Continuing our “Meet the Author” series, let me introduce you to bestselling independent author, Patrick Kelly…
What do you write?
A mystery series featuring Joe Robbins, a freelance CFO.
In the first novel, Hill Country Greed, Joe moves his family to Austin, Texas, to become the Chief Financial Officer of a software company at the height of the high-tech boom in 1999.
Joe is enticed by the lifestyle of the Internet craze and makes a terrible mistake: he cheats on his wife. Soon after the market crashes, the company falls apart, Joe loses his job, and a director on the board is murdered. To redeem himself Joe must solve the mystery.
I’ve always heard you should write about what you know. In my career I’ve served as CFO for six different companies so I know what that job is like. There is a whole category of legal fiction but few mysteries on the market with a CFO as the hero. In each of the Joe Robbins novels he gets involved with a new company, a crime is committed, and Joe is drawn into solving the crime.
Are the books about you?
Absolutely not. Alfred Hitchcock once said “drama is life with the dull bits cut out.” If you tried to write a book about my life and cut the dull bits out you’d struggle to write more than a page or two.
On the other hand, Joe Robbins grew up in a tough neighborhood in South Dallas and learned to box to survive public school. In college he dated the beautiful Rosalinda Garcia Gonzalez, and they married soon after graduation. Several years later Joe was threatened by an abusive neighbor and learned about guns to protect his family.
Joe’s colorful background combined with his propensity to take initiative enable me to write interesting stories with him as the protagonist.
You were a CFO in Austin during the heyday of the late 90s. What was it like?
I remember clearly the magical feeling that we could do anything. There was a lot of crazy behavior, of course, over-the-top corporate parties, trips to Vegas, and that sort of thing, but there was also tremendous dedication. We sought to change the world, and in some cases we did. In Hill Country Greed I tried to capture the magic of the times and use it to fashion an entertaining story about greed and obsession.
How did you get started writing novels?
I wrote my first short story in elementary school and continued crafting stories for many years, but I never had time to properly learn the craft. Six years ago I stopped working fulltime and shifted to a mix of consulting and writing. Since then I’ve spent thousands of hours studying the lessons of others, reading, and writing.
The first novel I wrote had a lot of plot problems, but I liked the main character, Joe Robbins. I wanted to know more about Joe’s backstory. In the process of creating that backstory, I delved deep into Joe’s past and ended up writing Hill Country Greed.
Austin is on fire right now; everyone in the country has visited or wants to visit the city. In terms of physical characteristics Austin has everything an author could want: rolling hills, limestone cliffs, and beautiful lakes. I try to weave those natural attractions into the settings for my key scenes. On top of that, the Austin culture is formed from a fascinating mix of music, politics, high-tech, and the University of Texas. That combination provides all the ingredients needed to create great characters.
Tell us about your writing style.
I write edgy mysteries populated by imperfect characters with conflicting goals. In the process I endeavor to prepare complex plots served with a heap of suspense and sprinkled with violence, drama, and sex to enhance the flavor.
As I revise the manuscript I try hard to bring the reader into every scene. I want her to feel as if she’s right there, tasting the wine on her lips, sensing the danger in the night, and rooting for Joe to do the right thing.
To pull the writer into the scene I work hard to balance the elements of description, dialogue, action, and narrative. As I revise and re-revise a suspenseful scene if my heart begins to pound I know I’m getting close.
Do you have any advice for first-time writers?
If you’re not sure whether writing a book is for you take this simple test: Shut yourself in a room with no distractions and write for four hours. Don’t worry about the quality of the writing; the quality will improve with time. If you enjoyed those four hours, you passed the test.
It takes a lot of time to write a good book. Why bother if you don’t enjoy it?
Tell us about the second Joe Robbins novel, Hill Country Rage.
Joe begins working for a real estate company in which his best friend is a minority investor. Two weeks later his friend is killed, and Joe suspects a major investor is involved. When the police stall the investigation Joe embarks on a methodical and harrowing quest for justice. Hill Country Rage is a story of revenge that thrusts Joe in the midst of a violent drug cartel.
What are you writing now?
I’m working on the second draft of the third Joe Robbins novel, Hill Country Star. In this story Joe is retained to provide financial advice to an aging rock star and winds up on the trail of a serial killer. Once that book is finished I want to try my hand at writing a book outside the series. The Joe Robbins novels are written in first person single point of view. I look forward to writing a story from multiple points of view so I can take the reader into the thoughts and motives of multiple characters.
And, of course, I’m conjuring a plot for book four of the Joe Robbins series.