Congratulations on your recent publication of Blood of My Brother. What can you tell us about the book?
JL: I started writing this novel in 1985, put it away, returned to it in 1999, finished a first draft in 2001, and completed it, that is, wrote a final version, in the spring of 2010. It was a long time in the making, and, for that and other reasons, is very dear to my heart.
Did your background in law lead you to make your central character, Jay, an attorney?
JL: Yes. This was my first attempt at a novel, and, although the story is not about the law, I wanted to be comfortable inside Jay’s head.
Do you agree with the old adage “write what you know” or do you think there’s something to be said for venturing into unknown waters?
JL: To me “write what you know” does not mean write about flying if you are a pilot, or write about the law if you are a lawyer. It means write about the things you know in your heart, like the pain of love gone wrong, the night fears that somehow don’t seem so bad in the light of day, or the reasons why we like or dislike ourselves as human beings. Writers need framing devices and authenticity is important, so writing about the empirical things you know is a good idea, but the real stories are buried in the heart.
How did you get the idea for such a quick, page turning thriller?
JL: As you can see from my answer to your first question, this story has been in the back of my head for a long time. I have lost a childhood friend, as many people have, I am sure. When these losses occur, we have other people to fall back on. We grieve and we move on. But what if we didn’t? What if we had cut ourselves off from other people, believing we didn’t need them? What if we were left completely isolated after such a loss? This was the thought from which Blood of My Brother grew.
Blood of My Brother takes place in Newark, New Jersey, Miami, Florida and Mexico. I know you have lived in New Jersey. Why Miami? Why Mexico?
JL: I love the tropical look and feel of these places. My thought was: what better venues for a thriller involving murder, high-level drug dealing, romance and great danger?
Your descriptions of both Miami and Mexico are vivid and vital to the book. Have you traveled there yourself or did you do a great deal of research to bring the settings alive?
JL: I have spent a lot of time in Florida, and love Miami. It is hot there in more ways than one. I have also traveled extensively in Mexico, particularly in Oaxaca along the Pacific coast. You have to see this part of the world to understand how physically beautiful it is and also to feel the undercurrents of danger and passion that lie below what I believe is a deceptively serene, even passive, cultural surface.
What was the most difficult part of writing an intense book like Blood of My Brother?
JL: Balancing pace, which is obviously crucial to a suspense or thriller novel, with character development, is my biggest challenge as a writer. Isabel, Jay and Danny, and even the secondary characters like Frank Dunn and Gary Shaw, have to come across as flesh-and-blood human beings, with problems and heartaches that generate empathy from readers, who are themselves, it goes without saying, flesh-and-blood human beings, with their own problems and heartaches. Much character development necessarily gives way to pace, but not all. I think the novel is much better for the flashbacks of Jay and Danny as boys, and of Isabel as a young girl.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
JL: Yes, since I was a boy.
What advice would you consider most valuable to an unpublished author?
JL: Assuming the following: your work has 1) been professionally edited and is as well-crafted as it can be, and 2) has been rejected by the traditional publishing world—then I would seriously consider hiring a consultant and self-publishing. As the old monolithic publishers and booksellers fade away or re-shape themselves, the e-world and the print-on-demand world grow exponentially. Go for it.
When you’re not writing, what author or authors do you enjoy reading yourself?
JL: I like Michael Connelly. Also, someone just suggested Charles McCarry to me, and I will try him next.
I have read that you have a “Top 50” list of favorite novels. What novel currently sits atop the list?
JL: Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Can you take us through a normal day in the life of James LePore?
JL: I read a half dozen newspapers online with my morning coffee. I have a thirty-minute workout routine. I write for four or five hours. (Five pages are a lot. I’m happy with two or three. Sometimes it’s only one). I try to get outside in the afternoon, to do something where I don’t have to use my brain too much. I read in the evenings when I’m not watching bad TV.
I read that you are currently working on your next novel. Care to share any juicy details with us?
JL: It’s the story of Matt DeMarco, an aggressive, star-quality assistant district attorney in Manhattan, whose son is wrongly accused of murdering his (the son’s) beautiful Lebanese girlfriend. Matt finds it unbelievable that the authorities refuse to drop the charges despite mounting evidence that points to another killer or killers. When a detective friend of his is killed—and then another—Matt begins to see the reasons for this bizarre state of affairs. With the help of an old girlfriend—a half-Chinese, half African-American attorney named Jade Lee, with problems of her own—Matt decides to track down the real killers. Matt and Jade quickly find themselves immersed in the world of Middle East power politics and hard-core terrorism, in which betrayals, double-crosses and lies are commonplace, and where they believe they will find the real killers—unless they themselves are killed first.
And lastly, if you could use just one word to describe Blood of My Brother, what would it be?
James LePore is The Story Plant’s Author of the Month, which means we are offering sensational deals on his work. You can read more about the program here.