Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Conversation with Bill Hopkins

Retired judge, Bill Hopkins began his legal career in 1971. He served as a private attorney, prosecuting attorney, an administrative law judge, and a trial court judge, all in Missouri.

His poems, short stories, and non-fiction have appeared in many different publications and he's had several short plays produced. A book of collected poetry, Moving Into Forever, is available on Amazon. Bill is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dramatists Guild, Horror Writers Association, Missouri Writers Guild, and Sisters In Crime. He's also a photographer who has sold work in the U. S., Canada, and Europe. He and his wife, Sharon (a mortgage banker who is also a published writer), live in Marble Hill, Missouri, with their dogs and cat. Besides writing, Bill and Sharon are involved in collecting and restoring Camaros. Courting Murder is his first mystery novel.

Bill, did you consider writing mysteries before you retired from the bench?
I had written and published several mystery and paranormal short stories before I left the bench. They were so much fun that I decided to write a mystery novel. I did. It was really, really bad. I wrote a second one. It was really bad. I wrote a third one and Southeast Missouri University Press published it! 
Tell us about your debut novel, Courting Mysteries.
When Judge Rosswell Carew makes the gruesome discovery of two corpses on a riverbank in the Missouri Ozarks, he’s plunged into a storm of deadly secrets that threaten both him and his fiancée, Tina Parkmore. Unsatisfied with the way the authorities are conducting the investigation, Rosswell, who’s always nurtured a secret desire to be a detective, teams up with an ex-con, Ollie Groton, to solve the case before the killer can murder again. Rosswell uncovers a maze of crimes so tangled that he must fight his way to a solution or die trying.
 Are you planning a series or a series of standalone novels?
I'm writing a series of Judge Rosswell Carew mysteries. The second one, River Mourn, will be out in August of 2013. The third one, Bloody Earth, will be out in 2014.
Tell us about your legal background.
I've been in private practice, a prosecutor for five years, an administrative law judge (utility law) for five years, and a trial court judge for 20 years. Now, I work at least an hour a day at my day job as a lawyer, except on Fridays when I don't work. And sometimes on Mondays and Tuesdays, I take off all day. If I'm not working at my day job, I'm writing. 
You’re a member of a number of writers’ organizations. Have you found them helpful to your current career? If so, in what ways?
All of the organizations I belong to provide that overworked word: networking. I've found out I learn more at a conference from talking to people between sessions. Writers are always happy to talk and I take advantage of that by collaring people who can give me ideas.

How have you promoted your book?
Social media (Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn) and personal appearances at libraries, bookstores, and craft fairs. (It's amazing how many books a writer can sell at a craft fair. I've done my briskest trade at those events.) 
What type of photographs have you sold domestically as well as abroad?
The most popular photograph I ever took was of a row of refurbished tractors. Horses and cars are popular also. I've sold copies of my photos in Canada, Mexico, and France.

Do you plan to collaborate with your wife Sharon at some future date?
We already do a lot of collaboration. She's my best editor and critic. She writes faster and reads more than I do, so if I write something that she doesn't understand, I select it and press the delete key. We have talked about writing a collaborative novel, but the plans aren't complete.
Advice for fledgling authors?
(1) Use all five senses (plus emotional state of the main character in the scene) and the source of light in every scene. (Stephen King's 11/23/63 is not only a great story; it's also a textbook of good writing examples.)
(2) Every scene must have a conflict (i.e., one party wants something and another party opposes it) and a clear winner.
(3) Avoid adverbs; use adjectives sparingly.
(4) Know what you're writing about. (If I read one more "reading of the will" scene, I will become ill.) Google. It's free. Use it.
(5) As Elmore Leonard advised, leave out the boring parts. If your scene (or sentence or word) doesn't further your story, delete it.
(6) Backstory: Is it necessary? If so, dribble it out, don't give us an information dump.
(7) Read what you write. Do you write vampire stories? Then start with the master and read forward. If you don't know who the master is, then stop writing vampire stories.
(8) Learn the rules and then break them if you're a great writer.

Thank you for taking part in the series.
You can learn more about Bill Hopkins at his publisher's page:
Author's website:
Author's FaceBook page:
Author's Page on Amazon:
Amazon order page:
LinkedIn: Bill Hopkins and Twitter: @JudgeHopkins


Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome to Mysterious Writers, Bill. It's great to have you visit with us this week.

Bill Hopkins said...

Thanks for having me on! I enjoy guest posting on blogs. In fact, I always learn something.