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The Unexpected and the Inevitable: Q and A with Thriller Author Steven James

March 1, 2024


Steven James’s latest novel, Fatal Domain, continues Travis Brock’s search for the truth of what happened the night of a brutal fire over a year ago. In this Q and A with Steven, he lets readers into the mind of a thriller author.

This story, even more than the first book in the series, Broker of Lies, explores the concept of forgiveness and how to deal with those who do the unforgivable. What led you to take the story in that direction?

I read a book about forgiveness and started really thinking about what it means to forgive someone. It’s different from excusing the wrong; it’s different from holding a grudge; it’s something much rarer than that.

“Wouldn’t withholding forgiveness for certain crimes help to curtail them? Are there some things that would be better left unforgiven?”

Excerpt from Fatal Domain

You’re known for including twists in your stories. How do you come up with them?

I look for moments that are unexpected and inevitable—so they are logical and follow naturally from what precedes them, but also offer surprises to readers. I like every scene to have a touch of this; I also want the story as a whole to have an ending that readers won’t see coming but will appreciate when they get there. That’s the pivot. That’s what I’m looking for.

What’s the most important part of a story to you?

Two things come to mind—the pivots (think twists) and the payoff at the end of the story. Is the story honest about human nature and morality? What aspect of this story is desperate to be told or impossible to ignore? Does the story mean more than it says? Can we overhear an unforeseen truth? Is the action imbued with deeper meaning? Is the takeaway unstated and yet unforgettable? If the story can check off some of those boxes, I’ll be thrilled.

What are you hoping readers will take away from this book?

First and foremost, I want them to be entertained from the first page to the last. I want them to enjoy the light touches of humor, to feel white-knuckle suspense at the right times, and to fall in love with the characters. I want them to think about some big, philosophical questions along the way, but this is a thriller, it’s a roller coaster, and I want them to enjoy the ride.