We were so excited when John Lansing's first fiction novel, The Devil's Necktie, was published at the end of 2012, and we were especially thrilled when John agreed to answer some of our questions about the book and his plunge into the world of crime fiction!

The C.A.P.E.R. Project: When did you first become interested in writing in general?

John Lansing: Writing was never a motivating factor in my life until I committed to directing a short film twenty years ago. Spencer Eastman, a wonderful screenwriter and friend, offered to pen a script that I would then produce and direct. Tragically, Spencer was diagnosed with a terminal illness and I was forced to fend for myself. Writing that short film was a turning point in my life. I discovered the joy of creating a work instead of interpreting, and it led to a writing partnership and many fruitful years of television work.

And although it wasnít part of my lifeís plan, in hindsight I do think writing books became a natural progression. My acting career helped inform the characters I wrote for, and about, and created, in my television work. The craft of acting can help one understand the emotional roadmap needed to flesh out complex characters, characters that will hopefully be compelling enough to maintain a readers interest. It also gives you an ear for dialogue that rings true.

TCP: Did your previous work as a television screenwriter come in handy when making the transition to novel writing?

John: My television work taught me discipline, writing on a schedule, and collaboration. It really hammered home the type of characters I enjoyed and wanted to invest my time with, characters that were interesting enough for me to spend a year of my life with, and again, hopefully keep an audience reading. Only you can tell me if Iíve succeeded at that.

TCP: Do you go through a period of research before you begin writing? Or do you delve into the story and then do research as situations come up?

John: When I first started out as a writer, I would spend hours combing libraries and researching articles and information related to whatever story we were writing at the time. I traveled to Phoenix when we were writing about a rogue group of cops in Arizona. Talked to the local PD and spent time visiting, eating and drinking in their watering holes and got a feel for the neighborhoods where the story was set to take place.

The Internet has profoundly changed that process. I started writing The Devilís Necktie and did Google searches, along the way, as I needed information. Itís a time saver and invaluable tool.

TCP: What led you to write in the genre of crime fiction specifically?

John: Iíve spent the past fifteen years of my television career writing about law enforcement, but Iíve always been a big fan of crime novels, and that was a big motivational factor in writing this book.

TCP: What was your main inspiration for the lead character, Jack Bertolino?

John: Jack Bertolino is a fictional character, but he is the amalgam of all the interesting men Iíve run across, interviewed, read about, wanted to spend time with, and wanted to be in my lifetime.

TCP: I have to say that the psychology behind the character of Jack Bertolino is extremely realistic. He is facing with some interesting life challenges as we get to know him in this book.

John: Iíve always been drawn to flawed characters that were interested in reinventing themselves, who wanted a new life. When I was growing up, people worked for the same corporation or company, had the same vocation for their entire lives. Well that doesnít fly anymore. Men and women can look forward to experiencing three or four different careers in their lifetime. I wanted to write about a detective who was on the edge of change, who was ready to retire, leave the neighborhood he grew up in, the family he loved, and start over. Jack Bertolino chose to do all of those things; it just didnít work out the way he planned. Twenty-five years of taking down drug dealers, money launderers and killers caught up with him. That was enough of a hook for me to write "The Devilís Necktie."

TCP: What was your biggest challenge in writing this book?

John: The hardest part of writing my first novel was shutting it off at the end of the day. Once I had blown through the terror of the commitment, it became a 24-hour process. I read a short book written by Walter Mosley entitled, This Year You Write Your Novel. What I learned from Mr. Mosley was the importance of writing every day. A book wonít magically appear if you donít put in the time, but the work will improve and come to fruition if you pursue it every day. Make it a habit. It might be the only habit you have that can enrich your life.

TCP: Are an avid reader?

John: I am a huge fan of the crime/ mystery genre. I wasnít a big reader when I was young. I didnít really discover novels, and get the bug, the pure joy of reading, until I went away to college. And then I picked up Raymond Chandler and I was hooked.

Now I read everything that Walter Mosley, Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Robert Crais, John Sandford, James Lee Burke, Patricia Cornwell, Robert Ward, Harlan Coben and Lee Child writes. And thatís just my short list. I read all of the time. I always have a book or a Kindle in my hand. I love the feel of a book and now the accessibility of a Kindle or an iPad. Itís great to be able to download a new book anywhere on the planet. Iím never without one or the other.

TCP: Are you also a fan of television or movie crime dramas?

John: I donít watch a lot of crime dramas, when Iím in the process of writing a book. There arenít enough hours in the day. And I donít want to run the risk of picking up someone elseís train of thought. I do like the mysteries on BBC. I also stay on top of the news, some sports, and my guilty pleasure, "Top Chef." My all time favorite television shows are still "The Sopranos" and "The Wire." Great acting and brilliant writing.

TCP: Between writing sessions, how do you like to unwind and recharge, so to speak?

John: On my off time, Iím a foody who loves to cook Italian. I play a little golf. Love to travel but donít do enough of it. I lose myself in books. And as soon as Iím finished writing this, Iím going to walk my dog. That will make him happy, and that keeps me happy.

TCP: Jack Bertolino seems to be a very strong central character. Will we be seeing more of him in future novels (and perhaps in a movie or TV series, hopefully?)

John: Iím already knee deep into the second book in the Bertolino series. Jack grew up in a Staten Island neighborhood populated with "made men" and friends of the Mafia. He cut all ties with the dark side when he entered law enforcement and thought he had left his past securely behind when he moved out to California. But not so quick. Now that heís retired, Jack finds himself owing a favor to a mob boss who may have saved his sonís life. Itís a request Jack canít refuse.

And to answer your last question, if someone was interested in turning my books into a film or television series, I would be more than happy to have that discussion.

Thank you so much, John, for taking the time to answer our questions, and we wish you great success with this and all of your future writing endeavors!

You can order "The Devil's Necktie" for your e-reader from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  Also be sure to follow John's writing career on both Facebook and Twitter!

 

 

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