Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Interview with Jon Land, author of the Caitlin Strong Novels and More - August 13, 2013

Please welcome the wonderful Jon Land to The Qwillery. Jon's most recent novel (of many) is out today - Strong Rain Falling (Caitlin Strong 5).

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery and Happy Publication Day for your 5th Caitlin Strong novel, Strong Rain Falling. When and why did you first start writing?

Jon:  My answer to that one may surprise you, since I didn’t actually start writing until I was a sophomore at Brown University. First off, that was probably a positive thing since it’s so easy for fledgling writers to get discouraged when they start out in high school or even before. I’d always enjoyed the process, dating all the way back to junior high, but I never had even considered the notion of pursuing a career. For me, law school was as certain after college as college was after high school. But the writing bug bit me while at Brown, and I started writing magazine articles for periodicals like People and The Saturday Evening Post and fell in love with, confession time!, seeing my name in print. Around the same time, I fell in love with reading again, particularly thrillers, and figured why not write one, specifically for my Senior Honors Thesis in Brown’s Honors Program. Two wonderful professors, George Monteiro and the legendary Elmer Blistein, took a huge chance by sponsoring me, but I ended up finishing the book. It was god-awful for the most part, but I’d proven to myself that I could do it. The next book I wrote was the first one that ended up selling and, to this day, I credit Brown to a huge degree in providing me the academic freedom and opportunity to chase my dream

TQ:  In addition to 5 Caitlin Strong novels, you've written many other novels (the Blaine McCracken series, for example). Has your writing process changed over the years? Are you a plotter or pantser?

Jon:  I’ve always been a very fast writer. My pace when writing a first draft is somewhere between 75-100 pages a week because I’ve also always been a writer who requires, and thrives on, editing—constructive criticism in other words. To me a first draft is about getting it down, not getting it perfect. The rest, once you have the structure, emotional core and characters down, is so much easier. I like to tell people that I’m a much better re-writer than I am a writer. That’s always been where my best stuff comes in. Think of it like a house—the quality of the finish work, the details and subtleties, is where the value can increase exponentially. I’m definitely a plotter and my books are relentlessly plot driven (That’s a quote right from Publisher’s Weekly!), driven by incident, episode, and conflict. But, and here’s the thing, it all comes back to the characters—vesting the reader in them emotionally and letting them dictate the pace, flow and direction of a book. It never ceases to amaze me how often I sit down with no idea exactly what I’m going to write or end up altering my intentions in mid-stream. It comes down to trusting your instincts as a storyteller. If it feels right, it probably is. If it feels wrong, it definitely is!

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences?

Jon:  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 (along with THE MATARESE CIRCLE) 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. As far as strictly favorites, 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. And I’ve recently discovered John Hart who seems incapable of writing a bad sentence or creating a character who doesn’t command our interest.

TQ:  Caitlin Strong is a Texas Ranger. Why did you make her a Texas Ranger?

Jon:  Okay, confession time on that one. Caitlin Strong was actually born at a business meeting at my publisher where we were discussing what direction I should go in next. One of the heads of Forge’s sales department raised the point that thrillers are the most popular genre and the vast majority of books are bought by women so, BOOM!, a light bulb went off in my head and right there on the spot I said I wanted to create a female action hero, say a female version of Lee Child’s brilliant Jack Reacher. Well, I’d always wanted to write about the Texas Rangers so I just melded the two together and there was Caitlin waiting to burst out from the page. Hey, she may have been the product of a sales discussion, but she is without question the most complex, interesting hero I’ve ever created.

TQ:  How much research do you do in general for each of her novels? What is one of the oddest things you've discovered in your research?

Jon:  Well, I’m not an obsessive researcher. I do the bulk of it in the midst of the writing when I know exactly what I’m looking for. I do some in advance but I find the process tedious and boring when it’s not task specific. All that said, when I go back to polish and edit books like STRONG RAIN FALLING, I’m utterly floored by the incredible amount of information and facts they contain. Trying to do all that at once, without a clear direction of where the book is going, would be as impossible as it is daunting. Oddest things? Well, in the opening of the next installment in the series, STRONG DARKNESS, the infamous Judge Roy Bean inserted himself as a major character in that book’s flashback sequences (All my Caitlin Strong books have historical sub-plots that are ultimately crucial to what’s going on in the present.). But this legendary “hanging judge,” I learned in my research, actually only sentenced two men to hang and one of them escaped! And in researching (spoiler alert!) the notion of taking down the nation’s power grid, I was struck by the ingenious nature of what I came with for the villain’s plot.

TQ:  In the Caitlin Strong series (so far) which character has surprised you the most? Which character did you find hardest to write?

Jon:  Wow, great question and I’d have to say the giant Venezuelan assassin Guillermo Paz. I don’t think I’ve ever created a character who speaks on his own and creates his own dialogue better than Paz. He’s an indestructible killing machine originally hired to kill Caitlin way back in the first book in the series [Strong Enough to Die], but has evolved into her protector and guardian angel since. He’s always in search of the elusive answers to provide some sort of spiritual enlightenment. When regular visits to church confessionals fail to achieve this for him, STRONG RAIN FALLING features scenes of Paz auditing college philosophy classes where the professors, how I can put this mildly?, run afoul him—a truly bad idea, trust me. And the amazing thing about Paz was that he wasn’t even supposed to survive the first book in the series. Turned out he had plans of his own. None of my characters are hard to write—if they are, it’s probably because they didn’t belong in the book in the first place. I would say, though, that the character of Jalbert Toms from STRONG VENGEANCE (now available in paperback) was scary to write because he’s a pedophile and the scene (Chapter 41) where he luridly and leeringly eyes eighteen-year-old Dylan, who’s the son of Caitlin’s outlaw boy friend Cort Wesley Masters and her surrogate son, scared me so much I wanted to kill him then and there so I wouldn’t have to write him anymore.

TQ:  Tell us something about Strong Rain Falling that is not in the books description?

Jon:  I love that question! I think the emotional core of the book is very, very strong. It opens with Caitlin taking the aforementioned Dylan on a trip to visit colleges—about as maternal and parental a thing you can do coming from a woman who is essentially a modern day gunfighter. That highlights the constant push-pull in her character between the old-fashioned gunfighter that Caitlin unquestionably is and the loving maternal figure she finds herself becoming for Cort Wesley’s two sons. I think Caitlin’s scenes with those boys, are when she springs most to life and all her emotional conflicts are most on display. This isn’t a part of her life she’d ever expected or planned for, but she wouldn’t trade it for anything. Writing action is easy compared to writing emotion, but it’s emotion that makes the Caitlin Strong books truly special and you’re going to see lots of it in STRONG RAIN FALLING!

TQ:  What's next?

Jon:  Lots of work, too much work, more work than I can handle! (laughs) Seriously, I’ve never had as many opportunities as I have right now but I never stop considering more because you just never know when the BIG ONE that gets me on the New York Times bestseller list is going to come. The next book’s already done. It’s called THE TENTH CIRCLE and it’s the follow-up to PANDORA’S TEMPLE once again featuring Blaine McCracken, my original series hero I’ve fallen back in love with. Beyond that I’m actually working on three books: a sequel to my bestselling THE SEVEN SINS, a terrific project I’m doing in tandem with the great Heather Graham, and I’m just about to start STRONG DARKNESS, the next book featuring Caitlin that takes her and Cort Wesley Masters to a very dark place potentially. I’m going to take her right up to the edge, but hopefully not so close that she slips over. I also see some good finally coming out of Hollywood after my one and only film, the teen comedy DIRTY DEEDS, was released all the way back in 2005. Hey, call me the eternal optimistic. But I’m also a realist and that’s why, to paraphrase the great Jerry Garcia, I’ve embarked on so many journeys leading to the same destination that’s labeled, simply, SUCCESS!

Caitlin Strong

Strong Rain Falling
Caitlin Strong 5
Forge Books, August 13, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

Jon Land's bestselling series featuring Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong continues in Strong Rain Falling.

Mexico, 1919: The birth of the Mexican drug trade begins with opium being smuggled across the U.S. border, igniting an all-out battle with American law enforcement in general and the Texas Rangers in particular.

The Present: Fifth Generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong and her lover Cort Wesley Masters both survive terrifying gun battles. But this time, it turns out, the actual targets were not them, but Masters’ teenage sons.

That sets Caitlin and Cort Wesley off on a trail winding through the past and present with nothing less than the future of the United States hanging in the balance. Along the way they will confront terrible truths dating all the way back to the Mexican Revolution and the dogged battle Caitlin’s own grandfather and great-grandfather fought against the first generation of Mexican drug dealers.

At the heart of the storm soon to sweep away America as we know it, lies a mastermind whose abundant power is equaled only by her thirst for vengeance. Ana Callas Guajardo, the last surviving member of the family that founded the Mexican drug trade, has dedicated all of her vast resources to a plot aimed at the U.S.’s technological heart.

This time out, sabotage proves to be as deadly a weapon as bombs in a battle Caitlin must win in cyberspace as well. Her only chance to prevail is to short-circuit a complex plan based as much on microchips as bullets. Because there’s a strong rain coming and only Caitlin and Cort Wesley can stop the fall before it’s too late.

Strong Vengeance
Caitlin Strong 4
Forge, July 2, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 464 pages
Previously released in Hardcover, July 17, 2012

Get ready fir a new adventure in Jon Land's Texas Rangers series with Strong Vengeance.

1818: In the Gulf waters off the Texas coast, the pirate Jean Lefitte and his partner Jim Bowie launch an attack on the Mother Mary, a slave ship carrying an invaluable treasure.

The Present: Fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong finds herself investigating the murder of the oil-rig crew that had found the long-lost wreckage of the Mother Mary. The crew also uncovered something else beneath the surface of the sea--something connected to a terrorist attack about to be launched by a mad American-born cleric who has recruited an army of homegrown terrorists.

With the stakes higher than any she has encountered before, Caitlin races to find the connection between the secret treasure of the Mother Mary and the deadly secret hidden on the bottom of the ocean.

Caitlin’s only chance to defeat the terrorists lies in the darkest reaches of the Louisiana bayou. In the end, only the strongest of vengeance can win the day.

Strong at the Break
Caitlin Strong 3
Forge Books, May 22, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages
Previously released in Hardcover, June 21, 2011

Twenty years ago, fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong witnessed her father shoot down the cultlike leader of a separatist church. Now, that man’s son, Malcolm Arno, has become head of a militia movement bent on unleashing chaos and anarchy across the country. Nothing seems to be standing in Arno’s way—until his actions run him afoul of Caitlin Strong.

Caitlin is already searching for the kidnapped son of her sometime lover, former outlaw Cort Wesley Masters. When the missing boy’s trail leads straight to Malcolm Arno’s fortified Texas compound, Caitlin will be put to the ultimate test.

From the frozen rivers of the Canadian border to the desert wastelands of Mexico, the stage has been set for a battle like none Caitlin has ever faced before. The stakes are nothing less than the survival of America as we know it.

Strong Justice
Catilin Strong 2
Forge Books, May 24, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages
Previously released in Hardcover, June 22,  2010
Also available in Mass Market Paperback, April 24, 2012 (Special Edition)

Fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong is back, pursuing justice the Ranger way. She takes on the case of a Mexican girl on the run from white-slavers. For Caitlin, the case evokes memories of her legendary grandfather’s run with the Rangers, even as it brings her face-to-face with a serial killer who’s left a trail of bodies along the Mexico border.

Pursuing the killer brings Caitlin to a sleepy Texas town suddenly riddled by violence and to the site of a major water find. The connection between these two disparate places lies buried beneath the plains of West Texas: a deadly weapon with the potential to give a new enemy the means to terrorize the United States.

Her grandfather’s past collides violently with Caitlin’s present as she fights to save her world in the same border town where he fought to save his. Caitlin will learn, just as he did, that only strong justice can save the day. But this time, outmanned and outgunned, even that may not be enough to keep Caitlin Strong—and the country itself—alive.

Strong Enough to Die
Caitlin Strong 1
Forge Books, March 30, 2010
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 416 pages
Previously released in Hardcover, May 12, 2009
Also available in Mass Market Paperback, April 24, 2012 (Special Edition)

Caitlin Strong is a fifth-generation Texas Ranger, proud to wear the badge of her father and grandfather—until a deadly shoot-out along the Mexican border causes her to question her calling.

Five years later, Caitlin is still trying to purge herself of guilt from the day that ended her Ranger career. But a shattering discovery will reopen old wounds, and Caitlin’s renewed investigation into the truth behind the bloody desert firefight uncovers a terrifying plot that reaches into every home and threatens the very core of the country.

Her only hope for success—and survival—is to team up with Cort Wesley Masters, a deadly outlaw who has every reason to want her dead. But he also holds the key to the truth she desperately seeks in the anguished brain of an amnesiac torture victim.

Caitlin’s tormented quest for redemption takes her to a dark world, ranging from Washington to Bahrain to the wastelands of Mexico, as she finds that the strength to live comes from learning how to die.

About Jon

Jon Land is the award-winning, critically acclaimed author of more than 30 thrillers, including the bestselling Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger series that includes Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance and, most recently, Strong Rain Falling. This past fall he resurrected his longtime series hero Blaine McCracken in the E-Book Original Pandora’s Temple which was nominated for a Thriller Award and received the 2013 International Book Award for Best Adventure Thriller. A follow-up, The Tenth Circle, is slated for release right around the first of the year. Jon’s first nonfiction book, Betrayal, meanwhile, was named Best True Crime Book of 2012 by Suspense Magazine and won a 2012 International Book Award for Best True Crime Book. He is currently working on Strong Darkness, the next entry in the Caitlin Strong to be published in September of 2014. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude from Brown University, where he continues to maintain a strong volunteer presence, in 1979 and can be found on the Web at www.jonlandbooks.com.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~ Twitter @JonDLand

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