Interview with Seeley James, Author of 'The Rembrandt Decision: A Pia Sabel Mystery'

 May 30, 2022

I was privileged to invite Author Seeley James for an interview to discuss his latest book The Rembrandt Decision: A Pia Sabel Mystery, and the inspiration behind it. Enjoy!

What's your book about, and what inspired you to write it?

'The Rembrandt Decision: A Pia Sabel Mystery' is a murder mystery with a touch of psychological thriller and references to ancient literature. The murder of a small-town drunk exposes long held secrets and family trauma. Visiting industrialist Pia Sabel quickly determines the town’s police chief will never believe who the murderer is and sets out to show him, clue by clue. The problems her investigation uncovers range from community and family inclusion and adoption to racism and dealing with unintended biases. Her revelations lead to a shocking conclusion not just about whodunit but why. And that brings the story full circle for the reader.

What inspired me to write this (my fourteenth novel) was my adoption history. When I was nineteen, I adopted a three-year-old girl and raised her. (For details, visit .) We faced many struggles and challenges but overcame a good deal and managed to survive. I wanted to express the challenges of alternatives to nuclear families. The feedback, reviews, and critics tell me I managed to convey a new and interesting look at family, loyalties, race, and blood lines.

Who is your target audience, and why do you think this book will appeal to them?

Because it's primarily a mystery, starting off with a dead body in the classic murder-mystery vein, it has a very wide audience. I sneak in the literary issues of inclusion, family values, unintentional racism, privilege and so on, so as not to scare off the masses.

This book appeals to a wide, general audience because it provokes thought without preaching. It demonstrates small incidents in one person's life that have a large impact on someone else. Fan mail tells me people have discovered tidbits of personal growth buried in different parts. There's something for everyone.

What message do you wish to pass across to your readers with this book?

We are all in this together. The Golden Rule means we respect and help others without reservation.

Regardless of where we come from, who we think we are, who we called Mom, we are all related.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

There was one discussion between two adults who were adopted as children. There are many facets to adoption, many scars, many inherent psychological issues, and writing a dialogue that represented the triumphs and tragedies properly took days.

As a writer, is there anything you've learned about yourself while writing this book?

Great question. I tend to tear myself open to write every book. It's become a form of therapy. In this one, I re-learned something from long ago. When my adopted daughter was in her teens and struggling with abandonment issues, I had a moment of clarity about what empathy really means. In that moment, I knew inside my skin, exactly what it felt like to be her and wonder why my parents weren't there. Writing this brought back that deep sorrow and the common parental desire to make all that pain and anguish go away -- while knowing fixing it is impossible.

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books, and why?  

Hard cover books are the only books! I love them, the smell, the feel, the weight. BUT, I read ebooks because I can steal ... I mean, I can highlight great passages and export them for later study. For really great books, like "Their Eyes were Watching God", or "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" I buy both.

However, I hike mountains for an hour+ every day, so I listen to audiobooks. Because it isn't a good platform for deep subjects (I space out from time to time), I listen to things like romance novels, or classics like Jane Austen, Arthur Conan Doyle.

What is your niche genre, and if you were to write in a different genre, what would it be?

I have two niches: International Thrillers and Murder Mysteries. The former allows me to spin spy-novel yarns on an emotional rollercoaster about global conspiracies while the latter allows small town exposes about relationships and people in a cerebral engaging context.

I have a dystopian series in the back of my head that I'd like to find time to explore. It's not a total-reboot-of-civilization scenario, though. It fits in that period of time where Climate Change has wrought havoc on civilization but not total destruction. In this scenario, drought and floods have destroyed our ability to support 8 billion people. In the new changed world, only about 2 billion can survive ...

What books and authors have most influenced you?

So many ... hmmm. Ken Follett, Attica Locke, James Patterson, Lee Child, Agatha Christie, SA Cosby, John le Carre for the last century. But more important were the ancients: Shakespeare, Sophocles, Plato, Tacitus.

Do you have any more books in the works?

Absolutely. I'm halfway through Act I of my next book with plans for another after that. I don't have ADD except when I'm thinking about the books I want to write. I'm constantly jotting notes for 2-3 books down the line. (When I get there, the notes are useless as the story has evolved but they are part of the process.)

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Yes and no. I read some of them and skim most. I glean what I can no matter what the reviewer thought.

Some bad reviews have interesting points. I've stopped writing "gun porn" describing every detail of a weapon that is common in some bestsellers because of a bad review. It wasn't that the person made a good point, but rather that I realized: I don't care for it either, so why bother? That was many books ago and I don't miss it.

Other bad reviews are subjective and so I move on as if walking over a blade of grass. Other bad reviews are funny, "I didn't read it, so I gave it one star." Great, thanks.

One odd experience was a reviewer who thought I was making fun of a certain president and gave me one star, advising others why and that they should avoid my book. About five people commented they were buying it because of his review. There is no end to unintended consequences.

Mention 3-5 fast/fun facts about you that you'd like to share:

1) Because of my teenaged adoption, I now have three children aged 49, 25, and 22. Three grandchildren aged 29, 25, and 18. And two great-grandchildren 9 and 4. Mixed-age, mixed-race, mixed-up, and happy. I think.

2) I'm 66 and hike the Grand Canyon (17 miles, 9,000 vertical feet) several times a year. I hike a nearby mountain every day and challenge anyone under 50 to keep up. (Many do, my speedy days are waaayy behind me.)

3) I wanted to be a Christian writer, but my snarky, cynical sense of humor would get me burned at the stake. (It's true they don't do that anymore, but the crowd at my church are looking for an excuse to make an exception.) So, I afflicted my main character with PTSD-induced schizophrenia: he sees and interacts with Mercury, the down-on-his-luck Roman god. Mercury's morals and ideas don't fit in modern times but allow for hilarious theological discussions and comparisons.

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Seeley James' near-death experiences range from talking a jealous husband into putting the gun down to spinning out on an icy freeway in heavy traffic without touching anything. His resume ranges from washing dishes to global technology management. His personal life ranges from homeless at 17, adopting a 3-year-old at 19, getting married at 37, fathering his last child at 43, hiking the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim at 59, and taking the occasional nap.

His writing career ranges from humble beginnings with short stories in The Battered Suitcase, to being awarded a Medallion from the Book Readers Appreciation Group. Seeley is best known for his Sabel Security series of thrillers featuring athlete and heiress Pia Sabel and her bodyguard, veteran Jacob Stearne. One of them kicks ass and the other talks to the wrong god.

His love of creativity began at an early age, growing up at Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture in Arizona and Wisconsin. He carried his imagination first into a successful career in sales and marketing, and then to his real love: fiction.

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