The Tangled Web is a story of passion, patriotism and political intrigue; of drug trafficking and assassination. The plot travels between London, Prague, New York and Cali, but the central location is an island in the Caribbean. Being Jamaican, I use Jamaica as the visual backdrop, but this story could be about any Caribbean or Latin American country caught in the tentacles of the cocaine industry.
What inspired you to write this story?
You hear news about the awful drug violence in Mexico, but I don’t think the cocaine industry is at the top of the minds of most people – even though cocaine has wreaked havoc in the lives of countless people and ravaged entire societies. For example, back in 2010, Mexican drug cartels were getting cocaine from Colombia’s biggest guerrilla group in a deal that was causing a security threat to both countries. We in the U.S. feed the problem. We’re the largest user of illegal drugs in the world. One in six U.S. citizens claim they’ve used cocaine. According to Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, if there was a Federal tax on cocaine, the revenue would be in the region of $12.47 billion. I didn’t exactly set out to write a story about the cocaine industry, but once The Tangled Web started to evolve, I realized I had the perfect platform for talking about it – though I tread pretty lightly.
Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?
I did quite a bit of research on the cocaine industry for this book. A lot of the stuff in it is factual. I got most of the information about the Colombian cocaine industry from books written by experts on the subject. But that was only one aspect of the research. In addition, I had to find information on sniper rifles, private jets and Cigarette boats. After an extensive online search, which yielded nothing about the speed of Cigarette boats, I called a manufacturer. I discovered the reason the speeds weren’t listed was because if you buy a Cigarette boat, you custom order the engine. “So what’s the top speed for a Cigarette boat?” I asked. “ One hundred and eighty miles an hour was the answer. I had that speed in my first draft, but when a friend who read it seemed dubious, I reduced the speed of the boat in the book.
Tell us about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?
One of the two main players is Lauren Anderson, a savvy investigative reporter who, while on the trail of something big, finds herself caught in a dangerous web of political intrigue. The other is Logan Armstrong, an entertainment tycoon who comes to a decision that will change a lot more than his life. Logan is my favorite. Why? Well, I kind of fell in love with him. Which woman wouldn’t?
How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?
None of the characters even vaguely resembles me, but Logan and Lauren are my voice on some issues.
Do your characters ever take on a life of their own?
My characters always take on a life of their own. For the most part, they lead the way while this poor writer scurries behind them doing her best to keep up with them.
How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
I’ve traveled from an early age and I’ve lived in several countries, so maybe that’s the reason The Tangled Web trots around the world a bit. I chose Prague as one of the locations, because I’d been to Prague the year before I started writing it and the memories were still fresh. The familiarity with the Hispanic characters comes from having lived in Miami for twenty years and having had a lot of Hispanic friends and work associates. I also lived in Puerto Rico at one point. And there’s the Jamaican dialect in the book. Only someone who’s lived in Jamaica for some length of time could write that.
Which is more important to your story, character or plot?
I would say plot is more important in a suspense/thriller. You don’t want to linger too long on character nuances when you’re leading a reader through a plot as complex and suspenseful as The Tangled Web.
Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
I’m glad you asked that question. Yes, The Tangled Web does carry a moral message. The crux of it is right there in chapter 41 – a passage from Ecclesiastes attributed to King Solomon. Part of it reads “and behold, all was vanity and striving after the wind and feeding on it, and there was no profit under the sun.” Meaning, money isn’t everything.
What are your current writing goals and how do you juggle the promotional aspects with the actual writing?
For me, book promotion is a creativity killer and so I can’t write and promote at the same time. There are writers who structure their time in a way that allows them to do both. I can’t. When I write, I don’t want to be interrupted. I’m what you might call a binger. I’ve spent a lot of time promoting The Tangled Web, but I stopped work on the novel I was writing on in order to do so. When I get back to it in mid-August, I’ll probably not be doing too much promotion. A sequel for that novel has already started to take shape in my mind, so I’d really like to concentrate on those books.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been a writer by profession most of my adult life, but there wasn’t any point when I thought I wanted to be a writer. I just fell into writing quite by chance – just the way The Tangled Web came about – by chance. There was no thought of wanting to write a book. One day, I sat down and started writing and about a year later, there was a novel on my computer. Mind you, I was an advertising and marketing writer and I also had articles published in major Florida publications, so I wasn’t exactly green when I ventured into the world of fiction. Advertising writing requires tremendous discipline, so I was already reasonably equipped to be an author.
Where can people learn more about your books?
There’s all the usual stuff – synopsis, look inside, reviews – on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/d2e4nkz. Readers can also visit my website http://www.jp-lane.com. I can be contacted by e-mail from my website. I’d love to hear from them. I welcome questions about The Tangled Web or projects I’m working on.
Click here to read an: Excerpt from “The Tangled Web” by J.P. Lane