Good day, book divas and divos. Are you anything like me and wondering what path writers’ have taken to get to them to where they are now? Do you question if they write about what they’ve experienced or are they simply incredibly creative and gifted at making it all up in their heads? If you’re like me and ask yourself those kinds of questions as you read, then you’re going to love today’s guest. Please help me welcome, James L’Etoile, author of the soon-to-be-released Black Label and more. Mr. L’Etoile has been kind enough to share with us his path to writing. I hope you’ll enjoy his visit, follow the blog tour, and add Black Label to your ever-increasing TBR list. Thank you, Mr. L’Etoile, for taking the time to join us today, the blog is now yours.
Thank you for letting me guest post on your blog today. I’m James L’Etoile and I write thrillers and suspense. My latest, Black Label (Level Best Books) is set for release next week—gulp. Black Label will be my fourth traditionally published novel and I’m incredibly grateful for the readers, editors, reviewers, and bloggers who make everything that goes into a book worthwhile.
I’ll be bringing Black Label out on the road in 2021, after a strange and painful year. I enjoy talking about the book, writing and what goes into creating a story. A regular question I get at author events (remember when we could hold those live and in person) and conferences is, “When did you become a writer?” It’s a common question and several of my author friends are able to gleefully pipe off that they’ve been writing since they were nine years old, or they’ve published a dozen books by the time they were twenty-five.
That ain’t me.
I didn’t start my journey down the publishing trail until I’d retired from a twenty-nine year career working in California prison system. I served as a facility captain, hostage negotiator, associate warden of a maximum security prison, and the director of the state’s parole system. In my precious off time, I would read as a way to disconnect from the violence and madness of the world behind the bars. The reading continued after I quit working, but the characters and situations I experienced over those years stuck with me.
I don’t remember the book I was reading at the time, but the ending seemed a little flat and the characters felt somewhat recycled. I muttered to myself, “I could do better than that.” It hit me like a flash. I could do this. But what about all the writing workshops and MFA degrees? Don’t you need all that before you can write? The short answer is, no. You don’t have to pass any litmus test to call yourself a writer. The difficult part is the transition from writer to published author.
Confidence is the fuel you’ll need to burn on your journey to becoming a published author. It’s hard to come by in this business and burns quick. You’ll find your confidence in yourself and your ability to tell a compelling story. It takes time and patience to fill your tank. Some people believe they must have an MFA under their belt to feel confidence, while others dig deep upon their life experiences to fuel their quest. I fell into the latter and drew from the rich exposure to people who inhabit a darker world few come back from. Prison, parole, and probation are where you find people at their lowest, their most vulnerable, and in some cases you catch a faint glimmer of hope. Early in my career I worked as a probation officer writing pre-sentence reports for the sentencing judge. I’d go in the jail, interview the defendant and get their version of the crime, review all of the police reports and documents, talk with the victims, and put it all together for the judge into one document on which he would base his sentencing decision. I didn’t know it at the time, but even back then, I was, in a sense, writing crime stories. That ability to distill the elements of a story down to the essential elements, helped give me the confidence to transition into a published author.
Writing publishable commercial fiction meant learning more about the craft—the mechanics of writing if you will—of creating something that would grab a reader’s attention. Writers conferences and workshops like the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference are a great opportunity to learn all those things you didn’t know went into creating a story. Book Passage holds an annual craft-centered conference to help writers learn about story structure, voice, point-of-view, character development, and pacing—all elements a writer needs to bring to their work. I’ve attended Book Passage’s Mystery Writers Conference as a participant, and as a faculty member in recent years. The exposure to the tools and the authors at the event was priceless. I thank them in the acknowledgement pages of Black Label.
As a writer you’re constantly learning and honing your ability to tell stories. As a reader myself, I can sense when an author is phoning it in. While there is comfort in familiar characters, every novel, or short story, has to be better than the one before. There is a risk in the familiar and comfortable. If I’m not a little excited, apprehensive, and pulled in by the story I’m writing, there is a good chance that the reader won’t be all that excited either.
Writing and the daily practice of putting words on the page has been very therapeutic. The stress and violence I washed in everyday for nearly thirty years, now has a place to go. In my stories, there is justice for the aggrieved, redemption for the fallen, and a look into how the real-life criminal justice system interacts with those caught up in the process.
Every writer’s path is unique to their experience. Your mileage may vary…
I hope you have a chance to take a look at Black Label. I’ve taken the fear of being out of control, being in a place where no one believes you, and mixed it with the undercurrent of greed in the pharmaceutical industry. One woman is caught between greed, corporate corruption, and murder. Her life is on the line for a crime she doesn’t know if she committed, or not.
by James L’Etoile
July 12 – August 8, 2021 Tour
Sanity is something you don’t miss until it’s gone. Hard charging pharmaceutical executive Jillian Cooper fears she’d destined to inherit her mother’s history of mental illness when she finds herself accused of murdering her boss. All the evidence tells her she’s either a murderer, or insane. When Jillian struggles to find the truth, she uncovers a web of black market pharmaceuticals, prison gangs, and greed. She begins to believe she may have killed to cover up the off-the-books drug operation.
Can she discover the truth before she’s condemned to life in prison, or a mental hospital?
“Tight, terrific, terrifying. BLACK LABEL delves into the murky world of pharmaceuticals where profit is prioritized above all else. L’Etoile creates a strong female lead in Jillian Cooper, a woman who faces obstacle after obstacle, but still charges into the abyss. More unnerving than a fistful of amphetamines. Unputdownable.”
—K.J. Howe, international bestselling author of SKYJACK
“James L’Etoile’s BLACK LABEL is a delightfully complex and twisty thriller with a ripped-from-the-headlines plot that will make you think long and hard before you swallow your next dose of medication. Add in an intrepid heroine willing to do whatever it takes to uncover the truth no matter the cost, and L’Etoile’s newest offering is a winner!”
— Karen Dionne, author of the #1 international bestseller THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER and THE WICKED SISTER
“Relentlessly fast-paced and compellingly twisty! The talented James L’Etoile sets up an irresistibly high-stakes situation: a woman is certain to be charged with murder and doesn’t remember a thing. Can she prove her innocence before she’s silenced forever? A dark journey through the world of big Pharma and big money—you will turn the pages as fast as you can.”
— Hank Phillippi Ryan USA Today Bestselling author of THE FIRST TO LIE
“If this book had a tag, it would say ‘proceed with caution’ because nothing is what it seems. Told with a vivid and visceral style, this is le Carré’s Constant Gardener meets The Fugitive. As the title suggests, BLACK LABEL is a top of the line thriller.”
— Gabriel Valjan, Agatha and Anthony Award nominated author
James L’Etoile uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his novels, short stories, and screenplays. He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, facility captain, and director of California’s state parole system. He is a nationally recognized expert witness on prison and jail operations. He has been nominated for the Silver Falchion for Best Procedural Mystery, and The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. His published novels include: At What Cost, Bury the Past, and Little River -The Other Side of Paradise.
Catch Up With James L’Etoile:
BookBub – @jimletoile
Instagram – @AuthorJamesLEtoile
Twitter – @JamesLEtoile
Facebook – @james.letoile
Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for James L’Etoile. There will be Seven (7) winners for this tour. Two (2) winners will each receive a $20 Amazon.com gift card; Three (3) winners will each receive a $10 Amazon.com gift card; and Two (2) winners will each receive 1 signed print edition of At What Cost and Bury the Past by James L’Etoile. The giveaway begins on July 12 and runs through August 10, 2021. Void where prohibited.