Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Q & A with John Gilstrap
I interviewed John Gilstrap, author of Threat Warning.
Q: What makes Jonathan Grave different from other (unofficial) PIs?
Jonathan Grave is a former Delta Force operator who makes his living as a freelance hostage rescue specialist. Unlike law enforcement agencies, whose hostage rescue activities are constrained by the obligation to collect and preserve evidence that will convict the hostage takers in court, Jonathan and his team care only about the victim. Everything else--including due process--is secondary to the rescue mission. Whereas more traditional PIs work more or less within the established justice system--ultimately working with the police who don't necessarily appreciate their activities--Jonathan and his team work completely outside of the law.
Q: How did you come up with the character?
I wrote a nonfiction book a few years ago called Six Minutes to Freedom, which told the story of Kurt Muse, the only civilian of record ever rescued by Delta Force. During my research, I got to know quite a few Special Forces operators, and I was very impressed by their single-minded dedication to their mission. Once dispatched to make a rescue, their Precious Cargo is coming home, even if the operators have to sacrifice their own lives to make that happen. When that order goes out--and it's always on foreign soil because of Constitutional restrictions on donestic military operations--there are no warrants, no concerns for the rights of the bad guys. The single mission is to reunite the PC with his or her family. People who get in the way of that mission are likely to die.
I thought it would be a cool paradigm for a civilian contractor to use domestically. The idea stewed in my imagination for a while, and Jonathan Grave was born.
Q: What's next for you and Grave?
In Damage Control, due out in July of 2012, Jonathan and his team are sent to rescue a busload of American missionaries who have been taken hostage by Mexican drug lords. When things go wrong, it becomes clear that someone within the American halls of power want Jonathan dead.
Q: How do you promote your work?
Promotion of fiction is an exercise in frustration. I have a newsletter for my fans, and a website (www.johngilstrap.com). I'm a weekly contributor to The Killzone, a blog featuring eleven suspense authors (http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com). My column appears every Friday. I go to a few conferences every year, and I try to maintain a reliable presence on Twitter and Facebook. I do these things because I enjoy the interaction with people, and in hopes that the effort might sell a few books. In the end, though, I think an author's most reliable avenue for promotion is to keep writing books. I'm pleased to report that there will be at least two more Grave books after Damage Control. They'll be out in 2013 and 2014.
Q: What are your thoughts on ebooks as a reader AND a writer?
I was one of the last holdouts. I even wrote a blog post for The Killzone that I called, "Kindle Schmindle." Then I was given a Kindle for Father's Day two years ago, and now I don't know how I ever lived without one. I enjoy everything about the Kindle--and, by extension, eBooks in general. I find the reading experience to be perfectly fine, and I love the quick availability of tens of thousands of titles.
There's a lot of Internet nonesense out there foretelling the demise of commercial publishing because of the birth and growth of the eBook. I just don't see that happening. In fact, given the amount of self-published dreck that is flooding eBook outlets, I think that in a few years readers will become even more depended upon the imprimatur of a publisher as a means of sifting readable material from the awful stuff that has been vanity-published for next to no cost. For that to happen, though, New York publishing needs to start pricing eBooks more reasonably.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
Well, I sort of have one in Jonathan's long-time colleague named Boxers. I actually don't think of them as psychotic. I see them as loyal men who are willing to die for their friends. As such, it only makes sense that they would be willing to kill for them, too. I've known several people like that over the years.
Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?
Man, I'm the wrong guy to ask about the coming generation. I think that the current crop of PI writers--including myself--are on the trailing edge of what will soon be known as "traditional" storytelling. We all use characters who are bound in reaity and depend largely on shoe leather and firearms to get the job done. I see a new generation that is far more tied to technology than I will ever be, and that technology will be the key influence. Truth be told, I don't think I've yet read the author who will cause the next seismic shift in the genre.
Q: Max Alan Collins came up with the following question: Are you a Hammett man or Chandler?
Okay, stand by for heresy: Neither. I respect both authors for essentially setting the rules for the genre, but I don't particulary enjoy reading their books. These days, they seem for me to approach the line of historical fiction. I'd rather spend my time reading new voices than old ones.
Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
If it were possible, would you spend a year living your character's life? Why or why not?
My answer: Absolutely. Jonathan Grave is the man I wish I could be. His dedication and clarity of purpose inspires me. He knows who he is, and more importantly he has an inviolable moral center that defines for him who he will never allow himself to become. Plus, he's got some really cool toys.