By Renee James
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Diane Capri released TRACE EVIDENCE, the second book in her Heir Hunter series in August, even as the first title in the series, Blood Trails, was achieving finalist status in the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Awards.
TRACE EVIDENCE finds heir hunter Michael Flint, a man who combines expertise in genealogy and clandestine operations, on the trail of an heir who is also being pursued by two relentless killers. Along the way, he uncovers new clues to a different case, a cold case that has haunted him all his life.
Diane Capri is one of the thriller genre’s most prolific authors. Jack the Reaper, the next book in her wildly popular Hunt for Jack Reacher series, will be released September 26. In all, Diane has authored five thriller series since her debut in 2011.
TRACE EVIDENCE follows the exploits of Michael Flint, a man who specializes in finding heirs. Where did this idea come from, and what do you like about featuring an heir finder?
Every story grows from backstory. What I love about the Heir Hunter concept is the ability to write stories set in the present with a simultaneously unfolding history. Michael Flint is the heir hunter of last resort. When he comes to the case, everyone else has already failed. But he’s new to the situation, while the other characters know the past. And so many people are interested in ancestry these days, I hope readers will find Flint’s job as fascinating as I do.
In TRACE EVIDENCE, Flint isn’t the only one searching for the heir—so are two relentless killers. How do the characters of the two killers reflect the way you like to portray villains?
These days, I steer away from morally ambiguous villains. Flint is a man with a conscience and a strong moral center. We won’t see him “breaking bad.” He kills only when he must, in self-defense or defense of others. Which means the villains in my stories are required to be the kind of relentless killers that Flint is not.
Michael Flint has some unique credentials for hunting heirs—he’s a forensic genealogist and former clandestine agent specializing in high-end private investigations. How did you get the idea for the genealogy background?
What really fascinates me is DNA. The science is developing rapidly and we’re learning more every day about what DNA is, how it functions, what it means, and what uses we can make of that knowledge. At the same time, as humans, we want to know who and where we came from, aside from our genetic makeup as well as because of it. The topic may come up more often for Americans because our country has always been the new world and a melting pot for immigrants, to the point where many of my friends have submitted their DNA to places like Ancestry.com for answers. When I was developing The Heir Hunter series, I wanted to include these basic human traits and give Michael Flint a compelling reason to do the work he does. But I wanted to write an exciting thriller/suspense series, not a quiet mystery series. Forensic genealogy coupled with clandestine operations skills became the perfect fit. Judging by the reaction from readers, the combination seems to be a hit.
TRACE EVIDENCE is the second book in your “Heir Hunter” series, preceded by Blood Trails. What qualities do these two books share with your other best sellers?
Great characters, pacing, plot, unusual settings, a touch of mystery, and lots of action are things readers say they like best.
Does Michael Flint evolve as a character in this series? How does he change from Blood Trails to TRACE EVIDENCE?
Michael Flint is pretty much fully formed when he opens the first scene in Blood Trails. We can see what kind of man he is right off the bat. He’s the kind of guy I want on my side. I hope he’s the kind of guy readers will want on their side, too.
You have had a great run of best-sellers since your debut in 2011. Were you an instant success or is there a backstory?
I’ve come to doubt that anything about the fiction publishing business is “instant.” Diane Capri was a new pen name for me back in 2011. Before that, I’d published both fiction and non-fiction, and written millions of words as a practicing lawyer. The backstory is that my publisher went bankrupt, which effectively killed my career under the prior name because it took quite a while for me to get my rights back from the court. During that time, I wrote what has become my bestselling work. When life hands us lemons, the only thing I know to do is make lemon martinis, with a twist!
You write the “Hunt for Jack Reacher” series, which is about to go to its fifth novel (Jack and Joe, the third novel, was an ITW Thriller Award Finalist and won the Silver Award from the Independent Publisher’s Association). Where did this idea come from, and what do you like most about doing this series?
Of course, I love Reacher, just like every thriller fan I know. The series idea sprang from a conversation at a cocktail party in New York City with my friend Lee Child. I developed the concept over several months and spent a couple of years writing the first book. Originally, Lee and I had planned to write the series together. But when mundane issues like schedules and deadlines got in the way, he suggested that I write the series solo. With a great deal of trepidation, I set off on that path, and I’m really glad I did! It’s certainly been a wild ride so far. I’m working with Lee’s full support and encyclopedic knowledge of all things Reacher. He’s always there when I’ve got a question I can’t find the answer to, or when I need a tip on where to look for obscure Reacher-lore. What I love most about the series are the readers who tell me they devour the books, can’t put them down, and clamor for the next before the last one has cooled off the presses. What could possibly top that, unless it’s the opportunities I now have to send new readers over to Lee’s Jack Reacher novels?
You have an incredible body of work. In addition to the Heir Hunter and Hunt for Jack Reacher series, you’ve also published a run of titles in three other series: Jess Kimball Thrillers, Jordan Fox Mystery Series, and the Hunt for Justice series. How do you stay so productive? Where do the ideas for plot and character come from?
When readers ask me where I get my ideas, I joke and say I buy them from ideas.com. But the truth is that I don’t always know. Sometimes, as I’m writing, solutions present themselves in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. More often, I know where I’m going long before I get there. To keep the plots fresh, I do a lot of research for my books as I write them, so the actual writing goes a lot slower than I’d like. I’m always working on at least three novels in various stages. Right now, I’m waiting for the copy edits on Jack the Reaper, while I’m preparing for the release of TRACE EVIDENCE, revising the next Jess Kimball Thriller, and researching the next Hunt for Jack Reacher novel. I work about eight to ten hours most days. Believe it or not, that’s a lot fewer hours than I used to work as a lawyer. For me, writing stories that readers love is the best job in the world.
In addition to everything else, you have served on the ITW board in the past, and played a substantial role in the organization’s success. What motivated you to contribute your time and effort to the group, and what benefits did you receive from your involvement?
I was honored to be asked. ITW is a fantastic organization. It was fun and exciting for me to be involved from the very beginning. Helping ITW to build a strong foundation upon which to grow is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done as an author. I’ve also served on the board of the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and am active in several other writers organizations. Mingling with peers, helping authors to succeed, and socializing with readers who love the genres in which we write has been one of my great pleasures.
What did you do before you started writing mysteries and thrillers?
I was a practicing lawyer for a very long time before, during and after publishing fiction. I’m still licensed to practice in two states, but now I’m also licensed to thrill and kill for fun and profit.
What’s the reader feedback you value most?
Readers are essential to every working writer and I have some of the best readers on the planet. Great people who love my books and let me know it every day are just about the most wonderful part of my job.
When you speak to writers trying to break into the thriller genre, what is the most important message you have for them?
I’m old fashioned in this respect. I value the quality of the work above all else. So I encourage new writers to understand the genre and write the best possible book they can. I encourage them to work with great editors, agents, publishers, and authors. There’s nothing better than knowing your work can stand proudly side-by-side on the bookshelf with writers you admire.
Diane Capri is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous book series, including The Hunt for Justice, The Hunt for Jack Reacher, and The Jess Kimball Thrillers. A former lawyer, she now divides her time between Florida and Michigan. Capri has been nominated for several awards, including the International Thriller Award, and is the recipient of the Silver award for Best Thriller e-Book from the Independent Book Publishers Association. Trace Evidence is the second book in The Heir Hunter Series, following Blood Trails. She is currently at work on her next novel.
To learn more about Diane, please visit her website.