Monday, December 10, 2018

Publisher's Weekly Interview On The Killer Collective

A few weeks ago Publisher’s Weekly interviewed me about The Killer Collective, out on February 1. The interview is called The Killing Business and appears in this week’s issue. These things tend to get trimmed for the magazine, so if you want to read the long-winded version, here you go… :)

Having characters from multiple series cross-over is an endlessly appealing premise…Why did you decide to do it now with John Rain, whom you "retired" years ago, and recent creation Livia Lone?

In some ways it wasn’t hard, because Rain is always trying to retire—to kill his way out of the killing business—and he never seems to make it.

On top of which, Livia and Rain’s partner, former Marine sniper Dox, teamed up in the previous book, The Night Trade, and that turned into an interesting relationship. And I started wondering…what would happen if Livia, in the course of her Seattle PD sex-crime detective duties, uncovered something so big that she was targeted in an attempted hit? Would she call on Dox for help? Would Dox call on Rain?

And what if Rain had earlier been offered the hit himself…?

Once I started playing around with it, the idea became irresistible. The characters from the Rain and Livia universes are all so different—different motivations, different training, different worldviews, different personalities—that the idea of forcing them together, all their tangled histories, and smoldering romantic entanglements and uncertainties and jealousies and doubts, under the relentless pressure of extremely resourceful adversaries…looking back, it seems almost inevitable! And I sure had a lot of fun doing it.

This new novel features state-of-the-art technology, as does so much of your previous work. How do you keep up with the constant developments in these fields?

I follow Edward Snowden on Twitter, and he’s been a terrific resource in bringing attention to the government’s increasingly Orwellian surveillance apparatus. Facial recognition technology combined with vehicle- and officer-mounted video cameras; increasingly miniaturized drones; voiceprint technology; portable cellphone trackers; ubiquitous license-plate readers…the government knows more and more about us while we know less and less about the government, and if you’re writing political thrillers without taking Big Brother into account, you’re missing an important opportunity and probably a degree of realism, as well.

In addition to whistleblowers like Snowden, civil liberties groups like the ACLU and EFF, and the journalists at the Intercept, are also good to follow—for their important work, of course, but also for anyone who wants to stay on top of the deployment of active denial systems, radio-frequency vehicle stoppers, ways of wirelessly hacking a car’s control systems, and the other real-world technologies that make their way into my stories.

This may be the first novel in which a team of assassins are the indisputable heroes. What does that say about the state of our government and our Intelligence community?

I love that nomenclature—intelligence community! It’s so friendly. Like an intelligence club, or an intelligence neighborhood. I think it’s better understood as an intelligence apparatus, which admittedly isn’t quite as soothing!

But anyway, without getting too political, which as you can tell is hard for me, I’ll say that I think trends like Brexit in Europe, the election of Donald Trump in the United States, and the election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil demonstrate that more and more people are figuring out that the elites who run society have become fundamentally parasitic, and so in desperation or rage or an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” attitude people are willing to do the electoral equivalent of calling an airstrike in on their own position. As faith in ever-more rotted institutions fades, people search for saviors from outside the institutional framework. That’s great for fiction, but in reality…not so much.

That said, I’m sure Delilah, Dox, Livia, Rain and the rest of the gang could run things better than the cretins currently in charge. On the other hand, 535 citizens chosen at random would be an improvement over Congress and the Senate. How did Cormac McCarthy’s assassin Chigurh put it? “If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?” So maybe my praise for my characters is mostly of the “land of the blind” variety.



The constant action in this book is leavened by touches of humor, mostly supplied by Dox. Do you employ a different approach now in your writing, compared to fifteen years ago?

Ah, thanks for that…Dox constantly cracks me up, and when I’m writing him, I always feel like I’m taking dictation.

I think my process today is pretty similar to what it’s always been. The biggest change is how much I’ve come to collaborate with my wife, Laura Rennert, who’s also my literary agent. I was much more solitary at the outset, but these days I brainstorm pretty much every step of the way with Laura, read her the manuscript section by section (this is also great practice for doing the audiobook narration), and get a ton of ideas and refinements from her. Probably not a coincidence that I write a lot faster now than I did fifteen years ago!

When your first John Rain novel appeared in 2002, publishing operated in a manner that today would be unrecognizable. How do you feel about what has been left behind, and what has taken its place in the industry over the years?

Publishing has always been run as a cartel for the benefit of publishers and at the expense of authors. I don’t mean to insult anyone in saying that, but come on, it’s right there in the clubby name the publishing giants have bestowed upon themselves: the Big Five! Does that sound like competition, or like a cartel? And if it’s competition, how do you explain the lack of innovation, the lockstep low royalties and other onerous contractual provisions, and a group of companies each of which—in the 21st century!—can only manage to pay its authors twice a year?

So I think that by injecting some real competition into a sclerotic and moribund system, the advent of digital books, self-publishing, and Amazon publishing have on balance been a boon to readers and authors.

It's hard to believe that books as cinematic as yours have not been turned into a film franchise by now. What developments have there been on that front?

There was a Rain TV project with Keanu Reeves attached that came pretty close. The good news is, I got to spend five days in Tokyo, my favorite city, introducing Keanu and others to John Rain’s favorite jazz clubs, whisky bars, and coffee houses. So that was fun.

And I’ve written a Livia pilot that's getting some interest, along with the perennial interest in the Rain rights. We’ll see. It would be nice if it were to happen. But a day job writing books is pretty damn sweet, too.

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