Writer John Leslie, a world traveler who first came to Key West in the early ’70s, based his first books on Key West characters, penning the popular Gideon Lowry mysteries published in the ’90s that featured a piano-playing sleuth. “Border Crossing,” his newest book, has been called a coming-of-age book and is now available as an eBook. What’s John doing now? Are there more books in his future? Let him tell his story, in his own words.
Q: You’re new novel, “Border Crossing,” is an eBook from www.absolutelyamazingebooks.com. Give us an elevator pitch for it.
A: “Border Crossing” is the picaresque coming-of-age story of Del Ray Gunn who grows up on a small horse ranch near the little town of Marfa in southwest Texas about 60 miles from the Mexican border. Del must cope with events that will have a profound impact on his future, including his father’s death, his mother’s reappearance in his life, and 9/11. The novel takes its characters and readers into issues that have become pervasive in contemporary America: broken families, the effect of war on innocent men who are still emotional boys, controversies arising from illegal immigration and its real effect on the lives of residents as well as immigrants
Q: Did your boyhood in western Oklahoma have much influence in this story?
A: I suppose all the places a writer lives leave some impact on his or her work. I also lived in Kansas and briefly in Utah. I spent the summer I finished high school working on a cattle ranch in Wyoming. Seven years ago, when I was 62, I went to work for a long-haul trucking company driving big rigs across the country, from California to New Jersey and, except for New England, just about every other state in the Continental U.S. That experience certainly had an influence on “Border Crossing.”
Q: Why not another Gideon Lowry mystery or another novel about Key West?
A: I burnt out on mysteries. For 10 years, I wrote a book a year, not a lot for some writers, but for me, I felt I was beginning to repeat myself. Whenever I would write a descriptive passage, I d sometimes think, wait a minute that sounds familiar. I think I used it in a previous book.
Q: Do you plan on more stand-alone books in the future or do you see yourself returning to Key West themed books or are you considering another series?
A: I’m at work on another novel now, not a mystery, partially set in Key West. I don’t have plans for a series, and Gideon Lowry is way too old to bring back. At my own age, I can hardly think beyond the next book.
Q: You chose an eBook publisher, as many of today’s successful writers are doing these days, what were your reasons?
A: In a way, the eBook world chose me. I tried to get “Border Crossing” published in the mainstream press, without success. One of the problems of turning out mysteries, or other genre novels, the industry wants you to keep to your niche. Unless you’re a bestseller, they don’t want you to branch out. I wanted to try a different form, so I took a chance. Fortunately, the eBook world was there with a net to break my fall.
Q: What do you see as the difference today between mainstream publishers and eBook trend?
A: One concern about the eBook world is that a lot seems to get published that isn’t edited. It’s nice to see the democratization of publishing, but all writers need editors. It’s extremely hard to edit oneself, no matter how good. I had skilled readers go over various parts of “Border Crossing”, and when the book was finished, I hired a former editor from Doubleday to give it a polish.
Q: How many books have you published and will we see any of them as eBooks in the near future?
A: I actually have 10 published books, 11 counting “Border Crossing.” The first was a ghostwritten novel under the name David Bradley. Five later books were paperback originals that absolutelyamazingebooks.com will be releasing over the next several months. My four Gideon Lowry mysteries are still under contract with Pocket Books.
Q: You’ve led an interesting life since leaving Oklahoma, traveling the globe to what are trouble spots today. How did you come to settle in Key West? Do you still consider Key West your home?
A: I came to Key West in 1974 from Saudi Arabia where I was teaching English, the first time I’d been back in the States in eight years. After so much time away, I’d lost all sense of connection with the country of my birth. Someone suggested Key West and the rest is history, as they say. I immediately fell in love with the place, which at that time maintained a raffish quality that appealed to me. Although I still had a contract to complete in Saudi Arabia, I knew I’d return to Key West. I did. And a few years after I’d been living here, I had the opportunity to go to Iran where I worked and was caught up in the events that led to the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. I still call Key West home and spend six to seven months a year here.
Q: Do you know if print copies of “Border Crossing” will be available? If they do, will you do a signing in Key West?
A: The e-publisher will make print copies available soon, and I’ll certainly arrange a signing in Key West.
Q: You have many fans that have missed you and your books. What has kept you busy the last few years and what are you up to right now?
A: I’ve been writing without the demands of a deadline.