Saturday, January 8, 2011

Interview with Author Jim Daher

This week's Killer Nashville interview is with author Jim Daher, whose thrillers/mysteries RIGHTEOUS KILL and BLOOD MONEY feature FBI agent Sarah James. Sarah is a savvy, tough cookie who believes “the end justifies the means” when she’s tracking down a criminal--and Sarah always gets her man or woman.

A graduate of Southern Polytechnic Institute and the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Jim began writing after enjoying a successful career as a hospital administrator and multi-health care facility executive. He lives on St Simons Island, Georgia with his wife. You can learn more at his website:

KN: Hi, Jim. Welcome to A Killer Conversation. Let's start off with a quote. Do you have a favorite quote about writing or crime writing in particular?

JD: I can't remember who said it but "Do your research, make it real and entertain your reader!"

KN: Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be a writer?

JD: My mother and father read to me and my brothers and sister when we were small so I have always enjoyed a good story. However, as I grew older and started a career in healthcare I stopped reading for pleasure and concentrated on business periodicals, health care regulations, etc. But, the last 10-15 years I was in healthcare I was responsible for groups of hospitals and traveled extensively, spending a lot of time on airplanes and in hotels. I began reading again and was attracted to mysteries & thrillers.

As time went by I told myself that if I ever had the time I would "try" to write. After semi-retiring I had the time but initially started playing golf-for the first time. It looked easy on television and I knew I'd pick it up quickly-HA, was I in for a surprise! Realizing I wasn't going on the PGA tour and most importantly, couldn't afford to continue losing golf balls, I decided to begin writing. I wasn't much better at it than golf but I all I was losing was time and I enjoyed attending conferences (Thriller Fest, Sleuth Fest, Killer Nashville, etc) to learn the INS & outs of writing and getting published.

KN: What drew you to the mystery/suspense genre?

JD: The element of surprise, the suspense and the pace of the stories are the main attractions.

KN: Any favorite authors in the genre?

JD: Robert Parker, Stuart Wood, Daniel Silva, Lisa Scottoline, James Patterson, Vince Flynn and Harlan Coben are among my favorites.

KN: We share some of the same favorites. Your first novel, RIGHTEOUS KILL, features FBI agent Sarah James (formerly Johnson). Can you tell us a bit about RIGHTEOUS KILL and how you came up with the idea for the novel?

JD: I read a news paper story about the victim of an attempted abduction and it reminded me of a couple of victims of rape that I was aware of. I went through some what if scenarios and came up with the idea for the story. I initially dropped the idea for fear of not being able to "get into the head" of a female. But one night I woke up and knew I had to tell the story. I spent the next 36 hours outlining the story, developing key characters and preparing my self for Sarah's journey.

KN: What made you decide on a female protagonist?

JD: The story I was developing demanded it.

KN: What were the challenges of writing a character of the opposite sex, and how did you overcome them? What steps did you take to ensure that Sarah comes across as authentically female?

JD: A portion of my health care career was in the Psychiatric industry and to better understand what hospital employees and physicians did, I attended group sessions, as an observer. Fortunately or unfortunately, there were some rape victims and rapists (unrelated cases/situations) in those sessions and I heard their stories first hand. This gave me insight into Sarah the individual dealing with what had happened to her. I want to clarify that Sarah and what happened to her in Righteous Kill is purely fictional and is not based on any specific case or situation from my health care days. Other aspects of the female psych I picked up by talking to young ladies at the gym/fitness center to gain insight into "today's female". I asked questions such as: What do you think when you see a good looking guy? Do you talk with your best friend about sex, dating, your husband, martial problems, etc...?

KN: Your second novel, a sequel to RIGHTEOUS KILL was recently released. What can you tell us about it?

JD: A killer targets Sarah's groom at their wedding. She wants justice and revenge and begins tracking the killer. Along the way she encounters ex-cons, the mafia, and other roadblocks until she corners the killer.

KN: Sounds like fans of the first book have some exciting time ahead! What are some of the challenges and rewards of writing a series?

JD: Challenges are making the time to write, creating a good, entertaining story, the editing process, the search for a publisher, setting up signings, making it all fit together on a timely basis. Rewards are the finished product, the signings and the sense of accomplishment.

KN: What kind of research do you do?

JD: A lot-I talk with FTA, Customs, ICE, FBI, local cops and other law enforcement officials to attempt to get their views on crime, the arrest process, the chain of command within their specific organizations and as I said I talk to people to get their reactions to significant issues within my story or plot. It's great having the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick (15-30 minutes away). I hang out at "Willy's Weiner Wagon" which has been in business for over forty years and is a local lunch hangout for individuals attending training at FLETC.

KN: Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

JD: I wake up early, walk my dog, go to the gym then come home clean up and begin writing. I try to put in 4-6 hours a day writing and editing.

KN: How do you market your books?

JD: I have an initial Launch Party and have been fortunate enough to get the local paper to attend and do a story on the party and the book itself. Then I travel to, set up and attend signings at book stores in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and California.

KN: What's the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

JD: The thrill of writing-seeing the story and characters develop and holding the finished product in my hand is overwhelming.

KN: And the most difficult?

JD: The time consumption of the process to find a legitimate editor, agent and publisher combined with the humiliation of mass rejections.

KN: What's the best compliment you've ever received about your books?

JD: "I starting you book at 4:30 pm and could not put it down." "I stayed up all night reading it and finished at 5 am."

KN: What are your long-term writing goals? And what's next?

JD: As most writers, I want to be on the "best seller list".

KN: Any advice for unpublished writers?

JD: Put in the time, attend conferences, learn, learn, learn and be prepared for the rejections-develop a thick skin!

KN: What would you like people to take away from your books?

JD: A thirst or hunger for the next "Jim Daher novel".

KN: Anything else you'd like us to know about you or your writing?

JD: Im following my own advice. I put in the time. I've got a good editor and I continually learn new marketing techniques.

KN: Final question: what’s our discussion topic for the week?

JD: How do you build a believable character? How do you create an antagonist a reader can identify with & hate?


  1. How do you build a believable character? There are usually a few basic traits or characteristics that pop into my head full blown. from there, I begin to ask questions about the character's goals, desires, fears, interests, and habits. I ask questions about his or her relationships with others, all of which reveal facets of personality. (There's a long questionnaire on my website:, under the online writing workshop link. I don't use all the questions for all characters, but I answer the ones that resonate for that particular character.

    To create a beleivable--and hopefully terrifying--antagonist, I use the same process, keeping in mind that the antagonist is, in his or her own mind, the hero. I try to figure out why the antagonist behaves the way he/she does and how he/she rationalizes it.

  2. We all have positive and negative personality traits and our characters should also to be believable. When our characters make decisions, sometimes the answer isn't black or white, & we can't be afraid to give them challenges that fall into the gray area.

  3. Good point, Rae Ann. It's really easy to want our heroes to be likable and end up turning them into Mary Sues and Gary Lous--or turning our villains into Snidely Whiplashes. The gray areas give nuance.


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