Friday, March 21, 2014
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: John Lansing
1. When/why did youdecide to become an author?
After years of writing for network television, I was approached to write a non-fiction book. It was a new challenge and I immediately signed on. After that process, I created a fictional detective, Jack Bertolino, who that had all the strengths and flaws I’d been searching for. I decided to try my hand at penning a story around him.
Television is a very structured medium. Everything is written to a concise outline. Because of the demands of production, there was rarely time to veer off course. Novels, on the other hand can be blank canvasses and for the first time in my writing career, I was flying without a safety net. I loved it.
2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?
I wasn’t an avid reader growing up, but in college I picked up a copy of Raymond Chandler’s, The Big Sleep, and was hooked on mysteries, detectives, and suspense.
As I turn and look into my bookcase I can see books by, Walter Mosley, John Sandford, Ian Rankin, Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, Dennis Lehane, and Harlan Coben. I read what I write. I’m currently reading, Jo Nesbo’s, The Bat.
3. What was the inspiration behind your novel The Devil's Necktie?
It seemed incomprehensible to me that a cop could spend twenty-five years of his life putting away high-level criminals, and then waltz into retirement without any blowback. I was also intrigued with the relationship between cops and confidential informants.
I moved my protagonist, retired Inspector Jack Bertolino, out of his old Staten Island neighborhood, across the country to Marina del Rey, California. He was a man who had suffered a bitter divorce, was in forced retirement because of a back injury, and was looking to reinvent himself on the West Coast.
There’s an old saying, “Man makes plans and God laughs.”
Jack had a few weeks of peace before an old confidential informant arrived on his doorstep asking for help. After a brief night of passion, she turns up dead, and Jack’s the only suspect.
That was enough of a launching pad for me to start writing The Devil’s Necktie.
4. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
I hope to see ten Jack Bertolino novels sitting on my bookshelf.
5. Your first book was a nonfiction work called Good Cop, Bad Money. Why did you decide to write nonfiction before fiction?
As I said at the top, I was approached to write a memoir of Glen Morisano, a decorated NYPD Inspector. After writing so many fictionalized cops on television, I jumped at the chance to spend time with the real deal. The experience ended up being a master class in police procedure.
6. Both of your books are based on law enforcement, as was Walker, Texas Ranger (the TV show Mr. Lansing wrote and produced starring Chuck Norris, for the readers who don't know). Why do police proceedings interest you so much?
It’s not only police procedure that intrigues me, it’s also the criminal mind. A hero is only as strong as his antagonist. If the criminal enterprise is heinous enough, you might have a compelling story.
7. If you had to choose between writing fiction, writing television or acting, which would you choose and why?
I would choose writing fiction any day. There’s a freedom that you don’t find in any other medium. I’m not writing to a pilot episode, or a star’s ego, or for a committee. When I’m sitting at my desk, the only person I have to satisfy is myself.
Of course there’s collaboration involved after the first draft. But working with an editor, a copy editor and a publisher has been a wonderful experience.
8. Would you like to see a film made from The Devil's Necktie? If yes, would you like to be involved in the production and in what way?
I’d love to see Bertolino on the big screen. Or on television for that matter. And then it would depend on the production company, the deal, and my availability at the time. I would like to be hands on. It’s great fun, sitting on a set, watching something you’ve created come to life.
9. What type of novel would you like to try your hand at one day?
I’m open to other genres, but at this point in my career, I’m happy writing what I love to read.
10. Why drug cartels? There are a myriad of criminals you could've written about. Why did you chose Colombian drug cartels?
Jack Bertolino spent twenty-five years of his life, working as an undercover narcotics detective in the NYPD. He infiltrated Colombian Cartels, took down their money laundering cells and put away major players in the drug trade. In the process, he made many enemies.
It was only natural, that in the first book, his past life would come back to haunt him. And drug cartels are Shakespearian by nature. They have power over life and death, control police forces and armies, and can change the course of a country’s history.
They make formidable opponents.
11. Would you ever write an autobiography about your time in the entertainment industry?
I’m afraid it would be too boring for words. Ask me again over a glass of scotch and I might have a few stories to share.
12. Were any of the characters in the book based on real people?
My characters are all fictionalized. They are composite sketches of characters I’ve met, read about or wanted to meet.
13. Will you ever write a sequel (or prequel) to The Devil's Necktie?
The next book in the Jack Bertolino series is already written and in the process of being edited as we speak. It’s titled, Working the Negative, and is being published by Karen Hunter Publishing and Simon & Schuster.
14. What author would you love to collaborate with?
I’d love to get Jack Bertolino on the road and have him work a case with Ian Rankin’s, “DI Rebus,” in Edinburgh, Scotland.
15. Thank you for participating in the interview! Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
I fronted a rock n roll band, and played CBGB’s in New York City, I drink 18 year old Macallan, and I make Italian meatballs that are so light they float.
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