By George Ebey
Author William Nikkel is back with another installment of his Jack Ferrell suspense series.
This time, Jack goes with his buddy Robert to Key West to purchase a yacht and replace the one he lost in the previous adventure. The new boat is too much of a bargain to pass up. In the meantime, Cherise Venetta learns that a friend’s father has disappeared while on a Caribbean cruise. So begins a high-stakes adventure that reunites Jack and Cherise in a deadly ruse to prevent a brother and sister team of con artists from killing again. And this time, Jack’s the bait.
The Big Thrill checked in with Nikkel to learn more about this latest Jack Ferrell novel and what the series overall has in store for readers.
For the uninitiated, can you give a little background into what your series is about?
Trouble has a way of seeking Jack Ferrell out. Jack is a marine biologist, sometimes treasure hunter, a lover of women, and a champion for the underdog, with a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Which invariably places him and his friends in imminent danger. And even though he avoids confrontation whenever possible, he meets it head-on when left with no other recourse. Quite often putting his life on the line with great personal loss.
Tell us about your main character. What has his journey been like up until now?
Jack Ferrell’s journey has been fraught with high-octane adventures and dangerous villains. If things are going to go wrong, he’ll be in the middle of the action saving the day.
Jack and I have evolved together. As his character broadened and deepened with each novel, so did my writing. And that relationship will continue on into the next Jack Ferrell adventure and the next.
Jack Ferrell has always been an admirer of women and a champion for the underdog—core values that don’t change. But he has evolved into a stronger and more focused character since my first novel, Glimmer of Gold. The eighth novel in the series, Sea of Heartbreak, re-enforces what Jack has come to realize: when he’s on the edge, he’s completely alive.
I’ll keep writing Jack’s adventures as long as there is a story to be told and an adventure to send him on. With each new escapade, I’ll take him closer to the edge—the gray area between right and wrong—but he’ll always remain the champion for the underdog. And I’ll be further developing a secondary character, Cherise Venetta, who figured largely in Sea of Heartbreak. Who knows what adventure that heroine will take me and my readers on?
What elements do you feel are essential for a good suspense story?
Edgy non-stop suspense chock full of twists and turns and dynamite action—which HOSTILE WATERS has—plus solid, believable characters. Without these key elements, a story just isn’t a thriller. But there’s more to keeping readers flipping pages late into the night. It’s also important for a writer to take them to places few get to go. Give them a glimpse behind the door that says No Admittance, or Danger Keep Out, and then take them on a wild ride they won’t forget.
What first drew you to writing adventure stories?
Unquestionably, it was my childhood. I grew up in a small town where kids played outdoors. Inspired by books about pirates, lost treasure, being stranded on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We created our own adventures with crafty villains and damsels in distress. My memories of that simpler time never went away. So it was only natural when my love for swashbuckling escapades found their way into my stories.
What are some of the challenges of writing a series vs. a standalone story?
A great question. And one every author who wants to venture into writing a series should ask themselves. Writing an engaging novel is difficult whether the story is part of a series or a standalone. And in all honesty, not every story idea will support more than one book.
When I made the decision to write a series involving Jack Ferrell, there was never a question in my mind that I would run out of story ideas. However, over the course of 10 novels and a novella, I’ve learned how difficult it can be to keep each story unique, avoiding a tendency to make one story sound like the previous one . . . and the one before that. Another challenge is that if your series goes beyond three or four novels, extending well into two digits, you can face the issue of having your hero age to where in reality he/she may no longer be capable of leaping tall buildings.
But there are advantages as well. A book series helps boost a writer’s confidence that they have enough story ideas to produce several books and make a name for themselves as an author. It also means an author is likely to write their books faster, not having to reinvent characters or their world. A personal reward for me has been that with each novel written in the Jack Ferrell series, I’ve been able to grow with Jack over the course of his character arc to becoming the man he is in HOSTILE WATERS.
William Nikkel is the author of nine Jack Ferrell novels and two steampunk westerns featuring his latest hero, Max Traver. A former homicide detective and S.W.A.T. team member for the Kern County Sheriff’s Department in Bakersfield, California, William is an amateur scuba enthusiast, gold prospector, and wildlife artist who can be found just about anywhere. He and his wife Karen divide their time between Northern California and Maui, Hawaii.
To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.