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A Lawyer Who's a Nice Guy?
C'mon!
An Interview with William Bernhardt
 
by Robert L. Hall
© 2000, All Rights Reserved
William Bernhardt is the author of thirteen books which have sold millions of copies worldwide, including is bestselling series of courtroom novels featuring attorney Ben Kincaid (Primary Justice, Blind Justice, Deadly Justice, Perfect Justice, Cruel Justice, Naked Justice, Extreme Justice, Dark Justice, and Silent Justice)

Honestly!  William Bernhardt and his creation, Ben Kincaid (the protagonist in his nine-book ‘Justice’ series) have something in common: they are both lawyers and nice guys!

The author obtained his law degree at the University of Oklahoma College of Law and worked as a trial lawyer at a large law firm for nine years and was repeatedly recognized for his pro bono work. He lives in Tulsa with wife, Kirsten and children, Harry and Alice.

The fictional lawyer-Ben Kincaid-was born from Bernhardt’s mind, as he has stated it:

“. . . it occurred to me that I had just been through this whole law school/law firm experience, sometimes bizarre, sometimes disillusioning.  Maybe I could write about that.  This was the genesis of Ben Kincaid, who in the first novel has graduated from law school, moved to Tulsa, and joined a big firm-just like me. . . When I created Ben, I tried not so much to create someone like me as to create someone whom I would like-figuring that if I liked him perhaps others would too.  In many ways, particularly with his strong sense of what’s right and his dogged pursuit of justice, Ben is an ideal to which I can aspire.”

Recently, I had the opportunity to pose several questions to him about his work:

Scribe: To what do you attribute your ‘Justice’ series success, (besides fantastic writing?)

Bill: My readers love the characters.  That’s what I read in my e-mail.  They like Ben Kincaid and care about him and his friends and are interested to see what happens to them next.  Rather than leaving the characters in the same place from book to book, I’ve allowed them to grow and mature over time. Ben Kincaid in Silent Justice is not the same person he was nine books ago in Primary Justice-but then, who is?  We all change over time, and I enjoy letting that happen in my series, and the readers seem intrigued to know what lies in the future for these people.

Scribe: You outline extensively, but does anything happen to turn your books around? 

Bill:  You can outline to your heart’s content, but I can promise there will still be major changes when you sit down and actually try to write it. Even the best outline can only take you so far.  You learn new things, are surprised, rethink passages when you actually write them.  And thank goodness-wouldn’t this be a boring job otherwise? 

Scribe: Everyone has authors that they admire, usually from childhood. Who do you admire?

Bill: Ray Bradbury, whose breathtaking originality and prose mastery made a strong impact on me at an early age.

Scribe: Do you ever cross genres?  What can you say about your current book projects?

Bill: I’m interested in all kinds of books, and have written and published other kinds of books.  I have a children’s book and a young adult book in the works now, although when they might be completed, I have no idea.

Scribe:  When do you stop editing a novel and say “enough is enough?”

Bill: There’s no real answer to this question.  I just know.  I revise a lot, but when I’m finished, I quit.

Scribe:  Tell us about Tulsa where your novels are set.

Bill: (slipping in the vernacular) Tulsa is not a cowboy town, not even close.  If you think it is, you ain’t been there.  It also isn’t flat, just to run through another Oklahoma stereotype.

Scribe: Do you ever go back to the courtroom to “get your hands dirty” and pick up things to use in your books?

Bill: Sometimes I visit, just to stay fresh and informed (though more often I talk to my still-lawyer friends).

Scribe: You play the piano, work crossword puzzles and are a family man to the bone-all good interests to draw from when writing.  What experiences would you recommend for writers to become involved in?

Bill: Do what you love!  That’s what you’ll write best about.

Scribe: You are appearing at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, TN. On Oct. 13-14 and the Texas Book Festival, Houston, TX. Nov. 10-11?

Bill:  I’ll be there as Publisher of HAWK Publishing rather than as an author.  I probably will be signing, but I don’t know any details as yet.  I’ll be at the Celebration of Books festival in Tulsa at the end of September, and will definitely be signing and speaking there.

Scribe: Speaking of HAWK, tell us about it.

Bill: HAWK was started because I felt a need for alternative publishers who could focus on regional titles and topics.  And part of the reason was the simple knowledge that there were a lot of great books out there that weren’t getting published or weren’t staying in print.  HAWK Publishing is up and running.  The first three books have been very well received, and we have more than fifteen books lined up for the year 2000.  The website is up too at www.hawkpub.com.

Scribe:  Lastly, what advice can you give to others who write to publish as you do?

Bill: There’s more that needs to be said in answer to this question than I can possibly do here, so I’ll just leave it at this:  Keep writing.  The more you do it, the better you’ll get.  And don’t give up!


Check out his website at: www.williambernhardt.com

Or e-mail him at: wb@williambernhardt.com 


THE NOVELS OF WILLIAM BERNHARDT

Silent Justice - (Ballantine –February,2000)- hardcover

Dark Justice - (Ballantine- January 1999) –hardcover & softcover

Extreme Justice - (Fawcett Gold Medal – February,1998)-hardcover& softcover

Naked Justice - (Ballantine - February 1997)-hardcover& paperback

Cruel Justice - (Ballantine - January 1996) – hardcover& paperback

Double Jeopardy - (Ballantine - March 1995) – hardcover & paperback

Perfect Justice - (Ballantine - January 1994)- hardcover & paperback

Deadly Justice - (Ballantine - June 1993) - paperback

Blind Justice - (Ballantine – October 1992) - paperback

Primary Justice - (Ballantine - January 1992)- paperback

The Midnight Before Christmas - (Ballantine 1998) - hardcover & softcover

The Code of Buddyhood - (HAWK Publishing Group - October 1999) trade paperback

Edited by William Bernhardt:

Legal Briefs: Stories By Today’s Best Thriller Writers (Doubleday - May 1998)hardcover & softcover

Robert L. Hall, raised in and currently living outside Memphis, TN, writes crime mysteries and tales of a youth with adventures in horsemanship. His books are Mid-South based.  Mr. Hall also is a contributing writer for the on-line journal, When Falls the Coliseum , a self-described “Journal of American Culture (or the lack thereof)” at http://www.wfthecoliseum.com .

A trained musician with a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Memphis and Master of Music degree from Florida State University, he is staff pianist at Trinity Baptist Church in West Memphis and has taught music courses at three institutions of higher learning.  

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