When Art Has Always Been Life:
Interview with Frederick Schofield
By Carin Chea
Frederick Schofield's life is what thrillers aspire to be, and that is not an exaggeration in the least.
The lawyer-turned-author has two novels out, both of which are loosely inspired by Schofield's real-life experiences as legal counsel for sex workers as well as his experiences and run ins with members of the underworld.
You read correctly: Schofield is living proof that life can, indeed, be more riveting than fiction. And, an interview with the author certainly did not disappoint.
Tell our readers a little bit about yourself. How did you get started in writing?
I just have stories to tell, and I think they're good ones.
You currently have two novels out. Tell us about them.
They would fall in the genre of legal thrillers. For four or five years, I represented more sex workers in Atlantic City than any other lawyer.
The Boardwalkers is a murder mystery and takes place over the span of 70 years. It tells the story of an Italian immigrant who comes to Atlantic City, his rise through the mafia to become a boss, and his run-in with a lawyer from Philadelphia.
They put themselves in a position where only one of them can live, and that's the story.
We're dealing with two people at odds. One is a mob coppo who's an Italian immigrant who came here in the 20s. it was a time when the meatball met the meatloaf in the melting pot.
Paul Cameron (the lawyer) and Anthony DeBona (the mob coppo) is actually named the "Quick Fish" because when he took care of people, you knew they wouldn't be swimming back.
Another story, A Run to Hell, involved the mafia murder of Grace Kelly. My father actually grew up next to Grace Kelly in Philadelphia. She married the Prince of Monaco. She was killed in what was said to be an accident.
Two years later, her brother and brother-in-law were investigating her murder, and they were both murdered the same day.
Grace [Kelly] was a tomboy growing up. She was a wild character, but had a persona of a porcelain princess who actually became one. I remember going to her brother's funeral as a kid. Prince Ranier showed up, Princess Stephanie showed up. The press at that time took issue with Princess Stephanie who wore a mini dress that was too short.
We're working on the 2nd edition of A Run to Hell. The first edition came out in 2000. There are two characters that we follow.
Lee Gunther is a Philadelphia lawyer who gets himself in trouble with the Philadelphia mob, forcing him to go down to south Florida. There, he's into trouble, and gets drawn into an operation that's run by the FBI and CIA.
He runs into one of the FBI agents, a Panamanian immigrant named Jamie Callero. She has a tortured background. Jamie and Lee also have a love story. All my stories have romantic links and interests.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
From my real-life experiences, but also the Philadelphia night scene, where many of my clients went and worked.
In A Run to Hell, much of the story takes place in bars where my clients preferred to meet their lawyers. At the time that I was doing this, it was an exciting thing to do. But, it was also frightening.
In the first chapter in A Run to Hell, the protagonist, Lee, meets a client at 3am in the Philadelphia Market area. That's something I actually did. It wasn't unusual.
What do you do about writer's block?
That's something every writer faces. For me, it's an easy fix. I turn off my computer, tell my characters "you're not working hard enough," then return to my keyboard the next day when they're totally engaged.
Do you put a lot of yourself in your work? Are you the lawyer in your books?
I'm always the lawyer in my books.
[Laughing] That's great! What do you want your readers to take away from your books?
I had some wonderful people that I represented over the years. I have a lot more in the back of my mind that I'm holding onto. There are a number of characters who came from real life.
If you look at these people, if you put yourself in their shoes, you'd be able to relate. Even the smaller characters have issues they have to work out, and not just who might kill them or who they have to kill. They have to deal with relationships.
All my stories have characters that have faced trauma, trauma that occurred even before the stories have begun. We see the trauma in backstories and how they began. We'll see how the characters develop, and how if they don't get beyond those problems, they're going to die.
Life and death issues always make for an interesting concept. The characters have to undergo growth - personal, spiritual - they find a way to do that. Lots of characters don't make it. But, the ones who prevail, do.
Who would play your protagonists if your books were made into movies?
I might cast Brad Pitt as the lawyer in both stories. The stories themselves are very visual. They also all happened in my real life. All the writing, I see it as it happens.
In terms of my writing process - I never have to worry about what's going to happen in the stories. I develop the characters and I'll spend months doing this.
I'll write stuff that'll never go into the book, but I know where the story is going generally. Once it starts, the characters take over. They tell their own story. It's like watching TV and typing what happens in front of your eyes.
For more information on Frederick Schofield and his work, please visit https://frederick-schofield.com.
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