Diane had long been active in Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, and other writing organizations. After her publisher’s bankruptcy, while she was writing the new Jess Kimball novel, Fatal Distraction, she was invited to join International Thriller Writers at its inception and shortly thereafter, became a member of the board along with her friend, the #1 International Bestselling author, Lee Child.
At a cocktail party in New York in 2009, Lee and Diane discussed a great question: Where is Jack Reacher? The answer was unknown, which inspired Diane to write a series of suspense novels answering the inquiry with Lee’s blessing. The first of those novels is Don’t Know Jack, introducing FBI Special Agents Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar, now available to buy or download a sample here: Don’t Know Jack. The short story singles, Jack in a Box, and Jack and Kill quickly followed, allow readers to learn even more about Otto and Gaspar. The second novel in the series opened to rave reader reviews on September 15, 2013, and is now available to buy or download a sample here: Get Back Jack.
Diane, I've just finished reading Girl with the Pearl Earring which was the story of the woman in a famous Vermeer painting of the same name. We know that no two people can see the same event the same way. Having studied the artist, it was interesting for me to read the fictitious accounting of the model's experience.
Psychology understands that each person presents with a different goal, different perspective, different need. The Rashomon Effect tells us that two people often have contradictory interpretations of the same event. I think your series does a marvelous way of exhibiting this effect.
Can you tell us about your series and how you applied the Rashomon Effect in developing the story line?
My Hunt for Jack Reacher Series is all about two FBI agents, Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar, who have been assigned to complete a background check on Jack Reacher for a highly classified assignment not disclosed to them.
Otto and Gaspar learn about Reacher a little at a time from people who knew him in the past. Some of those people are on Reacher's side, so they refuse to disclose information because they don't want to get Reacher in trouble with the FBI. Some are not on Reacher's side, so they have an ax to grind as well, which makes anything they do say unreliable. And many are simply suspicious and threatened by Otto and Gaspar the moment they walk in the room.
All of this presents significant challenges to Otto and Gaspar, and to writing their stories. Of course, they Don't Know Jack. (Fiona: Book #1 is titled "Don't Know Jack") They've never read one of Lee Child's books. And they have no frame of reference for this guy. Beyond that, they're operating off the books, meaning that they're on an assignment that's not authorized as "under cover," and they have no team backing them up. They're on their own.
And if those handicaps weren't already enough, all of Reacher's files have been removed. There is nothing in any database anywhere referencing Reacher since he left the army fifteen years ago. Of course, this could only be accomplished by someone with a lot of power working against them. So right off the bat, Otto and Gaspar are in trouble.
Someone big is looking for Reacher, and they don't know who is looking or why. On top of that, Reacher's army records reveal that he had, let's call it a difficult career. At the end of his career, he was given the opportunity to retire instead of facing charges. Otto and Gaspar are FBI agents, which essentially means they are cops. And they're good. Which means they are suspicious by nature.
As a result of this unusual and dangerous assignment, and because of their basic natures, Otto and Gaspar are worried about Reacher right out of the gate. And what they learn about him doesn't increase their comfort level. Quite the opposite. Readers of Lee Child's novels know that Reacher is a guy with little or no conscience about doing what he thinks is the right thing. In the original books, Reacher often works with law enforcement to handle the bad guys in ways that are far from legal. Those law enforcement officers don't want the details of those earlier operations to come out now to ruin their careers or, in some cases, send them to prison.
The challenge for Otto and Gaspar, then, is that everyone they meet knows way more about Reacher than they do. And everyone who knows Reacher is suspicious of them. No one who has worked with Reacher before wants Otto and Gaspar to succeed. So what we have as readers, if we've been reading Lee Child's Reacher novels, is a lot more knowledge than Otto and Gaspar have or will have. The picture of Reacher that unfolds for them is like a giant puzzle that they must put together, one piece at a time -- when the pieces often don't seem to fit.
How fascinating all of that is. And what a wonderful way for readers to understand what's going on for investigators in the real world.
I can imagine as a writer that this gets very confusing. Can you talk about your approach? How do you map out a plot line who knows what when and how? It must be daunting to keep strait.
The Hunt for Jack Reacher novels are very difficult to write, Fiona. I'm not only trying to do all of the things I mentioned, but I need to do it without spoiling the original Lee Child novel for those readers who haven't read those books yet.
I'm not writing sequels to the original books. I'm writing spin offs from them. The first novel in this series took me two years to write. I used Killing Floor as the source book and asked Lee a ton of questions along the way. Whew!
The second novel took eighteen months, and the third took more than a year. Now, I can write the books in about eight months, because I know Otto and Gaspar much better and I understand where the series is going. My process always begins with reading the source book several times. For Jack the Reaper, which is the fifth novel in the series releasing on September 26, the source book is The Hard Way.
When I'm analyzing the source book, I'm looking for ways to spin off an Otto and Gaspar story that will suit all of my goals for the series and for each individual thriller. Of course, I want to create an exciting great read every time. So those are the big issues at this stage. For Jack the Reaper, I'm using two characters and a landmark. A private detective and Reacher's love interest from The Hard Way, Lauren Pauling. A character identified only as Brewer originally. and The Dakota, one of the most famous apartment buildings in New York City. After I find the characters, I work on the plot. I start with a skeletal outline and fill in as I go along. I also research a lot and I do that both before and during the writing. My brain enjoys complicated plotting, so that's an inherent bonus!
A traditional question at ThrillWriting is: Please tell us the story behind your favorite scar or harrowing story. Would you indulge us?
I've done a lot of crazy things in my life, and I usually don't know they're harrowing until they're over. One of the best examples is the time I was driving from the softball field to the bar to join my team mates. This was in Detroit, years ago before cell phones, and not in a great neighborhood. A woman ran out in front of my car, waiving her arms, acting terrified. I stopped the car to avoid hitting her and she ran over and jumped inside. She was hysterical, crying, almost incoherent. She said, "I need to find a phone! I just shot my husband!"
Holy moly, that is harrowing!
Thank you so much, Diane, for sharing about your writing. And thank you, ThrillReaders and ThrillWriters for joining us. I hope you enjoy Diane's novels when you snag your copies.
You can stay in touch with Diane Capri through her website.
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