By John Raab
Jason Dean is the author of the James Bishop Series and the latest book BACKTRACK is the second book of the series coming out in January 2013. Jason was born in South London in 1966 and raised in south east England. His first novel THE WRONG MAN introduced character James Bishop to the world. To catch a glimpse of how BACKTRACK continues the series, here is a synopsis from Jason’s website:
Sometimes a man must take a step back to move forwards…
In a small, sleepy Pennsylvania town, the staff of a loan store find themselves at the mercy of a gunman who demands they hand over the store’s entire cash reserves. But when the sound of police sirens shatters the silence sooner than expected, the robber is forced to take a young female customer hostage in order to make his escape.
Former Marine James Bishop is no stranger to being on the wrong side of the law. Finally a free man, he has the chance to get his life back on track. But as he flees the scene of the hold-up with his terrified hostage, he once again finds himself a wanted man…
Prison can change some people. But has it changed Bishop?
Below you will see an interview with Jason to find out a little bit about the author and what’s on his DVR.
Give us a little ‘behind the scenes’ action with your newest book BACKTRACK.
BACKTRACK takes place nine months after the events of THE WRONG MAN and opens with James Bishop in eastern Pennsylvania, robbing a cheque-cashing store. When things quickly escalate he’s forced to grab a female customer and use her as a hostage in order to make his escape. Events kind of accelerate from there before going off in an unexpected direction.
That’s essentially all I had when I first set out to plot BACKTRACK. I knew I wanted to begin the story with Bishop in the thick of it, doing the last thing you’d expect of him. And since he’s just spent the last three years of his life in prison for murders he didn’t commit, what better way than to have him holding up a loan store? The rest of the plot just grew out from that initial set-up, really.
As for the story’s setting, I’ve always been fascinated by the desert landscapes of America’s south-west – probably after seeing DUEL on TV when I was a kid – so I decided to set most of the book’s events around Arizona. And since I’d never visited the state before, I decided a research trip was probably in order before I started. So I flew over, rented a car and drove around for a fortnight, just scouting locations. It was great going from town to town during the day, grabbing a motel room for the night, then doing the same the next day. I managed to find real buildings and structures that would eventually serve as backdrops to every single scene in the book. And although the actual town I use in the book is fictional, there’s a fair bit of Coolidge in there, as well as parts of Salome and a few other places I visited. I’ll be uploading some of the photos I took to our official Facebook page before publication, so readers can get a good feel for the places in which Bishop finds himself.
Did you create Bishop first and build the story around him, or the other way around?
With THE WRONG MAN the basic plot came first, after which I created a fairly detailed biography of my leading man, from early childhood onwards. But it was during the actual writing that Bishop’s character and personality developed and grew to what it is now.
From BACKTRACK onwards (I’m currently on the fourth one), it’s been different. I now know Bishop back to front so he and the plot kind of go hand in hand during the planning stages. Whenever I come up with an incident or setpiece, I’ll be thinking ‘Would Bishop do this?’ or ‘Would he put up with that?’ and work everything around that.
What changes in your character from your first book THE WRONG MAN to BACKTRACK will your fans notice, or not notice?
Well, on the surface level, readers will probably find Bishop’s a lot more ruthless when it comes to pursuing his aims. Which I think you can blame it on his time in prison.
But moving a little deeper, I’d say the main change in Bishop is that he’s come to terms with his own strengths and weaknesses. In fact, he now makes his weaknesses work for him. For instance, for most of the book he’s searching for somebody and he’s willing to go to any lengths to find that person again. But because he now recognises and accepts the obsessive aspect to his character, he’s able to feed on that part of himself to stay focused and keep any possible doubts at bay. As long as he’s moving in a forward direction, that’s all that matters.
Added to which, he’s also come to realize that he can’t always do everything alone. When help’s offered he now gives it serious consideration, whereas before he might have turned it down flat.
Do you have any superstitions when you write?
Just one I can think of. My personal work ethic is such that I get frustrated with myself if I don’t get 1000 words out every day. But I realize there’ll be some days when things aren’t really flowing for some reason and I’ll really struggle. So what I do very early on is write 200 words over my day’s target and keep it at that level. That way I always begin the next day 200 words ahead of the game, so if work goes slow for whatever reason I know I’ll only need to write 800 words that day to hit my target. Purely psychological, of course, but it seems to work for me.
Which secondary characters surprised you in BACKTRACK by having more of a voice than you thought they would?
Well, I’d probably have to say Kate McGowan, a journalist character who comes into the story fairly late in the game, came out a little different to what I originally envisaged. I thought she’d be more hard-boiled and antagonistic, but it turns out she and Bishop get along better than I expected. And there was a definite sexual frisson going on between the two of them, too, which probably also helped.
What is on your DVR right now?
Well, I don’t actually have a DVR, as I only really watch TV when there’s a major sports tournament going on, such as The Olympics, the World Cup, Wimbledon, etc. But as a major film buff I do watch a lot of movies, and right now I’ve got an external hard drive full of stuff I’ve bought and have yet to see (or in some cases, see again).
Going down the list now, I can see: WESTWORLD, BARRY LYNDON, THE FUGITIVE KIND, THE THIN RED LINE, HIGH AND LOW, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, FOLLOWING, LES DIABLOLIQUES, TOMBSTONE, ACE IN THE HOLE, ALIENS. I could carry on, but you get the idea. Arthouse movie or blockbuster, foreign or American, new or old, it makes no difference to me. As long as it’s well made, I’ll watch it.
I would like to thank Jason for taking the time to speak with The Big Thrill newsletter. To find out more about the books and Jason check out his website.
Jason Dean was born in London and raised in the south-east of England. He spent much of his working life as a graphic designer before deciding what he really wanted to do was to write the kind of American thrillers he’s always loved reading. Now a full-time author, Jason lives in the Far East with his wife, making occasional trips to England or the States whenever the need arises. BACKTRACK is his second novel.