Interview: James Lear

Jen:  Today we welcome James Lear to Romancing the Book.  James, will you share a short bio with us?
James: James Lear was born in Singapore in 1945, grew up in boarding schools in England and spent most of his career in the British Civil Service. After a misunderstanding with the authorities, he dedicated his energies to supporting athletic members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. He turned to fiction in the 2000s when his licence as a physiotherapist was revoked, which prevented him from practising his preferred career. He is the author of several novels including The Back Passage, The Palace of Varieties and The Hardest Thing.

He can be found and liked on Facebook, and at

Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
James: The Sun Goes Down is the fourth adventure in the Mitch Mitchell series, set on a hot Mediterranean island in the early 1930s. Mitch investigates the death – apparently by suicide – of a young soldier stationed on Malta, and uncovers a tangled web of deceit and desire. It’s my homage to those Agatha Christie novels set in exotic locations and holiday resorts. Obviously it had to be set near a major military base so that there was a supply of attractive men.

Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
James: Definitely a plotter. I think you owe it to your reader to deliver the most effective entertainment you can, and that’s not possible without a very clear idea of where you’re going. You need to know where the climaxes are, where the tension builds, when the resolution happens and how it ends. Otherwise you’re just writing to amuse yourself, not the reader.

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
James: I read detective novels and I had sex with men. In my youth I spent a great deal of time chasing ‘straight’ men, with varying degrees of success, so I suppose I would call that research. I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot more men are bisexual than we are supposed to believe – they’ll have sex with other men, but they never tell their friends or family. I spent a lot of time for the next book reading the ads on Craigslist. I begin to wonder if there are any straight men left.

Jen: If this book was made into a movie, who do you see playing the main characters?
James: I definitely see Zac Efron in the lead role. I mean, he practically auditioned for it in that Dirty Grandpa film he made with Robert De Niro; every time he took his clothes off in that he was basically saying ‘Please, Mr Lear, create a detective hero who has sex with other men all the time, you won’t regret it’. In fact, the lead character of Mitch is based on a guy I used to lust after at the gym – as are nearly all the other characters. People I see at the gym, or whom I’ve known at some point in my life, or even just waiters who have served me in cafes. If they really want to be in the movie I would be willing to spend a great deal of time auditioning them.

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you’ve received about your books?
James: The thing that always blows my mind about these novels is that women really enjoy reading them. When I started writing fiction, I thought it would be read by a small handful of gay men who share my taste for literature and sex. In fact, it’s gone much wider than that, and there are loads of women who love the books. I assumed, in a naïve sexist kind of way, that they were more into the relationship side of the stories, but in fact they just love the sex. One fan said ‘I’m a straight woman, and I love cock. One cock is great, but two are even better’. You can’t really argue with that, can you?

Jen: What’s been the highlight of your career to this point?
James: I suppose I could cite my awards and so on, but actually the highlight was when a guy wrote to me and said that my books had helped him get over the death of his long-term partner. He thought he’d never enjoy life again, let alone want to have sex, but he said my writing had actually rekindled his libido and helped him to get out and meet new people.

Jen: What’s next for you?
James: I’m just finishing a new novel called While My Wife’s Away, which is a bit of a departure in that it’s not a mystery thriller, and it’s not period. It’s set in present-day London, and it concerns the adventures of a married man struggling with his growing attraction to other men. It’s basically an expression of my enduring fascination and desire for what the ads refer to as ‘straight/bi-curious’ men.