We are delighted to once again welcome our good friend (and a man I personally adore) and bestselling author, Mr. Andrew Peterson and thank him for taking time to join us today for our Thriller Thursday!
What drives your story forward in your books the most, the characters or the plot?
The Nathan McBride novels are definitely character driven, but they contain a lot of action. It’s important for an author to know why his characters are behaving the way they are. It’s kinda like the chicken and the egg question. Which came first, the character, or the situation he finds himself in? Because Nathan holds a core set of values that govern his life, the way he sees the world determines the way he reacts to the world. He’s not afraid to make tough choices. Occasionally he’ll do some questionable, even unethical things, creating dilemmas for himself. He doesn’t enjoy bending or breaking the rules, but he has to consider the greater picture. Nathan doesn’t dodge trouble, he confronts it.
If you were a character in one of your books, which would you be? The hero/heroine, mentor, villain, love interest, etc.
As much as I’d like to be Nathan and really kick some butts, my true preference would be Harvey Fontana. During their Marine Corps and CIA days, Harv was the spotter in their two-man scout sniper team, now he’s Nathan’s business partner. Harv has the best of both worlds. He gets to have all the cool “toys,” go on adventures with Nathan and occasionally kick some butts. But he also has a family life. He provides the balance in Nathan’s world by being the voice of reason and caution. Besides, I’d never want to experience the horrible ordeal that Nathan went through when he was captured after his botched mission. He’s conflicted by The Other, a dark entity living deep within his soul. He discovered it while being brutally interrogated by a sadistic madman who’d driven him to the brink of insanity. The Other surfaced during the worst of his torture and helped him cope. It’s something he’ll always carry with him – the knowledge that he’s got this shadowy thing inside of him. I think it’s something we all have, but few of us ever have to face it. I’d never want that part of myself exposed! But truly, Harv is Nathan’s hero, so I guess I get to be the hero either way.
If you had the power to make any of your books into a film, which would it be and why?
Looking back now, I’d have to say the third book, OPTION TO KILL, would make the best film. It’s definitely Nathan’s toughest assignment. Being allied with Lauren—a twelve year old girl—created some traumatic moments and made his journey far more difficult. They had to learn to trust each other. Given they’re from such opposite backgrounds, it wasn’t easy. There’s a scene at the end of OTK where Lauren is forced into a harrowing, life or death decision for both of them.
Do people you know end up as characters in your book? Be honest…
The answer is wholeheartedly yes! A good friend of mine, a plastic surgeon named Doug Reavie, became an actual character in the book (I used his real name) and he played a large role in OPTION TO KILL and a smaller role in FORCED TO KILL. I got his permission to include him and I think he had a good time reading about himself in the books. Anyone who knows Dr. Reavie, knows I made him true to form. I’ve also made reference to Reverend Charlie Little in CONTRACT TO KILL, another good friend as well as my Pastor. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I’ve heard of authors who kill people they don’t like in their books. Death is so final. Wouldn’t it be more gratifying to have them enslaved or imprisoned for the rest of their lives? I guess it’s my twisted imagination at work!
Do you surprise yourself at your ability to write the vilest villains with such believability? Which book is your most vile villain featured?
People who know me often ask how I come up with such dark characters. I don’t really have a good answer, but just turn on the evening news and you’ll find countless examples. Sadly, you don’t have to look far for research material. My favorite villain of the series is Juan Montez de Oca from book two, FORCED TO KILL. In many ways, Montez shaped Nathan into the person he is. I touched on this in the question above. Nathan endured three weeks of pure hell before Harv was able to rescue him. Montez carved deep physical and mental scars into Nathan and he’s never fully recovered. Part of Nathan’s core is defined by a deep resentment of bullies.
Which of your characters did you or will you enjoy killing off the most? (Spoiler alert!)
I would have to pick Hans Voda in OPTION TO KILL. When I look back at OPTION, anyone who’d hurt children, all in the name of money – or any reason for that matter, is as vile as they come. Did I “enjoy” killing him off? Yes, Absolutely! Voda’s death was up close and personal for Nathan, far different than a long-range sniper kill.
Is there a particular genre of fiction that you have always wanted to write, but haven’t yet tackled?
Yes, fantasy. I’ve always dreamed of writing a fantasy novel. Kings and queens. Sorcerers and magi. Maybe someday I’ll pursue it. I believe all mainstream fiction has common themes; good versus evil, obstacles for the heroes to overcome in order to defeat the villains, etc. In a fantasy novel, the challenge is creating an entire world from scratch. The possibilities are endless. For now, I’m firmly committed to continuing the Nathan McBride series into the foreseeable future with Thomas & Mercer.
As with the rest of us, you have a real life to live. So, in your most recent book, what was happening in your life and how did it influence your writing?
Dayna, I know this isn’t meant as a trick question! But my real life is my writing. I’m writing the Nathan McBride books for a living now. I went back and reviewed my calendar and aside from attending writing conferences, I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary or unusual. Carla and I took my mom on a Caribbean Cruise and we also enjoyed a great time in Yosemite with my father and my younger brother, Matt and his family. Outside of writing, I enjoy lots of hobbies. I like hiking and camping, target shooting, golfing, and flying helicopters. Although that last hobby is rather expensive! I don’t fly as much as I’d like, but helicopters are amazing machines. I can only image the nerves of steel the early test pilots must’ve had. The reason I enjoy it so much is because you have to use both hands and both feet and it engages all of your senses simultaneously. It’s not like driving. There’s no pulling over to the curb when you develop a problem. You have to deal with it. When flying, gravity is the ultimate truth of life!
What is your view of independent (self) publishing? What do you feel are the benefits/drawbacks for readers and conversely, authors?
Self-publishing has taken off and it’s now a good option for many, if not most, writers. For me, it wasn’t an avenue I wanted to pursue. My goal was to secure a traditional publishing contract and I was lucky enough to achieve it. Yes, I believe luck plays a role. I’ve always said there are three things you need to succeed in this business. Hard work. Talent. And luck. Luck is a small part of the equation, less than 5%. If a writer does the hard work and improves his or her skills, there’s a 95% chance of success. If a writer relies solely on luck, there’s a 5% chance of success. There’s no substitute for hard work. Self publishing as been around a very long time, but it’s really taken off in the digital download age. The problem for self-published writers is distribution. How do they get their books into the hands of readers? As an example, you can make the world’s greatest chili, but how do people find it? Without the marketing engine of a traditional publishing house, it’s difficult for indie authors – or very expensive – to get visibility. It works just like grocery stores. Eye-level shelf space and end caps are purchased. Indies can list their books on Amazon, but how do they get large numbers of readers to find them? People don’t shop for books on Facebook and Twitter.
Can you judge a book by its cover? How much input do you have on the look/feel of your cover?
I think a book’s cover is super important because it’s often the first thing a buyer sees. It’s labeling. Think about a can chili sitting next to its competitors. Nobody buys the ugly can. Fortunately for me, Thomas & Mercer seeks my input on cover design. We start with a basic concept and work as a team to develop the overall look, color, and feel. The final decision is T&M’s, but I’m fortunate to play an integral role. I think authors have an instinctive feel for their covers and I really enjoy being a part of the process.
How much research went into your last book?
Tons! How much of it went into the book? Less than 10 percent. As a thriller novelist, there’s an important point to remember here. I’m an entertainer, not an educator. It’s not my job to write a “how to” book. My job is to create a compelling story that keeps readers turning pages. It’s the kiss of death to bore readers with meaningless filler. I need to feel confident that what I’m writing is going to be interesting to the reader. If not, I change direction. It’s hard to go wrong if you stay close to the main storyline of your book.
What’s one of the most important things you’d like your readers to know about you? What defines you most as an author?
I put a lot of pressure on myself to deliver a good product. I want my readers entertained, not disappointed. I have a rule I religiously follow. Here it is. As I write, I’m constantly asking myself: How will this sound when Dick Hill narrates it? Dick Hill is the award winning voice of the Nathan McBride series in audiobook format. I use him as a litmus test. I know his voice, how it sounds, it’s inflections and nuances. I hear his voice as I write manuscript. If I don’t think it will sound right, I revise it until it does. BTW, Dick Hill is the also the voice of Jack Reacher. What more needs to be said?
Tell us one thing about yourself that may surprise your readers.
I married an older woman! Yes, it’s actually true – two years. All kidding aside, I’m always worried about sales, the next book dying on the vine, etc. To survive as an author, you need thick skin and a positive outlook. It’s super competitive out there and I’m blessed to have such a supportive team at Thomas & Mercer. Before I submit my novels, I collaborate with a terrific freelance editor, Ed Stackler. We work on every Nathan McBride story together, from the initial “what if” question to the final line-edited draft before publication. Ed’s been with me since day one. He knows Nathan McBride as well as I do. I’m also blessed with an amazing wife. Carla is kind and patient. Being a novelist requires thousands of solitary hours at the keyboard and Carla’s helps me run the day to day operations of my life and career. There’s no way I can do everything – no possible way! Novelists need to surround themselves with positive and supportive people and I can’t thank everyone enough – readers included – for the encouragement they give me. It very rewarding to read a complimentary email from someone who’s enjoyed one of Nathan’s adventures.
Tell us a little bit about the project you are working on now.
I’m working on book #6 which takes place in San Diego as well as several international locations, mostly South America. In the story, Nathan is reunited with a CIA operations officer from his past who needs his help. I know that’s kinda vague, but not purposely so. The story is evolving as I write it. I know the beginning and the end, but I’m still figuring out the middle! Book Seven is on the outlining table collecting dust until book six is 90% completed.
Tell us something about your latest release.
The fifth book in the Nathan McBride series, CONTRACT TO KILL, just launched on August 11, 2015. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m really terrible at creating the cover copy synopsis. It’s like trying to describe how to tie your shoes in only 10 words. Thankfully, Alan Turkus does the heavy lifting:
When Toby Haynes witnesses a double murder—and suspects his boss, Tanner Mason, as the perpetrator of the crime—he does the only thing he can think of: he calls in Nathan McBride. CIA special ops veteran McBride and his partner, Harvey Fontana, respond to their friend’s plea. As they launch a covert investigation into Mason, the security chief for one of the nation’s leading private military contractors, they discover that not everything is as it appears. Mason and his inner circle are leading a top-secret operation to tackle a wave of crime plaguing the US-Mexican border, and the murder may have been part of their complicated strategy—or part of a more menacing agenda. Soon McBride and Fontana find themselves engaged in a deadly game. With a powerful politician behind it all, stopping Mason could mean joining a secret war—with truly global stakes.
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Dayna, thank you for inviting me to blog with your readers. We’ve known each other for many years and I consider you a dear friend. Remember what I said about positive and supportive people? I’m talking about you!
Thank you, Andy. And I feel the same about you.
Thanks so much for joining us today! Read more about Andrew below and then check out CONTRACT TO KILL, and Andrew’s other books with the buy links below.
A native of San Diego, Andrew is the author of the Nathan McBride series published by Thomas & Mercer. In 2011, Andrew had the honor of attending Operation Thriller II, a USO tour to Afghanistan where he personally thanked our service members for their dedication and service to America. To date, he has donated more than two thousand books to wounded warriors and troops serving overseas. He and his wife Carla live in Monterey County, California with their giant schnauzer, Elsa.