Interview with J.P. White
and The Permanent Press

  Q: DID EVERY BOAT TURN SOUTH INVOLVE SPECIAL RESEARCH?  

A: I grew up sailing on Lake Erie on my father's boat and later moved to Florida to finish High School. In Florida, while still in school, I raced in the SORC (Southern Ocean Racing Circuit).  After I graduated, I had no intention of going to college, but instead I planned to join either the Merchant Marine or to deliver boats for a living.  Many of the elements of the story are linked to autobiographical touchstones.


Q:  YOUR BOOK HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS A CARIBBEAN THRILLER, A FAMILY DRAMA, A LOVE STORY AND A GHOST STORY.  WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO COMBINE SO MANY DIFFERENT GENRES INTO ONE TALE?

A:  Every life and every life song is built of many layers.  Every Boat Turns South is  the story of a delivery boat captain who returns to his parents' Florida home to make a confession to his dying father about his role in the death of the favorite son.  In order to make that confession, he must travel back over his years in the Caribbean; he must recount how he met a Dominican woman whom he fell in love with, and he must come to terms with the family ghost who still lingers in his waking dreams.  The urgent facts of his life as a captain won't allow him to abbreviate the details.  

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Q: THE CENTERPIECE OF THIS STORY IS YOUR HERO'S GUILT OVER THE DEATH OF A FAVORITE SON.  DOES THIS STORY ELEMENT HAVE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ROOTS?

A:   I had a cousin who was a Blue Angel pilot who died in the 1960s.  He was  a shining light in my uncle's family and that son's death was so devastating the family never recovered. The trauma of that death has always haunted me just as did in James Agee's A Death in the Family.

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Q:  IS THE WORLD OF SAILING IN THE BAHAMAS AND THE CARIBBEAN AS VIOLENT AND LAWLESS AS YOUR NOVEL SUGGESTS?

A:  We don't have to look very far to see that pirates are alive and flourishing in the world. Wherever there is water, there are men on boats with guns who know those waters
better than anyone else.  The Bahamas have always been used for human trafficking or drug smuggling because of their proximity to the States.  In the 1980s, there were hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cocaine coming into Florida through the Bahamas.  Today,  the situation is different, less intense, but human trafficking in the islands is an everyday occurence.

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Q:.  DID YOU CONSCIOUSLY SET OUT TO UPDATE THE STORY OF THE PRODIGAL SON WHO RETURNS HOME AFTER A LONG ABSENCE?

A:   Someone once said that in all great stories someone is always leaving or someone has just arrived or someone is trying to get back home.  In a sense, I worked with all three of those notions in this story. My lead character has just returned after being gone for thirteen years.  So, yes, I had the prodigal son in mind, but also Homer's Odyssey, the greatest adventure story of them all.

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Q: IS THERE ANY SCHOOL OF WRITING THAT HAS INFLUENCED YOU? 

A: I respect the two grandfathers of American fiction, Hemingway and Faulkner, and I suppose there are elements of each in my writing.  I appreciate Hemingway for his spare and unsettling dialogue and outward description.  I value Faulkner for just the opposite reason: all the densely-layered description and interior storytelling.

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  Q: .  WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR "TROUBLE IN PARADISE" STORY?

A:  I suppose on the upside, something about the power of the confession to change the outcome of any story.  Without releasing the pain, the guilt, there can be no movement forward.  This is true for the individual, the family, a nation -- so I work with this very common dramatic principle first voiced by Aristotle -- that at the end of fear and defeat, there is a catharsis, a purging -- all the traveling, all the suffering, all the confessing has  been warranted.

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