Welcome to the blog, Jeffrey! Could you tell us a little bit about The Devil’s Bait?
The Devil’s Bait is a new sort of thing for me. Most of my many novels have been horror (or else what’s called “licensed fiction”—books set in existing fictional universes, and written with the approval of the copyright holder. I’ve written novels set in the worlds of CSI, Buffy and Angel, Spider-Man, Conan the barbarian, and others). But this one is all mine, and a straight thriller—pure suspense, nothing horrific or supernatural about it. So I was exploring new territory that way... and exploring new territory by choosing to publish it as an e-book instead of sending it to my agent and letting him shop it to the traditional publishers.
As for the story itself, it’s about Jessie Dawn Cutler, who’s a single woman in Manhattan, a banker trying to work her way up the ladder of success in a huge multinational bank. But along the way, she discovers that her biggest client is also a criminal—and a killer! When she tries to take action, she learns that he’s well protected, both inside her bank and by the people who should be regulating this sort of thing.
So by trying to do the right thing, Jessie becomes a target herself. She’s just a regular person, not an action movie superhero, but she’s brave and resourceful, and she seeks out a few trusted allies who can help her survive—most notably Morgan Byrd, an aging mercenary who’s feeling like he needs to balance out some of the awful things he’s done. Together, Jessie and Morgan have a chance to survive, and maybe even come out ahead.
To find out if they do or not, though... you’ll have to read the book!
What led you to write this novel?
There were a few different factors behind it. First of all, the big bankers were largely responsible for the near-destruction of the global economy, so it seems like they should be the villains in fiction, too. But I haven’t seen any other books take them on. Then, while researching banking, I became fascinated with the ins and outs of money laundering. If you have a lot of loose money lying around, how do you hide it from the authorities? How do you move it out of the country? Where do you put it?
So those things played into it. The other main ingredient was the relationship between a fairly sophisticated young woman from the city, who’s maybe a little naive about the real world outside New York, and the older, gruff, part-time rancher and world-weary mercenary who’s seen and done it all, and sometimes wishes he hadn’t.
Do you have any favorite authors we should be reading? Who are your influences?
I’m the owner of a bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy (in San Diego and Redondo Beach, CA) that specializes in mystery, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. So I have a lot of favorite authors, and a lot of authors who’ll get mad at me if I mention someone else and not them. Given that, I’ll stick for the moment to thriller authors—some whose names are very familiar to most of the reading public, and some who should be better known.
In no particular order, then: William Goldman, David Morrell, J. Carson Black, T Jefferson Parker, James Lee Burke, Laura Lippman, John Connolly, Michael Connelly, George Pelecanos, Don Winslow, Dennis Lehane, Richard Price... that’s probably enough for now. I can rattle off another list any time!
What are the ingredients in the perfect thriller? How do you create suspense?
Hmmm... good question. I think there are a few important items to toss into the stew. You’ve got to have a good villain, because a large part of any thriller’s plot is the heroine responding to the villain’s actions. In many ways, the villain is the driving force behind the story, because if it wasn’t for him, the heroine could spend the whole book sitting on the beach sipping an iced tea. The villain should be a real person, with some good and a lot of bad, but he should think that he’s doing all those evil things for the best possible reasons. He doesn’t think of himself as a bad guy. And the heroine (of course, your heroine could also be a hero, and the male villain could as easily be a woman), should have some bad in her as well as a lot of good.
After you have a villain to drag the hero or heroine into the story, you need supporting characters, who are also real people that the reader should be concerned about—because they are now in terrible danger, just by having walked onto the pages of a thriller.
You need plenty of action. It doesn’t hurt to throw in some exotic locales (the action in The Devil’s Bait goes from Manhattan to rural Iowa to Paris to Geneva to the Cayman Islands to Florida, and back). You’ll have plans that don’t work out, clues that don’t pan out, dashed expectations at every turn. And all of it is in the service of something very important—a goal, something the hero or heroine needs to gain or learn or find. Trouble is, the villain’s goal is in direct conflict with the hero’s, and they can’t both win.
If you want to study a perfect thriller, read William Goldman’s novel Marathon Man. The movie is great, too. It’s like a textbook on plotting a thriller.
What is your best advice on writing?
I believe that people write using their writing muscle. Like any other muscle, it gets better and stronger the more it’s exercised. If you want to write, you have to write. Daily, if you can. Set aside a time to do it, and then do it. Nobody ever got a book finished by being afraid to put their bottom in the chair and write.
It helps to read a lot, too, and not just in the area or genre you’ve chose to write. It helps to be a well rounded person with lots of interests and knowledge. But you could win Jeopardy every day for a year and still not be a writer, unless you exercise that writing muscle!
Thanks so much for stopping by, Jeffrey!
Thanks for having me—it was fun!
Jeffrey J. Mariotte is the award-winning author of more than forty-five novels, including the supernatural thriller trilogy Missing White Girl, River Runs Red, and Cold Black Hearts, horror epic The Slab, the Dark Vengeance teen horror quartet, and others. He also writes licensed fiction, comic books (including the long-running horror/Western comic book series Desperadoes, original graphic novel Zombie Cop), and more. He’s a co-owner of specialty bookstore Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego and Redondo Beach, and lives in southeastern Arizona on the Flying M Ranch.
Jeff’s website is www.jeffmariotte.com and his blog is http://jeff_mariotte.typepad.com. He’s on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jeff.mariotte, but almost never on Twitter: @JeffMariotte.
The Devil’s Bait is available at Amazon and Smashwords.
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