Friday, April 12, 2013

A Tangled Web of Intrigue and Corruption in Jamaica: An interview with thriller author J.P. Lane

1) Please tell us about your book. 

It’s a complex story, which is why I called it The Tangled Web. I’ve noticed that a few reviewers seem to agree. There have been several comments like “truly a tangled web,” “drugs, violence, politics and love all wrapped up in this tangled web,” “indeed an intriguing international tangled web.” There are two main plots, and sub plots, that interweave, but don’t come together until the end. It’s a Historical Thriller in a sense, because there are events in it that actually took place. I can’t go into great detail on the actual story without throwing out spoilers. Simply put, The Tangled Web is about a group of people who get together to prevent their country from becoming a drug state and use extraordinary means to do so. To quote one of my promotional tweets, black and white become a murky shade of gray when tough decisions have to be made.

2) Please tell us about your main characters. 

I’ll start with Lauren Andersen. Lauren is in her early thirties. She’s beautiful, independent, an aggressive investigative reporter, and a woman with a mind of her own. She’s also well connected. Her aunt is a minister of government. By and large, I show my characters the way other characters see them rather than describing them through the narrative voice, so I’ll quote what a few of them have to say about her. But before I do, I should mention that Lauren is digging up dirt on a lot of people, so the first two characters are on the defensive.

“She’s a shark, Logan. Watch out. Beautiful woman though, drop-dead gorgeous.”

“Just don’t forget there’s a piranha lurking in that pretty package, Gordon.”

And here’s Lauren having a meeting with her Aunt, which I think gives a little more insight into her character.

Margaret rolled the edge of her napkin contemplatively. “I can’t tell you how much I’ve agonized over asking you to do this, but I can think of no one else. There are certain things you’ve never come out and said in so many words, but I can read between the lines of your columns. I have to confess as a minister of the very government you criticize so vehemently, sometimes what you write makes me cringe with embarrassment.”

Lauren’s eyes narrowed on her aunt. What exactly was Margaret attempting to rope her into? Whatever it was, she was now reasonably sure it had something to do with the government. She helped herself to a slice of pineapple upside down cake to buy time to think.

Logan Armstrong is the other main character. He happens to be my favorite of the two, I suppose because he’s like me in some ways. He’s a bit of a recluse who guards his privacy like a pit bull, he’s camera shy, and he loves the country of his birth passionately. Also like me, he hasn’t lived there since he was in his twenties, but maintains close ties.

Logan is a wealthy man by his own making although he’s by no means from a humble background. He’s a member of the island elite, from a family who have been big sugar plantation owners for generations. His base is New York from which he runs an entertainment and media empire which he built from scratch. He’s a brilliant businessman and there’s a slightly ruthless side to him, but there’s also an almost tender side which shows in his interactions with his family. Logan is a man who will stop at nothing to help his country, and he does – though in the most surprising way.

3) What inspired this story?

If anything inspired the story, it was completely subconscious. I have no idea where it came from. It just came out of nowhere.

4) What are the primary themes your story explores?

Greed, crime, corruption and the effects of them - not only on individuals, but on entire societies. Although it’s said that we in the U.S. are the largest users of illegal drugs in the world, the effects aren’t nearly as visible as in Third World countries ravaged by the cocaine industry – which is the main focus of The Tangled Web. I use Jamaica as the setting for the story, but it could be about any Latin American or Caribbean country. Drug trafficking is a problem that was endemic to the region until very recently. It’s still a huge problem in Mexico. You’ve seen the news. It’s horrifying.

5) How did your background growing up in Jamaica influence your setting and character choices for this book?

Well, obviously I’m comfortable writing about Jamaica because I know it so well. They say write about what you know. But I’m not alone in using Jamaica as the setting for a novel. Ian Fleming’s novels Dr. No, Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun and his short story Octopussy were set in Jamaica, either largely or in part. One of Robert Ludlum’s earlier novels, The Cry of the Halidon, was also set in Jamaica. I read The Cry of the Halidon and I will say that although Ludlum’s descriptions of Jamaica were good, they weren’t quite as eloquent as mine, or I should say weren’t infused with the same passion. And that’s probably because I’m Jamaican and he wasn’t. I think my love for Jamaica shows in my writing. It goes without saying that the character choices were influenced by half a lifetime in Jamaica. Nobody who hasn’t lived in Jamaica for some length of time could create those characters, or write the dialect they speak. Though there are characters in the book from other countries. Maria is from Colombia. Pavel is from Prague, or at least that’s where he hangs out. I’ve traveled from an early age and that has also influenced my writing. The Tangled Web trots around the globe and so does the book I’m writing now. But somehow I always return to Jamaica.

6) What do you think people most often misunderstand about Jamaica?

I think there’s a general misconception that Jamaica is about rastas and reggae and everyone there smokes pot. Lord knows Jamaicans are laid back enough without the whole population being stoned. The reality is few Jamaicans smoke the herb as it’s popularly known there – the h in herb not pronounced. Jamaica is culturally diverse and I think I do a good job of showing that diversity in The Tangled Web. I certainly show a side of Jamaica few visitors ever see.

7) You have a somewhat complex web of plotting in this book. When you wrote the book, what sort of organizational techniques did you use to keep everything straight?

I wish I could tell you I had some brilliant organizational technique, but that wasn’t the case. The book was pretty much written in a piecemeal fashion. I wrote scenes or chapters as they came to me. For example, chapter thirty-three was written before chapter one. While I was writing, I had a general idea of how it was all going to come together, but until it did, it was a bit chaotic. The only thing vaguely resembling organization was having two files – one with finished chapters in sequential order and the other with unfinished chapters.

8) Do you have any links to excerpts you'd like to share?

I don’t have excerpts on my website or blog, so if you don’t mind me sharing one here, I will. It’s a scene with Pavel in Prague, which I visited a few months before I started writing The Tangled Web.

Across the Atlantic in the Czech Republic, Pavel slid his mobile phone back into his pocket and lit a cigarette. It seemed things were finally coming together on the island. Now he needed to book his flight to London, but breakfast would have to come first. He went into the kitchen and rummaged through the refrigerator not surprised to find virtually nothing but a few cans of Plzen, his favorite Czech beer. The last thing he wanted to do was go out, but he had little choice this morning if he wanted to eat. He locked his front door carefully then skipped down four flights of old stone stairs to the ground floor. As an added precaution, he locked the heavy wooden door that opened onto Navratilova, one of the well-trod historic thoroughfares of Prague. Within short walking distance, there was a small restaurant that had become his mainstay for a good, basic meal at any hour.

It was only mid-October, but winter had already begun to show its frosty face in a chilling drizzle that transformed the dull of the old cobblestone street to a smooth sheen. As he walked towards the restaurant thinking about his upcoming meeting with the woman from the island, Pavel hunched against the cold, which showed little respect for his expensive outer jacket. The leaves on the trees in the park across the street were in their final death throes, signaling the end of a season. Even nature can’t escape death. He smiled darkly.

9) Where can readers find out more about you?

Readers can find out more about me at my website I can also be e-mailed from the contact page on my website.


The tangled web is available for purchase at Amazon.


J.P. Lane said...

I really enjoyed this interview a lot, J.A. Thanks so much!

J.A. Beard said...

You're welcome.

Paul Rega said...

Excellent interview JP! Loved the stories and insight of your beloved was one of my late father’s favorite places in the world. I wish you great success with your fantastic book!

J.P. Lane said...

Thanks so much, Paul. Yes, I'd love to share my Jamaica with zillions of readers :) Makes me happy to hear it was a favorite of your father's. Thanks for sharing that.

Carol Bodensteiner said...

Good interview, Joan & J.A. Tangled Web is exactly that. I'm amazed you didn't have some system for keeping it all straight. Incredible!

La Fleur said...

Great interview! I've been following Lane on Twitter and am anxious to purchase her book!

Anonymous said...

Great interview!

J.P. Lane said...

I had a family emergency yesterday, so just seeing your comments, Carol Bodensteiner and La Fleur. Thank you both!

J.P. Lane said...

Thanks Lorraine!

Anonymous said...

Great interview, J.A., and you, too, Joan.

J.P. Lane said...

Thanks for visiting, David. Appreciate you dropping by.

Ruth Mancini said...

This looks really exciting - the excerpt is well written and tantalising. I spent some time in Jamaica many years ago and look forward to reading this novel and being transported back there.

J.P. Lane said...

Thanks Ruth! I'm really excited to have two visitors who've been to Jamaica. And I'm looking forward to transporting you back there :)

Lisa Calell said...

Great interview, Lauren and Logan sound like great characters. Defnitely an extra sale coming your way, can't wait to read it :)

Emily Guido said...

Looks like a great book! I love J.P Lane's writing and insight! Thanks for sharing this! Emily Guido

J.P. Lane said...

:) Thanks, Lisa. Think you'll enjoy it, particularly the scenery. Though be warned, there's a web to untangle and I've been accused of stringing readers along until the very end.

J.P. Lane said...

Thanks so much for the compliment, Emily. As an author yourself, think you must know how good that makes me feel :) Thanks for stopping by!