Thursday, December 13, 2012

Please Welcome Thriller Writer Jon Land

Omnimystery News: Author Interview
with Jon Land

We are delighted to welcome crime novelist Jon Land to Omnimystery News today.

Jon's new "Blaine McCracken" thriller is Pandora's Temple (Open Road, November 2012 trade paperback and ebook formats).

We recently had the opportunity to talk to Jon about the character and his new adventure.

— ♦ —

Omnimystery News: You're the author of several series featuring recurring characters, including 9 — now 10 — books in the "Blaine McCracken" series. Focusing for now on this character, how has he changed since the first book … and what has he been doing since 1998, when the last book with the character was published?

Jon Land
Photo provided courtesy of
Jon Land

Jon Land: Hey, great question right out of the box! But it's better phrased in this case as why I decided to bring my recurring character, Blaine McCracken, back in Pandora's Temple after a 15-year absence. The thing is I stopped writing McCracken books because the market for them had dried up. The Cold War had ended and readers were gravitating toward different kinds of thrillers. Then 9/11 happened and, all of a sudden, there was a demand for high-action thrillers again, a new wave of heroes to battle the bad guys. McCracken might not be new, but he's tried and true, as fitting a hero for this age just as he was for the Cold War era thriller. He's aged well but, that said, I felt going in it was crucial that I remain true to Blaine as a character by aging him in real time. So, yes, he does evolve from book to book and in Pandora's Temple he finds himself turning 60 and questioning whether he's still got it or if anybody cares. That's potentially powerful stuff and forms an apt metaphor for what so many successful people reaching this milestone are experiencing in their everyday lives.

OMN: In terms of categorization, how do you like to think of your books? Do you find there are advantages or disadvantages to marketing them as such?

JL: No doubt about it, Pandora's Temple is a big-scale, high-action, over-the-top thriller in the greatest James Bondian tradition. This in contrast to my Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger series that's action-packed but much more based in reality. I don't think there's anything inherently advantageous or disadvantageous about either of these or any form. The key is how well you execute whatever you're writing and, from a marketing standpoint, how much your publisher supports your efforts. Pandora's Temple was one of those times where everything came together and everyone's work paid off. Bottom line: a publisher needs to have something to sell, but they have to sell it well!

OMN: One of the first rules of any writing class seems to be to write what you know. How much of you is in your books?

JL: Hmmmm, how about none? Writing what you know is the worst advice a writer can possibly be given, because no one can know enough to write as many books as I've written. The simple fact of the matter is that a big-scale thriller like Pandora's Temple is literally packed with all kinds of information about technology, locations, history, weaponry. No one could possibly know everything you need to about so many things to write a book like this. All I can say is thank God for Google! It makes all writers technological rock stars because in a book like this you don't have to be perfect, but you certainly need to be credible and convincing.

OMN: But you have to start somewhere! Do you outline your plots or create biographies of your characters ahead of time? Or do you let the characters and the story develop as you write?

JL: Another great question and the short answer is I write by the seat of my pants. I know where I'm going, but not how I'm going to get there, which allows me to let my characters do most of the work, the real heavy lifting. I have enough confidence in them, and myself, to get out of the way and let Blaine McCracken and company, for example, dictate the flow, rhythm and pace of the story. The bottom line here is if I don't know what's going to happen next, the reader can't possibly know, and maintaining that kind of suspense is what a great thriller is all about. I love being spontaneous. I love surprising myself, and some of my greatest writing days happen when I sit down with absolutely no idea where the day is going to take me.

OMN: Earlier you said that no one could possibly know everything you need to about so many things to write a book like Pandora's Temple. So how do you fact-check your books? What was your most challenging or exciting topic to research?

JL: Oh man, you had to ask! Well, the great thing about doing a book like Pandora's Temple is a lot of the "facts" presented are based on speculation, not hard research. Take dark matter, the book's MacGuffin, for example. Scientists all agree that it exists but even they don't have much of an idea of what it's capable of. So the destructive force, the ultimate weapon, I'm presenting dark matter as in Pandora's Temple can be argued with or disputed, but it's theoretical in nature and is presented as such. Even the characters aren't exactly sure of all the facts; they just know they're facing the greatest threat ever known to man and that's all they need to know. I do consult with experts but the majority of my research is either book or Internet-based and you'll often find bibliographies on my acknowledgments page. As far as challenging, dark matter would certainly fit there because so little is actually known about it. I don't think anything's actually "exciting" to research. The excitement comes from the writing and execution!

OMN: Action thrillers often translate well to the big screen. If your book were to be adapted for television or film, who do you see playing the part of Blaine McCracken?

JL: First off, any writer has to accept the fact that we're talking apples and oranges here. If you're lucky enough to have your book adapted as a film or television series, a whole new series of challenge and demands come into play like casting and budget just to name a few. So I never picture an actor when I'm writing a character. That said, with Blaine McCracken I always thought Bruce Willis would be perfect to portray him on the big screen. I felt that way back in the 80s when Bruce was doing the "Die Hard" movies and I'm even more convinced now that both he and Blaine are 60ish.

OMN: How important is setting to the characters and/or plots of your books? Do you take liberties with the geography and/or local environment, or do you try to stay as true as possible to them?

JL: The best advice I've gotten as a writer in recent years came from my brilliant editor Natalia Aponte who told me when writing a scene, always know where the light is coming from. That goes to the heart of setting and building a scene that incorporates characters organically into a place. Sure, I take liberties — all writers do to some extent. But take the oilrig sequences in Pandora's Temple. They are precisely described because I researched deepwater rigs exhaustively and then was lucky enough to know someone who's actually been on them. It's crucial, whether you take some liberties or not, to get stuff like this right from the logistics to the terminology. The opposite happened to me in my latest Caitlin Strong book Strong Vengeance where I absolutely butchered Galveston Island off the coast of Texas. I made so many mistakes I'm actually embarrassed. I thought I had researched Galveston pretty well, but obviously I was wrong because I got lazy. And mistakes like that, or with any setting, are lazy and unprofessional and I hope never get repeated in my books again.

OMN: What specific authors or books influenced how you write today?

JL: Well, The Exorcist was the first book I read cover-to-cover in a single day, a single setting actually. Reading Robert Ludlum's The Holcroft Covenant taught me more about what makes a great thriller than anything else. The Boys from Brazil taught me the importance of a great "What if?" question. The Stand showed me the wonder of taking the reader out of his or her world and into the world we fashion on the page. Marathon Man made me realize just how much caring about the characters means. I can quote portions of that book, just as I can from the others I mention here and far more.

OMN: Those are some terrific books … and probably not a coincidence that all have been adapted for film. Maybe we will see Bruce Willis in the not too distant future! What other types of books/genres do you read?

JL: I read the occasional horror story, some nonfiction too. But I love reading thrillers as much as I enjoy writing them. Lee Child and James Lee Burke are the authors I most look forward to, with plenty of others not far behind. David Morrell, who never writes the same book twice. Stephen Hunter, who's a maestro when it comes to action scenes. Michael Connolly for writing books that are impossible to put down. Ken Follet for writing on such a big, broad canvas. All thriller writers but all unique in their own right.

OMN: What are your hobbies, interests outside of writing crime fiction? Do any of these activities find their way into your books?

JL: I read, sure, and go to the movies. But my biggest interest by far outside of writing is exercise. I'm a gym rat. Love working out and keeping my body young forever, not just my mind. I need to feel good physically in order to write my best and working out in the middle of the day serves the dual purpose of breaking up my work day into two separate sessions. Nights are much more productive because the phone calls and e-mails tend to be far less frequent. As far as how that works itself into my books, well, Blaine McCracken wouldn't still be kicking ass at 60 if he didn't spend lots of time in the gym too! I also have a 20-year background in martial arts I've called upon often in choreographing action scenes and giving characters the proper fighting skills.

OMN: How do you engage with your readers? What kinds of questions do you most enjoy (or least enjoy) receiving from readers?

JL: How about questions like this? (laughs) I'm not really a celebrity writer, so I don't get a lot of fan mail. I think the question I enjoyed hearing the most, especially in the last year, was when I was going to finally bring back Blaine McCracken. For so many years, my answer disappointed people, but certainly not lately. Of course, now I'm getting questions from Caitlin Strong fans about whether she's going to hang up her guns now. The answer is no. Caitlin returns in August in Strong Rain Falling and I fully expect McCracken to be back in his next adventure this time next year. That's a scoop, by the way — I just gave you an exclusive!

OMN: Thanks! How about creating a top five list for use on any topic.

JL: Let's go with movies because we've talked books so much.

The Godfather, because it's a perfect film from the very first to very last line.

Aliens, because it's the finest action film ever made, but make sure you watch the director's cut which makes the film twice as good.

Terminator, both the first and second films, because they display the wondrous marriage James Cameron achieves between story and vision.

Jaws, because it is the total package of terror and how a brave few respond to it.

And, finally, a tie between The Usual Suspects and Vertigo, because they're both brilliantly existential mind games where the audience knows they're being messed with but can't figure out how — films you can watch over and over again to see what you missed the first time(s).

OMN: What is next for you?

JL: Have you got an hour? I mean, man, I've got so much going on right now in both book and film, I don't know where to start, never mind how I'm going to get it all done. Hey, I had no idea how Pandora's Temple was going to sell or be received. Well, sales are great and reception even better, so all of a sudden I'm thinking I've got to write another McCracken book to come out same time, next year to give me another opportunity to work with the great team at Open Road Media. The issue is I had probably over-committed myself even before that. But, look, this is the kind of problem you want to have. Never complain about having too much work, too many opportunities. This is the toughest business in the world and I'm extraordinarily lucky to be counted among it.

— ♦ —

Jon Land is the author over 25 novels. He graduated from Brown University in 1979 Phi Beta Kappa and Magna cum Laude and continues his association with Brown as an alumni advisor.

Jon often bases his novels and scripts on extensive travel and research as well as a twenty-five year career in martial arts. He is an associate member of the US Special Forces and frequently volunteers in schools to help young people learn to enjoy the process of writing.

Jon is the Vice-President of marketing of the International Thriller Writers (ITW) and is often asked to speak on topics regarding writing and research.

In addition to writing suspense/thrillers Jon is also a screenwriter (Dirty Deeds, 2005).

John currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island and loves hearing from his readers and aspiring writers.

— ♦ —

Pandora's Temple by Jon Land

Pandora's Temple
Jon Land
A Blaine McCracken Novel

What if Pandora's Box were real? Blaine McCracken finds himself facing this very question — and the greatest threat to mankind — in his long-awaited return to the page …

Rogue special-operations agent McCracken has never been shy about answering the call, and this time it comes in the aftermath of a deepwater oil rig disaster that claims the life of a onetime member of his commando unit. The remnants of the rig and its missing crew lead him to the inescapable conclusion that one of the most mysterious and deadly forces in the universe is to blame: dark matter, both a limitless source of potential energy and an unimaginably destructive weapon.

Joining forces again with his trusty sidekick Johnny Wareagle, McCracken races to stop two deadly enemies who want the dark matter at all costs. A powerful energy magnate and the leader of a Japanese doomsday cult both seek the ultimate prize for their own nefarious reasons, and McCracken and Wareagle's mission to defeat them takes the duo on a nonstop journey across the world and thousands of years into the past where the truth lies in the ancient Pandora's Temple, built to safeguard the world's most powerful weapon.

McCracken's only hope to save the world is to find the mythical temple. Along the way, he and Wareagle find themselves up against Mexican drug gangs, killer robots, an army of professional assassins, and a legendary sea monster. The hero of nine previous bestselling thrillers, McCracken is used to the odds being stacked against him, but this time the stakes have never been higher. Print and/or Kindle Edition  Barnes&Noble Print Edition and/or Nook Book  Apple iTunes iBookstore  Kobo eBooks  Indie Bound: Independent Bookstores


Post a Comment

Omnimystery Blog Archive

Total Pageviews (last 30 days)

Omnimystery News
Original Content Copyright © 2020 — Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites — All Rights Reserved
Guest Post Content (if present) Copyright © 2020 — Contributing Author — All Rights Reserved