Monday, December 15, 2008

Author Interview: J Lou McCartney

I had the great pleasure of receiving De Marco Empire by J Lou McCartney to review. J Lou is a brand new author and this is her first book. I loved ever minute of this book and J Lou has graciously agreed to allow me to interview her for Socrates’ Book Review Blog. Welcome, Louise and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Here we go…

1) This is an amazing first book, where did you come up with the idea for your first novel and how long did it take you to complete?

I grew up watching all the great mafia movies, such as The Godfather, Scarface, Good fellas and Carlitos Way. I was always intrigued with the mafia’s lifestyle. Even though the characters were ruthless they still oozed charm and likeability. I wanted to do a modern spin on the mafia and thought it was about time somebody wrote a new take on this subject. I actually had the idea to write the book for about 13 years before I decided to put pen to paper! Katie Saunders was always going to be my leading lady and I knew that it was going to be centred around a nightclub and have an Italian mafia influence. 13 months later ‘De Marco Empire’ was complete.

2) Did you have any favorite characters from your book?

I loved Sasha’s character – she was neurotic and totally psychotic but still had that bit of humour around her personality. I also liked how Katie’s character progressed from a naive young woman to a sophisticated woman of the world. And wouldn’t’t we all just love to be swept off our feet by the dashing and extremely rich Antonio De Marco? He was sexy, charming and handsome but also had that mysterious side to him which made him even more intriguing.

3) Did the story turn out as you intended or did it take any turns you weren’t expecting?

I know it sounds bizarre but once I started writing the novel it seemed to take on a life of its own and it kind of wrote itself – if that makes sense! I did have ideas of which way it should go but it didn’t turn out the way I expected it to – in fact I have to say it turned out much better than I anticipated!

4) Do you use an outline when planning a book?

Every book is different – with De Marco Empire I did a basic outline of the plot and a description of the main characters and locations, luckily everything else seemed to follow.

5) How did it feel when you heard you’d be published? Did you celebrate?

After trying 4 other publishers I struck lucky with Pegasus. It was an amazing feeling for a publisher to have faith in my writing. I was elated, ecstatic and thrilled. When I received the publishing contract I celebrated with my family and an expensive bottle of champagne!

6) How are you able to juggle both a family and writing?

There’s no pretending on this question – its hard work! But with the love and support of my family along with sheer guts and determination and total belief in myself I achieved a lifelong dream, so much so that I am currently writing my third novel.

7) As an author, do you get to choose your cover and title or does the publisher get that honor?

All the time I was actually writing the book I never thought about the books title, it just didn’t seem that important. However, once I had finished I realised this was vital. The title had to jump out, make the reader want to know more. I made a list of about 13 titles and asked friends and family which they preferred and ‘De Marco Empire’ won! My daughter Tamzin who is an A Level Art student designed the book cover and Pegasus graphics team did a fantastic job on making it as close to her original idea as possible.

8) Did you do any research for your book?

Yes, I researched La Pregheira in Umbria and it just sounded so peaceful and romantic I knew it was an appropriate setting for my book. As I live in Cumbria in the UK Umbria seemed the perfect choice. I also did some research about Italian furniture and one day when I make my fortune I will buy a huge house and furnish it with Italian d├ęcor!

9) What is your favorite genre to read? Do you have any favorite authors?

I love most fiction books. I’m a sucker for a good romance and edge of the seat crime novels. The first chapter has to reel me in. My favourite authors are Martina Cole, Lynda La Plante, Sydney Sheldon, Helen Fielding, Jackie Collins and Emily Bronte who wrote the classic, Wuthering Heights.

10) What kind of setting do you use to do your writing? A home office? An office outside the home?

I tend to lock myself in my bedroom and get out the laptop. I listen to the beautiful tones of Il Divo playing softly in the background to get me in the mood. When writing I don’t like to be disturbed unless it is a dire emergency!

11) Who is your greatest influence?

I have always admired Martina Cole’s gritty and hard hitting novels. She is a huge icon to me and if I have half of her success I will be truly happy.

12) Was writing a lifelong dream or did you have a different career in mind?

I was always a dreamer and never really knew what I wanted out of life. At school my head was always in the clouds and I had a really short attention span - academically I was only really good at Art and the English language, which has obviously come in useful! It wasn’t until years later with a little help from a personal development coach that I discovered what I was born to do and I haven’t looked back since.

13) Do you have any words of advice for the aspiring writers out there?

Writing is a lonely vocation where you are wrapped up in your own world, living and breathing life into your characters and the situations you put them in. I’m on this fantastic journey not knowing what is going to happen from one day to the next. I would say to aspiring writers – expect rejections its par for the course. Just take it on the chin and move on – with self belief in your work and perseverance you will get there in the end – it’s worth it!

14) Can you tell us anything about your next book?

My new novel 'Bella Ella' is centred around sex trafficking with Italian mafia
and Russian gangsters who set up an international sex trafficking ring. It
shows the fate of some of the girls who are abducted and forced into this sordid
existence and the affect it has on the people who they come into contact with.
It's mainly set between Russia, Italy and the UK. There are lots of twists and
turns along the way and some horrific murders. The novel is fast paced and
quite often brutal in places, it's definitely not for the faint hearted! This novel
will leave the reader shocked to their very core and open their eyes to this
profession which is very prevalent in today's society.

15) When can we expect to see Bella Ella published?

That’s a very good question! My current publisher have taken my writing as far
as they can and I feel that the only way forward now is to find a good agent
who can take my writing to the next level. De Marco Empire has been entered
for two prestigious awards The Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction Award 2009
and The Orange Broadband Award for New Writers 2009 so who knows what
doors this may open. For more information about my writing check out my
website at

And finally Yvonne I wanted to thank you for your impressive review and will
keep you posted on any further developments.

Once again, Louise, thank you for spending some time with us.


  1. What a great interview! Thank you to both J Lou McCartney and Yvonne. :-) It's always interesting to read about the writing process.

    The book sounds good too. I will have to keep an eye out for it! Her new book also sounds intriguing.

  2. The book, De Marco Empire, was really good. I couldn't put it down! Glad you liked the interview :)

  3. Great interview. The movies she mentions are among my favorites ;)
    Its always fun reading about the author behind the book.


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