A childhood spent on motion picture sets gave me the unique opportunity to see the world through a different lens. I was lucky enough to have a father who owned an independent production company in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It was an unusual childhood, but it allowed me to get to know many colorful characters and nurture my creativity. My father’s work attracted the attention of many producers wanting to use the city in their films. He became affiliated with several large-budget studio features, one of which was Live and Let Die—the eighth film in the James Bond franchise. 

I remember the commotion when the film began production because Sean Connery had decided not to return, opening the door for another. That man was Roger Moore. There were nerves on the set about how Bond fans around the world would receive him. Even at eight years old, I could pick up on the tension. But the one person on set who was never bothered by the press hype was Mr. Moore. 

One day, I got the nerve to ask him how he found the courage to step into such an iconic role. He was a very kind man, always gracious, and took the time to speak to everyone. He told me expectations are just what others expect, but as long as you desire something different for yourself, that is what’s important. So never do the expected. Listen to what’s inside you, and younwill never go wrong. 

Roger Moore went on to do six more Bond films, cementing his place as Ian Fleming’s famous spy. I never forgot his kindness, and once I set out on my writing career many years afterour meeting, his words of wisdom returned. His encouragement became especially meaningful when I decided to delve into the choppy waters of the thriller genre. Many writers find putting together a roller-coaster, page-turning, mind-bending novel a colossal challenge. In addition, expectations from readers and publishers are high—from creating intelligent, tech-savvy, haunting characters to knowing everything about forensic science—which can be even more intimidating. 

Any writer will tell you that putting people on paper is difficult. And when you have preconceived notions about the idiosyncrasies a chilling character is to have, your task becomes even more precarious. Venture outside the ticks, personal gestures, the way someone walks or talks, leave out identifying scars, change the hair color or features a dark character is expected to have, and you threaten their believability. But just as Roger Moore changed James Bond from Sean Connery’s calculating spy to one with more humor, shattering the established beliefs of thriller readers is necessary to bring a new perspective. You can’t craft a unique novel without breaking a few unwritten rules. 

When I set out to tackle my first thriller novel with co-author Lucas Astor, I headed Mr. Moore’s advice and approached the protagonist with a different mindset, wanting to push boundaries. It was a risk, but I knew I had to stick to my beliefs in crafting a character that would reshape the thinking of readers. Someone unexpected to shake up convention. Luckily, my instincts paid off, opening doors and sending me headlong into the thriller genre.

Any character is very much like an artist creating a painting. You outline in pencil, fill in the colors of skin, hair, and eyes, and move to the details of clothes, personality, strengths, and weaknesses. When done, your interpretation is one-of-a-kind, reflecting your ideal—not someone else’s stereotype. It takes courage to change accepted norms, but whether penning a novel or choosing a career, we have to listen to the voice in our head and not the ones buzzing in our ears. Believe in what you are doing, and eventually, everyone else will believe in it, too. It just takes audiences a while to see the magic you knew was there all along. Thank you, Mr. Moore, for the excellent advice.