It’s happening again. Holmes and I have the itch that can only be scratched by acting out on our serial interviewer urges.
Best Selling Author Jon Land
This time, our target is Best Selling Author and Screenwriter Jon Land. Jon, a graduate of Brown University, has published over 27 novels, most of which you’ll find on best seller lists. He is also the Vice President of Marketing for the International Thriller Writers (ITW). His generosity of spirit is legend among writers, and he frequently volunteers in schools to help young people learn to enjoy the process of writing.
It wasn’t too difficult to lure Jon to our secret blog prison comfortable office space for an interrogation interview. We fudged a bit—okay, quite a bit—and told him it was in Texas. Jon loves Texas.
We are honored today to welcome Jon Land to our blog.
Please make yourself comfortable, Jon. Holmes will be just behind that large mirror as we talk.
You’re welcome to take off that bandana blindfold now. I hope you enjoy the dirt we spread on the cement floor and the fake cactus in the corner. If you like, we can turn a fan on and kick up some dust to give you a more genuine Texas-like experience.
Those gun holes? . . . Oh, those have been there for a while.
Would you care for a shot of whiskey or a bit of barbeque before we get started?
Already had more than my share today . . . of whiskey anyway. Hey, I’m a writer—what can I say?
You are an associate member of the US Special Forces. Could you please explain to our readers how you became associated with Special Forces and what you do in that capacity?
It happened as a result of a series of books I wrote in the 80s and 90s featuring A Vietnam-era, former Special Ops operative named Blaine McCracken. I began to get quite a bit of mail from SF vets complimenting me on the fact that I had nailed their sensibility and mindset.
I started corresponding with a bunch of them and ended up attending the Special Forces convention in Cleveland back in 1993 at the same time I published a book dedicated to the United States Special Forces. My involvement led to an invitation to join the ranks as an associate member. Couldn’t be honorary because there’ve only been two of those in history: John Wayne and Martha Ray and I certainly don’t belong in that company!
In your best selling Caitlin Strong series, your main character, Caitlin, is the first female Texas Ranger. Also in your books, you deftly weave the present with the past history of the Rangers. When and how did you first become interested in Texas Rangers?
Great question! And I guess the best answer is for the same reason I became interested in the Special Forces. As a writer, I’m fascinated by the classical nature of the hero and I think all my books explore that in one way or another. The Special Forces personify the American military ethos, encapsulating everything that’s right about we do to defend our way of life. By the same token, the Texas Rangers represent the frontier spirit and bravery that came to define the country and became hugely influential to the development of American literature in general.
I’d always wanted to write about the Rangers and found them to be a fascinating embodiment of law enforcement, since they’ve been around for so long and are pretty much doing the same thing they’ve always done, except they ride in cars now, instead of on horses! But, more to the point, there has never been a truer quote spoken than, “The past isn’t over; it’s not even past,” by William Faulkner. I love exploring the links between times and I think it’s one of the strongest and best hallmarks of this series. I always have a sub-plot, normally featuring Caitlin’s legendary grandfather or father, that tells an entire independent tale on its own in recurring flashbacks that bears a crucial connection to whatever Caitlin’s investigating in the present.
That’s one of my favorite qualities of your books. I also notice a love of Texas and the Southwest comes through on every page of your Caitlin Strong books, up to and including consistently calling one character, Cort Wesley Masters, by both of his given names in the Southwest style (Cort Wesley). How much time have you spent in the Southwest, and how do you spend that time when you visit?
Truth be told, not very much at all. I write about so many places and kinds of people that it’s impossible to experience all of them. The key, after so many books, is not how I see the world around me so much as how my characters see it. Cort Wesley and Caitlin have lived in Texas all their lives and it’s their viewpoints that matter. Showing Texas from their perspective, not mine.
Sure, I do lots of research into sights, sounds, smells, and the proper places to set scenes. But my characters dictate the love you’re describing because it’s the way they feel.
You know, I’ve had some e-mails criticizing me for always referring to “Cort Wesley” by both his given names and have explained, hey, that’s the way it is down there. Amazing how many people think I’m a Texan, just like they thought I was Israeli or Palestinian when I wrote a series of books set over in the Middle East. I’ll take imagination over knowledge any day!
How else have you expressed your love of the Southwest in your life? I.e., any cowboy costumes as a kid or cattle drive vacations?
image from kidsdressingupbox.com
Uh-oh, you must’ve seen those recent photos of me up in on the internet dressed as– You haven’t? Then the answer is no. As a kid, I did go through one stage when I was a spy and another when I was a vampire, but never really a cowboy. Guess I grew up before I had the chance, if I’d grown up at all. See, the best thing about being writer is you always retain that part of your brain that believes anything is possible. Comes down to imagination again, the place where all of us who create for a living live the bulk of our lives.
I notice in STRONG VENGEANCE, like in all of the Caitlin Strong Series, you almost never say ‘rifle’, ‘pistol’ or ‘shotgun’. Instead, you identify the make and/or models of the firearms in your books. Are you a gun enthusiast outside of your novels?
Not really, no. But I pay great attention to detail and, again, I’m writing from the viewpoint of my characters, describing things the way they would, not me. And the simple fact of the matter is that to a gunman (or gunwoman, in the case of Caitlin Strong) each brand is a world onto itself, as different as calibers.
What is your own preferred firearm and why?
The SIG for its beauty and elegance, but the Smith & Wesson is a better fit for my hand. And I love shooting the .357 magnum but I’ve only used .38 special load in it. What a firearm!
My own two favorites, as a matter of fact. As you know, my name is Piper Bayard. What you may not know, though, is that Henri Pieper was a gun maker in Belgium at the turn of the 20th century. Would you consider writing a 1908 Pieper Bayard .32 semi-automatic into a novel in the future?
1908 Pieper Bayard .32 Pocket Pistol, image from unblinkingeye.com
Of course, but it would cost you! (laughs) Why 1908, by the way?
The 1908 was the first of the Pieper Bayard series, and it’s the most commonly found today. Thank you for asking. J
What would you like us to know about Caitlin Strong and STRONG VENGEANCE?
I honestly believe it’s her biggest, best, and fastest paced adventure yet. Caitlin’s up against homegrown Islamic terrorists this time and there’s a tremendous amount at stake. In that respect, I think this one might also be the most accessible title yet to a mainstream audience concerned with what is a very real threat this country is facing.
But STRONG VENGEANCE also contains some more truly scary stuff. First off, and you’re not going to believe this, but the villain of the book is a waste management baron who’s building on his fortune by bringing huge stores of radioactive waste into Texas for storage. Well, it turns out some billionaire named Simmons is contributing huge amounts of money to the Republicans in the hope of getting environmental laws relaxed enough to do exactly that in West Texas! I mean, you can’t make this stuff up.
STRONG VENGEANCE also contains the single most chilling scene I’ve ever written when an especially despicable and terrifying villain confronts Cort Wesley Masters’ oldest son Dylan for whom Caitlin has been playing surrogate mother. There’s not even any violence in the scene, but I guarantee it will give you goose bumps!
And, remember what I just said about featuring Caitlin’s relatives in historical subplots? The one in STRONG VENGEANCE takes us back to the legendary lost treasure of the famed pirate Jean Lafitte. And, you guessed it, Caitlin has to solve that mystery of the past in order to stop that devastating terrorist attack on the United States in the present.
Mr. Land, our informants tell us that Caitlin Strong and Cort Wesley may be coming to our homes soon. What do you know about this possibility?
Well, this is fun to talk about! I’ve just agreed to terms with Sony to develop a television series around Caitlin based on the first book in the series, STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE. Two things you need to know here: Studios pay very little for options these days and it’s still a long shot to ever happen. That said, what has me relatively optimistic is that the major exec at Sony who fell in love with Caitlin (Who can blame him, right?) is the same exec who got the terrific FX show Justified on the air. Very similar material, only with a deputy U.S. Marshall instead of a Texas Ranger. That tells we’ve got a real shot, which is all you can ask for in the truly wacky world of Hollywood.
That sounds awesome! What can you tell us about your next project? Will it be another Caitlin Strong book, or will you be moving on to a new series?
My next project is the already completed PANDORA’S TEMPLE, which marks the return of my longtime series hero Blaine McCracken after a fifteen year absence. My electronic publisher is bringing the book out in November, just in time for the holidays, and it will be published in print as well.
Right now I’m well into the next Caitlin book, STRONG RAIN FALLING, which is going to be the biggest, broadest and most ambitious entry in the series so far. Takes us all the way back to the very birth of the Mexican drug trade and the ramifications of those early years in the present. This book is going to be something special . . . but, come to think of it, I think I always say that. . . .
Are there any questions about your books that you wish we had asked you today or any further comments you would like to share?
Well, I’m ready for that whiskey now. . . . Come on, you can do better than that. Don’t you have a real glass?
You bet, Jon!
image from icollector.com
Careful. This stuff’ll set you blind, Texas style.
Thank you so much for your time and for visiting our blog. You may keep the bandana for a souvenir of our interview if you like, but you will need to put it back over your eyes before the black helicopter takes you home. You’re welcome to take it off before you pull the cord on your parachute, though. In fact, we recommend it.
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We’re happy to report that Jon is safely back in his writing cave in Rhode Island. You can get his new release, STRONG VENGEANCE, as well as his other best selling novels at his Jon Land website, your local independent bookstore, Barnes and Noble, Booksamillion or on line via any of those or Amazon.
Piper Bayard—The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse
Holmes—Student of Sex, C4, and Hollow Points