J. Lee is the author of the new novel The Hubley Case. He has worked in the engineering and marketing fields, and he lives in the Chicago area.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Hubley Case?
A: I was actually sitting in the Sao Paulo airport where the book begins when the central concept for the story first struck me.
What if a seemingly normal guy was shot and the killers died on the scene, preventing any further investigation? What if he was posthumously framed to cover something much bigger up? Perhaps someone orchestrated the whole thing, pulling the strings from a distance to serve a completely unrelated purpose.
The idea intrigued me, so from there I tried to frame a story that revolved around solving that mystery and incorporated a series of other subplots.
Q: You tell the story from various characters' perspectives. Did you write the chapters in the order in which they appear, or did you move things around as you wrote?
A: I force myself to outline the entire book before I begin writing Chapter One. And to be honest, that’s out of necessity. I wish I had the ability to start with a blank page, but that always seems to result in a lot of re-work and backtracking. Having the outline upfront helps me map out the twists, red herrings and character development at a high level.
That said, once the pages are written, I definitely switch their order around as part of the editing process.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: The short answer is both. Having the outline I mentioned above gives me the framework to write the full story, so I definitely know beforehand where it’s going and how it ends.
However, one of my favorite parts of the writing process occurs when I get to roam free from within the boundaries of the outline. In fact, I purposely try to keep the outline loose enough to allow for it along the way.
Q: The novel takes place in Chicago and a variety of other locations. How important is setting to you in your writing?
A: In general, the value of visiting a book’s setting(s) was something I underestimated early in my writing career. And my first two (unpublished) novels show it. There’s something about being there that makes the writing more authentic and therefore convincing.
Now when I write, I make every effort I can to see places for myself. I spend some time, take in the surroundings and jot things down that feel unique and interesting. You just can’t get that sort of stuff from Google Maps.
For The Hubley Case, the locations weren’t chosen as creatively as one might think or perhaps as I would like. Instead, it was pretty straightforward and logical. I knew I wanted the primary setting to be the Chicago area because that’s where I live.
And I knew I wanted Peter Hubley’s murder to occur on foreign soil because it added to the mystique [regarding] the FBI’s involvement. As it happened, my job as an International Program Manager brought me to Brazil several times during the time I was thinking through the idea for the book, so it seemed like a great location to use.
Seeing all the cities firsthand and interacting with the wonderful people who live there allowed me to get a solid grasp of the environments and communities.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Writing is a passion and I honestly can’t imagine not doing it. I am currently working on my next thriller, which brings back several of The Hubley Case characters and begins with a “bang” – i.e. a bomb in a very public place.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Thanks a lot for taking the time to learn a little bit about The Hubley Case and me! If you’re interested in knowing more about either, there’s a lot of information available on my website (book Q&A, guest articles I’ve written, my background, etc.).
Please feel free to check it out and drop me a line if you have any questions. And if you decide to give the book a try, I’d love to hear what you think! Thanks again for reading, and to Deborah for the chance to participate.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb