There’s an old writers’ adage: “Write what you know.” And for Douglas Schofield, author of five novels, perhaps that’s a truth stranger than fiction.
When Schofield is not holed up in his home office creating strong female protagonists, he’s busy absorbing — and partaking in — courtroom drama as a seasoned trial lawyer.
“Criminal defense lawyers have to be creative,” he says. “I probably gravitated to criminal law because it is human drama almost every day.”
Born and educated in British Columbia, Schofield has worked in Canada, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands prosecuting and defending hundreds of cases of serious crime. He spent five years in Bermuda as a crown counsel and nine years in Grand Cayman as assistant solicitor general before returning to private practice in 2013 at local firm HSM Chambers. He’s also acted as legal advisor for the Cayman Islands commissioner of police.
Schofield now lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, and writes full-time. However, he recently returned to Grand Cayman for a long-running court case — his last before retiring for good — and stopped by Books & Books for a book signing and talk about his newest novel, “Killing Pace: A Mystery,” released by Macmillan Publishers (St. Martin’s Press) in November 2017.
PLOT AND HEROINES
“Killing Pace” is set in Everglades City, Florida, and Sicily, Italy, and its female protagonist Lisa Green (her two other identities are Sarah Lockhart and Laura Pace) has amnesia after a catastrophic car accident. Her boyfriend Roland has been nursing her back to health, but her reasoning tells her that she is not his girlfriend, but rather a prisoner being held against her will. With escape her only option, Lisa must figure out who she can trust and how to stay alive.
Each one of Schofield’s five novels features strong female protagonists — a rarity in these types of genres, especially when the author is male. His uncanny ability to capture their nuances can be attributed to the real-life women he knows.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have met so many brilliant women in the course of my career,” he says. “I’m a lot older than the women who are my heroines, but I have a few professional women in their 30s who have trusted me with intimate details about their female lives, and have been very open on the basis that they will forever remain anonymous. I have so much admiration and respect for them, and I am so grateful to them.”
Schofield says his wife Melody is amazingly supportive.
“She is astonishing and reads all my manuscripts. She is my first proofreader, my first editor, and often points out, ‘No, you almost got it, but there is a nuance you need to understand.’ So it seems to work, because the vast majority of my readers and followers are female.”
Schofield is a self-described history buff and in fact he obtained a degree in history before law school. He prefers reading non-fiction and historical books because they spawn many of his ideas.
He’s also a meticulous researcher, often travelling two or three times to the locations of his novels’ settings. He says it’s a point of pride being able to transport the readers to a place of authenticity.
“I like to be there on the ground and I like to be able to say that every location in my novel is a place that I have visited,” he says. “My editor says she can always tell when a manuscript is submitted if the author has been to the city or not, and she respects that I go everywhere.”
When it comes down to the writing process, Schofield says it’s fairly straightforward: he always starts with an outline, and then expands on it, making it bigger and bigger until it forms into a novel. Then throughout each stage, he looks for the plot flaws.
“There are always flaws. You can fix anything while you are writing and growing your book,” he says, adding that he is getting better at it with each novel.
“Flight Risks” was Schofield’s first completed novel-length manuscript, but it was originally a screenplay titled “Time Out of Mind.” It was almost made into a Hollywood movie, along with “Succession,” which also started as a screenplay. Schofield has written seven screenplays to date and often tells budding novelists to take a course in screenwriting.
“If you want to write in this genre — the kind of things they make movies of, such as the high-speed thriller, a mystery or suspense — take a course in screenwriting. It teaches you the economy of language, which is the modern way. Agents and editors today really look for that,” he says, adding that Hollywood has heavily influenced novel writing.
“Chapters are shorter. Everything moves at a higher pace; there’s no more long ruminative paragraphs or descriptions. We grow up on modern TV and films where pace is everything — we live in a fast world,” says Schofield, adding that “Killing Pace” has recently received interest from a movie production company.
He’s already outlined a sequel to “Killing Pace,” a first, as his other novels have been stand-alone stories.
“I intend this to be a series,” he says. “I fell in love with Laura Pace, so I want to keep her.”