Monday, January 23, 2012

Writing Urban Fiction Legal Thriller Novels: Author Chris Shella

Chris ShellaI always enjoy finding new authors and am delighted when I can introduce them to y’all as well. Today I’d like to welcome author Chris Shella, who’s latest release - REASONABLE FACSIMILE - is a legal thriller.

Here’s a brief description of REASONABLE FACSIMILE: Can Jasper Davis pull himself from his life of loose women, liquor, and general debauchery in enough time to win a murder case and possibly save his own hide? 

Jasper Davis is a criminal trial lawyer in Baltimore who has slowly but surely become like the drug dealers and lowlifes he represents. He spends more time with hookers than clients and more time drinking Jack Daniels than studying the law books. Simply put. he is a shade of his former self. 

In REASONABLE FACSIMILE, Jasper is in the middle of a first degree murder trial when he becomes the suspect in the murder of a DEA agent who was set to testify against his client. Jasper is so far gone on women and liquor he sees his trial skills deteriorate right before his eyes. Jasper is confronted by the situation is he gonna continue to be a reasonable facsimile of a human being or is he gonna become the man he once was.

Chris joins us to talk about writing urban fiction legal thriller novels.

There are a few keys to writing this type of book.

First and foremost, your book must be true to contemporary urban culture. If your characters are offensive and unrealistic you will offend your reader and they won’t buy your book. IF you are talking about music and you reference hot new music as say the Fat Boys, readers will not buy your book. You have to respect your readers. 

Reasonable-Facsimile2Urban fiction readers buy scads of books, but if you insult them you will never take part in the prosperity that writing has bought to several authors in this genre. Know your audience and respect their culture and tastes.

The second key to writing an urban fiction legal thriller is that you have to know something about the legal system and put that in your book. I cannot tell you how many books, by some of the most famous authors in the world I have thrown down in disgust because they are so wrong on the law and how the criminal justice system works. Legal thrillers work only when they have a basis in reality and how the law operates. 

Now you don’t have to be a lawyer for this to be in your story. All you have to do is to sit in a courtroom anywhere in the country and watch cases (pleas and trials)for about a month and you will be surprised how much legal jargon and how much of the legal process you will pick up that way. 

DO NOT,I repeat DO NOT watch movies like “The Firm” or “Legal Eagles”. They are Hollywood’s idea of trial work. If you want Hollywood’s idea of trial work you might as well make the Judge an elf and the prosecutor a demon. It will have just as much of a basis in reality as that stuff does. 

So if you truly want to write a legal thriller, you have to have more than a protagonist who is a lawyer. You have to insert legal work into the book, which should be easy since you have spent a month in a courthouse observing how lawyers work. People are always curious about the lawyers and law and if you put that element in your book you already have quite a few readers hooked.

Lastly, the most important key to writing an Urban Fiction Legal thriller is sitting your butt in a chair and actually writing. You can read all the books in the world about how to be a writer but you will never be one until you are one. Sit at a computer or put pen to paper but you just have to do it.

Writing isn’t easy and can be very daunting. But just realize no one is going to shoot you or put you in jail if they don’t like your writing, but no one will ever like your work if you never create it. Pull the trigger.

Chris, thanks for guest blogging. The law is fascinating and anyone who has ever been around a courtroom can definitely spot an author who hasn’t done their research.

Now for a little background on Chris. He is a graduate of Morehouse College and the University of Texas Law School and started his legal career in Long Island, New York at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. He is admitted to the practice of law in New York, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and North Carolina. 

Chris is also admitted to the federal court in the Eastern District of North Carolina, the Middle District of North Carolina, U.S. District of Columbia, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, the Eastern District of New York, and the Southern District of New York. He is also admitted to the Bar Of The United States Supreme Court. 

Chris and his cases have been covered on Court TV, CNN, and in the New York Times, and other media outlets across the globe. He has represented everyone from lawyers to major drug traffickers to a serial killer in Baltimore. His two most famous case are the Vegan Baby Case and his defense of the Duke Lacrosse Case accuser for the alleged murder of her boyfriend.

Chris now resides in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife and son. For more on Christ and his writing, visit his website at He can also find him on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

REASONABLE FACSIMILE is available at Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Lulu, and Borders.

Here’s the book trailer for REASONABLE FACSIMILE and more, click here.

Do you enjoy legal thrillers? When reading legal thrillers do you want a good bit of the law included or had you rather the author skim over it? Thanks so much for stopping by.


  1. Mason - Thanks for hosting Chris.

    Chris - I could not agree with you more about the need to respect one's readers. It doesn't matter what genre or sub-genre one writes, if one doesn't treat one's readers with respect, they will not read. It's that simple. And yes, doing the research and getting the facts right is also important. I wish you much success.

  2. Chris, thanks again for guest blogging. Your information here is very informative for someone writing about the law. Wishing you much success.

  3. Margot, you are right about the respect applying to any sub-genre, no matter the subject.

  4. Sounds like what one has to do for most books - research and writing!

  5. Great information, Chris. I think respecting one's readers is very smart. We can write whatever we want. This doesn't mean we'll have readers.

  6. Great advice for learning about the legal system. Don't insult your readers is also a gem.

  7. Chris, congratulations on your book. You are so right about writing urban fiction. I have a classroom of urban students and do not EVEN attempt to talk down to them or in any way deny anything they say or you will lose them. They are avid readers (which most people don't know) and are quite knowledgeable about the law. I'm glad to see this genre!

  8. Good tips to know your readers, respect them, and do the research.

    Hi, Mason.

  9. Respecting readers is great advice for any genre. There's a lot to keep authentic for urban fiction--kind of reminds me of historical fiction!

  10. Greetings from the UK - just dropped in by pure chance. As a recently published debut novelist in this field (Hatred, Ridicule & Contempt via Kindle Direct last November), can I just echo Chris Shella's three points and add one more, namely how sensible it is to avoid a poor ending. In a trial or conflict setting of any kind, there will need to be a winner and a loser, and up to a point the reader will probably be able to anticipate whether it will be the good guys or the bad guys. But if the result can be delivered unexpectedly, so much the better.

    (I'd be only too pleased to contribute further if you'd like me to.)


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