Q&A with WBW's Joe Cargile, Author of Legacy on Trial
Whitehurst, Blackburn & Warren partner Joe Cargile is no stranger to accomplishment. When he’s not in the courtroom advocating for clients, you may find Joe volunteering for a local non-profit or serving on a board or two. Recently, Cargile has added another title to his resume — published author.
Legacy on Trial is Cargile’s first novel and is the first of a four-part series to be published by Severn River Publishing. We sat down with Joe to learn more about his new endeavor in the world of publishing.
Q: Thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to talk about your book, Joe! I think the first question on everyone’s mind is “Who is this story about?” Tell us, who or what were your inspirations for Legacy on Trial?
A: It’s difficult to point to any one source of inspiration. I’d love to tell you that this story came from a case that I tried or witnessed — mainly because that would mean I’d been involved in a pretty fantastic case! — but that isn’t how this story developed in my mind. It’s more a combination of my experiences working as an attorney in our area and my love for the legal thriller genre itself. As far as the story, well, the main character of Legacy on Trial is a dad. I started there when I wrote the scene in the opening chapter. A young girl wakes up one morning and the police are knocking on the door. They come in the house with a warrant and are searching for the girl’s father, calling out his name. The girl’s mother comes down the hall and tells her daughter to get dressed and go outside. The girl is confused and asks what‘s going on. The mom turns to her daughter and whispers to her that her father killed someone. The struggle of a daughter who cares for her father very deeply but knows he is accused of being a killer hit home for me as a father with three young daughters. That idea is what I played off in the book.
Q: That’s a heavy storyline. Did the outcome match what you had originally intended, or did the plot change as you wrote?
A: There are two camps of writers: those who outline, and those who don’t. I am definitely not an outliner. I usually start my writing process by editing what I wrote the day prior. I did have an idea of how I wanted the story to end, but getting between Point A and Point B was a struggle. I had to just feel my way through it linking the pieces together. I would be a lot less stressed if I could outline. Even in law school, I didn’t like to outline my briefs. There is a formula that law professors teach, a layout for how your briefs should be written. I would follow the format, but I wasn’t putting all the details together within the outline like some of my classmates were. I would write it and edit it as I went instead. That’s probably why their briefs were so much better than mine! Q: So have you always wanted to write a book?
A: I have always loved reading, especially novels. I’ve always been a daydreamer, too. When I was a kid, I would think up different stories in my mind. I’d get lost in them at times. I really didn’t recognize my desire to write a book until I was in college though.
Q: I guess that means you didn’t really intend to have a career as an author then?
A: I finished my Bachelor’s degree and started a Master’s program in Spanish Literature with the goal that I would teach Spanish Literature. I had this romantic idea of what a professor’s life was like and that I would have time to write and study abroad with my students. At that time, I liked the thought of writing a book, but I wasn’t committed enough to do it. I would piece together parts of a story but never enough to flesh out a novel.
Q: Is this the first written work you have published?
A: I passed the Bar exam and began practicing law in 2015. Shortly after, I remember reading the Georgia Bar Journal noting the fiction writing competition. I knew I eventually wanted to enter a piece into the competition. In early 2019, after getting established in a new town and gaining experience in my role at WBW, I set a goal to submit a short story to the Journal that year. Much to my surprise, I won.
[Read Joe's winning short story, "The Deal," here >>]
Q: Well that’s a great confirmation that you have what it takes to be a published author! But a short story and a novel are pretty different in terms of time commitment. How long did it take you to write the novel?
A: After submitting my short story to the publication, I was in a writing routine with a daily word count goal. I also had an idea for a story, so I kept to that rhythm and started hammering away at the novel. By the time the pandemic began in 2020, I was around 15,000 words in. We all know what happens next — the world shut down, our business slowed a lot, and the demand of a law practice eased up. I still woke up early, even though I wasn’t going into the office, and I was able to finish the book at the end of 2020.
Q: What was the publishing process like?
A: I went through 30+ rejections from publishers, agents, and editors. They didn’t even respond to me at first. It was brutal! Eventually, I found a contract editor in California who was nice enough to review the book — not even edit it — and let me know if it was even worth working on. When he got back to me, he was super encouraging. He took it as an opportunity to give me advice and direction. He ended up being an incredibly encouraging editor that helped me regain confidence in the story. With his help, I started submitting again. About the seventh or eighth submittal, I got responses from people asking to set up meetings. Ultimately, I partnered with an agent, Lary Rosenblatt, who currently represents me. Lary helped shepherd my manuscript and pitch it to publishers. He helped me find my current publisher, Severn River Publishing, and negotiate a deal.
Q: So now that you have a publisher, do you plan to write any additional pieces?
A: The first novel, featuring the father as the main character and a young defense attorney named Maggie, is one of a four-book series. Its sequel, In Defense of Charlotte, follows Maggie again. The third book features her, as well, along with an investigator. Book one and two are finished. They are both in final copy. Book three—The Wiregrass Witness—will be released later this year.
Q: That’s pretty prolific. Now that we aren’t in the midst of a shutdown due to the pandemic, how are you finding time to write?
A: My current schedule is not sustainable. Obviously, my law practice comes first. I have a commitment to my clients and my partners. Right now, I try to get up in the morning and write before the other demands of the day, but meeting the publishing timeline is very challenging.
Q: So how can people learn more about the series and you as an author?
A: You can visit joecargile.com, which directs to my publisher’s website. My bio is included there along with information about the first two books, and you can join my reader newsletter. You can also pre-order Legacy on Trial and In Defense of Charlotte, the first two books in the series, on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. Audiobook options are also available on Audible.
Q. Thanks, Joe, for this great peek into your “second life” as an author. I’m sure you have a lot of supporters and future readers in Thomasville.
A: I have to give all the credit to my wife and legal partners for supporting my writing dreams. I’m working with The Bookshelf here in Thomasville to do a local book signing on April 29, 2023. I’d be honored to have a few interested folks come see me that day.