Thrilled to be hosting thriller great Joe Finder today! I’ve loved Joe’s books forever and know him as a generous member of the crime fiction community, utterly brilliant, and all-around nice guy (he and my husband taught together, once upon a time). His latest, Judgment, (on sale tomorrow) has gotten great advance praise from, of all people, Stephen King! Cannot wait for this one…

How does a book start for you? 

With an itch.  A what-if.  A complication. The grain of sand in the oyster’s shell. What if an up-and-coming judge had a one night stand and found herself blackmailed — what would she do? The kind of what-if that gets my scalp twitching. . .

Who in your latest book has surprised you most – and why?

There’s a minor character in Judgment — a world-weary, embittered private investigator who my hero, Judge Juliana Brody, hires —named Hersh.  At first I intended Hersh to be little more than a stick figure, a plot-advancing contact of Juliana’s.  But the more scenes I wrote with the two of them, the more I liked Hersh and wondered about his background, why he’s so morose and bitter, is it more than just a personality deficit? And Hersh’s backstory took form.  I really came to like, and admire, the guy a lot. Too bad he didn’t get a book of his own.

When and/or where is your latest book set and is there a story behind that setting?

It’s set in Boston, today.  I set my books in Boston whenever possible, because that’s where I live.   That way, I don’t have to do much location research, and the location research I do — a courthouse in Lowell, a courthouse in downtown Boston — is convenient.

What are you working on now?

I’m writing my fourth Nick Heller thriller.  He’s getting into some really interesting trouble.

Which question didn’t I ask you that I should have?

How do your novels relate to real-world events and concerns?

What a question! That’s impossible to answer.  

The relationship between an era and the fiction it spawns is complicated.  For instance, the best Cold War thrillers didn’t content themselves with a simple us vs. them dynamic.  Maybe the plot involved manipulative factions on both sides, as you’d find in John le Carre.  But in the end, though, every story is about characters, characters with conflicts and characters in conflict.  It’s great when novelists can explore and illuminate current issues, the way Jodi Picoult regularly does, but the characters are ultimately why the reader sticks around.  And I found Judge Juliana Brody to be a really interesting character to hang out with.

Joseph Finder is the New York Times bestselling author of fourteen previous suspense novels, including THE SWITCH, a stand-alone thriller, and GUILTY MINDS, the third to feature “private spy” Nick Heller. Joe’s novels HIGH CRIMES (1998) and PARANOIA (2004) have been adapted as major motion pictures.A founding member of the International Thriller Writers, Joe is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.