By George Ebey
Rick Mofina is the author of numerous works of suspense including THE DYING HOUR and VENGEANCE ROAD, both finalists for the International Thriller Writers Thriller Award.
His latest novel, THEY DISAPPEARED, keeps the tension rolling as a man and his family find themselves embroiled in a situation right out of your worst nightmare.
Jeff Griffin, a mechanic, and his wife, Sarah, travel from Montana to Manhattan to give their nine-year-old son, Cole, his dream vacation as they secretly face the heart-wrenching turmoil that has them teetering on divorce. While sightseeing near Times Square, Jeff steps into a store to buy batteries for their camera—but upon returning to the street he finds that Sarah and Cole have vanished. Battling his anguish and police suspicions, Jeff fights to rescue Sarah and Cole. He knows now that the love he and Sarah have is worth saving. But he could lose the chance to tell her amid growing fears that they have become entangled in an unfolding plot that could have global consequences.
To my delight, Rick took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions about THEY DISAPPEARED as well as to provide some insight into the nature of suspense.
THEY DISAPPEARED centers around a couple and their young son who travel from Montana to Manhattan on vacation. Is there a bit of “fish out of water” element to this story?
Yes, there is definitely a fish-out-of-water aspect to the story. Jeff Griffin is a mechanic and volunteer firefighter. His wife, Sarah, is a school teacher. They may be from a small Montana town, but they are not bumpkins. They are smart, ordinary people facing a family crisis. I wanted to place them – with their crisis – in New York City, because like most people who don’t travel there often, the city’s power, energy and majesty, can be overwhelming. It can be a frightening place when something else in your life goes wrong, especially if you’re thousands of miles from home.
What elements do you feel make for the best suspense?
There are several. The stakes, that being the chief goal and the challenges to achieving them, have to be as clearly defined as the characters who face them. The stakes and hurdles should increase at every step of the way, while testing and defining, or redefining, the characters grappling with them. Those elements bleed into the making of an emotional connection for the reader. Of course, the key element is time. It should always be ticking down. Suspense emerges as the reader is held hostage to wondering if the characters will succeed as the challenges and stakes intensify from one page to the next.
Do you find that your background in journalism helps you when shaping your fictional stories?
Certainly. For me, it’s ingrained. You want to stick to the facts, start with a seed of truth. If you know of something that happened, a murder, a missing person case, a heist, or aspects of some story that you actually covered and lived through, then it may serve as inspiration or a foundation of reality. Having that strengthens your connection to the story which always helps.
Besides your journalism work, what other sources of inspiration have you pulled from to create your fiction?
You draw on real experiences. I’ll give you an example. My family and I were among the tourists in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada, strolling along the boardwalk, taking in the busy shops. I’d stopped to look at a painting for a moment but when I turned; my wife, our son and daughter were gone. I checked around but couldn’t find them. Fifteen minutes went by but it seemed like an eternity before my wife emerged and asked me where I’d gone. She and the kids had been in the corner of a stall looking at T-shirts. I’d walked right by them. We laughed it off but it got me thinking: What if I didn’t find them? I nurtured the idea. What if this had happened to an ordinary family from a small town during a visit, say, to New York City? What if it had happened when they were under extraordinary emotional strain and police doubted the father’s explanation as to how his family had, “disappeared?” And what if other factors swirled as a clock was ticking down? This became the inspiration for THEY DISAPPEARED.
What advice would you give to all of the aspiring writers out there?
The only guarantee that you will fail, is if you give up. The only thing impeding you stares back at you in the mirror. Don’t make excuses for not writing, create sentences. Don’t trouble other people looking for the magic beans, because you have them in your hand. Get to work. Do your homework, read, study the industry, be realistic and ask yourself the following: Are you a writer? Or, do you want “to be” a writer? Real writers reading this will understand the difference immediately. Those who don’t get the meaning of that, never will. And, as Stephen King, said, “Do not come to this lightly.”
He is a three-time nominee for The International Thriller Writers, thriller award. The Private Eye Writers of America and The Crime Writers of Canada have listed Rick Mofina’s titles as being among the best in the genre.
His books have been published in some 20 countries and have been praised by James Patterson, Dean Koontz, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen, Jeffery Deaver, Sandra Brown, James Rollins, Brad Thor, Nick Stone, David Morrell, Allison Brennan, Heather Graham, Linwood Barclay, Peter Robinson, Håkan Nesser and Kay Hooper.
To learn more about Rick, please visit his website.