Thursday, September 14, 2023

Q&A with J. Lee



J. Lee is the author of the new novel The Deadly Deal. His other novels include The Hubley Case. He lives in the Chicago area. 


Q: What inspired you to write The Deadly Deal, and how did you create your character David Centrelli?


A: The Deadly Deal was actually written (first draft) 17 years ago, when I worked in an industry tangential to the FDA. At that time, I'd obtained a literary agent and was two weeks away from submitting to publishers when my agent was diagnosed with cancer and soon after passed away. When that happened, I shoved the manuscript in the proverbial drawer.

But after publishing my first two books, I decided to reread it and just couldn't shake the idea. The FDA approval process has changed since, but the premise of the book felt fresh and very compelling to me. The plan at the time was to "dust it off, make a few very minor edits," and pursue publication. What happened instead was a massive rewrite of the entire story, including the title.

As for David, I wanted the character to be an everyday businessman who suddenly got thrust into extraordinary situations he knew he wasn't equipped to handle.

In my previous two books, the protagonist, Ben Siebert, was a former Marine specially trained to handle such situations. Part of the appeal to me in writing The Deadly Deal was that David wasn't. I think that's a more relatable scenario for most of us.


Q: Best Thrillers Book Reviews called the novel a “perfectly crafted conspiracy thriller with a truly noble hero at its core.” What do you think of that description?


A: My immediate reaction was that it’s very flattering. I’m glad that’s how it came across and it certainly felt rewarding (and relieving!) to see that the book resonated so well with an independent reviewer.


On another level, it inspires me to keep working hard to write stories that people will enjoy and connect with, and I sure hope The Deadly Deal resonates similarly with people who give it a chance as well.

Q: Without giving anything away, did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: There are some writers who have the uncanny ability to freewrite from the beginning and produce an integral, impressive, and intriguing story that keeps the educated reader guessing and wanting more until the very end. The truth is, I’m just not one of them. I can only envy them.


Because I outline every novel I write, I certainly know the major plot twists and storylines from the start. But part of the fun for me is leaving enough wiggle room in the outline to make a few changes as I go.


Side note: writing an outline definitely has its benefits. In fact, I rely on it to make sure I keep sight of the overall story, introduce the right twists at the right time, effectively utilize red herrings, avoid predictable characters, introduce hints without blowing it, and try to do it all in a suspenseful and fast-paced manner.


So as much as I might envy the writers who can do it all from the top of their head, I’m thankful for my outlines.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: Above all, I want them to enjoy it. It’s a fictional story that was written specifically so someone could take a break from real everyday life and be entertained.


There’s no “meaning of life” in the books I write, though I do hope it encourages people to think about what they would do if they found themselves in David’s shoes. It’s not all that farfetched and certainly anything that enables people to think provocatively is a good thing.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Thanks for asking! While I don't want to give away too much too soon - and the fact is it's all subject to change anyway - stay tuned...some announcements may be coming out and a chapter or two may be made available in the near future. I've been kicking around two or three different premises, including a historical fiction concept as well as another Ben Siebert novel. 

Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I just want to say thank you very much, Deborah, for the opportunity to answer a few questions here today. It’s been a real pleasure. And to everyone reading, thanks for taking the time to check it out. If you’d like to talk further, or learn more about me or my books, please check out and let’s connect!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with J. Lee.

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