Love/Hate Relationships and the shifting state of the biz: 3 Qs for author James Lepore

Attorney/author James Lepore's latest novel, Blood of My Brother, is about revenge and redemption. His forthcoming Sons and Princes traps a mafia heir between two worlds. I was sensing a dichotomy theme...

James, thanks for joining us. The publishing industry has certainly been a rollercoaster ride since you got into it with your first novel, A World I Never Made. What's your take on where we go from here?
I have the feeling that 2010 will be seen as the moment of transition from the old to the new—and ever evolving—model, of book publishing. The e-reader will, I believe, from now on, be accepted as the way to receive their daily bread by readers of both fiction and non-fiction. Packaging is nice, but in the end it’s content, not packaging, that sustains a reader’s soul. Most of us have at least two or three balls in the air at one time, all the time. Reader’s will always love to read, but in today’s very hectic world (and very scary economy), I believe they will be willing to sacrifice packaging in exchange for the great pricing and the tremendous simplicity and ease of purchase and delivery that comes with an e-reader.

This is not to say that print books will go away. They will, I believe, fall into a different, and more exalted category of acquisition, that of the prized possession. Remember, I said daily bread, not gourmet meal. There will be readers—many, many of them—who will love a book so much that they will have to own it as an artifact, an icon of their experience of reading it. This desire for the physical thing may arise after reading an e-book, or by simply knowing that certain books have to be on your shelf near the fireplace, Jane Austen, for example, or Hemingway or Steinbeck, or Stieg Larrson. Publishers may respond by printing limited special editions, beautifully bound, perhaps signed by the author. Treasures to be cared for, handed down, read aloud to the children.

As this new model expands, traditional print publishers are going to have to rethink their missions, while at the same time self-publishing and other models—most of them not even thought of at the moment—will have more room to position themselves than ever dreamed possible. I can see five writers getting together, for example, to form their own e-publishing company. I say go for it. Keep all the profits!

So what does this mean for bookstores?
I think the big ones are great, but I believe they are going to have to reshape themselves—likely a painful process—in order to survive. The small ones, the indies, will, I believe, be the winners in this brave new publishing world. They will be the places where the special editions of loved books, new and old, can be purchased, where people can browse and feel books in their hands that—since it is not an every day occurrence—they will be willing to pay a premium for. Your readers will not miss the irony of this, hi-tech takes the indies full circle, from esteemed local businesses, to despair, to triumph in a new paradigm.

In five years, God willing, I’ll write anoher piece for you, Joni, and talk about how near to, or far from, the mark I came.

I always ask everybody what they're reading, but I'm curious to know: what books have you particularly loved/hated since you started writing?
I find it interesting that you gave me two starkly opposed ratings categories: Loved/Hated. Here goes: The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, Stieg Larsson. Loved it and hated it. Hated the long explanatory passges, all that telling. Loved Lisbeth Salander, a young woman who lives life completely on her own terms, and who deals with the blows received from others in a very straightforward way: she gets revenge. The plot is of course a winner too.

The Raymond Chandler Ominbus. (The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The High Wndow, The Lady in the Lake). Loved it. Rereading Chandler gives me faith that a great voice can be heard through all the distracting noises of the universe.

The Raj Quartet, Paul Scott. Loved it These were four of he best novels I’ve ever read. Are you interested in any of the following subjects: the dehumanizing effects of colonialization on both sides of the equation; the corrosive power of racial bigotry and religiuos fanaticism on the human heart; the end of the British Raj in India;. love aross brutally drawn race lines? Then read these beautifully written novels.

The Lincoln Lawyer, Michael Connelly. Loved it I wish I had dreamt up Mickey Haller, his Lincoln Town Cars and his great trial skills.

Homage To Catalonia, George Orwell. Loved it. Non-fiction, but it’s Orwell, whose clarity is incomparable, which is especilly needed on the subject of the Spanish Civil War, one of the most remarkable, and, I believe, least understood, episodes of the twentieth century.

Monsignor Quixote, Graham Greene. Loved it. Not one of Greene’s best, but he’s so intelligent that you soon realize you are at the feet of a master story teller.

Visit James Lepore's website
Read an excerpt from Blood of My Brother


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