JAY BRANDON is the award-winning author of many novels and short stories acclaimed both critically and by readers. His first novel, DEADBOLT, was awarded Booklist magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award, after a starred review. His first legal thriller, FADE THE HEAT, was short-listed for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for Best novel, was optioned by Amblin Entertainment, and has been published around the world. LOCAL RULES was a selection of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. In all, his novels have been published by more than a dozen foreign publishers, with worldwide distribution. Jay is a practicing attorney, and many of his novels are legal thrillers. He has departed from the legal genre, however. THE JETTY, co-written with Joe Labatt, is a ghost story and romance set at the Texas coast. MILAGRO LANE is the definitive novel of Jay’s home town of San Antonio, a family saga, mystery, and love story. Author Rick Riordan said of it, “Part mystery, part insider’s guide, MILAGRO LANE is a wonderful romp through a wonderful city.” Jay’s latest, SHADOW KNIGHT’S MATE, which bestselling author Sharyn McCrumb called “a wonderful novel,” is an international thriller featuring a long-hidden secret society, their implacable enemy and, possibly, the end of the world as we know it. Another bestseller, David Liss, appraised it this way: In SHADOW KNIGHT’S MATE, Jay Brandon creates an irresistible mix of vivid characters, a thrilling conspiracy, a broad (and clever) historical scope, and a great narrative voice. In short, this is an absorbing, exciting, and absolutely entertaining novel.” Jay’s most recent short story, “A Jury of His Peers,” was chosen by Lee Child for inclusion in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES. Jay lives in San Antonio, Texas.
I began writing at an early age, soon after I started reading. Luckily I had teachers in elementary school who encouraged my writing, reading my stories to the class. My sixth grade teacher Mr. Clarkson even “commissioned” me to write a story for a special occasion, St. Patrick’s Day. At Robert E. Lee High School in San Antonio I did the usual writerly things, was copy editor of the yearbook and a columnist for the newspaper. (Both won best in state in UIL competition.) But mainly I just wrote, all the time, short stories, poems, fragments, ideas. My preferred medium was a Big Chief tablet and a blue medium point Bic pen. I attended Trinity University in San Antonio for two years and took every writing class they offered. One of my professors, then novelist-in-residence Bob Flynn, is still a friend of mine. A play of mine was given a student production. It was a short two-character play about Prometheus, after he’d given fire to mankind and was punished by the gods by being chained to a rock and having a vulture eat his liver every day. The other character was the vulture. (“Whine, whine, whine, that’s all I ever hear from you. You think I have such a great job, this again day after day? And never a change in diet. Liver, every damn’ day.”) I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in English, a guarantor of unemployment. For three years I did odd jobs and wrote, collected a world of rejection slips, finally had a couple of short stories published. Then I applied to graduate school at The Writing Seminars of Johns Hopkins, and had one of the best years of my life. It was a small class of graduate students, about twenty-five, half poets and half fiction writers. We spent our lives together for a year, doing nothing but reading, writing, reading each other’s writing, and talking about writing. (And socializing.) John Barth was director of the fiction workshop, a wonderful teacher. Another great teacher was Edmund White. Ed taught a class in world literature and began the discussion of each novel with a very writerly question: “What can we steal from this book?” I wrote a very literary sort of novel toward the end of that year. It helped me acquire an agent but was never published. Hearing that it was easier to get genre fiction published, I quickly wrote a suspense novel. My agent told me it was wonderful, the best thriller he’d read in ten years. I quickly wrote another which he said was even better. He kept telling me things like that for three years and never sold either novel. A new plan was called for. I moved to Houston, worked in a bookstore, then went to law school. At the end of my second year of law school I changed agents. My first agent gave me a list of about twenty-five publishers to whom he’d tried to sell my suspense novels. My new agent sold both books to the first publisher she tried. Virginia Barber was a great agent and I’m still grateful to her. So my first novel, DEADBOLT, was published the same year I graduated from law school. The lag time in getting a book published turned out to be a blessing for me, though, because in the meantime I acquired another profession. Law has turned out to be a good subject for me. Good novels put characters under pressure to see how they react, and nothing puts pressure on someone like being charged with a crime or representing someone charged with a crime. And within the context of the legal thriller I can write about any subject I want, and have: love, death, sex, family, race. Because I didn’t set out to be a mystery writer. I wanted to be F. Scott Fitzgerald. That’s true of a great many “genre” writers, and their novels show it. There’s nothing about a genre that dictates how good or bad the writing is. Some of the best writing being written today is in so-called genre fiction. I’m glad to have been able to do what I love for as long as I can.