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First Circle Club by Alex Siegel
Series: First Circle Club #1
When Virgil is betrayed and murdered, he thinks his days of catching fugitives as a U.S. Marshal are over. He is condemned to an eternity of filing paperwork in the First Circle of Hell. Then a demon lord gives Virgil an unprecedented assignment. He will return to Earth as part of a team: two souls from Heaven and two from Hell. They must stop another damned soul who escaped and is now murdering teenagers on Earth. The serial killer has supernatural skills and is part of a larger conspiracy which is well prepared for a fight. If he is not careful, Virgil could be murdered a second time.
A CONVERSATION WITH ALEX SIEGEL
1) How did you come up with the idea for First Circle Club?
IÂ’ve always been fascinated by what people think about the afterlife. It’s a philosophical river that never runs dry. The premise of First Circle Club is that Dante Alighieri’s epic poem Divine Comedy describes Heaven and Hell as they actually exist. The main characters die and receive final judgement before the novel even begins. They are sent back to Earth in the opening scene to solve a mystery that even angels and demons can’t unravel. A serial killer must be stopped, but that is just the first step in exposing a much deeper conspiracy. The book is a murder mystery, an adventure, and an exploration of religious philosophy. I always try to write stories that have many layers.
2) A lot happens in First Circle Club. What is your approach when writing such a complicated novel?
I’ve been writing for a long time. First Circle Club is actually my nineteenth published novel. Over the years, I’ve learned the key to writing a complex book is working from a strong outline. I make sure I have every major plot point nailed down before I write page 1. I need to know how the book will end before I can begin. A weak outline usually leads to a muddled, confusing book.
Another key is just spending a lot of time thinking about the book. Whenever I’m driving, doing the dishes, or just sitting around, I mentally plot out the next set of scenes. If a new idea occurs to me, I write it down. A good writer is constantly writing even when he seems to be doing nothing at all.
4)Â What inspired you to become a writer?Â
I read countless books when I was young, mostly science fiction and fantasy. As I grew older, I became frustrated by the repetitive, derivative nature of what I was reading. It seemed fresh ideas were few and far between. I was sure I could do better.
A pivotal moment came when I had a life-threatening motorcycle accident at the age of 25. While I was recovering in the hospital, I had plenty of time to think about my life. I decided I wanted to create works that would last beyond my lifetime and make the world a little better. It was time to stop talking about writing and start doing it! That was more than 20 years ago.
5) Tell us a bit about your writing process.
As I stated above, outlining is the key. Having that detailed roadmap in hand can make the journey through a novel much easier. It also greatly reduces the need for time-consuming revisions of finished work. I will generally spend a month on an outline.
An outline usually starts with random notes about what philosophical points I want to make and key scenes I want to write. I go over the notes again and again, filling in details and expanding sections. I create the main characters. The outline grows organically until I feel like I have enough material to write a whole book.
For me, the first draft is the most enjoyable part of the process. I pour words onto the page and worry about cleaning up the mess later. The outline prevents me from making disastrous wrong turns. On average, I write a first draft in six weeks.
The second and third drafts are when I clean up the mess. I read aloud and also use text-to-speech software to make sure I get all the words right. If I read silently, I go too fast and miss things.
Once the book is fairly polished, I hand it off to my editor and other readers in my inner circle. I try to collect a lot of feedback and use as much as I can. I find the more criticism I hear, the more I learn as a writer.
6) What do you find to be the hardest part about writing?
Time is my greatest constraint. I have a full-time job and a family to look after. Every minute I have available for writing must be put to good use. As a result, ancillary activities tend to fall by the wayside. Instead of going out and having fun like a regular person, I sit in my office at night and write. I believe that level of commitment is what it takes to succeed in this crazy business.
The writing process itself is easy for me. I’ve been doing it for so long, it feels natural. Sometimes I get stuck on plot points, but I have close friends I can call. We talk until I figure out the answers.
8) Is First Circle Club the first in a series?
Yes. The sequel, Paradise Hacked, is already written and going through the editing process. I plan to publish in late December. I’ve started writing the third book in the series, Gambling Demons.
I’m not quite sure how long the series will run. Four or five books feels about right at the moment. The reaction I get from fans will guide how far I want to go. I have a general notion of what will happen in the final book.
9) How can readers discover more about you and you work?
My website is www.grayspearsociety.com. You can sign up for my newsletter there and get information about all my books. I’m often available on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GraySpearSociety. On Twitter, I’m @ AlexSiegel_ (note the trailing underscore).