Thursday, November 07, 2013

A Conversation with Novelist Jac Wright

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Jac Wright
with Jac Wright

We are delighted to welcome novelist Jac Wright to Omnimystery News today.

Jac's new thriller is The Reckless Engineer (Soul Mate Publishing), the first in a series, and we recently had the opportunity to catch up with him to talk about his work.

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Omnimystery News: Tell us a little more about your books and writing.

Jac Wright: I write a mystery, suspense, and thriller series titled "The Reckless Engineer".

I also write a series of stand-alone literary suspense short fiction titled "Summerset Tales" in which I explore characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances in the semi-fictional region of England called Summerset. I have also written the first chapter of a stand-alone full-length novel I hope to complete next year.

In my stand-alone stories the central idea of the plot for the story comes to me first in a moment of inexplicable inspiration along with look and the personality of the main character, kind of like a segment of a dream or a scene of a movie. And then I build the rest of the story — the setting, the supporting characters, the mood etc. — around it.

For example, this June I woke up with this image of a fugitive, a man escaping from the van transporting him from prison to the courts that had had an accident and overturned by the roadside. Prisoners wear regular clothes and are not chained in England. He runs into the crowds and a bus parked behind a mall to hide among the people only to find that it is a film set. The actor playing a main character of the movie and the director are having a fight. The actor suddenly punches the director in the face who falls backward. My protagonist fugitive hiding among the supporting film crew catches him and breaks the fall. The director gets up, wipes the blood off his nose, fires the main actor loudly, and asks him to get out of his movie set. He turns to my protagonist and asks: "You there, what's your name?" "Art Miller," he gives a fake name. "Art, you are playing Michael Fallon. His trailer is yours now. Go with my crew and get dressed." And there I have the plot, the main characters, and the first chapter of my standalone book, In Plain Sight.

My series, "The Reckless Engineer", is built around the series character who is an electrical engineer. Like MacGyver he is very resourceful and can't seem to stay away from adrenaline filled action and adventure. Like Barney in Mission Impossible he is very cerebral and highly skilled. He is courageous and strong. It is a lethal combination. Secondly I pick the setting. I design the plots of the series around the character a little more deliberately in my series. The central plot idea is not the first thing in that comes to me in a dream or in a moment of inspiration. At least this is the way the stories have taken shape in the series thus far.

OMN: How would you categorize your books?

JW: They are Suspense fiction and many of them are Psychological Thrillers. The "Summerset Tales" short fiction collection is more Literary Fiction than "The Reckless Engineer" full-length series. The first full-length novel is also a Legal Thriller. I also write poetry published in literary magazines.

One disadvantage I have felt is that when the Literary Fiction I write has some element of suspense in it, people seem to "downgrade" them from Literary Fiction. People don't seem to like aspects of "genre fiction" leaking into Literary Fiction. If they find aspects of strong "genre fiction" they tend push these stories out into the genre category.

The other disadvantage is that genre mix in my stories. There are strong elements of romance that romance readers will enjoy who might not pick up my book because it is classified as Suspense.

Other than that I love Patricia Highsmith's brand of literary Psychological Thrillers and I adore Roald Dahl's Literary Suspense series, Tales of the Unexpected. I also love Benjamin Black's brand of literary crime fiction except the aspect of it that is hard-boiled rather than psychological. I love my stories to be embedded in this corner of the fiction world as Literary Psychological Thrillers.

OMN: Give us a synopsis of The Reckless Engineer in a tweet.

JW: "Love is a battlefield. The aftershocks of an affair reverberate out into those in the lives of the lovers who will NOT take it lying down."

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you incorporated into your work?

JW: A lot of my experience gets into the stories, but in a way that is disjointed and mixed up together. For example I might model the look of a character on one person I have known, but give him a personality of another person or one that is purely fictional. I might pick a venue or a pub I might have seen in Salisbury, Hampshire and place it in Bath, Somerset. Hence it is a very disjointed mix-up of my experiences mixed together in turn with pure fiction. I should therefore say that any resemblances to real life events are used fictitiously.

OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — that you've received as an author?

JW: I think both have come from my editor, Debbie Gilbert. She is so nice and we have so much rapport that she disguises any criticism as advice also with a smiley face at the end.

There is one thing in her edits that really stuck in my mind. She crossed out the last sentence of one chapter and noted: "You never end a chapter with the protagonist going to sleep. It is a cue to the reader that he or she could do the same also. :)"

That's right, reader. We plan to keep you up all night long.

The other advice or criticism she had in the first round edits of this manuscript was that I need to add a lot more visceral emotion and visceral sections that engage the other senses as well as vision. I think this advice transformed the book for me.

OMN: Complete this sentence for us: "I am a thriller writer and thus I am also …".

JW: I am a thriller writer and thus I am also a literary fiction writer, a poet, and an electronic engineer.

This is one aspect of the culture at Stanford when I was a student there, the idea that you need not be pigeonholed into just one area of talent. You can be a "Renaissance man" who can excel at many things that are considered the opposites of each other. This idea liberated me from my limited self-image and allowed me to start writing.

OMN: Have you ever used a pen name?

JW: It is a pen name in the sense I have shortened my first name from Jack to Jac.

OMN: Describe your writing environment.

JW: I like to have one large room with tall and wide windows or French patio doors with a lovely view and a peaceful scenery. My solid oak pedestal desk and comfortable chair is set to the side of the window. I need a king size bed and a comfortable armchair in the same room with plenty of adjustable lighting. I like the room carpeted wall-to-wall. I like my PC with a wide screen on the desk and also my laptop so I can write from my bed or my armchair when I feel like it. I like having kittens and puppies vying for my attention around me while I write.

OMN: Tell us how the book came to be titled and a cover chosen for it.

JW: I designed the cover for my short fiction story. The publisher, Soul Mate Publishing, designed the cover for The Reckless Engineer based on my write-up of my concept. Oh, they got it amazingly right beyond expectation, a cover in gold.

The series lead in The Reckless Engineer, Jeremy Aiden Stone, is an electronic engineer. His adrenaline addicted and adventure seeking personality gets him into trouble often.

The first story in the series is also about another engineer, Jack Connor, who is a brilliant and charismatic guy (the character Jack Connor) whose character fault is that he is weak in love — someone like John F. Kennedy. Then I built the characters of the four very different women who are in his life who pull him in different directions. Jack is weak in character and very confused. He gets drawn into different conflicting and rather irresponsible actions as he is pulled by these strong women in different directions.

They are both somewhat reckless in their own different ways and the title captures that.

There is the message there that romantic love blinds one and makes one act with reckless abandon.

After I decided on the title I was very pleased to find that there is a pub in Bristol called The Reckless Engineer that is a regular haunt loved by the engineers and technical managers who work in the surrounding industrial parks that are home to many small engineering firms.

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot elements of your books?

JW: I am dual qualified in electronic engineering and computer science; and I have two best friends, one of whom is an electrical engineer and the other one, a barrister. So I know, with some input from my engineer friend, what I am writing about on the subject matter of engineering. I have done a computer science contract in bio-technology in drug design and it was easy for me to find out about the chemical compounds required for creating the poison.

The debut book is also a legal thriller. To research correct legal procedures and to capture the environment in police stations, courts, and mental hospitals I accompanied my friend who is a barrister from arrest through appeals procedures for some of his clients. And I got the legal facts from him.

For The Reckless Engineer, I first knew the setting: I knew I wanted to set the story in Portsmouth. And so I took the steps to move to Portsmouth.

I hit a nasty Writers' Block when I needed to write the scenes with Jeremy in a Portsmouth seaside hotel, The Royal Atlantic, in The Reckless Engineer. This time I knew the plot, but the prose was not coming out right. I had moved out of Portsmouth by then. I took 3 days off and checked into The Royal Beach Hotel in Southsea. I did the same, volunteering at a back-stage production of a West End play to help a friend at the Gielgud theatre to write the scene in the London West End.

When I do this "immersion technique" I don't write while I am there. I simply immerse myself into the environment and absorb the people, the sense, the sounds and the views. I might take some photographs. And then I come out of the scene do something entirely different for about a week, let it work in the back of my mind. Then when I sit down to write again the words just flow naturally.

OMN: Tell us more about the settings for your books.

JW: For The Reckless Engineer, I first the setting I wanted early on: I knew I wanted to set the story in Portsmouth because the first stories I loved were Dickens' stories that my unusual mother used to read to me as a child. And so I took the steps to move to Portsmouth. I try to do justice to the beautiful seaside town that is the birthplace of Charles Dickens. I explore the city's industries, the beautiful beaches, the hospital, the pubs, and so on in some detail. However it is fiction and I sometimes make some changes and adjustments to make a building more interesting, for example.

Parts of The Reckless Engineer are also set in London and in Aberdeen, Scotland. I try to evoke the spirit of each city in my writing and do justice to their feel as well as industries and businesses.

I set The Closet in another beautiful English city, Bath, Somerset. Some of the features I based my setting on, however, were really situated in another beautiful old medieval town on Hampshire called Salisbury. I essentially based the beautiful farmhouse in the story on an ancient old pub in Salisbury. I write fiction and hence I feel I can "mix things up" a little by "relocating" some parts of the setting from another city or creating entirely fictional features.

OMN: What kinds of questions or feedback do you enjoy receiving from your readers?

JW: Anything that is not too personal. I like them to focus on the work than on me personally.

OMN: Suppose you are casting for the film adaptation of your book. Whose agents are you calling?

JW: Daniel Craig would be perfect to play the series lead, Jeremy Aiden Stone, though he would have to look 38 years old. A great alternative would be Scott Eastwood if his acting abilities are anything like his dad's, but they would have to make him look a decade older which is not difficult.

Desmond Harrington (from Dexter) could play the mess that is Jack Connor really well.

Jessica Biel had the right looks for Caitlin McAllen-Connor, Jack Connor's wife, with a shorter haircut; and she would have to play the character a stronger personality than she is used to.

Jeremy Irons for Douglas McAllen, Caitlin's father.

I know that Otter, whom I develop further as Jeremy's sidekick in the next book in the series, looks like Lenny Kravitz. They would have to cast someone new with the looks and the larger-than-life personality.

OMN: What kinds of books did you read when you were young?

JW: I read mostly the classics as a child, and lots of Readers' Digests. My mother enrolled me in weekend Speech & Drama classes when I was 3 years old. She had this rack full of books like The Pickwick Papers, A Tale of Two Cities, Lorna Doone, Animal Farm etc. stacked on it along with piles of Readers' Digests. My mother used to read to me from them when I was too young to read; and soon I was reading them myself. That sparked my interest in literature as a reader very early.

OMN: And what kinds of books do you read now for pleasure?

JW: Suspense fiction, psychological thrillers, literary fiction, legal thrillers. The classics.

OMN: Have any particular authors influenced how and what you write today?

JW: I have been influenced deeply by Patricia Highsmith, Charles Dickens, and Roald Dahl. To a lesser extent I've been influenced by more modern writers: Benjamin Black, Ian Rankin, and Michael Connelly.

OMN: Do you have any favorite series characters?

JW: The talented Mr. Ripley created by Patricia Highsmith. (What a unique character!)

Cormoran Strike created by J. K. Rowling. (You can't help but like the big oaf even though he is a very cliché character. )

The Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller. (Very colourful character.)

OMN: Do you enjoy watching television or movies? And if so, give us an example of what you tend to watch.

JW: I love how Quentin Tarantino builds tension and suspense and I am a fan of all of his movies including the CSI episodes he directed. I also love most of Woody Allen films because he manages to tell a story of great depth, while his humour adds to the depth rather than take anything away from it.

I have always love the old TV series, The Tales of the Unexpected based on Roald Dahl's writing and the old Mission: Impossible series with its brand of tense suspense mixed with action and cerebral strategies. I love Ridley Scott's television series, The Good Wife, and Monk and Columbo.

I love most art-house movies. I particularly like when different, but related storylines collide together around a particular event, like in Magnolia, and I have used some aspect of that in The Reckless Engineer by allowing the characters in different storylines whose lives have been affected by the affair to cross at the victim's house the night before the murder.

OMN: What are some of your outside interests or hobbies?

JW: Actually writing is my hobby. By profession I am an engineer qualified in Computer Science and Electronic Engineering. Other than that I like reading, the cinema and running. I used to like photography in the good old days when they used to do everything in dark rooms.

OMN: Give us a Top 5 list on any subject.

JW: Top 5 cities that I have been to that you should visit in the UK:

• Portsmouth
• Bath
• London
• Edinburgh
• Salisbury

OMN: What's next for you?

JW: I have two more stories half written:

The Bank Job (Summerset Tales #2)
Buy, Sell, Murder (The Reckless Engineer #2)

I have started the fifth, In Plain Sight, with just the plot and the main characters designed and only the first chapter written. It is a stand-alone full-length book.

I should like to finish and publish all three next year.

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Jac Wright is a published poet, published author, and an electronics engineer educated at Stanford, University College London, and Cambridge who lives and works in England. Jac studied English literature from the early age of three, developing an intense love for poetry, drama, and writing in Trinity College Speech & Drama classes taken every Saturday for fourteen years, and in subsequent creative writing classes taken during the university years. Jac's first passion was for literary fiction and poetry writing as well as for the dramatic arts. You will find these influences in the poetic imagery and prose, the dramatic scene setting, and the deep character creation.

For more information about the author and his work, visit his website or find him on Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.

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The Reckless Engineer by Jac Wright

The Reckless Engineer
Jac Wright
A Legal Thriller

Jack Connor's lives an idyllic life by the Portsmouth seaside married to Caitlin McAllen, a stunning billionaire heiress, and working at his two jobs as the Head of Radar Engineering of Marine Electronics and as the Director of Engineering of McAllen BlackGold, his powerful father-in-law Douglas McAllen's extreme engineering company in Oil & Gas. He loves his two sons from his first marriage and is amicably divorced from his beautiful first wife Marianne Connor. Their delicately balanced lives are shattered when sexy Michelle Williams, with whom Jack is having a secret affair and who is pregnant with his child, is found dead and Jack is arrested on suspicion for the murder.

Jeremy Stone brings London's top defence attorney, Harry Stavers, to handle his best friend's defence.

Who is the bald man with the tattoo of a skull seen entering the victim's house? Who is "KC" who Caitlin makes secret calls to from a untraceable mobile? Has powerful Douglas McAllen already killed his daughter's first partner and is he capable of killing again? Is Caitlin's brother Ronnie McAllen's power struggle with Jack for the control of McAllen Industries so intense that he is prepared to kill and frame his brother-in-law? Is the divorce from Jack's first wife as amicable on her part as they believe it to be? Are his sons prepared to kill for their vast inheritance? Who are the ghosts from Caitlin's past in Aberdeen, Scotland haunting the marriage? What is the involvement of Jack's manager at Marine Electronics?

While Jack is charged and his murder trial proceeds in the Crown Court under barrister Harry Stavers' expert care, Jeremy runs a race against time to find the real killer and save his friend's life, if he is in fact innocent, in a tense saga of love, power, and ambition.

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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