Today we welcome Rick Cornell.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Rick Cornell: By day I am an attorney, specializing in appeals and writs (mostly criminal law). By evening I am a singer (or a writer). I sang opera for 17 years and now do dinner theatre shows.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?
Rick Cornell: So far I have written two novels, “2051” and “I Am That Fool.” I wrote these because I wanted to approach the criminal justice system from two angles: 1) Where and how it goes wrong; 2) What does a criminal jury trial actually look like.
Book ‘Em: Do you have a work in progress?
Rick Cornell: Yes. It is entitled “La Raza Para Justicia (Justicia Para La Raza)”
Book ‘Em: What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
Rick Cornell: In “2051” I created a major character named Esperanza Lopez, who is both a lesbian and an abuser – including to her and her wife’s son, Antonio. I do not personally know anyone like that, but by the year 2051 I suspect there will be a lot of women like that. Yet I didn’t want to make her a villain.
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Rick Cornell: Google and I become good friends during the creative process. For example, the name of the character originally was Esperanza Gomez. Thanks to Google, I learned that that is the name of a living Colombian porn queen!
Book ‘Em: Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?
Rick Cornell: Grisham, Connelly and Patterson.
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Rick Cornell: My friend and author, Rebecca McFarland Kyle.
Book ‘Em: What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Rick Cornell: I write in a page-turning style, and the trial scenes in both novels are the best things about them.
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
Rick Cornell: I don’t write to a schedule, but I write an extensive storyboard before I start writing.
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Rick Cornell: I really don’t know. I’m 65 now, and in 5 years I think I’ll be more active as a writer. I hope at that point I’ll be ready to retire as a lawyer.
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Rick Cornell: Hire two editors – one for grammar and one for content. Never think your manuscript can’t be better, because it can.
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Rick Cornell: “It made me think.”
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
Rick Cornell: My favorite character in “2051” is Ana Katich. From pp. 95-96 this is the scene that introduces her:
At the beginning of jury selection, Judge Hixson directed the Clerk to direct the prospective jurors to raise their collective right hands and swear that they would answer the questions posed completely, honestly and accurately. All of the venire except one raised his or her right hand before saying “I do.” The Clerk noticed the omission, and immediately advised Judge Hixson. “Your Honor, Potential Juror Number 25 has not raised her right hand.”
Potential Juror #25 was a native Serbian, emigrated to and naturalized in America, with the anglicized name of Ana Katich. Antonio, Chet Atkinson, Esperanza Lopez and Judge Hixson took one look at her, and each became instantly captivated.
She had that effect upon a lot of straight men and gay women. Ana Katich was about 30-years-old, 5’7” tall, about 120 pounds, with long black hair, full lips, large breasts, an hourglass figure, and dark, piercing eyes.
Judge Hixson asked, “Ms Katich, when the Clerk asked you to raise your right hand and take the oath, you refused. Why?”
Ana looked at the surly old man with those Eastern European eyes, and responded: “Your Honor. Your question assumes that I am a liar by nature, but if I put my hand on some book of yours, that somehow I am magically changed into one who can only tell the truth. I don’t believe that. I believe in God. But I also believe that I was born and raised by my family to tell the truth always. I don’t need to pretend to believe in God in order to tell the truth. If I tell you something outside of this courtroom, it’s the truth. If I tell you something inside of this courtroom, it’s the truth. Nothing changes. Raising my right hand doesn’t change a lie into the truth. And raising my left hand doesn’t change a lie into the truth, either.”
Hixson said, “Counsel approach the bench.” Atkinson, Antonio and Esperanza did so. Hixson leaned over: “Not only am I not striking this juror from the panel, but if any of you challenge her, I’ll hold you in contempt of court!”
That was the only time during the trial that the judge and all three lawyers laughed out loud at the same time.