Interview // John Land, Author of Strong From The Heart
Thank you so much to Author Jon Land for stopping by and answering a few questions for our RAPT readers. Congratulations on your latest release.
Your Caitlin Strong Series is much loved receiving many prestigious awards. Where do you draw your inspiration from when writing your Caitlin Strong Series?
Great opening question and let me answer it in a way you’re probably not expecting. I don’t draw on inspiration in the traditional sense of the word, because if you’re a professional the work, the writing, becomes its own inspiration. What inspires me when writing the Caitlin Strong series is what inspires every book I write: the desire to write a great story, to lose myself in the writing the same way you will hopefully lose yourself in the reading. In my mind, the most important thing for a writer is loving the story you’re telling. If you don’t love it, how can you expect the reader to love it? And the desire to tell a story that the reader loves makes for the greatest inspiration out there.
You have a breadth of mystery novels under your belt. Did you set out originally to write mysteries or did you want to write within another genre?
Another great question! Truthfully, my first book was actually a senior thesis in the Honors English and American Literature program at Brown University. And, no, I didn’t set out to write a thriller. But the book became a thriller because that’s where my instincts took me. It was also the genre I enjoyed reading the most so it was natural for me to gravitate in that direction. That’s an important lesson for all writers because you can’t force the process. If you’re not being natural, instinctive, you’re going to write something that is not only unreadable, but also unpublishable.
What was your most satisfying moment while writing your latest release, Strong from the Heart?
Wow, there were so many, and if I start to list them I’ll still be writing this tomorrow. So let me boil it down to a plot point that came to me when I was well into the first draft: that being, that in the midst of fighting her own personal War on Drugs, Caitlin realizes she’s developed her own dependence, or addiction, to Vicodin because of a traumatic brain injury she suffered a few books back. That brought the story home to me because it lent even more emotion to a tale fueled by it. It was a game changer in the sense that the book also becomes a journey where Caitlin must fight her own issues, not just the country’s and Texas’.
Did you find Strong from the Heart stayed along your chosen path or developed into a completely different book once completed?
That’s an easy one because I don’t really have a path. I don’t outline and only have an idea of where I’m going about 100 pages in advance. One thing that keeps coming up in reviews and coverage of this book is that opening scene in the prologue where an entire town is found dead. Well, when I wrote that scene I didn’t know yet what had killed them. That emerged later and the truth is I got very lucky with a few plot points that fell together beautifully. That’s always the way I write because I don’t want my story to be a prisoner of facts or research. It’s kind of a take on the old saying, If you can dream it, you can do—I prefer to say, If you can dream it, you can write it!
How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?
By starting another project and going back to one I was already in the midst of. When you do this for a living, and you write as much as I do, you don’t celebrate when finishing the book—achieving that is celebration in its own right. When you love what you do, you don’t have to celebrate completion of something. Also, when I finish every first draft with the realization that the real work is about to begin, as opposed to being done.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? Why this specific character?
I’d have to say Colonel Guillermo Paz, Caitlin’s giant and brutally efficient protector who was originally hired to kill her. He wasn’t even supposed to survive the first book in the series, Strong Enough to Die, but he took his scenes over from me and had another idea. I liked how his character developed so much, I knew he had to stick around. His scenes are almost always my favorite to write and it’s such a blast to give him a new set piece to continue his search for enlightenment and redemption. Making one of the world’s deadliest men an elementary school gym teacher was an absolute blast in Strong from the Heart, and that opening scene where he rides to Caitlin’s support when she needs it the most against a half dozen heavily armed ICE agents is pure gold. I wish I could tell you where his dialogue comes from, but you’ll have to ask him!
Can you tell us which of your books (or series) is your favorite?
Sticking with Caitlin Strong, well, I love them all, truthfully. But my favorite is probably Strong Light of Day because it fell together perfectly and contains two of the best action scenes I’ve ever written, back-to-back in the book’s climax. And the twist that finishes the book, the point at which everything fell together, didn’t actually come until the very last draft at the very last minute. And it wasn’t even my idea, but a good friend who’s in the business who’s always my final read. That highlights the fact that writing is a solitary effort but writing well takes a team.
If you could only recommend one of your books to readers, which one would it be and why?
I always tell people to start the most recent title, so that would be this one, Strong from the Heart. I was just saying to someone the other day that I’ve never started any of my favorite series to read at the beginning. I’ve discovered the likes of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux and James W. Hall’s Thorne in the middle of their adventures. Then I go back to past titles while awaiting their next new release. And, remember, I discovered these writers when paperbacks were still the gold standard but reading them in order was hard because you couldn’t always get the early ones. This was also the pre-Amazon days, remember!
If you only had one sentence to capture a new reader for your books, what would it be?
You’re going to have as much fun reading it as I did writing it!
What one book do you recommend that every mystery lover read (not including your books)?
Now, that’s a tough question. I’m going to go with the book I’ve read, I don’t know, five or so times now: MARATHON MAN by William Goldman. The movie was good; the book is better. The book features a brilliant, twist-filled structure and pits a poor but brilliant graduate student against Nazis in New York. And the writing is pure gold. Every line, every paragraph, every page is perfect. And it features my favorite individual chapter ever in the introduction of the deadly Scylla in chapter two when he runs into an assassin he idolizes in an airport bar and decides to approach him. What happens from there is pure literary magic.
Of course, we have to know, what is in-store next – books, events, etc.?
I’ve recently taken over Margaret Truman’s CAPITAL CRIMES series and my first effort, MURDER ON THE METRO, publishes next February. Having also done six books in the MURDER, SHE WROTE series, I understand the responsibility and risk that comes with taking over a major brand. In that respect, it’s a totally different process but in another respect, I don’t just want to write the characters, I want to take ownership of them the same way I do for my own. Something I never could have done a decade ago, but that I’ve grown into over the past few years.
This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jon Land. There will be five (5) winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on August 17, 2020, and runs through September 20, 2020. Void where prohibited.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Jon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of fifty-two books, including eleven featuring Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong. The critically acclaimed series has won more than a dozen awards, including the 2019 International Book Award for Best Thriller for Strong as Steel. He also writes the CAPITAL CRIMES series and received the 2019 Rhode Island Authors Legacy Award for his lifetime of literary achievements. A graduate of Brown University, Land lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
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