The seemingly oblivious Rory and the femme fatal Monica.
Thriller author Kevin G. Chapman is fresh off a five-book story arc in his Mike Stoneman Thriller series. Now, taking a break from that series, he has written a stand-alone novel called Dead Winner.
We caught up with Kevin to ask a few questions about the new book and it’s protagonist Rory McEntrye. So let’s have Kevin take it from here:
Kevin, Why the new book instead of continuing with the Mike Stoneman series?
To be honest, part of the motivation was to see if I could get a literary agent interested in me. Several agents told me over the past few years that they can’t get a traditional publisher interested in a series that has already been started as a self-published product. Publishers want something they can own. It can be the start of a new series, or a stand-alone. So, I wrote a stand-alone story. It’s set in the same universe as the Mike Stoneman stories, and there are some characters who cross-over (but not Mike), but it’s a fully free-standing novel. I pitched it to a dozen agents and none were interested. Oh well.
But, it also gave me a break from Mike, Jason, Michelle, and Rachel, which was good given the timing with the Covid-19 pandemic. The fifth book in the Mike Stoneman series ended in January of 2020. That was intentional. I didn’t want to write about cops interrogating suspects while wearing masks and making socially distant arrests. I’m content to pick up Mike Stoneman’s story in 2023, so I can be on the back side of the pandemic.
What can you tell us about Rory, the protagonist in Dead Winner?
I’ll let my readers decide if he’s a hero, an anti-hero, or something else. I wanted to write a story about a guy who dreams of glory and adventure and who, like so many, plays out his fantasies inside video games. In his online role playing games, Rory is Warriorsaurus, a fearless hero who charges into battle and outwits his opponents. He’s a drab trusts & estates lawyer at a big New York firm, toiling away helping rich clients manage their family fortunes.
When the love of his life walks into his office, he is instantly transported back to his law school days, when he first met Monica. Unfortunately, Monica married his best friend, Tom Williams. Since then, Rory has made a nice career for himself as lawyer, but has never found a woman to marry. He is thrilled to help Monica and Tom set up a trust. The couple has had the amazing good fortune of winning a portion of a $300 million lottery drawing. Some guys have all the luck. Tom is already a high-powered money manager at a big investment fund. But Rory is happy to help.
A few days later, Tom is dead – apparently a self-inflicted bullet to the head. Suicide. Why would Tom kill himself? In any case, Monica calls Rory for help. The homicide detectives on the scene wonder if the widow is a suspect, and Rory is there to defend her. When the cops leave, Monica goes to retrieve the winning lottery ticket – but it’s missing.
As the story unfolds, Rory serves as Monica’s lawyer, her protector, and her private investigator. When two thugs accost them after they uncover some documents Tom left in a safe deposit box, Rory is pummeled and is unable to protect Monica. Maybe he’s not the hero he wants to believe he could be. After that, Rory’s relationship with Monica heats up well beyond attorney and client. Rory’s fondest dreams are coming true. If only they can find that missing ticket.
When Monica gets a call from somebody claiming to have the ticket, and is willing to give it back – for a payment of $3 million – Rory finds himself in a position where he can truly be Monica’s knight in shining armor. The question is whether Rory has what it takes to really be a hero.
My readers will need to decide whether he is, or isn’t. He’s not a super hero. He’s not an expert fighter, nor a trained spy. He’s just a lawyer in love with a woman. Is that enough?
What was fun for you writing this story?
The story is set in Manhattan, which I love writing about. The characters and the setting are familiar to me. Some of the names are names of actual lawyer friends of mine. The truth is that the practice of law is mostly pretty boring, so this is a chance to make the life of a fictional lawyer exciting and romantic. That was fun.
What does success as a writer look like to you?
After I finished the first five books of the Mike Stoneman Thriller series, I finally set up an LLC corporation for my writing “business,” even though I have yet to turn a profit on my book sales. With the publication of Dead Winner, I have eight published novels, and the next one (tentatively called “A Good Girl”) is in the works. For me, success is continuing to write while holding down my day job (as an employment lawyer) and keep building my back catalogue of books. Success also means getting good reviews and knowing that my readers are enjoying my books.
I have more than 800 Amazon reviews across the five Mike Stoneman stories, averaging 4.5 stars. That’s pretty good. I’ve also won a Kindle Book Award and a CLUE Award for two different books. So, I’m being told by readers and critics that my stories are pretty good. That’s enough for me. If I start making money from book sales someday, that will be a plus. If some producer from a streaming video service loves one of my books and wants to make it into a movie or series – that would be the best. I’m not counting on that. For me, keeping the writing going, enjoying the process, and getting positive feedback from readers is enough. (But everyone who reads this should buy a book, please!)
Do you have any writing foibles?
I’m a compulsive outliner. When I have an idea for a story, I start sketching out how the story might play out, who the characters would be, and start putting together an outline of scenes. If the story doesn’t work as an outline, then I’ll trash it pretty quickly. If it works, I’ll keep going until I have a detailed outline of every chapter. The outline can be 35-50 pages. Sometimes I say to myself, “start writing, already,” but I can’t start writing dialogue and text until the outline is finished.
What is one question you wish somebody had asked you, but never has?
What a great question! Nobody has ever asked me the race of NY Medical Examiner Michelle McNeill from my Mike Stoneman Thriller series. I keep waiting for it. Readers who have been through all five books probably have their own mental image of Michelle, but my descriptions of her have always been ambiguous – intentionally. I love letting my readers fill in with their own imaginations. Someday there will be a big debate on my group Facebook page about the subject. That will make me very happy.
~ June Lorraine Roberts
Murder in Common is #33 on the Feedspot Top 100 Crime Novel Website