Today I'm pleased to Welcome Jac Wright to the blog to tell us a little more about his new book, "The Reckless Engineer."
1. What was your inspiration for this book?
The first thing I knew about The Reckless Engineer was that it was going to be a series and that I wanted the series lead to be an electrical engineer a little like me. Actually Jeremy is what I should like to be. He lives the life I want and I live it through him.
Secondly I knew the primary setting was going to be the beautiful English seaside town, Portsmouth, the birthplace of Charles Dickens. This was because my mother loves Charles Dickens’ work and some of the earliest memories I have are of her reading Dickens to me before I could even read. She had this rack full of books in the attic with classics like Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, The Old Curiosity Shop, David Copperfield, and other classics like Lorna Doone, Wuthering Heights, and The Animal Farm stuffed among piles of Readers’ Digests. I used to love spending hours up in the attic where I grew to love Dickens at an early age.
As for the plot, I wanted to write about the troubles of protagonist who is a brilliant guy, but whose character fault is that he is weak in love (like JFK for instance). In the Reckless Engineer I hardly give my protagonist a voice; I quite deliberately keep him in custody for much of the book and mainly look at the effects of the affair from the perspectives of the people around him. In The Closet, written as a prelude to The Reckless Engineer, on the other hand I am right inside my protagonist’s head, looking at the angst, the pain, and the ups and downs of his passionate love for his wife . . . telling the reader how it feels for him. I had written The Closet first and I had been thinking of writing its complementary plot in which I give voices to those people around the affair for some time.
I took the word “reckless” for the title from the word “reckless abandon” with which my protagonists are driven to act, blinded by romantic love, almost in spite of themselves.
2. Would you classify your writing as plot driven or character driven?
I try to balance 4 factors which make the 4 cornerstones that hold up my writing:
iii. literary writing, and
iv. the setting or world building, even though the world that I build for my characters is a little corner of contemporary England that we live in.
Out of these four, characters are of primary importance to me, even though I do not ignore any of the other 3 aspects. I put my characters in a situation and give them a particular psychology. I then keep them true to that psychology and let them drive the story forward. Sometimes they struggle against their psychological need because of the demands of the people around them or because of their own conscience. So character creation is the most important aspect for me.
3. Can you tell us a little about your main character?
When you are writing a series, things happen at two levels. In the foreground you have the characters and the plot that make up the story in the particular book.
In order to develop it as a series, however, you also have your characters that take the series forward. In The Reckless Engineer these characters are Jeremy, Harry, Otter, Maggie, and Annie. I develop these characters at a much slower pace in the background. Since I have told you about Jack Connor in the other questions, let me tell you about my series lead, Jeremy Aiden Stone.
He is courageous with nerves of steel and he is a highly skilled and brilliant engineer like Barney Collier in the Mission Impossible TV series. He is adventurous, versatile, and resourceful like MacGyver. My father and I used to watch Mission Impossible, MacGyver, Perry Mason, and Tales of the Unexpected (based on Roald Dahl’s writing) from our favourite seats in the living room every week when I was a kid. At one time I used to read Roald Dahl’s adult fiction and Earle Stanley Gardner like I was possessed. These stories made a big impression on me.
Jeremy has a British father and an American mother who comes from the American religious right, but Jeremy has been educated at Stanford and Berkeley and is very liberal. When it comes to bending rules to catch a bad guy he hesitates, but does what needs to be done anyway.
Jeremy is an electrical engineer by profession, like my close friend and me. Actually he is more like what I should like to be. He lives the life I want and I live it through him.
4. Without giving away too much, tell us a little about the main conflict in this book.
Jac Connor is a brilliant engineer whose character fault is that he is weak in love. That description is kind to him. To put it bluntly he is a bit of a playboy. There are four beautiful, strong, and very different women whom he had been in relationships with at different times who pull him in different directions. At the onset of the story one of them, Michelle Williams, is found dead and Jack Connor has been arrested for the murder. The story begins with Jack making his one call from the police station to his old-time friend, our series lead Jeremy.
Jeremy arrives in Portsmouth with Harry Stavers, top London attorney to the rich and famous, to handle Jack’s defence in the murder trial. While harry runs a brilliant defence, Jeremy mixes in with Jack’s family and colleagues only to find out that all is not what it seems at first sight. Everyone seems to have secrets and some of them have strong motives to have committed the crime. While Harry mounts a strategic defence, Jeremy is determined to get to the truth even if that truth is not what he wants to hear.
5. What do you hope readers take away from this book?
I want them to be entertained above all else. The question of who dunnit is one that the reader can solve himself because all the clues he needs are right there. At the same time I want the readers to love some of the characters and hate a couple; feel conflicted about the others.
6. What song best describes your writing style?
Song? Hmmm . . . “Something Got Me Started” by Simply Red?
When it comes to the initial idea for a story I don’t know where it comes from. It comes to me from somewhere deep in my subconscious mind in a moment of inspiration, like a segment of a movie or a disjointed dream. Something gets me started and then the idea nags at me until I put it down on paper.
Something got me started and now I love it; I can’t seem to stop. I might even give it all up for writing even though I hope I don’t have to.
7. Night Owl or Early Bird?
Early bird. I can write very well in the early hours of the morning when the world is quiet, from about 4 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., but I then go back to bed and catch a couple of hours of sleep before I have to get up and go for my engineering work.
8. Skittle or M&Ms?
M&Ms. That’s the original one, right? I don’t particularly like copies, of anything.
9. Who are your favorite authors?
I hero-worship Patricia Highsmith. She is one writer who does amazingly well with all four aspects of suspense writing that I value – characters, plot, literary prose, and the setting or world building – with primacy given to characters. Her POV is perfect. Her books are a master class in compelling character creation. She is firmly based in Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury school of writing and does almost a close psychoanalysis of her main characters.
I also like Roald Dahl for his suspense fiction. He is the master of the unexpected psychological twist in his writing in the short form.
Out of the modern writers, I like Ian Rankin and Benjamin Black who both write “literary” suspense fiction with good character creation. They do, however, write noir which is not my style.
I also think Gillian Flynn is one writer to watch. The “domestic” psychological thriller sub-genre she has written Gone Girl in is right up my street.
10. Can you tell us about any future projects?
I have two stories half written – “The Bank Job” (Summerset Tales #2) and Buy, Sell, Murder (The Reckless Engineer #2). Buy, Sell, Murder is set in the London branches of an American investment bank. I hope to finish both in 2014.
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.
Love is a battlefield.
The aftershocks of an affair reverberate out to those in the lives of the lovers, who will NOT take it lying down.
Jack Connor's lives an idyllic life by the Portsmouth seaside married to Caitlin McAllen, a stunning billionaire heiress, and working at his two jobs as the Head of Radar Engineering of Marine Electronics and as the Director of Engineering of McAllen BlackGold, his powerful father-in-law Douglas McAllen's extreme engineering company in Oil & Gas. He loves his two sons from his first marriage and is amicably divorced from his beautiful first wife Marianne Connor. Their delicately balanced lives are shattered when alluring Michelle Williams, with whom Jack is having a secret affair and who is pregnant with his child, is found dead and Jack is arrested on suspicion for the murder.
Jeremy Stone brings London's top defence attorney, Harry Stavers, to handle his best friend's defence.
Who is the bald man with the tattoo of a skull seen entering the victim's house? Who is "KC" who Caitlin makes secret calls to from a untraceable mobile? Has powerful Douglas McAllen already killed his daughter's first partner and is he capable of killing again? Is Caitlin's brother Ronnie McAllen's power struggle with Jack for the control of McAllen Industries so intense that he is prepared to kill and frame his brother-in-law? Is the divorce from Jack's first wife as amicable on her part as they believe it to be? Are his sons prepared to kill for their vast inheritance? Who are the ghosts from Caitlin's past in Aberdeen, Scotland haunting the marriage? What is the involvement of Jack's manager at Marine Electronics?
While Jack is charged and his murder trial proceeds in the Crown Court under barrister Harry Stavers’ expert care, Jeremy runs a race against time to find the real killer and save his friend's life, if he is in fact innocent, in a tense saga of love, desire, power, and ambition.
Jac Wright is a published poet, published author, and an electronics engineer educated at Stanford, University College London, and Cambridge who lives and works in England. Jac studied English literature from the early age of three, developing an intense love for poetry, drama, and writing in Trinity College Speech & Drama classes taken every Saturday for fourteen years, and in subsequent creative writing classes taken during the university years. A published poet, Jac's first passion was for literary fiction and poetry writing as well as for the dramatic arts. You will find these influences in the poetic imagery and prose, the dramatic scene setting, and the deep character creation.
These passions - for poetry, drama, literary fiction, and electronic engineering - have all been lovingly combined to create the first book in the literary suspense series, The Reckless Engineer. There are millions of professionals in high tech corporate environments who work in thousands of cities in the US, the UK, and the world such as engineers, technicians, technical managers, investment bankers, and corporate lawyers. High drama, power struggles, and human interest stories play out in the arena every day. Yet there are hardly any books that tell their stories; there are not many books that they can identify with. Jac feels compelled to tell their stories in The Reckless Engineer series.
Jac also writes the literary short fiction series, Summerset Tales, in which he explores characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances in the semi-fictional region of contemporary England called Summerset, partly the region that Thomas Hardy called Wessex. Some of the tales have an added element of suspense similar to Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected. The collection is published as individual tales in the tradition of Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers and Thomas Hardy's Wessex Tales. The first tale, The Closet, accompanies the author's first full-length literary suspense title, The Reckless Engineer.
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