Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Justice Game

Today I'm pleased to feature The Justice Game, the latest novel by
Randy Singer. (I think of Randy as the John Grisham of CBA.) Randy came up with an innovative marketing tool for The Justice Game, a story that dramatically presents both sides of the gun debate through a civil law suit. He made a video that views like a real newscast covering the story, showing the attorneys' closing arguments in the case. Viewers/readers were then asked to register how they would vote if they were on the jury. The side receiving the most votes became the side that wins in the book.

Randy is a great guy as well as a great novelist. I was recently with him at the ChiLibris retreat/ICRS. Randy was nominated for a Christy this year in the suspense category for his 2008 novel By Reason of Insanity. He won the Christy a few years back for Directed Verdict.

I had a few questions for Randy about The Justice Game:

1. Okay, inquiring minds want to know. How did you do this marketing video logistically? The trailer came out the first week in January. Yet you say you wrote the ending based on voting results from the trailer. Did you already have both endings written? Did you have a preference for one of the two endings?

Yeah, it made things a little crazy with my publisher for a few months. The trailer came out on January 8, 2009. I kept voting open until March 11, 2009. My final edits went to the publisher on April 10, 2009 which, as you know, is extremely tight when you have a release date of July 1, 2009.

I outlined both endings and was comfortable with either one. I wrote the Advanced Read Copy with the ending in mind that I predicted readers might adopt. Those ARCs went out sometime in January, I believe, but we tried to make it clear to everyone that we reserved the right to change the ending. I began drafting the second ending to the point I was comfortable with it but never completed that work because the early results came back about 60/40 in favor of the ending that I already written. I started fine-tuning that ending and fortunately, those results held up. Otherwise, we would have made a hectic last-minute substitution and my publisher would have hated me forever. :)

2. As you say at the beginning of the book, "this one is personal" due to an experience in your past. Yet you managed to present both sides of the gun debate brilliantly. Was this hard for you to do?

In many ways, The Justice Game was my hardest book to write for two reasons. The first is as you mentioned--I'm extremely close to this story. Here's what I saw in my Author’s Note at the beginning:

On December 16, 1988, a sixteen-year-old student named Nicholas Elliot took a Mac-11 assault weapon to Atlantic Shores Christian School and opened fire. He shot and killed a teacher named Karen Farley, wounded an assistant principal, and burst into a trailer where a Bible class was meeting. When he opened fire on the students who had scrambled to the back corner of the trailer, frantically praying, the gun jammed. The Bible teacher, Hutch Matteson, tackled Elliot and prevented the kind of tragedy that hit Columbine High School in Colorado several years later.

Atlantic Shores was the school where my wife taught. The school my kids attended (though they were not there that day). When I learned that Elliot had purchased the gun illegally from a gun store in Isle of Wight County (through a transaction referred to as a “straw purchase transaction”), I ended up representing the family of Karen Farley in an unprecedented lawsuit against that gun store. The verdict shocked everyone.

That was fifteen years ago—my baptism by fire into the national gun debate.

That past experience both helped and hurt when it came time to write The Justice Game. It helped for the same reason they tell authors to “write what you know.” I didn’t have to research what a high-profile trial of this type would feel like. I knew the emotions, the substantive issues, the highs and lows. But it was challenging because it made me re-live some painful emotions and because I had to work hard to be fair to both sides of the debate. Which is the other
reason this book was the hardest one for me to write. The gun control debate is highly emotional and there are good people on both sides. I was determined to create compelling characters for both viewpoints. If the endorsements for the book are any indication, I might have succeeded. The book has been endorsed by both Dennis Henigan, Vice-President at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and by Alan Gura, the attorney who represented the gun owners in the most important Second Amendment case the Supreme Court has ever decided (D.C v. Heller).

3. Did your marketing video work well?

It did. I want to thank readers, bloggers and fellow authors for watching the video clip and voting for the verdict at the heart of The Justice Game. It was just plain fun to hear so many strong opinions from so many of you. I hope the book can do the concept justice.

It does. Buy The Justice Game from Amazon here.


C.J. Darlington said...

Randy's a great author! I reviewed The Justice Game if anyone wants to read it to help them decide if the book is for them. Click here.

Sheila Deeth said...

Does sound interesting, and topical. And now I really want to know what happened at the end, though my own viewpoint's colored by growing up in a world where guns were the exception.