Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Author Spotlight: James Grippando

There's no one way to tell if you've "made it" as an author of captivating fiction. You can be prolific, yet never quite prolific enough to satiate your rabid fan base. You can create a series with a character (Miami criminal defense attorney Jack Swyteck springs to mind at the moment) that critics have called, "John Grisham meets Robert Ludlum." Your work can climb international bestseller lists in multiple languages. Your novels could be lauded by reviewers worldwide. You might branch out from thrillers and suspense and try your hand, with success, at a novel for young adults. One of your short stories might be anthologized in a collection featuring the writing of some of the most eminent thriller writers on the planet.

All of those things, individually and collectively, are sure signs your decision to pursue writing popular fiction was a sound career move.

All of those things, individually and collectively, are true of James Grippando, today's guest under the intense hi-beam that is Gazalapalooza Author Spotlight.

But there's another indicator that's at least equally plain proof you've touched a nerve among countless readers. And that's when the correct answer to a New York Times Crossword Puzzle is the title of one of your novels. On June 14, 2005, Grippando's novel Under Cover of Darkness was the correct answer to 38 Across.

Now that's "making it" as a novelist.

Grippando's latest suspense novel just came out this month. Published by Harper, it's a stand-alone book titled, Need You Now. In his typically enthralling style, Grippando tells the story of Patrick Lloyd. Lloyd is a young financial advisor who, with his enigmatic girlfriend Lilly Scanlon, risk all to expose a deadly $60 billion ponzi conspiracy that oozes from Wall Street's gleaming skyscrapers far into the dark heart of Washington, D.C.

What better way for Gazalapalooza to commemorate Grippando's new release than with a cordial invitation to bask in the blinding gleam of the Author Spotlight? Fortunately for us all, the esteemed author graciously accepted the invitation. Without further ado, let's see how well Mr. Grippando fares under the spotlight's fiery glare.

Gazala:    In my omnipotence, I've sentenced you to be stranded alone on a desert island for offenses best left unnamed. In my beneficence, I've decided to allow you a limited amount of reading material to make your stay a little less bleak than it would otherwise be. I'll spot you your religious text of preference, and the collected works of William Shakespeare. In addition to those, name the one fiction book, and the one nonfiction book, you'd choose to take with you, and why you choose them.

Grippando:   For fiction, since  you’ve already spotted me the complete works of Shakespeare, I’ll take Goodnight Moon. It reminds me of everyone I would miss while stuck on that island—from my own kids to my grandparents. Plus, if you were to ask me if there is one book I wish I had written, it would be this one. 

For nonfiction, my high school English teacher gave me one of the most unforgettable books I've ever read, the Pulitzer Prize winning play, "A Man for All Seasons." It's the story of Sir Thomas Moore, who was tried for treason and beheaded after he refused on principle to sign an oath approving the marriage of King Henry VIII to Ann Boleyn. I still have that book. It became especially meaningful to me in the early years of my legal career, when I was young and na├»ve and appalled to discover how many witnesses lied under oath. People complain that lawyers are always trying to trip them up with their clever questions, but in my experience witnesses too often had to be tricked into telling the truth. In my most cynical moments as a trial lawyer, I'd go back to Sir Thomas Moore and the sanctity of an oath. It's just one of the many ways I'm so often reminded of my high school English teacher. That would be a comforting feeling on my desert island. 

Gazala:   Your latest novel in an excellent and gripping thriller titled, Need You Now. I've read it. I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly. Shockingly enough, however, from time to time my bare recommendation doesn't always motivate a book's potential reader to become a book's actual reader. Tell us something about Need You Now, and why its potential reader should make the leap and become its actual reader. 

Grippando:   My favorite thing about Need You Now is the sense of place. It's marketed as a "Wall Street thriller," but the feel of New York is what I'm most proud of. And I don't mean the typical hallmarks of Manhattan that find their way into every book set in the city. I just got an e-mail the other day from a "New-Yawker" who was convinced that I must have grown up in Queens near the Lemon Ice King of Corona and "spaghetti park." He was downright wistful about his old neighborhood, and he couldn't believe that some guy from Florida could capture the feeling of that place. Yes, Need You Now is a page turner...but slow down a little, and enjoy some of those moments.

Gazala:   What are books for?

Grippando:   Free, if we don't do something about Internet piracy.

Gazala:   W. Somerset Maugham said, "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no on knows what they are." Do you agree, or disagree, and why?

Grippando:   I go with Upton Sinclair on this one. Legend has it that he was the keynote speaker at a Harvard University graduation ceremony. His topic was, "the key to writing a great novel." After being introduced by the university president, he walked to the lectern as the crowd gave him a warm reception. Finally the applause silenced. He looked out into the audience and said, "Why aren't you at home, writing?" Then he returned to his seat and sat down. In my view, that's the one and only rule for writing the novel. 

Gazala:   There are profoundly unsettling noises in my basement I have to go check out. Ask yourself a question, and answer it.

Grippando:   All right, here goes. Q: All the characters in Need You Now have something to hide. Do you think everybody has something to hide? A: Yup. In my second novel, The Informant, one of my characters says, "The only people who can be totally honest with each other are lovers or strangers. Everyone else is just negotiating." I believe it. Don't you?

Grippando's Need You Now is available everywhere. If you'd like to do yourself a big favor and order it from Amazon, all you have to do is click here.

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