Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Release Feature 11-8 The Trial of Fallen Angels + Q&A w/James Kimmel Jr.

Q&A with author
James Kimmel, Jr.

James, welcome to the B& General Fiction forum.
Can you tell us about your novel?
JK: First, thank you for hosting this forum and inviting me. I love to interact with readers. My novel, The Trial of Fallen Angels, is a spiritual thriller about a young lawyer named Brek Cuttler who dies unexpectedly but, in the afterlife, doesn’t remember how or why she died. While trying to solve the mystery of her own death, she learns that she has been chosen to join the elite team of lawyers who prosecute and defend souls at the Final Judgment—many of whom, it turns out, have a connection to her life. In the process of presenting cases in a courtroom of eternity, Brek learns the terrible secret of her death and must reconcile the conflicting desire for justice with the inconceivable possibility of forgiveness.   

This is your first work of fiction, but not your first book.
How different was writing The Trial of Fallen Angels from writing Suing For Peace?
JK: I actually wrote the initial drafts of The Trial of Fallen Angels long before I wrote Suing for Peace. In today’s book market, nonfiction is easier to get published than fiction, so Suing for Peace was published first.  The process of writing the two books was entirely different.  Fiction is subtle and, if done well, a form of art. It requires a great deal of time, reflection, and inspiration. So much goes into conceiving characters, plot, and another complete world. Much effort also goes into phrasing, metaphors, and word choice to evoke emotions and ideas subconsciously in the mind of the reader.  The Trial of Fallen Angels took me a decade to finish.  I poured my soul into it.  On the other hand, Suing for Peace took me a little more than two weeks to complete.  They were an intense two weeks, and I poured my soul into that book as well; but I was not occupied with creating new characters and describing new worlds. Nor was I trying to be subtle. My task was more straightforward: to set forth a series of observations and a philosophy.  To be fair, though, I could not have written Suing for Peace so quickly without having first written The Trial of Fallen AngelsSuing for Peace contains a statement of the conflict and philosophy that plays out in the novel.  They are, in a sense, companions.    

Along those same lines, was this release day any different from your first?
JK: I don’t think so, actually. Suing for Peace was published by a smaller publisher (Hampton Roads) with few resources and reached a smaller audience. But as a nonfiction book, the media seemed to regard it as somewhat newsworthy and were interested in doing interviews.  The Trial of Fallen Angels is being published by an enormous publisher (Penguin/Putnam) and is being translated and published on 5 different continents. But despite the greater expanse of the publishing effort, the media interest seems less so far.  I think this is because fiction is generally not regarded as newsworthy on its own—unless the person writing it is a celebrity of some sort.  So, release day for both books feels about the same.  For me, it is a quiet time to stand back and reflect—and to feel gratitude for all the people who worked so hard to help bring the book to the public. A single author’s name appears on a book, but there are hundreds of people behind it who helped make the words manifest.  Release day is also a time to think about all those who will read the book and to hope that they will accept what has been gifted.

What led to your becoming a novelist?
JK: I fell in love with writing in high school. I remember feeling psychically broken and reborn when I first started reading literature. What the great books could do to the heart and soul of a person while sitting in perfect stillness scanning a piece of paper was a powerful revelation. I was never interested in books that did nothing more than tell a great story. The novelists that affected me, that made me weep with joy, were using great stories to tell us something vital about the human condition, something that we needed to hear, sometimes to secure our happiness, sometimes to secure our very survival. I wanted to be able to have that effect on people. And over tie I believed I had something important to say.  I also found that I loved the process of writing, the challenge, the puzzle, the stillness, the power to create characters and worlds, the delight of discovering the perfect word or phrase.  Nothing I do as a vocation brings me as much joy as writing. I also find it to be a way into the soul, a path of self-discovery and Oneness with God.

Are you planning another novel?
JK: Yes, I am at work on a trilogy actually—a spiritual thriller that begins with the scientific discovery of the human soul. More soon!

Do you still actively practice law?
JK: Yes, but I do so now primarily as general counsel to a company I co-founded called Peerstar LLC that provides mental health peer support services to individuals with serious mental illness.  In addition to serving as general counsel and Executive Vice President of the company, I am the Director of Forensic Services. In that capacity, I collaborated with the Yale University School of Medicine to develop a forensic peer support program for individuals suffering from serious mental illness in the criminal justice system.

According to your website, you are the co-founder of Peerstar LLC. Tell us about the organization and what led to your co-founding it?
JK: I was drawn to forensic peer support services by the idea that individuals can recover from serious mental illness and the stigma of having a criminal history when supported by peers who have had similar experiences and recovered from them. This type of mental health recovery program, which has strong scientific evidence backing it, fits well with other research and work I had been doing into why people commit acts of violence. I have come to the conclusion that justice-seeking in the form of revenge is the primary cause of intentionally inflicted human suffering and violence—from bullies on playgrounds and thugs on street corners to acts of terrorism, torture, and war. A growing number of brain imaging studies are showing that the same area of the brain that activates when people crave chocolates, narcotics, and sex also activities when we feel wronged by somebody and want justice.  This suggests that justice-seeking may for some people become an uncontrollable compulsive disorder akin to addiction. A key to reducing rates of violence might be to begin to identify these people and help them. I have developed a nine-step self-help program that combines law and spirituality called “The Nonjustice System” to do this.  This is discussed at length in my book Suing for Peace. Forensic peer support is a way of reaching out to help individuals struggling with mental illness and this compulsive justice-seeking behavior.  

James, thank you for taking time out to let us get to know you and your new novel a bit better. Good luck!

Buy the book here visit the author's website here


  1. This one is new to me. The concept sounds great! I really enjoyed the post.

    1. Thanks for the comment. The book's on my shelf just waiting until I have time to read it.