Interview #1 with Judge Rory R. Olsen
Burgess: Judge, what prompted you to write your novel, Good Will Win in the End?
Olsen: Ken, please call me Rory.
Olsen: In March of 2005, I went up to Austin to testify in favor of a bill pending before the Texas Legislature with a colleague. On the long ride back home, the subject of unfulfilled goals, dreams and ambitions arose. After a little prompting, I admitted that when I was younger, I’d thought about writing a novel. My friend encouraged me to think about it seriously.
Burgess: When you got home, did you run to your computer and start writing?
Olsen: Good Heavens, No! I was too exhausted that night. But, that night I started thinking about it. After thinking for a few more weeks, one rainy Saturday afternoon, I sat down at the computer and began to write the first chapter.
Burgess: Did you have the plot already developed in your head when you started writing?
Olsen: I didn’t. I took the premise of a middle aged judge being single and the problems that he would encounter—both legally and ethically—in meeting the opposite sex and carried it forward a bit.
Burgess: Were you writing from personal experience?
Olsen: No! My wife of over three decades is still alive and well. But, a few single judges have mentioned to me the problems that being a judge can cause in meeting and dating the opposite sex. In writing, I tried to put myself in their shoes.
Burgess: Why did you make your hero, Judge Sean Riley, a probate judge?
Olsen: Three things motivated me, Ken. The most obvious factor was that I am a probate judge, so I know what it feels like.
The second one is that despite the popular perception of probate being rather boring, probate law has its exciting moments, since probate judges deal with emotionally charged issues: inheritances, guardianships and mental health commitments.
My third motivation was that the public has little awareness of what civil judges do, since the media gives all the play to criminal judges. I hoped that I could educate the reading public as to what non-criminal judges do.
Burgess: Why did you make the leading lady in the novel, Jolene, a tall, freckle faced, blue eyed brunette?
Olsen: I wanted to do something a bit out of the ordinary. Can you think of a recent novel or a movie in which the leading lady was anything other than a blonde? I couldn’t!
Burgess: Why did you make her a peace officer?
Olsen: Jo is athletic, bursting with life and vitality. Can you think of a better occupation for someone like that?
Burgess: I gather that you are pro-law enforcement?
Olsen: I’ve had the pleasure to know and work with a number of law enforcement people. To my way of thinking, as a group, peace officers are underpaid, overworked and under appreciated.
Burgess: How long did it take you to write the first chapter?
Olsen: It took me two weekends to write the first chapter and then two more weekends of rewriting until I was satisfied with it.
Burgess: What did you do next?
Olsen: I e-mailed the draft of Chapter One to four friends, asking for their comments. Their comments were quite favorable. After asking each one in person if they were just being nice and receiving answers that they honestly liked it, I felt brave enough to write a second chapter.
Burgess: What did you do next?
Olsen: I researched Casablanca for several weekends before I started to write.
Burgess: Why did you spend so much time researching Casablanca?
Olsen: There are many, many good web sites dedicated to the subject. It took me a while to digest all the research. One of things that I learned in writing that chapter is that the Internet is chock full of helpful data for a writer.
Burgess: Can you give me another example?
Olsen: At one point later on in my writing, I needed to research what the famous Rebel Yell sounded like. It took me under ten seconds to find a very useful web site that included a recording of a Confederate veteran giving a Rebel Yell. (at: http://www.26nc.org/History/RebelYell/main.htm)
Burgess: How did that knowledge come in to play?
Olsen: Read the book and find out! It’s in the last chapter.
Burgess: Rory, can you give any other examples?
Olsen: At one point I needed to research the status of the ancient office of coroner in the U.S. today. Fifteen seconds later, Google.com™ found for me what I needed to know.
Burgess: Were there any particular web sites that you found helpful in writing?
Olsen: Besides, Google itself (at http://www.google.com/), I found a number of other very useful web sites. Dictionary.com™ (at http://dictionary.reference.com/) was very useful to me in writing as was Wikipedia™ (at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page). In addition, CalendarHome.com (at http://www.calendarhome.com/tyc/) was incredibly helpful in making sure that I correctly matched the date and day of the week. This web site gives you the ability to create a 10,000 years worth of calendars.
Burgess: When did you develop the rest of your plot?
Olsen: After I finished writing Chapter two, I thought that I might actually have written something entertaining enough to justify my investing the time in completing the manuscript. So I started to think the plot through to the end.
Burgess: Did anything else influence you at this time?
Olsen: Ken, about this time, I discussed the matter with my bride, who wisely suggested that I might want to read about the mechanics of writing and publishing a novel. I took her advice and visited Amazon.com,™ which listed a number of very helpful titles.
Burgess: What did you learn that you were able to use in your writing?
Olsen: Actually, the two most important things that I encountered in readings were that a novelist should develop a plot line and add to it periodically as things pop to mind. And, a novelist should keep a file showing the biographical and physical characteristics of your characters is real handy, so a short redhead in chapter two doesn’t reappear as a tall blonde three chapters later. Since I had already started doing those things on my own, it was reassuring to me that I had been doing things right on my own.
Burgess: Did you discover anything that bothered you in your reading?
Olsen: I discovered that my novel wouldn’t fit in any one accept genre, such as historical fiction, romance, mystery, etc.
Burgess: How would describe your novel, Good Will Win in the End?
Olsen: The best that I come up with by way of description is that the novel is a political-legal love story.
Burgess: Wow! That’s a mouthful!
Olsen: I readily concede that my description is inelegant, but it is very accurate. While the novel has both courtroom and political intrigue and excitement, the real heart of the story is the deep love that the two central characters develop for each other. The love story is the essential element of the novel.
Burgess: Do lawyers really fall in love, marry and have children!
Olsen: How else do you explain why there are so many lawyers?
Burgess: Is there courtroom action in the book?
Olsen: Definitely. There are few things in life as emotionally gripping as a well tried legal proceeding. Trials are like plays, having a unique cast of characters, a plot and an ending.
Burgess: Is the novel political?
Olsen: Yes and no. Judge Riley runs for office as a Republican, which is hardly unusual these days in an urban area in the Deep South. And part of the action is set on Election Night 2000, which is an evening that few will forget whatever their political persuasion.
But, the themes of the novel—love; justice; bravery; loyalty and good versus evil—transcend political labels. The themes of the novel are equally applicable in blue and red states alike.
Burgess: The novel seems to have a dislike for news media. Is that how you really feel about them?
Olsen: Stereotyping is very sloppy thinking. Over the years I’ve known a number of people from both the print and the electronic media. Like everyone else in the world, some are good people and some aren’t. The people who work in news media are not all clones who all think and act exactly alike. I’ll even freely admit that I have friends who are working journalists.
Burgess: Do you have any other thoughts that you’d be willing to share with aspiring novelists?
Olsen: Ken, I’d tell anyone thinking of writing a novel or anything else—fiction or non-fiction—to learn something about copyright and other legal issues affecting writers and authors. The Authors Guild has a very informative web site (http://www.authorsguild.org/) that offers much useable information.
I’d strongly suggest that once the project is nearly completed, find a knowledgeable, competent person to edit your writing. No matter how well you write, you won’t be able to approach your work objectively and need to have an outsider review it. I was very fortunate to enlist the services of my friend, Deborah Long, who did a splendid job editing my manuscript. (http://www.eyeforcontent.com/)
Finally, enjoy yourself!
(read Interview #2)