David Centrelli is just an average junior business development executive at a pharmaceutical company in Richmond when a knock on the door reveals that his best friend’s death two weeks earlier was no accident, and his buddy has a message for him from the grave. As skeptical as he is, clues keep coming, and soon his own home is engulfed in flames. When the perpetrator contacts him, he learns that the accusations are legitimate–and that people trained to eliminate problems have labeled him one.
Blackmailed by decisions he made years ago, informed that his brother has been kidnapped, and threatened with a future not even his worst nightmare could imagine, the temptation to give up what he knows and disappear into affluent anonymity grows stronger by the second…until he learns that millions of lives depend on him doing the right thing. But can an ordinary guy really escape death from experts trained to administer it, and prevent a colossal calamity already set in motion by the highest levels of government?
Read on for an interview with J. Lee, author of The Deadly Deal.
Q. How has your professional life, working with a pharmacy automation company, inspired The Deadly Deal?
A. In my first job out of college, I got some high-level exposure to the FDA’s drug approval process. While this is certainly a work of fiction, that baseline knowledge and experience ultimately served as the impetus for the book’s storyline. Times and processes have changed, but the premise still intrigued me enough that I wanted to update it and pursue the idea.
Q. You wrote this book 16 years ago! What made you want to release this novel now?
A. In a lot of ways, it feels like my writing baby. It had a different title back then, but I’d obtained a literary agent and was ready to go. Shortly after signing, and one week before he was set to reach out to publishers, my agent was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently passed away. When that happened, I put the book in the proverbial drawer and proceeded to move on in life and wound up publishing two others along the way. But the concept has always fascinated me, and I suppose deep down I believed (and hoped) that this day would come.
Q. What’s the inspiration behind your characters?
A. Ironically, one of the most interesting aspects of the protagonist to me as I wrote was that he’s an “ordinary” working professional who has been thrust into an extraordinary situation. In my previous novels, the main character is a Marine specially trained for the types of dangerous situations he encounters in the book, but this time writing the suspense was more challenging and intriguing because I didn’t have the crutch of him being so well trained.
Q. What are some tips for writing a twisty mystery that keeps readers guessing?
A. Every writer has his or her own style. For me, the only way to successfully keep the readers on their toes is to outline the story first, so that I can see it from start to finish, before I allow myself to write the first page. That lets me insert twists and turns, red herrings, and various clues that serve the overall plot. And I learned that the hard way. When I don’t outline at first, I have to rewrite a lot and usually end up creating one before it’s over anyway. I know some authors who have the ability to just start writing freestyle and hammer out a really great story, and I envy them. It’s just not me.
Q. Is there anything else in the works for you as an author?
A. Thanks for asking. I’ve got some thoughts about continuing the Ben Siebert series, and some fans have asked about that possibility. There’s also another standalone storyline I’m toying with that, similar to The Deadly Deal, I find extremely intriguing. If history is any judge, I’ll have to pursue that too…
J. Lee is the author of The Hubley Case, The Silent Cardinal, andThe Deadly Deal. He graduated from Duke University with degrees in Engineering and Sociology, and lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with his family. To learn more about him or his award-winning novels, please visit www.jleethrillers.com.