Interview with Jim Tortolano

What are your five favorite books, and why?
My interests are pretty wide-ranging. My favorite book of all time is Sinclair Lewis' "It Can't Happen Here," about a fascist takeover of the United States in the Great Depression. I like it not only because Lewis is a great author, but the book was a public service, pointing out how people pretending to be patriots might really be greedy, power-hungry thugs. Also on the list would be Mark Helprin's "Winter's Tale," a work of great beauty and eloquent in its appreciation of a city. Garrison Keillor's "Lake Wobegon" is another classic about a town, depicting small town quirks in a loving and humorous way. As for the last two, Robert Conroy's alternate history novel, "1862" and Michael Shaara's Civil War epic "The Killer Angels," both illuminating aspects of the tragedy of the War Between the States.
What do you read for pleasure?
I enjoy especially history, alternate history and humor. I like to read about the lesser-known aspects of world and American history, as well as those what-might-have-been novels. Garrison Keillor is my favorite humorist; I'm looking for someone who might be close to as good.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have an Apple iPad, but I also hear good things about various Kindle and Nook products.
Describe your desk
Big old wooden thing with a lamp, a few reference books (AP Style, fiction-writing guides), phone and too much other stuff. I am constantly fighting the clutter wars.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Providence, Rhode Island, but I've lived in my home town of Garden Grove (Orange County, California) since I was 7 years old. It was a rural town evolving into a suburb now turning into a more urbanized area. As a kid there were orange groves, strawberry fields, vacant lots and a real country feel. A great sense of community, and I think my appreciation for a feeling of belonging to a place has had a big impact on my careers and my writing.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote little kid "novels" starting in sixth grade. I studied journalism in high school and college, and have worked in that field (along side a career as a college professor) most of my working life. I've written a history of my home town and a book on Chinese philosophy. "Not Justice" is my first crack at fiction.
What's the story behind your latest book?
"No Justice" stems from several ideas. One is how much what happens to you in high school kind of follows you around your whole life. Another is how much it seems to be that nations and societies are becoming polarized and run the risk of breaking into smaller, less stable units. And I am an American exceptionalist who thinks that America – with all its flaws – is still "the last, best hope of mankind."
What motivated you to become an indie author?
As someone who teaches mass communications, including books, I know how tough it is for a new author to break in with big publishing company, which wants the predictable books on diets, celebrities, horror and such. I don't think my books will fit into any of those categories, so why not just write the book I want on my terms and see what happens?
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
In fiction, making a "made-up" person or place come alive and ring with authenticity. In non-fiction, to tell a story fairly and with insight.
What are you working on next?
I've got three books cooking. The one most likely to next emerge from the pot is about a future America suffering from political chaos and a viral plague. Militias, religious fanatics, cultists, criminal gangs, environmental extremists, climate change will all play a role. Our heroes are going to be everyday people forced to step up to deal with extraordinary challenges. It's still in the early stages of writing, but's moving faster than other projects I've begun.
Who are your favorite authors?
Sinclair Lewis (It Can't Happen Here, Babbit, Elmer Gantry), Garrison Keillor (Lake Wobegon, WLT: A Radio Romance), Rick Atkinson (An Army At Dawn, The Day of Battle) and Robert Conroy (alternate history novels such as 1862 and Rising Sun).
Published 2014-06-12.
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Books by This Author

No Justice: Adventures of the Black Dog
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 38,240. Language: American English. Published: June 12, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Action
Professor Andy Russle seems like an unlikely choice to foil a terrorist plot aimed at the world's best-known amusement park. But he's more than he seems – maybe more than he realizes. He and his band of old high school friends find themselves battling a man who would be "King of the World." There's action, adventure, humor and some thoughtful reflections on good, evil and making moral choices.