10 Questions with James Conway
Who is James Conway?
James Conway has spent more than two decades advising and growing many of the world’s leading corporations. His global consulting clients presently include tech and innovation companies, social, new and old media firms and financial institutions. His role as a trend advisor and Research Fellow for a successful hedge fund helped provide the premise and background for THE LAST TRADE.
THE LAST TRADE is his first thriller, and the first in a series of original and hyper-current international thrillers that capture the pulse, swagger and menace of the world of 21st Century finance, technology and new media.
10 Questions with James Conway
Mr. Conway, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. Your debut thriller, The Last Trade, comes out today. Tell us a bit more about this work.
Thank you for your interest, Ethan. The short version of the plot of THE LAST TRADE is that it’s akin to John Grisham’s THE FIRM, only set at a hedge fund. My protagonist Drew Havens, who is conflicted about his role in the crash of 2008, discovers that the head of his hedge fund is involved in a plot that could bring down the U.S. markets and he fights a ticking clock to stop it, and redeem himself.
Drew Havens, the main character of The Last Trade, is a man with a great foresight, anticipating the mortgage crisis of 2008 and make a killing in the process. You work as an adviser to financial institutions and hedge funds. How did you go about creating Drew’s character?
I’m far from a financial wizard. My relationship with the financial world is more as a trend-spotter or provider of cultural insights than as an analyst. However the basis for Havens’ character was closer to home. He’s a good man whose fanaticism about his job led him to act without thinking about the broader social ramifications until it’s too late. As an advertising executive, and I think any person with a job and a conscience can relate to this, I quickly learned that it’s up to the individual to decide what type of business he or she is in, what type of work or assignment one should or shouldn’t take. Havens learned too late; but page one starts his road to redemption.
The work in the financial world is described as grueling and extremely competitive. Does this image match the reality, according to your experience?
Grueling. Competitive. Cutthroat. Take your pick. It’s also highly, almost obscenely lucrative. In my research I met dozens of talented people of integrity and a fair share of borderline sociopaths. Unfortunately the truly bad have ruined the image of this world; hopefully, somehow, this next wave will learn to correct and save itself because of them, but I’m not holding my breath.
When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
In college I wrote for the sports department at The Boston Globe. I was hooked, and soon knew that my ultimate goal was to be a novelist. After 20 years of trying, while working in newspapers and then advertising, my first novel THE FUTURIST was published (under my given name, James P. Othmer). I enjoy all types of writing, have a multitude of ideas that transcend one category or genre, and I plan to continue writing thrillers as James Conway!
How did your efforts to create The Last Trade end up producing a published book?
I first broached the idea of writing thrillers as James Conway with my agent, who also represents John Grisham. He was skeptical, because my first two novels were “literary”, but once he heard the premise and read the early chapters, he was enthusiastic in his support and provided great advice about what it takes to make a truly compelling read.
A word of advice for new writers?
Kurt Vonnegut and E.L. Doctorow told me the same thing at separate times: write every day, even if it’s a sentence, or a paragraph, or a journal entry. And don’t make excuses about your job or how busy you are. Stop talking about it and just write. It’s amazing how soon the daunting, seemingly never-ending journey to the completion of a novel can turn into progress and momentum and completion. And love it. After my third novel came extremely close to publication and interest waned, I accepted the fact that I would never get published. But I knew that I would continue writing anyway. A year later I finished THE FUTURIST and sold it within 24 hours.
What is your typical writing day?
I work a full-time, demanding job in advertising and have two children. I write on the train to work every day and from 7-9:30 am, before I’m inundated. If I can keep my eyes open I re-read, edit and do research on the way home.
What other books are you working on at the moment?
An international tech thriller called THE PROTOTYPE by James Conway (featuring a return of Agent Cara Sobieski) and a big social “literary” novel by James P. Othmer called FLOATER.
What do you like to read and what are you reading now?
I love Graham Greene, Don DeLillo, Murakami and Alan Furst. Right now, I’m enjoying and learning from Olen Steinauer’s THE AMERICAN SPY. I’m told he’s about as good as it gets in the contemporary spy genre.
What can readers expect to find in The Last Trade?
Hopefully, a smart, suspenseful and frighteningly plausible thriller, well told, featuring likeable characters whose flaws and strengths ring true as they try to save themselves and a small bit of our world.