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Friday 16 October 2015

ℚ Strong Light of Day: Caitlin Strong [7] - Jon Land

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Strong Light of Day (, Forge Books, 352 pages) a thriller, book seven of the Caitlin Strong series.

"Land's exciting seventh Caitlin Strong novel [...] finds the fifth-generation Texas Ranger pursuing two cases: one involving a herd of cattle that has been picked clean to the bone and another revolving around the disappearance of a busload of students from a Houston prep school spending the night at a nature center. [...] A convoluted narrative -- with Russian mobsters, rate Texas militiamen, alien invasion theories, cattle rustling, and a corrupt oil baron -- slows the momentum early on, but Land pulls out all the stops in the latter chapters.  More than a few bombshell revelations and jaw-dropping plot twists will satisfy longtime series fans." ~ Publisher's Weekly

Author Q&A | Synopsis | Teaser | The Series | About the Author | Giveaway & Tour Stops

Hello Jon, welcome to BooksChatter; thank you for joining us today.

What was the inspiration for Strong Light of Day?

"Ah, the “I” word! After 38 books overall, and this being the seventh in the Caitlin Strong series, I’m not sure inspiration is the right word but let me try to apply it.

My inspiration is always to create a great story that’s different and better in enough ways than all the other books that preceded it.   In the case of Strong Light of Day, I had read this article in the New York Times about a genetically enhanced pesticide that went terribly wrong.  All sorts of unintended consequences which got me thinking about applying that on a massive scale: Agro-terrorism, in other words, a subject I’d surprisingly never encountered before in the genre.   I say surprisingly because the basic staples of our food supply are so vulnerable to attack, it’s truly scary.   And nothing creates better inspiration than something that scares you, because if it scares you as the writer, it’ll definitely scare the reader."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"Virtually nothing! [laughs] I’m a storyteller and, as such, I tend to let my characters do all the work and suffering.   I think it’s impossible to remove all of yourself, how you think and feel about things, from a book entirely, but by the same token I can’t look at Strong Light of Day now and tell you I did a certain thing because it reflects me or something I may have been experiencing at the time.   I prefer to keep who I am and what I believe separate and distinct from what I do as a writer.   I think in that respect writing these books is a really a means of escape not just for the reader, but also for me."
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your cover for Strong Light of Day - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"Wow, that’s a great question and I’m so glad somebody finally asked me it!

The truth is I have very minimal involvement in my cover concept and design.   There’s a designer who works for my publisher who’s come up with all my Caitlin Strong covers and, get this, he actually reads the very first draft of the book to a get a notion not only for the title’s subject matter but also its tone and subtext.

The cover of Strong Light of Day is a perfect example.  We see my female Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, viewed from behind, standing on a ridge or rock formation, gazing down a lonely road into the rising sun, the implication being that something is coming down that road she must stop.  In essence, the entire mystery and feel of the book is right there in that graphic, and I think it’s drop dead brilliant."
Why should we read Strong Light of Day and what sets it apart from the rest?  What makes your book unique?
"Another great question! And I’ll try to answer it without trying to sound overly self-serving—notice I said, ‘try!’

In my humble opinion, the Caitlin Strong series compares favorably to Lee Child’s iconic Jack Reacher tales because essentially she’s a female version of Reacher.   A modern day gunfighter still living with an Old West mentality.  So if you’re looking for a female action hero, Caitlin’s definitely your gal.

But I’ve also patterned the series to a great extent after the wonderful work done by James Lee Burke in his Dave Robicheaux books.   I say that because all the Caitlin Strong books have a very strong emotional context and core.   The recurring characters age, change, and face new challenges in their personal lives.  In Strong Light of Day, for example, [spoiler alert!], a 15-year-old boy who’s the son of Caitlin’s quasi-boy friend Cort Wesley Masters, and effectively her surrogate son, comes out of the closet and reveals that he’s gay.   That’s hardly a big deal anymore these days, but watching how it emotionally affects the other characters adds an emotional resonance that makes the reader understand and like these people all the more.

The great John D. MacDonald once defined story as “stuff happening to people the reader cares about.”  Well, all thrillers have plenty of stuff happening, but what makes the Caitlin Strong series special is you really care about her and everyone else you’ve gotten to know over time, the emotional core of the book being just as important as the structural core."
Can you tell us something quirky about Strong Light of Day, its story and characters?
"Quirky, eh?  Not the way you’re describing it, not really . But I think all my Caitlin Strong books seek to make the characters stand out because of their own quirks.

Take the villain of Strong Light of Day, Calum Dane, for example.  People are telling me he’s my best and most well-drawn villain ever because his inability to control his emotions leads him to uncontrollable acts of violence, including a scene that is among the most brutal of any I’ve ever written when he beats a disabled young man to death with the young man’s own prosthetic leg.

It wasn’t my idea for Dane to do that, it was all his because it’s a quirk of Dane’s character. Just like one of my recurring characters, Caitlin’s giant protector Guillermo Paz, has the quirk of being forever in search of meaning.  Every book he’s seeking a new outlet for that and in Strong Light of Day, he takes to visiting a psychic medium.  Now, that’s a quirk!"
That is also the kind of quirk I was looking for!

Who would you recommend Strong Light of Day to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?

"Anyone who loves thrillers, really.  Fans of Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Sandra Brown, Steve Berry, James Rollins, Brad Thor, Brad Meltzer . . . I know that’s a long, eclectic list but what I try to do in the Caitlin Strong books is give them the stakes and feel of a high-stakes thriller with the grounded settings more akin to James Lee Burke.

Most big scale thrillers span the globe. While Strong Light of Day does have some scenes set in Washington, DC and Russia, it’s pretty much Texas-based.  But it’s the whole country that’s being threatened and the whole country Caitlin has to save."
If you could / wished to turn Strong Light of Day and the Caitlin Strong series into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"Oh man, that question hits like a dagger to the heart! A producer I know pretty much had a television series set-up, only to have that awful Killer Women show on ABC beat us to the punch.   Amazing . . .

All these years without a TV series about a female Texas Ranger and suddenly there were two competing ones—go figure, right?

I’ve worked on the fringes of the film business enough, after getting one film made (a teen comedy called Dirty Deeds), to know the best dream team is, very simply, the team that gets it done.  Beyond that, there’s no point in speculating."
Ouch! ... but then again, given that yours would surely have been a better series, you know that it would probably have gotten cancelled after one season... ;-)

What do you like to write and read about?  Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?

"I believe fully in the principle espoused by Robert Louis Stevenson, that you can only write what you would read if someone else had written it.  For me that’s thrillers.  The few times I’ve set out to try something different, that’s what I end up with, and there’s no point in fighting it.  I find the thriller form to be wondrously pure, since all thrillers are essentially quest stories, harking back structurally to tales from Greek mythology and legends of lore of great heroes on a mission to save something far bigger than just themselves.  That describes the thriller form in a nutshell and it’s the formula that defines structure for me."
What is your writing process?
"Well, I never outline.  I have a rough idea of where I’m going but never exactly how I’m going to get there.

I believe my greatest strength as a writer is spontaneity, because if I don’t know what’s going to happen next, the reader can’t possibly know, and I have great faith in my characters to dictate to me where the action needs to go.  Because, the thing is, I love writing purely from my imagination, letting the story takes me where it wants.  I trust my instincts and I follow a few simple rules, like every chapter opens with a hook and ends with a cliffhanger.  Hey, I’m not just the writer, I’m also the first person to experience the story that way from the inside.  So if I can grab myself, it’s a pretty good indicator that I’ll get the reader too.  But that means I have to have enough confidence to trust that the process will find doors in the walls that inevitably rise when it comes to time to tie everything up.

Every book now it seems there’s a moment maybe two-thirds of the way through where I slap my head and go, “Ah, that’s what’s going on!”  Nothing’s more fun or gratifying than surprising myself."
What is in store next, as Strong Light of Day is part of a series, can you give us any hints on future developments?
"Well, to answer the last part of he question first, I literally just submitted my initial draft of the next book in the series, Strong Cold Dead, which will be published next fall.

Before that, though, March will see publication of my second nonfiction book Takedown, about a celebrated undercover drug officer who comes out of retirement to battle the biggest drug gang in the country (sounds like fiction, doesn’t it?).

And then in June the first in the series I’m doing with the great Heather Graham, The Rising, will be out. That’s the amazing thing about this business. Here I’ve been doing it for over thirty years and an opportunity like that comes up. You just never know what’s going to happen next."
Many thanks again for chatting to us today.

Strong Light of Day
Available NOW!

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Omnimystery News said...

It's always a treat to get to know more about the authors whose books we enjoy. Thanks so much for this terrific interview!

Jon Land said...

Wow, the beautiful layout is incredible! Adds so much to the interview and actually helps make me sound interesting! Thanks ever so much for the great coverage and being so professional.