Saturday, November 9, 2013

Author Interview: Jac Wright

Hello everyone, I do hope you are enjoying your day/night/morning/other. Today I have an interview for you with Jac Wright- author of The Reckless Engineer- which was released on the 6th. I also have a little surprise for you at the end of the post, so look for that. Now there may be a few spoilers of the book in the following interview, so if you're interested in finding out more you can check out my review here. I will be putting spoiler warnings on questions that contain them, so if you'd like to see what Jac has to say, but don't want a plot point ruined, you can skip past those ones and enjoy the others to your heart's content.

So let's welcome Mr. Jac Wright everybody. Now I know everybody loves to hear the voice behind the words, and get a little insight into the development of a story, so I have a few questions for you, to help appease some curious readers. Let's get into it, shall we?

When you set out to write your first full-length novel did you know this was what it was going to become? Why this genre?

I set out to create a hero who was an engineer and hence I knew what Jeremy’s character was going to be. I based Harry on one of my good friends who is a barrister.  And I knew that the plot was going to be a story of suspense and a murder mystery based on the dual of the plot of The Closet, which I had already written.  By that I mean it was going to be around the troubles that a guy (Jack Connor) whose character fault is that he is weak in love (or, to put it bluntly, a bit of a playboy) can get into.  And then it was obvious that the victim was going to be one of the women he is involved with, with the finger pointing at him as the who dunnit.  This was what I knew at the onset.

The rest of the story grew out of that gradually as I built a family around Jack Connor and people in their lives around Jeremy and Harry; and more people at work who bound Jeremy and Jack  together.

There was never any question about the genre I was going to write in. It was always going to be Suspense, Mystery, and Thriller, hopefully psychological thriller.  As it turns out this one is also a legal thriller.  When I was a kid I used to love watching MacGyver, Mission Impossible (the television series), Perry Mason, and The Tales of the Unexpected (based on Roald Dahl’s suspense fiction) with my father from our favourite seats every week. No one could take either one of us away from out seat in front of the TV when any of these programs were on, and we would analyse the week’s episodes for the rest of the week.  There were periods as a kid when I used to read Roald Dahl, Earle Stanley Gardner, Leslie Chateris, and Agatha Christie like I was possessed. These stories had a great impact on me.

Where did the concept come from? 

The first things I ever wrote aimed for an audience and myself were poetry, then short stories. When I started writing The Reckless Engineer I had a collection of 22 poems and 12 short stories. The short story I loved the best was The Closet in which I look at the troubles of a guy (Harold Duncan Wood) who is blinded by romantic love and passion.  In The Closet I am right inside my protagonist’s head, using a very close third person limited POV, looking at and telling the reader how it feels for him–the angst, the joy, the pain. . . In that story, other characters are not allowed to invade the space of Duncan’s internal thoughts and internal monologue.

I had, for some time wanted to do an examination of the “dual” of this plot, or the complementary plot, where I similarly look at the troubles of a protagonist (Jack Connor) who is weak in love, but from the viewpoints of the people around him.  I therefore hardly give Jack a voice in the story, instead choosing to deliberately keep him in custody for most of the time while I give the family, friends, and colleagues around him a voice.  That’s how the plot idea for The Reckless Engineer came about.

Of course, when you are writing a series you have to develop two stories at two different levels.  While this story plays out in the foreground, I develop the series characters–Jeremy Aiden Stone, Harry Stavers, Maggie Harris, Annie Wren, and Otter–and their stories at a slower pace in the background.  

Who were your inspirations for the plot and characters? Out of curiosity, are any of the characters based on your likeness?

I am an engineer myself, and I have two best friends who are an engineer and a barrister respectively.  I think Jeremy Aiden Stone has a lot of me and my friend who is an electrical engineer too in him.  It is more like Jeremy is what I should like to be; he lives the life I want and I live it through him.  Harry Stavers is definitely modelled after my friend Jon, the barrister. 

I modelled Marianne Connor, who is Irish catholic, in the image of a very good friend from Stanford who is from the traditional American conservative right.  Two chapters were removed that were written in her POV because that story is peripheral to the murder in the plot.

Douglas McAllen was modelled after the CEO of an engineering company I have worked for, and Gavin Hunter was modelled after his son, also a director of the company.

I made Otter entirely out of my imagination with a little bit after Lenny Kravitz (whose music I love) and Eddie Murphy (whose comedy I love) thrown in.  Magnus Laird looks like a solicitor I knew briefly, but he is deliberately a “Dickensian” character I made out of my imagination and possibly influence from other fiction.

The others are a mash-up of looks of some people I have known or even seen in passing while people watching, bits of character from others I have known, and lots of imagination.

A very cliche question here, but if you had to pick one, who would be your favourite character and why?

Of course Jeremy has a lot of meaning for me at a deeper level, but I just love Otter.  He is going to be developed even more in the next book as Jeremy’s “sidekick.”  Otter will eventually be a favourite.

In contrast, I also like Harry Stavers, the quintessentially English gentleman.

Together, the 2 of them make an interesting trio.

Did you set out with a clear idea of who the murderer was, or did they keep you guessing? (Spoilers)

This is hard to answer without spoilers, and hence I am going to mark it with a *** SPOILER ALERT ***.

I started out with the idea that the murderer is who it turned out to be.  However, after developing all the characters, some of whom were not there when I started out, I did a re-examination and came particularly close to choosing a different one – Caitlin’s brother, Ronnie McAllen- because he/she had the right psychology.  In the end I thought that he/she and the others had too much to lose by the act and therefore decided to stick with my original one because he/she was in the kind of desperate situation, or rather mistakenly believed herself to be in a desperate situation that might trigger the extreme act.

If you could change anything in the story, would you? If so, what would it be and why?

I would change my series lead’s name from “Jeremy Aiden Stone” to “Jeremy Aiden Reid”.   I hate the last name “Stone”; I think it is naf.  Too late I thought of the alternative, and now he is stuck with it.

Did you ever find yourself stumped by writer's block? If so, how did you overcome it?

I did, at one point in particular.  I hit a nasty block in chapter 15.  One thing I do is I set the manuscript aside and read a good book.  I read two Agatha Christie books at this point – At Bertram’s Hotel and Cards on the Table.  And then when I returned to my writing after about a week I decided it was time to bring Jack Connor home.  I had kept him in custody until this point.  Everything flowed naturally again after I hit this insight on how to progress the plot.
I reached a second, nasty 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, volunteer at a back-stage to help a friend at the Gielgud theatre to write the scene in it.  When I do this I don’t write while I am there. I just immerse myself into the environment and absorb the people, the sense, the sounds and the views. I might take some photos. 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.

Who was the first person you asked to read your story?

It was the engineering manager of a company I was working for when I first signed contracts with my publisher.  He observed my chirpy mood and asked me what was going on.  He was fun and I wanted to impress him.  So I told him about my books and gave the manuscript, not complete at the time, for him to read.

Final question now (we're getting there, haha), are you planning on writing another book? Is so, will it focus on the same characters, or will it be something completely different?

I have two stories – The Bank Job (Summerset Tales #2) and Buy, Sell, Murder (The Reckless Engineer #2) – half written.  
I have started the fifth, In Plain Sight, with just the plot and the main characters designed and only the first chapter written.  I have a hunch that In Plain Sight is going to be my favourite.
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 – in my head. Prisoners wear regular clothes in England and are not chained. 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, In Plain Sight.
I have a hunch that In Plain Sight is going to be my favourite.

Well Jac, thank you so much for answering my questions. A lot of interesting developments there. Would you like to add anything before we go?

My motto, as a bit of advice:
Seize the day. “Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future. Concentrate the mind on the present moment.” - Buddha

Well everyone, that was Jac Wright -who's murder mystery, 'The Reckless Engineer', was released on the 6th of November. If you'd like to learn more about it, please check out my review here: or you can find it on amazonUK here or amazonUS here.

Thank you for joining us today everyone. A big thank you to Jac Wright for joining me today. I hope you all enjoyed finding out some lovely background info as much as I did. Now for the special surprise at the end. 

Jac Wright has a competition up on his site to win 1 of 30 e-copies of The Reckless Engineer, and to win either a Kindle or a $70 Amazon Gift Card this week. If you'd like to enter, check it out here. What's to lose? 

And that about wraps everything up. So until my next review, enjoy this little heart to heart, or check out some of my other reviews, or just do whatever makes you happy. Have a nice cup of tea or read a book. Whatever it is you do, be happy.

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