Steven James decided his newest series for Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, should be science thrillers, not the psychological suspense of his popular Patrick Bowers series (The Rook, Revell, 2008; The Queen; Revell, 2011). He perused news sites for months looking for information on emerging technologies such as bionics, the topic of Singularity (Revell, Nov.), the second in The Jevin Banks Experience series.

“I tried to locate information on technology that would be available when the book came out, but wouldn’t feel dated or old by then,” says James. “I took what was out there and guessed what would be available in the future.” James didn’t want to write a traditional investigator as his main character, so he chose an escape artist, illusionist Jevin Banks, who is determined to find out what happened to his murdered friend and fellow illusionist Emilio Benigno. As he digs, Banks discovers only secrets and lies and a conspiracy that ties to an old enemy, RixoTray Pharmaceuticals, and faces down corporate giants once again in this sequel to Placebo (Revell, 2012).

“It’s frightening to see weapons that can be given algorithms that allow them to choose when to fire,” James says. “Right now humans are in the loop to do the actual firing—as in drones—but the day is coming when humans will be taken out of the loop.” The problem then, James says, becomes “who is at fault if a machine makes a mistake by doing only what it’s been programmed to do?”

Singularity addresses the moment when a machine fires on its handlers. “It’s all about bionics, and the technology is out there,” he says. “Recently I saw an announcement in the news about the military planning to mass produce exoskeletons. Those days are coming.”

James says his books start with a question he’s trying to explore, such as “What makes me different from those who do the unthinkable?” “What does it mean to forgive?” “What makes humans different from machines?”

Says James, who lives in eastern Tennessee with his family, “I’m able to think through my answers in my writing. I don’t always start with an answer; a lot of the writing process is me sorting out where I stand on an issue. People appreciate that because memorable stories start with a big question.”

James also has written inspirational nonfiction, including Flirting with the Forbidden: Finding Grace in a World of Temptation (Revell, 2012) and Story: Recapture the Mystery (Revell, 2006).