A Q&A with Author Jonathan Neville about his novel, The Mistake.


Q: How much of The Mistake is based on your own experiences? You are a lawyer, right?


Neville: Every book is based on the author's life experience, in my view. I've practiced law in a variety of contexts, from supreme court clerk, prosecutor, criminal defense counsel and divorce lawyer to general counsel in a large company. None of these experiences are replicated in this novel, but all of them are in there somewhere.


Q: The title is The Mistake but the characters make multiple mistakes. Did you have one in mind?


Neville: Yes, but I can't tell you which one. (grins) Seriously, it's human nature to make mistakes even when we're sure we're not doing so. We can't know all the circumstances, and we can't foresee the ramifications, so it's like we're forced to make mistakes. Like the universe insists we do.


Q: And why is that?


Neville: You're asking exactly the questions I want to answer. Nice job! The universe is keeping us humble. Our own mistakes make us more empathetic and forgiving of others.


Q: But you've got Cal and James and Sam--they're all making serious mistakes. 


Neville: If they weren't serious, with major consequences, they wouldn't be interesting. They wouldn't produce changes in the characters. 


Q: This is the third book in the James Madison series...


Neville: Actually, it's the fourth. I haven't released the third yet.


Q: How many will there be?


Neville: Seven. It's not like seven years at Hogwarts, but you could compare it in the sense that there are seven phases James goes through, seven major events that shape his life. It's a nice number that might apply to each of us. From the universe's perspective, I mean. 


A: You've had James in Connecticut, California, and now New York. Anywhere else?


Neville: There are enough clues in this book to answer that.


A: You mean, Washington DC?


Neville: You gave it away! But there might be more, as well. Someone like James needs to experience many areas in the country. Maybe we'll visit Texas or Kentucky or someplace.


Q: So far, one constant in the Madison books seems to be corrupt lawyers. 


Neville: While there is some conduct that almost everyone considers corrupt, the term often is more nebulous than that. One person's corruption is another person's clever business deal. You have people claiming the unions are corrupt, while others depend on them for living wages. In real life we deal with these ambiguities, so I include them in the books.