CONSPIRACY. I was a journalist early in my working career, which provided an abundance of contributing experiences.
WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH WENT INTO WRITING YOUR BOOK?
Every single detail of a novel needs to be confirmed. The Internet is indispensible! I do some first hand, where possible, but mostly it’s the Internet. For example, my wife and I visited Colorado Springs and Pueblo, CO while I was writing THE MAIDSTONE CONSPIRACY, much of which is set in Colorado. Despite extensive online research, the visit resulted in numerous changes to the manuscript.
WHAT CRITERIA DID YOU USE WHEN SELECTING THE COVER FOR YOUR BOOK?
My publisher, Solstice Publishing Inc., works with an image bank offering millions of images. As an author, I am encouraged by them to select a few to recommend. They do the rest. The company keeps authors in the loop, unlike many other traditional publishers who provide authors with very little say in what covers look like. But just like the packaging of every other commercial product, book covers are the packaging and are vitally important; covers sell books.
WAS THERE A MESSAGE IN YOUR BOOK THAT YOU WERE TRYING TO CONVEY?
Yes, indeed! As the plot of SECRET SHEPHERD was evolving, my attention kept being drawn reluctantly to the tsunami of anger and violence we endure daily on social media and on the news media. I thought perhaps it was time to recognize there is a tidal wave of hope waiting to emerge from the hearts of the well-intended vast majority of our society.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD CHANGE ABOUT YOUR BOOK?
Of course! There always will be. No piece of writing, be it a short story, a poem, a script or a novel, is ever finished. It may be complete, but it is never quite finished. By this, I mean that every time I read something that I’ve written, I see ways it could be improved… or at least think it could be improved.
IF YOUR BOOK WOULD BE MADE INTO A FILM, WHOM WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY THE LEADS?
Brad Pitt would be perfect for my character Paul Winston. My first choice for a young and capable Anne Winston is Jennifer Lawrence.
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU BEGIN WRITING?
I was motivated in two ways. My high school English teacher, Elsie Zimmermann, not only encouraged me, but also urged me to write. Years before that, my family owned a wilderness farm and money was too limited to buy many books. One winter when I was about eight, all I could find to read were my mother’s romance novels she’d received as a gift (anathema to a pre-pubescent boy!), a medical manual with explicit illustrations she thought too explicit for my young eyes, and a 2000-page illustrated encyclopedia. I spent the winter leafing through that encyclopedia, learning an abundance of facts and words that startled my teachers for many years to come.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST CONSIDER YOURSELF A WRITER?
I’m not sure. Most likely it was around the time I got a newspaper route when we moved into town. I was in my early teens. The very first thing I bought with my earnings was a portable typewriter. I suppose my instinct was telling me I was a writer but hadn’t yet shared that notion with my conscious mind.
DESCRIBE YOUR WRITING STYLE.
It’s varied… whatever works at any given moment. I’ll divide that question into two components – approach and verbiage. Disciplined writers would call my approach seat-of-the-pants. For example, some mornings I can hardly wait to sit down at my computer and find out where my characters are going to take me that day. Other times while writing a novel, I’ll do chapter outlines with subheads, and then flesh these out as I write. I envy the approach of Stephen King, who says he will often know the ending of his novel before starting Chapter 1. Being able to visualize a goal like that is good. Second, verbiage, or use of words: I was originally trained as a journalist, so I’m most comfortable using everyday language. I will admit to an occasional fondness for ebullient modifiers (see!).
WHAT IS THE HARDEST LESSON YOU HAD TO LEARN AS A WRITER?
There were two. The first is being edited. That’s a tough one for most new writers. I had that indulgence drummed out of me when I was a cub reporter in my early 20s by two city editors. The first was a kind but firm teacher and became my first mentor. The second was an unapologetic and unmitigated SOB who made me appreciate more my first city editor. The first taught me how much an excellent editor can contribute to turning a so-so piece into a really good story. Both of them in their own way got me past being thin skinned. The second lesson is check your facts, recheck them and then check them again, after which have someone else check them still again. I mean it!
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE AS A WRITER?
Saying exactly what I want to say. There are no short cuts. Writing is hard work. Good writing is really, really hard work! But it’s worth it. Some writers complain about writers block. There’s no such thing. What a writer may call a block simply is the fact their mind is busy processing a thought that it will deliver when it’s ready to do so, and not before. Struggling to bypass that essential processing will serve no useful purpose; it will only generate stress that will frustrate achieving the desired outcome sooner.
NOT INCLUDING FAMILY, WHO SUPPORTED YOUR EFFORTS TO BECOME A PUBLISHED AUTHOR?
In addition to family, much encouragement for my writing came from people who follow my short stories posted on my blog, JamesOsborneNovels.com. A couple of those stories helped form the basis of THE MAIDSTONE CONSPIRACY, which is the first novel I started but the second one finished. My debut novel was THE ULTIMATE THREAT, a warning about the insidious spread of ISIS through lone wolf and wannabe killers around the world, which a close friend encouraged me to write.
WHO WAS YOUR FIRST PUBLISHER AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THEM?
I shall be forever grateful to Endeavour Press Ltd. in London UK for publishing THE ULTIMATE THREAT in ebook form. A few years later the company was reorganized and thanks to Solstice Publishing I was able to repatriate that novel back across the ‘pond’.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR NEW WRITERS?
Focus and find your own way. I would urge aspiring writers to read voraciously and widely, not just for entertainment, but also critically… that is, while you are reading study how the best of the best did their work: structure, plot development, dialog, writing style, back story, climax, etc. Aspiring writers would do themselves a favor by taking creative writing courses, in colleges or online. Being in a physical classroom is a superior experience to online, since the group and the person-to-person contacts will contribute almost as much as the course content. Finally, check your ego and your fear at the door – write fearlessly and prodigiously knowing full well that what you are writing may very well be trash, but might… just might… have within it a gem of a worthy idea struggling to emerge. But you need to get it down first! Only then can you really begin work on crafting that gem into something that sparkles!
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE WRITERS?
I’ve read widely and loved most, for a variety of reasons. I’m a huge fan of Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Samuel Clements, and was inspired also by books written by Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein (yes, that Einstein). My other favorites include Robert Ludlum, Michael Connelly, Nelson DeMille, John Grisham and Tom Clancy, among many others. I was humbled immensely when THE ULTIMATE THREAT showed up one day on Amazon’s bestsellers list in second place between two of Tom Clancy’s novels. Oh, when I was young, I read everything I could find written by Zane Grey. The first novel I ever read was by him, Roping Lions In The Grand Canyon. He wrote 100 novels.
WHAT ARE YOU READING NOW?
Bob Woodward’s novel about Donald Trump, aptly named FEAR.
WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?
The death of people I care about, and cruelty to children and innocent adults.
IF YOU COULD MEET ANYONE WHO EVER LIVED, PAST OR PRESENT, WHO WOULD THAT BE?
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOWS AND MOVIES?
Favorite TV Shows: New Amsterdam, The Voice, and Designated Survivor
Recently: The Post, The Theory of Everything, Avatar.
Way back when: The Sound of Music
WHAT KIND OF MUSIC TOUCHES YOUR SOUL?
Old masters (Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Bach), most folk and classic country.
WHAT DO YOU WANT WRITTEN ON YOUR HEADSTONE?
“He lived, loved and left."
A single act of kindness plunges Paul and Anne Winston into jeopardy. After rescuing a gifted youth from an international drug cartel, the gang retaliates by offering huge rewards for the murders of the young philanthropists and their two small children.
And that’s just the start of their troubles—Paul has discovered the drug boss is having an affair with Anne’s mother. Then things get even worse… police forbid him from telling newly pregnant Anne about it, forcing Paul to break a solemn vow.
Paul and Anne Winston are caught up in a storybook romance ... until they face death by an unknown killer and are caught in a vicious battle to hold onto the massive business empire they're creating.
The Maidstone Conspiracy is a gripping murder mystery artfully blended with a tantalizing love story. Get set for an action-packed adventure filled with twists and turns, unexpected betrayals and enticing international intrigue ... leading to a surprise ending.