Wednesday, March 11, 2015

CITY OF ECHOES: Thriller Basics

Robert Ellis

I received the following email yesterday, and realized that this is as good a way as any to talk about what I write and the way I do it.

Hi Robert,
I'm one of your biggest fans and wish like hell you would write faster! I was on your website yesterday and saw that your next thriller CITY OF ECHOES introduces us to a new main character, Matt Jones. I'd been hoping for a new Lena book (I've read all three at least four times) and was just wondering why you're writing about someone else.
Can't believe I have to wait until August 25 to read your new book!
-- Sally Bernhardt, San Francisco, CA
I have always enjoyed the comparisons some reviewers make between my work and writers I admire. But my stories aren't really drawn from any mold I know of. They're more of a hybrid in the way they move--part detective story, part crime fiction, but everything built around the thriller genre. The mix wasn't created artificially. It just came to me as a natural process while writing THE DEAD ROOM. I liked this hybrid structure, and felt it set me apart from others. But what it also allowed me to do was create fully realized characters and a fast plot at the same time. It was the first thing my creative editor said after she read CITY OF ECHOES six weeks ago. How does a writer create great characters and a knock-down-drag-out plot at the same time?

Let's get real and be humble! Besides a handful of editors, no one else has read the book yet! Still, it's my belief that my editor's question should be the goal of every writer who cares about the genre and is trying to push it forward.

The way I try to intensify character and plot at the same time is by making my protagonist vulnerable and placing he or she in jeopardy. For me, vulnerability and jeopardy are the two most important keys to the thriller aspects of my novels. In THE DEAD ROOM, the protagonist is Teddy Mack, a young civil attorney who has just graduated from law school, has no experience in criminal law, but gets dragged into a horrific murder case by his boss. In the Lena Gamble novels, the same rules apply. In CITY OF FIRE Lena has just been promoted to the homicide table. In THE LOST WITNESS and MURDER SEASON, she's in a continual state of learning and progressing, yet her life, her survival, just like Teddy Mack's, is an open question until the last page

One great advantage, or should I say result, is that characters experiencing an ordeal like this come off extremely real. Why? Because a really good thriller is in essence, a character study. But there's also a price to be paid. A long series following a single character would never work for the same reason that we can only lose our virginity once. A hybrid story requires a certain amount of fresh meat!

And this was one big reason why I wanted to introduce you to a new character, Matthew Trevor Jones. CITY OF ECHOES is set in Lena Gamble's world of LA and Hollywood. The background characters that Matt works with are in fact the same background characters from the Lena Gamble novels. As a writer, I have to say that it was great fun. But the key to this story, my favorite story so far, is that when we meet Matt, it's the very first night in his career as a homicide detective. Matt's promotion to Hollywood Homicide went down that very day. He's a rookie, he's green, he's vulnerable, and most important of all, he's in a great deal of jeopardy, his survival uncertain to the last page. 

CITY OF ECHOES will be published August 25, 2015. Although we don't have cover art just yet, the novel can be pre-ordered at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, and Amazon Germany (English Edition).

Sleep Loose,

No comments:

Post a Comment