Julian Black avoids people. Tormented by the ability to experience their most intimate, painful memories with a single touch, he reluctantly begins using his skill to assist tenacious Philadelphia police detective Lela Mars. But his life is soon upended when he’s captured by an equally gifted man claiming to be from his past—a suave master thief who can make people forget.
Now this mysterious stranger is ordering Julian to obtain a vital government secret that could shift the balance of world power. With Lela Mars as his only ally, Julian faces an impossible choice: Comply or pit his wits against the world’s most secretive and deadly crime organization.
THE MIRROR MAN is a stylish, twisty thriller that recalls the danger, charm, and wit of Hitchcock classics such as North by Northwest and To Catch a Thief, and the high-octane adventure of the James Bond novels and films.
Bestselling author J. B. Manas took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with The Big Thrill about his latest thriller, THE MIRROR MAN:
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
I have a dear friend who offered great insights that helped me flesh out the character of Lela Mars, as I wanted to be sure to get an authentic female perspective. We had many good discussions about what Lela would do in given situations and why. Lela’s character evolved to become crucial, and in many ways, this book turned out to be Lela’s story as much as the two male leads.
Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?
I began with three thoughts in my head: I wanted a Hitchcockian thriller where the lead character is able to read people’s memories. I wanted the title to be The Mirror Man. And I wanted the finale to take place atop the London Eye. From there, I thought about what an antagonist might want that the protagonist had. From there, I focused on characters, and the plot evolved.
No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
The character of Sebastian Blaine was based on Cary Grant. I wanted the antagonist to be suave, worldly, and sophisticated, with a devil-may-care attitude. When writing the socially awkward protagonist, Julian Black, I had a number of actors in my head, one being Owen Wilson. There’s even a scene where Julian is watching To Catch a Thief with his mother, and he’s wishing he could be more like Cary Grant. And then in the next chapter, we see Sebastian, who very much IS like Cary Grant.
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
By far, the two biggest influences on my writing career have been Ian Fleming and Michael Crichton. I grew up devouring the Bond books and loved Fleming’s economy of writing and his gift for describing exotic locations and sumptuous meals without distracting from the story. And Crichton’s books read like movies and make the impossible seem real—fact and fiction blend seamlessly. I try to include a mix of both in my writing. Other huge influences are Ernest Lehman for dialogue, Spielberg for structure, and of course Hitchcock for his wonderful blend of humor and suspense.
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
I’ve long been a fan of Hitchcock classics, such as North by Northwest (especially Ernest Lehman’s dialogue) and To Catch a Thief, and I’ve always been a fan of the Bond films and books. This story was like a love letter to both, set in contemporary times. I took loose inspiration from a pair of unfished Hitchcock stories, The Blind Man and The Short Night, though this is a much different story than either of those.
What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?
The biggest challenge was also the biggest opportunity. I had a lead character with the unwanted gift of being able to read people’s most intimate memories with a single touch. I needed an antagonist that was equally compelling, an opposite force. So I took that literally and created a suave character who was the protagonist’s opposite in every way. He even had the opposite talent—the ability to make people forget—and the story took off from there.
J. B. Manas is a bestselling American author whose fast-paced, twisty thrillers are often infused with a touch of mystery, adventure, and science-fiction. In addition to THE MIRROR MAN, he is the author of the sci-fi thriller, Atticus, and co-author of The Kronos Interference, named to the “Best of 2012” by Kirkus Reviews, which gave the book a starred review, calling it “impressively original” and “[a] tour de force.”
He is also a writer for Guy Dorian Sr.’s COR graphic novel line, collaborating with legendary artists and creators from the world of comics.
He is a member of the Authors’ Guild, International Thriller Writers (ITW), and the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO).
Manas writes out of his home in suburban Philadelphia, where he lives with his wife, daughter, and dog Max, a loveable mutt that looks like a cross between a King Charles Cavalier spaniel and a corgi, but in fact has the DNA of neither.
J.B. loves hearing from his readers and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, visit his website.