J. Keith Stewart

J. Keith Stewart
Gone Through Hell and Back

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
October 11, 2006

Q.    How did you come about the idea to write Gone Through Hell and Back?

A.    At the conclusion of the novel Killing Me Softly, I felt as if I had not delved enough into the subject matter of identification theft and without telling the novel, all the matters that I decided to cover in Gone Through Hell and Back. For me, the subject matter became a no-brainer.

Q.    How did you come about the title?

A.    The title had been decided upon long before the inception of the novel. I knew that the story would be compelling enough to suggest that these characters would have felt as if they had gone through hell and back. And they did.

Q.    How did you come about Skyye’s character?

A.    I was in Boston, Massachusetts attending a conference with the CIA and the US Department of State and came across a newsstand in Harvard Square. I had been canvassing my brain for a way to open the novel, and there it was on the cover of every newspaper on the stand. I grabbed all the papers, paid the salesman and headed to the beach where I studied the subject matter and figured out a way to incorporate my earlier thoughts with my new thoughts. I walked around with those newspapers for over a year; once the novel was done, the newsprint had turned yellow. I still have that USA Today, to date.

Q.    How did you come about the situation surrounding J. Davis St. John, II and his many aliases?

A.    From a writing style that I picked up from one of my favorite authors, David Baldacci. After three novels, I wanted to grow as a writer; I needed to grow as a writer. I studied his work—David’s—and I meshed his creative genius with my style, thus the birth of J. David St. John, II.

Q.    How did you come about Scott and Sean’s character?

A.    Scott’s character—during my original thoughts—was not to be a main character; same goes for Sean. Both these characters sort of developed from their relationships with other characters in the novel. Scott’s association with Lyric D. Knowles, who was a main character in Killing Me Softly and Sean’s relationship with Miami, a character from my very first novel, Episodes. At that juncture, the story told itself.

Q.    Will we see any of the characters from this novel or your previous novels in your next book?

A.    Of course you will. There are quite a few untold stories; these folks are troubled by relationships, family matters, employment issues…things that won’t go away as long as they continue to walk and breathe air. These folks are very complex beings with interesting situations.

Q.    How did you come up with the situation surrounding Miami and Lyric?

A.    Which situation Ms. Pierce? Their working situation or their sexual situation? Never mind, I’ll opt for the latter, Ms. Pierce. Miami was curious about Lyric, his lifestyle and his wallet. At the same time, she was attracted to him and she would stop at nothing to get her questions answered. Sleeping with him would be her constellation prize!

Q.    What was the most enjoyable part about writing this novel?

A.    For the most part, I’m a loner. There I said it. These characters become a part of my life for the amount of time that I’m writing the novel. In this case, I spent two years with these characters…each and every day. At the end of this journey as each one previously, I’ve found myself alone, suffering from separation anxiety and finding myself anxious to dive into my next novel. The most enjoyable you asked. The relationship that I have with these characters. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t write.

Q.    Are you currently working on another novel?

A.    Absolutely! I’m currently working on my first Christmas novel, Christmas…Some Other Place, Some Other Time. I’m working on a November, 2007 release date.

Q.    What message would you like readers to receive from reading Gone Through Hell and Back?

A.    That’s a tough one Ms. Pierce. There are so many dimensions to this novel. What message…let’s see. That it is okay to search for satisfaction. And that searching for satisfaction can last a lifetime. As human beings, we are all in search for satisfaction. In truth, love is everything. You can live without money but you cannot live without love…of someone or something. Everyone is forever trying to find love in some way. Everyone is trying to win something. Wanting some satisfaction! Aren’t you? I know I am! I want each reader to search for their satisfaction and to never give up until it’s found. I have J. California Cooper to thank for that!

Thank you for another interview Ms. Pierce. This is my fourth interview with you. I’m hopeful I’ll see you around this time again, next year to discuss my Christmas novel.