Saturday, November 15, 2008

Meet New Author James Fredericks!

Not long ago, I was contacted via e-mail by a woman from Bascom Hill Publishing Group. She asked if I would be interested in reading James Fredericks' debut novel Brother. I looked it up, and it sounded like something I might enjoy reading. Plus, as luck would have it, I was in between reading obligations at the time. So, I said "certainly." I was wrong about enjoying it, though. I LOVED it! As I mentioned in my review, it's a fast-paced book; the pages almost turned themselves. I'm telling you, this is a writer to keep your eyes on because he is talented!

Since I loved the book so much, I definitely had to see if James would agree to do an interview with me. He graciously consented, and so now I'm thrilled to share my interview with you. May I introduce to you, Mr. James Fredericks...

Q. You mention on your website that you'd always wanted to write. What fostered that desire for you? Why a legal thriller?
James: Writing for me grew out of my love for reading. I read everything I can get my hands on, from Sci-Fi and Fantasy, to Mysteries, to Thrillers, to Biographies, to Histories. Eventually I realized I wanted to write my own books. I think it all crystallized when I read The World According to Garp by John Irving - although it took a long time to get there!

The novel didn't start out as a legal thriller - it just kind of evolved from a relationship novel and grew as I explored issues of motive and murder.

Q. Do you feel that there is anyone who has influenced your writing style?
James: As I mentioned, I love all kinds of books. I love books that are tightly written, and keep you wanting to turn the pages - Robert Parker does a great job with this - but I also love books that make you want to linger over individual sentences, and paragraphs: books you feel such a great regret when they end, and books you envy other people for having not yet read them. Pat Conroy comes to mind here. I wanted to strike a balance between these two, to create a novel that reads "cleanly" and makes the reader want to turn the pages, while writing in a style that's interesting and enjoyable by itself. Don't know whether I'm there yet, but it's something to strive for!

Note from Jen: uhm, do you think he modeled this answer after my review? Did I not mention all this about his book? If he's not there yet, he's pretty gosh darned close!

Q. You've worked as a "top executive" for some Fortune 500 companies. Did any of your experiences in these positions find their ways into the novel? I wouldn't think that such positions would lend themselves to the knowledge necessary to write Brother. What kind of research, if any, did you have to do?
James: Not really, although I probably understand Ev's world better than the other guys. My circle of friends consists mostly of lawyers, so I've had good second-hand experience over the years in trial and corporate law. In terms of research, I had the great luxury of having the ear and eyes of one of the nation's top trial attorneys, Kenneth Bell, who read early drafts and commented. I spoke with twins who shared their experiences, and with ex-Army guys to gain perspective. The rest of my research was mostly online. The Internet is such a great tool when you're sitting in a coffee shop writing.

Q. Are the characters of Chase or Jared based on any actual people - do either have any of your own characteristics (like did you play the piano or play basketball) - or were they born entirely from your imagination? How about the other "brothers"?
James: The whole notion of a circle of friends comes directly from my own friendships. I have a circle of friends much like Chase does. I tell people at my signings that the friends in the book are younger, better-looking, more talented versions of these friends - although that's not true in all cases! I do know a guy very like Chase, and I've always played the piano. Aside from that, most of the broad descriptions are fictitious, although I've adopted a lot of characteristics, habits, and predilections.

Q. The sympathetic pains between Chase and Jared play a rather significant role in the novel. Is that why you chose to use twins over just plain brothers?
James: No, that came later. I originally didn't have them as part of the book, and an early reader mentioned twins she knew, and how they experienced such pains and feelings. She thought it would make a nice addition to the story line of the brothers, and I agreed. I think she was right - it added a lot to the relationship. I've read a fair number of hackneyed twin stories over the years, and wanted to do something a bit different, where the twin part was somewhat accidental, yet still critical to the story, without being clichèd.

Q. I'm very impressed with the female characters in your novel. I have to admit that I'm turned off by the "damsel in distress" stereotype. And I also dislike female characters that seem more silly than substantive. Reagan has a great balance. She's intelligent and strong, but she isn't an unbelievable superwoman either. Was there an inspiration for Reagan?
James: Thank you, first. Reagan has a lot of the characteristics of my wife. She's a strong, independent woman, who's playful, but smart, supportive but confident, and good looking, too! If anything Reagan is an understated version.

Q. I'm always intrigued by the process authors use to come up with their book titles. And "Brother" obviously has multiple connotations in this novel. Did you originally think, "hey, I want to write a book about brothers" or was this complex idea about a frame-up rolling around in your mind and a brotherhood concept fit well into it?
James: Good question. I had the idea for two different novels - or at least I thought I did. The whole notion of the frame-up came to me as an interesting murder/motive story. Separately I had the notion of writing a relationship novel about the brothers. Eventually I realized it could be a single novel. The title didn't come to me until after I had finished the book. My original working title was The Last Beach Weekend. Then I liked Thicker than Water. Finally I realized there was a good, single-word descriptor that worked, and I fell in love with Brother, and stuck with it, even after my publisher wanted to change it.

Q. You mentioned on your website how Jared kind of forced his way to the forefront as you were writing - he wasn't originally meant to be such a prominent character. So the process must take on a bit of a life of its own, but do you initially try to outline for your writing or have some other structured process? Or do you just let the characters drive the development?
James: I had only a very general outline of the story and of the characters. I fleshed out the characters more as the story grew. I think the story drove the character development more than the other way around. I had very lengthy character descriptions, and sadly left a lot of chapters on the cutting-room floor to make sure the novel moved along.

Q. So, right now you're working on your MFA, obviously doing some promotional work for Brother. You mentioned that another book focused more on Jared may be in the future. Do you have any time for hobbies or other outside interests amidst all this?

James: Some. I think it's important to have a fairly well-rounded life. I never wanted to be the kind of writer that sat and suffered in my attic while churning out pages. I love to cook, enjoy working out, still sit and play the piano, and enjoy spending time with my family and friends. And I love to travel, particularly with my wife and children.

Q. Given the fact that Lookout and Garth play such important roles in the book, I'm guessing you're a dog-lover? Do you have a dog?
James: Still looking! We had a great dog that sadly passed away, and we've never found his replacement. I hope, though, that we'll have a new family addition soon (dog, not child!).

Q. The final question I always like to ask in my interviews comes from a book that's out called Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. What would be YOUR six-word memoir?
James: That's a tough one! How about this: His family, his friends; his legacy.

I like it! Thank you so much, Jim, for taking the time to answer my questions! I truly enjoyed your interview, and I look forward to more books in the future. And I especially have to thank James for sending me these AWESOME candid pictures to include with the interview. Don't you think they added a lot? The ones with the beautiful backdrops there are from Italy by the way.

Be sure to check out James' website here to learn more fun stuff about this fascinating author. I know you will be hearing his name a lot in the future!

Happy Reading!


Joy November 15, 2008 at 7:44 AM  

Sold! :)

What a great interview, Jen and James! I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks.

Corey Wilde November 15, 2008 at 10:55 AM  

Can't talk now, Jen, I went over and read the opening of the book and I need to go order it. Let's hope it doesn't take as long to arrive as the Burke book!

Corey Wilde November 15, 2008 at 4:20 PM  

Great interview, Jen, and I do like those photos, especially the Garth Brooks look-a-like one!

Jen November 15, 2008 at 7:56 PM  

Thanks Corey! I so look forward to your comments. They always make smile - and I sure needed a smile on this dreary day! :) Let me know how you like the book!

beauvallet November 16, 2008 at 2:36 PM  

I don't know how you do it, Jen, you always make me want to read whatever you recommend. I read the first chapter of the book on Fredericks' website and it sure does pull the reader right in. And as always, you do a great job developing good questions.

Serena November 17, 2008 at 10:54 AM  

Jen and James, this interview had a fantastic conversational feel! This is a book I've already added to my TBR list on good reads because I loved your review.

I'm always excited to "meet" new authors through their debut novels. And this interview was an added bonus.

Jen November 17, 2008 at 7:26 PM  

Serena and Naomi, bless your hearts! You are so great for my self-esteem! I hope you both love the book as much as I did...make sure you let me know how you like it!

I've passed my copy along to my dad and my sister has already claimed dibs on when he's finished! It's a hot commodity around here.

James Fredericks November 20, 2008 at 5:29 PM  

Thanks for the kind words, Jen, and the fun interview. I hope those of you that pick up the book enjoy it--drop me a line after you've finished via my wesite: www.jamesfredericks. com. Having some fun with book clubs now. I look forward to hearing from you!

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