Interview with Thomas Scott, Author of State of Unity (Virgil Jones Mystery Thriller Series Book 21)

19 Jun 2024

What can you tell us about your new release, State of Unity (Virgil Jones Mystery Thriller Series Book 21)?

State of Unity is the 21st novel in the Virgil Jones Series, and like all the prior novels, it is but a larger chapter in the overarching storyline. I don’t do cliffhangers, so each book is its own complete story…ones that readers seem to be enjoying as they move through the series.

Are your books meant to be read in order?

Mostly, yes. I have a large number of recurring characters, and if a reader jumps in at, say, book eight, or something like that, then they will have missed much of the character development that took place in the previous books. I do include a bit of recap with each book, but since my novels are very character driven, it’s natural to expect a lot of depth across the entire series. So, sometimes it’s hard to delineate the character development in a way that’s satisfying (at least to me) if someone drops in and starts reading in the middle of the series. That’s not to say you can’t, but reader response on the whole has shown that starting at the beginning of the series is the way to go.

You’ve said that before…that your novels are character driven. Can you explain that?

Sure. All my Virgil Jones novels are crime fiction, but when you hear or see that label, I think the first question that goes through everyone’s head is: What’s the plot? But to me—as the writer—plot is always secondary. The book itself could be about anything…murder, kidnapping, drugs, extortion…whatever fits into the crime fiction category. It really doesn’t matter. What does matter is how the characters interact with each other as they navigate their way through the story. I try to create bad guys who are sometimes a little good, and good guys who sometimes do bad things to get the job done. It makes for some pretty interesting characters.

Did you accomplish that with State of Unity (Virgil Jones Mystery Thriller Series Book 21)?

Yes, absolutely. Most of my novels—and this is another good reason to read them in order—have a sort of circular element to them. In other words, something that happened two or three books ago will be an integral part of another book down the line. In State of Unity, I pulled part of the story arc from both State of Play, and State of Remains.

Do your readers enjoy that…referencing something from a previous novel and using it later in the series?

Oh yeah, without a doubt. As I mentioned, each book is, in its entirety, a chapter of a much larger story, so it’s quite natural to pull from previous story arcs to continue the series.

Many people have commented that your novels have an odd combination of violence and humor. Those two things don’t seem to go together on paper, but you seem to pull it off. Can you explain how you do that?

I’ll try, but the main thing to remember is this: I write fiction. That means I can put a certain character in any given situation—even an horrific one—and often find this little nugget of humor, one that usually presents itself as an interaction between two or more characters. Humor balances the scale, so to speak, and gives the reader room to breathe. There are a lot of suspenseful situations in all of my books, and as Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Without humor there can be no suspense.” I couldn’t agree more.

You’ve said on more than one occasion that you don’t outline your novels. Why is that?

That’s true, I don’t outline. I let the story itself lead me wherever it wants to go. But there is a caveat to my answer. I do outline what I’ve already written (usually chapter by chapter) after the fact…although I’m not sure I would even call it an outline. It’s more like notes to myself about what I wrote, and why. I find the exercise necessary because I’m not a linear writer. I can be three chapters in on a new manuscript, then write something that ends up being placed in say, chapter eight, or something like that, so the after-the-fact outline saves me quite a bit of time.

What scene from State of Unity (Virgil Jones Mystery Thriller Series Book 21) was your favorite to write?

As I mentioned, I pulled part of this story from State of Play, and State of Remains. In doing so, one of the characters spoke to me in a way I hadn’t considered, and when that happened, I discovered this undertow of life that (for the character) was at once beautiful and heart-wrenching. As soon as that happened I stopped and immediately wrote two different scenes in separate parts of the novel, and one of them was at the very end of the epilogue. I never saw it coming, and when that sort of thing happens it always makes my day. Those types of scenes are the most fun to write.

Finally, it doesn’t go unnoticed that you’re nearing the end of the alphabet.

Yeah, only five more letters to go.

So, where do you see the series ending…or do you?

I don’t have a master plan for Virgil and the gang. Newsflash: I don’t have a master plan for much of anything. But I will say this: I don’t believe that Virgil’s story will end when I reach the letter Z. It could…I’d be foolish to say that’s not a possibility, but in all likelihood, the series will continue and future Virgil Jones books will simply be titled differently when I reach that point.

If you could tell your readers only one thing about your writing, what would it be?

That I give it my all, each and every time. I don’t phone it in. If you pick up a Virgil Jones novel, you’re going to get a complete (and hopefully) satisfying read…one that will lead you to the next book. I write every novel as if it might be my last. [laughs] Here’s hoping this one isn’t it, huh? Thanks for your time.


Thomas Scott is the author of the new book State of Unity (Virgil Jones Mystery Thriller Series Book 21)

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