By John Raab
Steven James brings his epic Patrick Bowers series to an exploding conclusion with CHECKMATE. The bestselling author of more than three dozen books put his master’s degree in storytelling to good use in this compelling and satisfying end to the series that began with James’s riveting, The Pawn. Already, CHECKMATE has been named a Suspense Magazine Best Book of 2014.
Despite the end of an era, James fans need not fear, the author is hard at work on more novels. And, as he recently explained to THE BIG THRILL, it may not be the last fans see of Patrick Bowers.
CHECKMATE is the last book in your Patrick Bowers series. Give us a little insight into how the series wraps up.
Well, without giving too much away, I can say that a few years ago when I was writing one of the other books in the series I was truly frightened by the antagonist. I had nightmares and actually had to set the book aside for a month before coming back to it. So, I’ve wanted to see that villain return and now, at last, he does—along with Patrick Bowers’s nemesis, who has been lurking in the background for much of the series. So, Patrick has to face both of them and stop a plot that involves one of the deadliest attacks ever on U.S. soil. It creates an unexpected ending with a lot of twists along the way.
You don’t outline before you write your novels, so the ending of the series was a surprise to you also, but when did you realize exactly how it would end?
That’s a good question. I really work hard to make sure that each addition to my series is unique and not a cookie-cutter plot, so as I worked on this book I kept thinking, “I could use a knife fight… no, wait, I did that earlier.” Or, “I could have a chase scene in a warehouse… no, been there, done that.” So, while I wanted to avoid repetition and I had lots of promises to keep from the previous seven books, I wanted something unique, exciting, and unforgettable. It wasn’t until about a month or so until my deadline that I came up with that ending. It took some long days of writing and editing to pull it all together. I honestly believe that writing organically and being open to the story’s direction are some of the keys to great storytelling. I have yet to write a book in which I knew the ending when I started writing it. I love twists and I figure that if I’m not surprised by the direction of the story most of my readers won’t be either.
Looking back starting with the first book The Pawn until now, how are you doing now that it’s over?
When I started The Pawn I thought it would be amazing to continue on and write a whole series, but I had no idea I would be working on the books for the next decade. It’s been a fascinating journey for me, with nearly a million words in the series—lots of intense storytelling. I feel like, although I tapped out the bad guys for this cycle of books, I still have lots of ideas for cases that Agent Bowers could work on.
If you had to pick a character from the series to start a new series, who would that be?
While this cycle of books involving Patrick Bowers has wrapped up, my publisher and my fans haven’t wanted to say goodbye to him forever, so I am working on a stand-alone book featuring him and a new cast of bad guys, etc. I also have in mind a spin-off series featuring his daughter, Tessa, who has always been a fascinating character to me. I’m thinking that she will now be a Secret Service agent who is involved in diplomatic protection for a presidential candidate and, well, we’ll see where things go from there.
As you look back, is there anything you would change with the series—characters, plot lines, settings, etc?
Hmm. I don’t typically look back at a book and wonder about how I might have done it differently. I did take a glance at The Pawn at one point a couple years ago and, while I wouldn’t change any of the major plot points, I might tinker with the motivation of a couple characters. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. I kind of wish that Cheyenne Warren had gotten together with Patrick, but it just wasn’t in the cards for her. Who knows, maybe she’ll show up again somewhere along the line…
Steven James is the bestselling author of ten novels including the Patrick Bowers series that have received wide critical acclaim from Publishers Weekly, New York Journal of Books, RT Book Reviews, Booklist, Library Journal and many others. He has won three Christy Awards for best suspense and was a finalist for an International Thriller Award for best original paperback. His psychological thriller The Bishop was named Suspense Magazine’s book of the year. Publishers Weekly calls him “[A] master storyteller at the peak of his game.”
To learn more about Steven, please visit his website.