Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Randy Singer and The Justice Game

I’m pleased to share an interview with Randy Singer, author of The Justice Game. I’ll be giving away a signed copy of The Justice Game in a drawing among those who either comment on this post or who email me at missytippens [at] aol.com. So be sure to enter!

  1. Randy, you bring a unique perspective to your writing because you are also an attorney and a pastor. How do you juggle these three things and still have a life?

It helps that I love doing all three. It also helps that, while they’re all very different, they draw on common skill sets. For example, principles of powerful story-telling are important for a pastor, lawyer and (obviously) writer. I’m a little ADHD and like being able to go from one thing to another. I tell people it’s like crop rotation—keeps things fresh. And, to be honest, writing is more like relaxation for me than a job. It gives me a break from the pressures of the other “real life” jobs and lets me go into a world where I get to control things! (Can we say “God complex” here?)

But none of that really answers your question. Three things help me juggle. One, I try to stay focused on the big stuff. It’s not that I do the little stuff second, I try not to do the little stuff at all. Second, I stay focused on what I can do well and let others worry about the stuff that is out of my control. In other words, I’m a master at delegation (think Tom Sawyer and the white picket fence). And third, I’ve learned to get comfortable with the fact that I will always have stuff in each of these areas that does not get done. As long as the ball is moving forward, I’ve got to be satisfied with that.

As for the part about having a life—I would have to object to that question on the grounds that it assumes facts not in evidence. :)

But seriously--I thank God that, in His grace, He allows me to do three separate things that I love doing so much. My prayer is that I might bring glory to Him in three different ways as I minister in each of these areas. (And yes, being a lawyer is a ministry.)

  1. In all your novels, you often address a particular topic. How did you decide to address gun control in The Justice Game?

I like to write about moral issues that have no easy answer. On the issue of gun control, there are some pretty strong emotions on both sides. And people have typically trenched in—spouting off rehearsed arguments rather than trying to understand each other. But when you frame the issue in the context of a story, you can sometimes by-pass the automatic intellectual defenses and speak straight to the heart. I tried to create compelling characters on both sides of the story to help readers sort through the types of honest arguments that people of good faith make and then decide for themselves.

But on a larger scale, the issue of gun control is not really the focus of The Justice Game. The more important issues raised are these: (1) In America, can you “game” the criminal justice system? I have proposed a hypothetical system in The Justice Game that could do just that. (2) Can the main characters in the novel escape their past sins (and secrets) or will they let themselves remain captive to them? I once heard Rick Warren say that courage comes when you have nothing left to hide. That’s a concept I explore in The Justice Game.

  1. As an attorney, you served as lead counsel in a school shooting case in Virginia. What happened and what impact did the case have?

This is from the author’s note at the beginning of the book:

On December 16, 1988, a fifteen-year-old student named Nicholas Elliot took a Cobray semiautomatic handgun to Atlantic Shores Christian School and opened fire. He shot and killed a teacher named Karen Farley and wounded an assistant principal, then burst into a trailer where a Bible class was meeting. When he attempted to open fire on the students huddled in the back corner of the trailer, the gun jammed. The Bible teacher, Hutch Matteson, tackled Elliot and prevented the kind of tragedy that hit Columbine High School in Colorado several years later.

Atlantic Shores was the school where my wife taught. It was the school my kids attended (though they were not there that day).

And when I learned that Elliot had purchased the gun illegally from a gun store in Isle of Wight County through a transaction referred to as a “straw purchase transaction,” I represented the family of Karen Farley in an unprecedented lawsuit against the gun store.

The verdict shocked everyone.

In terms of the impact this real case had on my writing—it made the writing of the book both harder and easier. Harder because we lost a friend in the Atlantic Shores shooting and it was difficult to relive the emotions of the shooting and subsequent case. Easier because authors should write what they know best. I didn’t have to imagine what the feelings of the attorneys would be as they tried this case of national importance on an issue with such raw emotions. I had walked in those shoes. From that perspective, this book might be the most realistic book I’ve written.

  1. You had your readers determine the verdict in the court case at the center of the book. Why did you decide to go this route?

Two reasons. First, I thought it would be fun to create an interactive experience for readers. We put together a fake newscast with snippets of the closing arguments—just enough to inform readers about the case and let them vote. Second, I was trying to be balanced on this issue of gun control. What better way to demonstrate balance than to let the readers decide the verdict? Oh yeah, and third (if it’s not too late to add a third), the book ends up being about much more than just the verdict in the gun case. I knew that the ending would work out fine whichever way the verdict came out.

1. Since we’ve been discussing a heavy topic, we need something lighthearted to close out this interview. What’s your best lawyer joke?

It’s not actually my best, but it’s pretty quick.

They’ve started using lawyers instead of rats in laboratory experiments for three reasons: (1) there are more of them; (2) the scientists would sometimes get attached to the rats; and (3) there were some things the lab rats just wouldn’t do.

LOL! Thanks, Randy. And for you readers, don't forget to either leave a comment with contact info or email me to enter a drawing for a signed copy of The Justice Game.


Carmen7351 said...

I was one of those that helped decide the ending. It was like sitting in the jury box and weighing things out. Plus I have a legal assistant degree, so I looked into a lot of deeper issues at hand. Now I need to know the ending. Please enter me. Thanks for the interview with Randy. One of the best!
desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Carole said...

I'm so glad I discovered Randy's books last year! There's such a difference in quality when a legal thriller is written by someone with personal experience. So thank you for the chance to win a copy.

Great lawyer joke, by the way! I'm saving that one.

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

Missy Tippens said...

Carmen, wasn't that such a cool idea to have reader input in deciding the ending?! :)

I've got you entered.

Missy Tippens said...

Carole, thanks for entering!

Randy Singer said...

Missy, thanks so much for being part of the blog tour! And Carmen and Carole, thanks for the comments. Looks like I'd better keep the lawyer jokes coming!

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, Randy!

Nora said...

I Love Randy's books and this interview as fun. Could you please enter me in the drawing.


Finding Hope Through Fiction

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks for stopping by, Nora!

Cherie J said...

Wonderful interview! I am in awe that someone can juggle that many things in their life. Definitely has to be the Lord. With him all things are possible. Would love to be entered in the drawing.


Edwina said...

What a great interview and fascinating person! Randy must lead a most interesting life! I would love to read this book. If I'm not too late, please enter me in the drawing!

Missy Tippens said...

We have a winner! Kristi (who sent an email entry) won the drawing. Congratulations!

Thanks to everyone for stopping by.