Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Mark M. Bello, author ofBetrayal High (A Zachary Blake Legal Thriller, Book 5).
FQ: Your books have touched a variety of subjects that seem to burst into today’s headlines. Can you begin by telling us more about this new book and where the idea first came from?
BELLO: My niece and nephew live in the Parkland School District and I have an apartment in nearby Delray Beach. I was in Florida while the Parkland was happening in real time. My young nephew was in lockdown and everyone was terrified. The shooting hit very close to home and I began to consider these cases. While the book is not based on the Parkland incident, questions began to occupy my thoughts: What are the root causes? How does a kid get these high-octane weapons? Where was security? How will the community cope and what will they do to recover? How long will it take them? How should the legal system respond? I began to research the issue and the result isBetrayal High.
FQ: Coming offBetrayal in Black,another horribly tough subject that is now everywhere with the Black Lives Matter campaign, how difficult was it to move from that directly into this – another subject that’s truly painful?
BELLO: I actually never thought of it like that, but you are absolutely correct—these are very painful issues. However, I consider it my responsibility to write books that challenge us to be better versions of ourselves, more tolerant of people who are different than we are, to stick out our hand in friendship, rather than a AK47 in anger. Because Parkland was kind of personal for me, it was not difficult for me to make the transition. I wanted to tell the story from multiple points of view, demonstrate that good and evil come in many forms, and educate readers about how the legal system can be used as a tool for change and retribution, without resorting to violence or law-breaking. The two novels are similar in that way.
FQ: Is there a subject you won’t touch? And, in addition, is there a genre you, personally, dislike reading?
BELLO: It should be obvious by now that I find inspiration in real life events and how real people respond to them. I don't know that there's a subject I wouldn't touch, as long as it's a good fit for an appropriate legal response. As to genres I dislike, I won't go there—I know from experience how difficult it is to write a full-length novel and I admire all of my fellow authors, regardless of their genre. (I should run for political office, no?)
FQ: With the world in this state of pandemic, do you feel like people will be turning more to books than their TV screens? It’s still a great way to actually get entertainment.
BELLO: Sadly, I don't. I think the vast majority of people would rather "watch the movie" than "read the book." I don't get it; a person gets a day or two's enjoyment from a book and only an hour or two from a movie, but I think we've become a visual society with a short attention span. I challenge your readers to prove me wrong.
FQ: Do you have a specific feeling when it comes to this country giving up our history? (Sometimes for an avid reader like myself, I feel a bit scared that books will become a thing of the past that our kids won’t know anything about.)
BELLO: I'm not that pessimistic. Schools will continue to require reading and reading is an acquired taste. Curling up with a good book will continue to be a joy, even if books have to compete with multiple means of electronic media. I pray you're wrong and I'm right.
FQ: When you look at this series, do you see an ultimate end for Zachary? Are you interested in the future writing something outside of the courtroom/legal genre?
BELLO: I do not have any current plans to retire Zachary; I enjoy writing about the lawyer I wish I had been. I'm not sure I'm talented enough to write out of my legal thriller genre. My novels are the result of 43 years of legal experience and I'm comfortable in that space. I greatly admire creative authors like George R. R. Martin who can write masterpiece series without having experienced anything similar to the genre of their writing. At my age, I don't think I could do that. I will never say never, though.
FQ: Are you already working on the next Zachary book? If so, can you give us an idea of what he’ll be up against next?
BELLO: I recently completed my sixth Zachary Blake novel. It is being edited as I write this.Supreme Betrayalis about a young woman who bravely challenges the nomination of the President's newly selected candidate for a seat on the United States Supreme Court. Why? Because the candidate sexually assaulted her twenty years earlier, and the boy's well connected, wealthy parents covered up the crime. Sound familiar?
FQ: Where can people learn more about you and your writing?