Archive for December 9th, 2019

James D. Bell - PhotoJames D. Bell is an award-winning author and retired Judge who received the highest bar association approval ratings ever given to a Mississippi Circuit or County Judge. He is listed in Preeminent Lawyers, Outstanding Lawyers of America and Top 100 Attorneys of North America.  He is the author of two novels, Vampire Defense and Maximilian’s Treasure.  His short story, The Adventures of Sherlock Hound, was published in Dog Stories for the Soul, alongside stories from Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Willie Morris and others.  The son of a Choctaw mother and a Mississippi businessman, Judge Bell is devoted to his wife, Joanne.  They live in Brandon, Mississippi and have four children.  Judge Bell practices law in Jackson, Mississippi, but is frequently called back to the bench by the Mississippi Supreme Court for short term assignments. Visit the author’s website at www.judgebell.com.

About Maximilian’s Treasure:

Maximilian’s Treasure is inspired by an encounter I had 40 years ago with an elderly Choctaw gentleman who believed Civil War gold was buried on his farm.  In the novel, rumors of treasure incite a legal battle over possession of a Choctaw family farm.  Two young lawyers, John Brooks and Jackson Bradley, agree to help the family keep their farm.  Early legal success prompts the drive-by murder of the patriarch of the family.  The grandson chases the suspects whose bodies are found on the farm, scalped.  At the same time, clues to a vast treasure are found on the farm.  Jackson, pursued by fortune seekers, adventurers, an exotic beauty and a homicidal maniac, follows the clues to a Caribbean reef and the Chiapas jungle.  John stays behind to defend the grandson and continue the fight for the farm.  His efforts are complicated by arson, murder, race riots, and the realization that he lost his one true love.  The adventures of John and Jackson rush toward an intertwined triple climax that could shake the world and will leave you breathless.


When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

I fell in love with law practice the first time I stepped into a courtroom.  The life changing drama unveiling before my eyes gripped my imagination.  Almost immediately I wanted to write about my experiences.  I wanted to share my passion for the law with others.  My friend Jack and I were young lawyers defending citizens charged with crimes.  We attracted more than our share of attention because we kept winning cases.  Jack was a loyal friend, intrepid investigator and skilled researcher.  We were an unbeatable team.  Jack died twenty years ago.  I miss him, so I brought him back to life in my novels.  It has taken me way too long to write these stories.


How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

I know the beginning and the end of the story.  I use an outline to sketch the route I plan to take to get to the end.  The outline keeps me focused, but sometimes the story starts telling itself and I just run with it.

Did your book require a lot of research?

I read books on Maximilian and on Cortez, and articles on Quantrill’s Raiders, Jesse and Frank James and the legend of their connection to Maximilian and a vast treasure.  That led me to research Aztec mythology and hummingbirds of all things.  You’ll see why when you read the book.  I even explored the places described in the book.  The research was enough to make me think my old friend may have been right!

What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?

A vivid imagination is vital, but I use actual experiences to give depth and realism to my writing.  I cross-examined witnesses like those in the book.  I’ve been to the swamp and the jungle.  I’ve climbed the cliff, hung by my fingertips over the precipice, entered the cave behind the waterfall, dodged bullets, investigated my own cases, elicited confessions on the witness stand, and won impossible cases.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

I am embarrassed to say that it took 35 years from conception to completion and 7 years to write.  I started Maximilian’s Treasure right after finishing my first novel in 2012.  I have the same problem most writers have; I have two full-time jobs and I’m a full-time husband.  That leaves little time to write.  I usually write when I travel on business.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

Absolutely.  I wrestle with a hundred excuses to delay writing.  Then, I finally get to work, and nothing:  Writer’s block.  I got over it by passing it to one of my characters.  In Maximilian’s Treasure, Jackson wants to get away to write about his recent spectacular case, but the blank computer screen stares at him and he gets writer’s block.  He doesn’t notice that he’s being followed by a crowd of fortune seekers and a homicidal maniac.  While he can’t think of anything to write, he’s living a fast paced, high risk adventure.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t let the blank computer screen intimidate you.  Just write, even if you don’t feel like it.  After a couple of pages, the story will start telling itself.  When you’re done for the day, you can delete the first two pages.  Find a reason bigger than yourself to write.  Make that your purpose.  I want to enrich the reader with truths that can change his or her life for the better.



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