Steven James is the bestselling, critically acclaimed author of nineteen novels that have won more than a dozen national and international awards, including four Christy Awards for suspense and an International Book Award. His thrillers have been praised by Suspense Magazine, Booklist, and the New York Journal of Books and received starred reviews from both Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, who called his work “thought-provoking” and “riveting.”

When he’s not writing, he teaches other writers at events around the globe.


If someone asked you to describe yourself with one word, what word would that be?

Polyphiloprogenitive (it means you have an overactive imagination).

Just as all good novels include a plot twist, the Author and Creator of our lives often writes in a twist that blesses us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?

I thought I wanted to have job security back in the 90s when I started off on this journey of becoming a storyteller and an author—but that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I had a friend who encouraged me not to do what made the most “financial sense” but to pursue what God was calling me to do. In that moment, I knew I was meant to write and tell stories—even if there wasn’t a lot of income involved. I’ve had to learn to trust as I pursue this career. But in all honesty, God has taught me that He will never let me down.

Let’s talk about your new book, Fatal Domain (Tyndale, April 2024), which is set in Uganda and Washington D.C. It’s a story dealing with both terrorism and espionage. What do you hope readers will take away from it?

First and foremost, I want them to be entertained from the first page to the last. I want them to enjoy the light touches of humor, to feel white-knuckle suspense at the right times, and to fall in love with the characters. I want them to think about some big, philosophical questions along the way, but this is a thriller, it’s a roller coaster, and I want them to enjoy the ride.

You teach seminars on writing, and I was fortunate to attend one a few years ago. What are some of your basic philosophies when it comes to writing good fiction?

I really emphasize the contingent nature of fiction (in other words, that everything must follow naturally from what precedes it), understanding and managing the substantive status of the characters in different social contexts, and writing toward a pivot—a moment that is both unexpected and inevitable.

Many people think of a story as a progression of events—first act, second act, third act. But stories are much more collisions of desire than they are progressions of events. Because of that, I think that approaching story from that perspective is not as helpful as other approaches. I’ve come to believe that there are four elements in every story (character, setting, struggle, and pursuit), and two additional aspects that all great stories have (pivot and payoff).

So . . . great storytellers introduce us to a memorable and irresistible character who faces a pressing and intimate struggle. They give her choices and sacrifices that matter, invite us to see the pursuit unfold in an evocative setting, then lead us to gasp at the pivot and to nod at the unforgettable payoff. That’s what I’m trying to do.

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

Ha! I love to snack on cheddar cheese flavored rice cakes (I know, very specific, but they are my new-go to snack.)

In the story that is your life, are you the tall, dark stranger; the romantic lead; the mythical warrior; the mad scientist; or the child in an adult’s body?

Most of the people who know me well would say that I’m the child in an adult’s body. If that’s the case, I hope I never grow up.

Thanks, Steven! It’s great to have you as a guest at Divine Detour.

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For more information about Steven, visit his website or follow him on Facebook or X.

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