An Interview with Jay Brandon

from-the-grave-cover-2_origJay Brandon introduced us to Edward Hall, a once hot shot Houston lawyer, now disbarred, in his legal thriller Against the Law.
He has come back for a second time, in From The Grave, with a chance to practice again. The only problem is that he knows he has to lose the kidnapping case he’s asked to take, since the victim was the D.A.’s sister and the more he works, the more he believes his client to be innocent.
Jay will be at BookPeople at BookPeople January 10th at 7PM to discuss and sign From The Grave and was kind enough to take the stand.

Scott Montgomery: Had you planned to go back to Edward Hall after Against The Law?

Jay Brandon: I had no plans for Against the Law to be anything but a stand-alone.  It didn’t even seem like the beginning of a series, because the premise was Edward Hall was disbarred from the practice of law.  Essentially he’s pretending to be a lawyer again, because his sister needs him. But that book was successful enough that the publisher wanted a sequel.  I realized since Edward did well in that first book he might get a chance to come back to practicing law

SM: How did the premise of being asked to “lose” a case come about?
JB: For a suspense/mystery novel to be good, you have to put as much pressure on the main character as possible.  Character develops under pressure. Edward could probably only begin his comeback as a criminal defense lawyer with the blessing of the District Attorney, who was not his friend in the first book.  So I gave her a motivation to agree: the victim of the kidnapping is the D.A.’s sister, and Edward is asked to defend the man she’s accused. So the D.A. has to remove her and her office from the case, but she still wants as much control over it as possible.  She and Edward both know he needs to keep her happy to have any chance of getting his law license back. Plus this development gave me the opportunity to have a special prosecutor character, who adds interest herself.
SM: The case takes Hall into Houston society. What did you want to explore in that culture?
JB: In the first novel Edward and his sister came from a wealthy, prominent Houston family, just because I’d never set anything in that world before, and also because it made Edward’s fall from grace even worse.  This time, because the victim and her husband are also from that society, I needed to explore that a little, which was fun. I created more of a past for Edward, including an old friend who knows all the gossip.  I knew a little about that society from having lived in Houston at one point and from going back for book events, sometimes in people’s homes. I decided really to explore Houston in this novel, setting locations all over the place.  My agent, who’s from Boston, said it made Houston seem interesting to her for the first time.
SM: Do you think there is anything unique to practicing law in Houston or Texas in general?
JB: There are unique aspects to practicing law in every county.  Houston certainly has its own particular aspects. Size, for one thing.  It’s far and away the most populous county in Texas, so it has the most courts, judges, and lawyers.  There are intricacies to practicing in a place that big, in a Criminal Justice Center that’s more than twenty stories tall.  But it’s the characters who make any story interesting. Edward has a past and knows other people’s histories too.
SM: There is a great reveal at the end of the novel. Were you aware of it before you started writing?
JB: Usually I have a book plotted out well enough before I start writing that I know what’s going to happen at the end.  This time, though, the big reveal at the end didn’t come to me until I was at least two-thirds of the way through writing the novel.  As more and more about the characters and the story revealed themselves to me, I had the revelation. Ironically, I found that subconsciously I had already laid the groundwork for it.
SM: Do you have future plans for Edward Hall?
JB: Yes, the publisher has asked me for another book and I’ve sent them a proposal.  I met my editor at this year’s Bouchercon in Dallas, told him the idea, and he likes it.  This one involves high school, which is all I’ll say. Another fraught world I’ve never explored in writing.

Jay Brandon’s From the Grave is available for purchase in-store and online now. And don’t miss your chance to see Brandon when he stops by BookPeople this Friday, January 10th at 7PM where he’ll read from, discuss, and sign From the Grave.

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