Sometimes how a book gets written is just as interesting as the book itself—well, not really, but bear with me as I give you some insight into a writer’s mind and reasoning.
The truth is I had no intention of writing THE TENTH CIRCLE when I did. Open Road, my publisher for the revival of my Blaine McCracken character, had just published PANDORA’S TEMPLE featuring McCracken’s first return to the page in 15 years. It was my first experience doing a book to be launched primarily via a digital versus print platform, and I figured we’d need some time to see how it performed to plan appropriately for the future. But PANDORA did so well right from the start, I decided to plunge into writing the next book in the series revival right away in order to make sure it could be published in time for the 2013 holiday season. Sounds mercenary, I know, but writers gotta pay the bills too, right?
Only problem was I didn’t really have a story in mind. Normally, I plan out a book, live with the concept and characters, for months before I actually put fingers to keyboard. Not so this time, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me. I had contemplated using either of two of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time—the inexplicable vanishing of the colonists from Roanoke Island or the seagoing puzzle of the ghost ship the Mary Celeste as jumping off points any number of times. So I naturally gravitated not just to including one of those historical mysteries, but both, and committed myself to finding a historical connection between them. No small feat, given the gap in time between Roanoke (1590) and the Mary Celeste (1872). So if you’re wondering, when I committed to doing this I really had no idea what that connection was going to be. THE TENTH CIRCLE being an adventure-thriller featuring a hero prone to saving the world, I knew what I needed:
A weapon, and not just any weapon either. A super-weapon, the likes of which have never been seen before.
What if, I asked myself, the Roanoke colonists were killed all at once by a weapon so powerful if provided no time for anyone to either escape or make some record of what had befallen the colony? And what if that same weapon ended up in the cargo hold of the doomed Marie Celeste nearly 300 years later. Boom! THE TENTH CIRCLE went from being a vague notion, to a real book, a thriller in the truest concept of the word.
Tying the disparate strands of a thriller like THE TENTH CIRCLE together is all about reverse engineering—starting with you’re going to end up and figuring out how you’re going to get there. The great thing about technology is the same thing that makes thrillers a blast to read: anything is possible. I don’t want to spoil the fun of reading the book by giving away too much, so suffice it to say that in this case for me the reverse engineering process was as simple as posing a question in my Safari browser’s Google box. Seconds later, I had just the answer I needed in the form of a precedent that made tying everything in THE TENTH CIRCLE up tighter than a Christmas bow believable. Because when crafting my thrillers I rely heavily on the great mantra coined by Robert Louis Stevenson: it doesn’t matter to me if you believe what I’m writing is true; all I care about is that you do not disbelieve it.
But who was going to be behind this dastardly plot? Glad you asked, because I’d been struck a few years before by this smalltime Florida preacher’s whose burning of Korans before his miniscule congregation set the entire Muslim world on fire. That incident demonstrated to me that a villain these days doesn’t necessarily have to be all-powerful with armies and unlimited resources at his disposal. The crazy Florida preacher of fact became the Reverend Jeremiah Rule in fiction, and he just might be one of the greatest villains I’ve ever created.
Now here’s the caveat: THE TENTH CIRCLE went through more rewrites than usual and more thinking, and changing, on the fly. Originally, Rule’s character was being manipulated into doing the bidding of a shadowy cabal casting him as little more than a pawn. It wasn’t until I reversed that paradigm, and made Rule the one who was doing the manipulating, that the book really took off. See, I normally know extraordinarily little about where exactly any book is going when I plunge in. I prefer to be spontaneous and love surprising myself, because if I can do that I know you’ll be surprised too. I write for that part of you that’s still a child, looking to lose him or herself in a story to the point that the clock in the room stops ticking, replaced by pages turning and one cliffhanger chapter ending giving way to another. If I knew everything before I started, the process wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. But if I have a blast writing a book, it stands to reason that you’re going to have a blast reading it. And I had a blast writing this one.
Finding out if I’m right is as simple as picking up a copy of THE TENTH CIRCLE and turning to page one. Love to offer you a money back guarantee, but the publisher probably wouldn’t go along with it. So one winter night (no shortage of those this year!), crack the book open and see if you end up finishing by that dawn or the next. You can let me know either way at jonlandbooks.com. And I can’t wait to hear!
Synopsis:1590: An entire colony of British settlers vanishes from their settlement on Roanoke Island, seemingly into thin air.
1872: The freighter Marie Celeste is found drifting at sea off Gibraltar, its entire crew and passengers gone missing without a trace.
But what if there’s a connection between two of the greatest historical mysteries ever? And what if the roots of that connection lie in a crazed plot to destroy the United States as we know it today?
Those are the questions confronting Blaine McCracken as he takes up the trail of small time preacher Jeremiah Rule whose hateful rhetoric has done big time damage by inflaming an entire people half a world away, resulting in a series of devastating terrorist attacks stateside. Rule, though, isn’t acting alone. A shadowy cabal is pulling his strings, unaware they are creating a monster soon to spin free of their control.
McCracken has just returned from pulling off the impossible in Iran, ridding the world of one terrible threat only to return home to face another. Isolated in a way he’s never been before and now hunted himself, he’ll have to rely on skills and allies both old and new to get to the heart of a plan aimed at unleashing no less than the Tenth Circle of Hell. This as he contends with a failed congressman intent on changing the country to fit his own vision and an Iranian assassin bent on revenge.
Blaine’s desperate path across country and continent takes him into the past where the answers he needs lie among the missing Roanoke colonists and the contents of the Marie Celeste’s cargo holds. Those secrets alone hold the means to stop the Tenth Circle from closing. And as the bodies tumble in his wake, as the clock ticks down to an unthinkable maelstrom, McCracken and Johnny Wareagle fight to save the United States from a war the country didn’t even know it was fighting, but might well lose.
Book Details:Genre: Thriller
Published by: Open Road Integrated Media
Publication Date: December 24, 2013
Number of Pages: 420