Following the release of his new novel The Exclusive earlier this month, author Mel Taylor talks about how he started writing mysteries, the story of The Exclusive, and some of his plans for future projects.

“Mel, as an accomplished TV journalist, what inspired you to transition into writing mystery novels? How has your background in journalism influenced your fiction writing? What strategies do you use to weave real-life elements into your fiction?”

In my days as a TV journalist, I have covered easily more than 50 trials, some of them getting national coverage. I have been to hundreds of crime scenes and interviewed victims, witnesses, and a few criminals. I have also seen the pure generosity of people coming forward to help someone or a family after watching their situation on television. All of these experiences brought me extremely close to how agencies and people work together and respond to situations. Life experiences. These are the things any writer would draw upon to start a book. I have seen investigations up close and so I can use what I have seen to give any story I write a great degree of authenticity. I can pull from experience and put those experiences into the plot, into dialogue and human frailty of my characters.

“You’ve faced and overcome many challenges in your career. What key advice would you give to beginning writers who are just starting out, especially in the mystery genre?”

I have spoken to a number of people who told me, “I have an idea for a book.” And they start writing, only to find after 30 pages or so, they stop. They are stuck on how to proceed. One key thing is – one – idea is not enough. You need several ideas, all of them will become plot points. And you need one jaw-dropping plot twist for the middle. It’s what some writers call the muddle in the middle. And, of course, a great finish. Add to that, draw up some great characters. Write down all of their traits, even down to how much money they would have in their pocket. Then, don’t forget dialogue. The spoken words your characters say in a book have to add to their character. You could do an entire blog conversation on dialogue alone. Different characters must have different ways of saying things. And the dialogue can move the plot forward, along with adding information the reader should know.

“Where do you find inspiration for your stories? Are there any particular events, people, or experiences that have significantly influenced your writing?” 

I get inspired by just looking around. I have what I call a writer’s mind, meaning I see plots all over the place. I did take a series of crimes done by women and used that as the jumping off point for one of my books, where there was a threat to the entire eastern seaboard. However, again, one story line in the book might not be enough.

“You emphasize the importance of the first page, or even the first paragraph, in a novel. Can you discuss your approach to crafting an opening that immediately captivates readers?”

I really enjoy reading the opening line by any author. Can that author hold your attention to make you want to turn the page. Think about how many times you picked up a book in the store and read just the first page? We all do that. For me, in a mystery, that first page has to jump out at the reader, pull them in and energize the urge to keep reading. Again, for me, that also means you don’t put a ton of background information into the first page. All that will come later. Get the plot going.

“South Florida is a vivid backdrop in your books. How do you approach integrating the setting, including the ocean and the elements, as a character in your stories?”

 South Florida has often been described as Casablanca. From the views of a sunrise on the Atlantic or sunsets on the west side of the state, to the night life on South Beach, and to my favorite place, the Florida Everglades, there is always a sense of mystery and intrigue. The Everglades is home to thousands of pythons. Alligators have always been there. We have Bears and the Florida panther. I have fished there for years and respect the ‘Glades for its wild nature. Any time I can, I put a character in one or more of these locations for my books. If you do a bit of research, many, many books have the word Keys in the title. Keys for the Florida Keys, one of the most picturesque places you will find. As a writer, it’s great to include a description and use South Florida as a backdrop.

“Your new novel, The Exclusive, launched on March 14, 2024. Without giving too much away, what can readers expect from this book, and what was your experience like while writing it?”

What the reader will find is the very thought of someone running away from something in fear of their life. But are they victims or something else? My character, TV reporter Booker Johnson, finds himself right in the middle of something major that is unfolding, and he uses his reporter skills to find out. Based in south Florida, as he gets closer to the truth, the level of danger increases.

“Looking ahead, are there any new projects or genres you are aspiring to explore in your future works?”

I am currently working on a second book featuring reporter Booker Johnson called The Arrangement. That book is in full development and will be ready this summer.

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The Exclusive is available for sale as an ebook.

You can also buy it in print.

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Mel Taylor was born and raised in Chicago, graduated from Southern Illinois University, and started a broadcast career in Des Moines, Iowa. Mel left the Midwest after two years and continued his journey as a reporter in Miami, Florida.

Mel has reported on and witnessed history unfolding in South Florida, from major trials to the brutality of the Cocaine Cowboys, and at times, powerful hurricanes. Mel’s time on television earned him an Emmy Award. He then took all his experiences to craft mystery novels and thrillers, all based in South Florida. Mel’s Private Investigator series, featuring Frank Tower, blends the colorful beauty of the Atlantic with the exotic and natural growth of the Florida Everglades. Learn more about Mel and his books at severnriverbooks.com.

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