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Interview: January 9, 2004

January 9, 2004

In the second half of a two-part interview conducted by co-Founder Carol Fitzgerald, and reviewers Joe Hartlaub and Bethanne Kelly Patrick, Jillianne Hoffman talks about her love for Miami and its people, some of her favorite authors, and what readers are saying about her debut novel RETRIBUTION. You write about life in the boroughs of New York with great description. Did you spend time in the city?

Jilliane Hoffman: I grew up on Long Island and attended both undergraduate and law school at St. John's University in Queens. I interned for both a judge in Brooklyn and for the District Attorney's Office in Queens, and I worked for a civil law firm in NYC.

Oh, and I lived in Bayside, Queens with my husband. Right there on Rocky Hill Road, just a few minutes from the LIRR train station.

BRC: You also write with great detail about Cuban Miami. You have so many colorful bits and scenes with pastelitos, cafe Cubana and The Pickle Jar restaurant. What do you like about this area?

JH: When writing about Miami, you can't ignore the people in it. Cubans, Columbians, Brazilians --- they all influence the flavor of the city. Even in the Miami courthouse, Cuban coffee is served alongside pastelitos, and in every Publix you can find loaves of Cuban bread, fresh baked. I wanted the reader to experience Miami exactly the way it is, in all its delicious, colorful splendor. Because you can't drive down Eighth Street without hearing Latin music and seeing cafeterias, and you can't get bad frijoles negros in Little Havana.

BRC: What are you working on now and when can readers see it? Will readers see CJ and Dom again in a later book?

JH: I am working on a sequel to RETRIBUTION. I can't tell you who'll be in it, because I don't want to spoil the surprise(s). I believe it will be published next year (2005).

BRC: Clearly CJ has a lot of issues based upon her rape. What are the challenges in writing a relationship for a character who is a damaged woman?

JH: You have to think like one. You have to constantly be aware of what she has faced and how that will affect everything from where she eats dinner to how she returns her lover's kiss.

BRC: RETRIBUTION explores the subtle distinction between justice and revenge, as well as the nexus where the two concepts can, and often, intersect. The ending might be considered controversial in some circles, while very satisfying in others. Will CJ's actions in RETRIBUTION have any repercussions in future novels?

JH: I was not concerned with a happy ending. I wanted people to get to the end of the book, close it and turn to the guy next to them (who also hopefully just read it) and talk about it. I wanted to incite conversation and debate, and for people to wonder if justice really was had. C.J. has to live with all she has done and all she has failed to do, as well as the consequences of her decisions. Mighty heavy luggage to cart around…

BRC: You never took a writing course. But surely you read a book or two before you started RETRIBUTION. Which were most helpful? What author is your role model?

JH: I wrote something that I, myself, would like to read. With that in mind, my favorite authors are John Grisham, James Patterson and Thomas Harris. Grisham is King of the Courtroom, Patterson is a page-turner and Harris scares me. I'd have to say I admire all three for different reasons.

BRC: How did you feel when you saw the finished book for the first time?

JH: Awed. Then proud.

BRC: What are you hearing from readers about RETRIBUTION?

JH: Most people tell me that it scared them, some so much that they could not read it when alone or at night. But then those same people tell me that they simply could not put it down, and I have heard of many people reading it in one sitting. That makes me feel great! I am also hearing from readers that they love the metamorphosis that Chloe goes through --- from happy, optimistic law student to a scared and paralyzed victim to a woman capable of engineering retribution. And the courtroom scenes --- a lot of people can't believe the realities of the criminal justice system: the statute of limitations, search and seizure law, evidence suppression. Truth is stranger than fiction I suppose.