It’s time for another installment of my 2019 Author Interview Series. This week, I’m happy to welcome Tim Cagle. Let’s take a look at the 10 questions that Tim chose to reveal a bit about himself.
Please enjoy getting to know him.
- What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I am a semi-retired medical malpractice attorney so my schedule is much lighter than it was as I have not been in a courtroom for a while. I write constantly and continue to evaluate ideas. I’ve been lucky because I’ve never experienced writers’ block. Maybe that’s because I suffer from lawyer’s disease and probably like to listen to myself talk so I have no need to become blocked.
I’m also an ex-law professor and frequently get contacted by ex-students who are now lawyers to opine on cases or answer questions about admissibility of evidence. I still get ideas for books by reviewing potential legal cases.
- What is your most interesting writing quirk?
I have two major quirks. First, I still keep a flashlight, pen & legal pad next to bed so I won’t wake up my wife when an idea won’t let me sleep. I’m trying to upgrade from pen and legal pad to using my I-pad but old habits die hard.
Also, I love to eavesdrop on conversations in public places to see exactly how people interact in certain situations. Then, I try to turn that dialogue from the way people actually speak, to the way most people wish they could speak in a pre-designated situation, because most of us like to relive situations where we wish we could have said something in a different way.
- What do you think are the elements of a good story?
I believe the key is character development. The characters need to stand out and the reader needs to care about what happens to the characters they admire while hoping the characters they detest get their just due.
- What common traps do aspiring writers fall into?
I believe the biggest trap is trying to be and/or write like someone else. John Grisham and Scott Turow are both lawyers but I do not want to write or analyze like they do. Our experiences seem to be vastly different and while they are great writers, I want my own distinctive style even though our legal backgrounds serve as a common denominator.
I also believe that many writers fail to do the proper research in areas unfamiliar to them. By proper research, I mean that in addition to understanding how the mechanics of a particular undertaking work, a writer needs to know how a character would likely react to such a particular situation, and especially how a character would react if that situation did not progress as planned. That might give a reader the insight he/she is looking for in a story.
- Do you view fellow authors as competitors, allies or is there some combination of the two? Why?
I think of fellow authors as inspiration. The best compliment I can give someone is to say after I read a passage, “I wish I would have written that!”
- What writing advice have you found to be the most useful? (Book, blog, etc.)
There are two pieces of advice I find particularly useful. First, tell the story to engage the reader. I hate it when someone says a book they just read really picked up after the first 95 pages. To me, that’s a complete waste of 94 pages.
Second, show don’t tell what the characters, see, touch, taste, hear and feel to get the reader involved and feeling like they are immersed in the scene. That’s also a way to develop the character arc we hear so much about.
With regard to the worst writing advice I ever got, it was to listen to and put my faith into agents and editors. I have been represented by agents without getting a publishing deal. When I finally went out on my own, I had two books traditionally published almost immediately. Please do not misunderstand, agents and editors certainly have important roles and can be a great asset. Unfortunately, like lawyers and doctors, too many of them think they are infallible and give specious advice about areas in which they have no training or experience.
I once pitched the story of two ex-football players who became law partners and had an agent huffily declare: “no football player was smart enough to go to law school, let alone two”. I told him I would instantly notify ex-Miami Dolphin Nick Buoniconti, attorney and former CEO at U.S. Tobacco, and ex-Minnesota Viking Alan Page, a Supreme Court Justice in Minnesota.
Also, I once had an editor tell me my scene involving a lawyer and potential client was not realistic. I told her my decades of trying cases, thousands of depositions, and numerous time-crawling-by-waiting-for-a-jury to deliver their verdict said she was vastly misinformed as well as completely off base.
Again, please do not misunderstand. I certainly do not know everything and am willing to take advice from anyone. All I ask is that the advisor show me precisely why my way is deficient and substantiate how they arrived at their solution.
- What comes first in your writing, the plot or the characters?
Characters are first. I believe that the only reason a reader cares what happens to the characters is because they stand out. Every character is someone who reminds the reader of a person they have probably known. That lets the reader become involved with how the characters will react to outside forces.
Labels with social media icons. Concept. 3d
- How effective do you think social media is for authors? How should it be used?
I believe social media is over-emphasized for book promotion. I believe quality reviews are the best way to spread the word about a book. Social media can be a place to experiment because it is cost-effective. I use social media to promote my books by determining what kind of advertising gets the most results. Again, I believe it is vital to engage the reader.
I use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and to a lesser extent, Linked In. I also think it is important to find a niche and fill it. For example, with regard to my book about country music, I often present puns about country songs by historical figures in the hope that the reader can identify. I love parody country songs, like my favorite from Rodney Crowell and Vince Gill, ‘It’s Hard to Kiss The Lips At Night That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long’, or the blockbuster from Shel Silverstein, ‘Lord, Ain’t It Hard When It Ain’t’.
Those offerings helped me create some of the song titles in my book, like ‘Your Love Was Priceless, My Lawyer Was Seven Hundred An Hour’ or ‘The Kindness of Strangers Led Me To A Week On Penicillin’.
- Do you write in only a single genre? If so, what genre? If not, what genres?
I was fortunate to have two books traditionally published last year. One is a romantic comedy: “Whispers From The Silence” Amazon: https://goo.gl/EVvYQZ the story of two songwriters who fall in love in Nashville.
The other is a medical/legal thriller: “Unexpected Enemy” Amazon: https://goo.gl/joxZLH the story of a woman who gets a mysterious stranger’s sperm at an infertility clinic.
One of the biggest reasons I wrote my first book about country music is that it is loosely based on the time I shut down my law practice and went to Nashville to write songs. Unfortunately, my big break never broke and I learned I would always be a songwriter trapped in a lawyer’s body. The other reason is that I was told it is unusual for a guy to write romance.
My second book is a product of my career representing victims with catastrophic injuries in medical malpractice, defective products or wrongful death cases. That story is dedicated to all of those clients I was unable to help because the law or the facts were against us.
- What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Music is still my main hobby. I am an ex-professional musician but have not played in public for years. Lately, I teach guitar to my neighbor’s teenage daughters. Naturally, there is a musical, as well as age, gap as they refer to my music as “Civil War Campfire Songs”.
I love to watch their reaction when I slip in Springsteen, Chuck Berry, John Fogerty, Sam Cooke, Temptations, Willie Nelson or Eagles songs.
Still, despite the age difference, it gives me the opportunity to show them how music changes while often staying the same. For example, they love country singer Taylor Swift and her hit “Stay, Stay, Stay” is one of their favorites. I put together a cover of that song while alternating the lyrics from Maurice Williams and his hit song from the 1960’s “Stay”. It was a great way to confirm my theory that music is a universal language, and it keeps being recycled through the years.
Maybe that’s the biggest reason I love country music. Today’s country is an extension of 1950’s and 60’s rock and roll. For example, listen to Garth Brooks’ mega-hit, “Ain’t Goin’ Down Till The Sun Comes Up” and try not to think of Chuck Berry or Don Felder and Joe Walsh of the Eagles playing lead guitar.
Music is the reason why I want my favorite song lyric from legend Leonard Cohen on my tombstone: “Like a bird on the wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free.
Tim Cagle is a practicing trial attorney in the fields of Medical Malpractice, Products Liability, and Wrongful Death/Personal Injury law. He has also served as co-counsel to other trial lawyers by conducting the cross examination of adverse expert witnesses during trials.
In addition, he was a law professor and taught courses in Torts, Evidence, Medical Malpractice and Negotiations. He is admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, State of Missouri, before the Federal District Court in Boston, and has been admitted pro hac vice for the trial of cases in the State of New Hampshire, the State of Rhode Island, and before the Federal District Court in the State of New Jersey.
He received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Kansas State College and a Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree from Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts.
His memberships have included the American Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar, Academy of Trial Attorneys, Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, Nashville Songwriters Association, American Legion, Boston Pacemaker Club and Sigma Chi Alumni Association. He served as a First Lieutenant in the United States Army, was assigned to Military Intelligence and was honorably discharged.
After playing college football, he served as an assistant high school football coach. He has written over three hundred and fifty songs, played professionally in groups and as a single performer and spent time in Nashville as a songwriter. He is also the author of Whispers From The Silence, a novel based on his experiences writing songs and his career as a singer/songwriter. It was released in June, 2017. His second novel, Unexpected Enemy (Ultimate Revenge), a medical/legal thriller and the story of a woman who receives a mysterious stranger’s sperm at an infertility clinic, was released in December, 2017.
His biggest regret in life is that he did not spend more time concentrating on guitar riffs, lyrical hooks and finger-popping melodies, and less time learning about when to blitz if the guards pull on third and long, blistering cross-examination techniques and expert witness fee schedules.
Find Tim’s Books:
Whispers From The Silence Amazon: https://goo.gl/EVvYQZ the story of two songwriters who fall in love in Nashville…
Unexpected Enemy Amazon: https://goo.gl/joxZLH the story of a woman who gets a mysterious stranger’s sperm at an infertility clinic…
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