Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with José Latour

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Ten Questions with José Latour

José Latour’s novels have been published in Britain, the United States, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands. He is a former vice president of the International Association of Crime Writers. In 2002, he left Cuba for Spain and immigrated to Canada in the fall of 2004. He lives in Toronto.

OB:

Tell us about your latest book, Comrades in Miami.

JL:

This novel is based on a forty-five-year-long confrontation between Cuban and American intelligence and counterintelligence organizations. My book, however, is set in the 21st century. It has two main Cuban characters, a man who lives in Miami, Elliot Steil, whom readers may remember from Outcast, and Victoria Valiente, a spymaster from Cuban Intelligence. She "may well be one the most fascinating characters to appear in a crime novel," a reviewer wrote.

OB:

How did you research your book?

JL:

I have been reading espionage fiction and non-fiction all my adult life, but this was the first time I could access the formidable research opportunities the Internet provides. I was living in Spain when I wrote it.

OB:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote Comrades in Miami?

JL:

Because my books won't be published in Cuba as long as the Communist Party remains in power, I focus on entertaining and providing information about Cuban reality to foreigners. Most outsiders have a beach-salsa-rum-sex vision of Cuba. The factual elements of my fiction show the other Cuba, that which most tourists never get to see. But my main goal remains writing a plot and creating characters that entertain the reader and, hopefully, make him think a little.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

JL:

My home, my laptop, my connection to Internet.

OB:

Is there one book you think everyone should read?

JL:

Yes, The Egyptian, by Mika Waltari.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

JL:

I don't read while I am writing and I am currently penning a new book. Between books I read like a maniac.

OB:

What was your first publication?

JL:

A short essay on José Martí that I wrote at 13. I got lucky and won first prize at a literary contest for teenagers.

OB:

Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

JL:

There have been several kind comments from readers over the years. The most recent came from Phyllis Legget, from Penetang. After reading Comrades in Miami she emailed me: “You are able to make me weep for the people in your books....for they are people...not characters. My heart ached for Elliot Steil when he returned to Cuba....a stranger in his own land. I laughed when he returned to where his mother was from and I sobbed when he stopped the car to look out over the ocean one last time.”

OB:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

JL:

I can't make up my mind between the following seven for I think they are all crucial: Read; be realistic; entertain; create believable characters; don't wait for inspiration, keep writing; be self-critical; persevere.

OB:

What is your next project?

JL:

In 2009 McClelland & Stewart will release a new Elliot Steil novel that I already finished, Crime of Fashion, partly set in Toronto. I am currently writing a very technologically complex thriller, with flesh-and-blood Cuban characters and a lot of violence.

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