I'm thrilled to take part in the blog tour for Steve P. Vincent's thrilling new release, STATE OF EMERGENCY. I've had the great pleasure of working with Steve on the International Thriller Writer's e-zine, The Big Thrill, where he's interviewed a number of debut and seasoned authors.
Today, I turn the tables and ask Steve a few questions about his writing quirks, what inspired his series protagonist, and of course, the full scoop on STATE OF EMERGENCY.
But first, the official blurb:
What is the true cost of security?
Amid a wave of unprecedented terrorist attacks on American soil, a panicked and inexperienced president declares a state of emergency and hands over control of the country to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The quiet and unassuming Administrator Hall soon becomes the most powerful man in America. Determined to stop the attacks, Hall enforces his order across the US, using a newly empowered State Guard to deal with anyone who gets in his way.
As totalitarianism descends across the country, battle-weary reporter Jack Emery is faced with a terrifying new reality when friends, colleagues, and sources are imprisoned before his eyes. Among weekly terrorist attacks, FEMA atrocities, and the clamp tightening on every element of society, Jack becomes one of the few struggling to stop the madness.
This time though, he's on the wrong side of the law and fighting the very government he's trying to save.
Congrats on book 2 in your Jack Emery series. What can you tell me about this book—without spoilers—that we might not find on the jacket copy?
Thanks. It’s great to finally have it out. It’s a book that sits in stark contrast to The Foundation, which was a globetrotting adventure with massive consequences and a larger than life antagonist. With STATE OF EMERGENCY, I wanted to play around with the slow creep of authoritarianism. It’s set purely in the United States and, though it is more local, it’s far grittier and nasty. I think the most interesting thing about the plot itself is that it has its roots in a few conspiracy theories I read online. I love America and Americans, but there’s certainly a deep mistrust of government that is fun to conjure stories out of. I try to give all of my books an element of this, along with a hint of present day reality.
Authors often have varying views on "writing the second book" in a series. Was this one easier to write than the first? Why or why not?
It was different and probably easier, if I’m being honest. For The Foundation I floundered around, not really writing to a plan and just having fun with it, because I didn’t have submission in mind. When I realized it could be published, it was a lot of work to get it right. For STATE OF EMERGENCY I had a set of characters ready to go, a really strong plot in mind and the knowledge of how to write a book from end to end. I also spent a lot more time up front working out the plot, so I could just sit down and write from start to finish, more or less. Having a great team around me helps, as well.
For a while, editors seemed to be steering clear of Journalist-type protagonists—so often they can be overdone or cliché. Jack Emery seems to have found solid footing. What makes him unique? What was the inspiration for his character?
See, there’s my problem. I don’t have an agent (but I’m open to offers!), so didn’t have a friendly voice to tell me that. This may sound a bit obnoxious, but I cooked up a character I wanted to write in a plot that I found interesting, then did my best to write the heck out of it. I think if you try to time the industry, you jump on the bandwagon just as it’s grinding to a halt and the next one is revving up. Jack is unique because he’s just a guy. He was the right character for what I had in mind and thankfully he’s been well received. If that doesn’t continue, I suppose I could turn him into a zombie?
In conspiracy-type thrillers, we often see heroes with a special skill—ex-military, former cop, etc. What is Jack's "superpower"?
Not knowing his own limitations? Terrible luck? Biting wit? Tequila Slammer World Champion? I think the answer to this question sort of follows on from the previous. I think Jack is special precisely because he can’t parkour his way out of sticky situations, or spray a room with an MP5, or go toe-to-toe with a black belt. While he gets into trouble, and out of it, Jack is primarily just a guy. He’s smart, he’s tenacious, he’s cynical and he has an on-and-off drinking problem, but I deliberately didn’t want to write the superhero thriller protagonist. There are plenty of them and it’s a bit easy. I find it more fun getting an ordinary guy out of extraordinary situations.
With book 2 now out into the wild (as well as a Jack Emery novella), what are you working on next? Will you continue to explore this world and Jack Emery's character?
I’m most of the way through the third Jack Emery book, Nations Divided, which will be out in December as a digital release. I can’t share much, just yet, but the whole book takes places over one month, so it grabs you by the collar and punches you in the mouth repeatedly until you spit out enough blood and teeth to let you smile. When it comes out, I’ll have been writing about Jack’s adventures for four years and around a quarter of a million words. I envy Lee Child, but I need a break. Jack is great fun to write and I’ll come back to him soon, but after this trilogy is complete I’m actually starting work on a psychological thriller. It’s been in my head for a year now.
Was it tongue in cheek, or do you REALLY write in front of the (obnoxiously large) T.V.? Can you describe your writing process a bit? Plotter? Any rituals (ie: I require a Diet Coke IV)?
Sure do. I live in a nice but fairly small apartment, so there are not a lot of options. Though I’m working on getting something a bit more… writerly… I’ve written the better part of three manuscripts on a comfy leather sofa with the TV on and my fish staring at me. My process is evolving. The Foundation took me two years of free-range writing, where I just threw words down and organized them over time into a manuscript. It was hard going, though, so I’m becoming more of a plotter. STATE OF EMERGENCY was loosely plotted and Nations Divided had a 10,000 word plan before I wrote a word.
In your bio, you mention a day job, which is of course necessary for 90% of writers. (No matter what people tend to believe.) How do balance your worlds? How much time do you devote to your craft?
As much as I’d love to sit around in my underwear chucking words at the page all day, like most writers I have an alter ego. In my case, it’s as a government policy wonk. It’s actually something I really enjoy and a career I had long before I started writing fiction. I like having a grown up career, wearing a suit and that side of my life. But it’s also great coming home and trying to figure out how to blow up the Hoover Dam. I write at night and on weekends, and have a wonderful wife who knows how important it is for me to get the voices in my head onto the page. It’s the best of both worlds. A seven-figure advance may change my mind, if someone wanted to offer it.
Research is such an important component to thrillers. How much do you do for each book? It can also be a bit of a rabbit hole. How do you know when to pull the plug?
I’m a political science and history major, and do a lot of research in my career, so I’m always tempted to chase that rabbit all the way down. But there are time constraints, deadlines and my own sanity to consider, so my general rule of thumb is: enough to be confident in the material, but not enough to out-pedant a pedant. Honestly, I think readers forgive an author for not having total mastery of a subject matter, as long as the book is generally well researched and written. At least I do. I try my best to get it right and if I don’t I’ll take it on the chin. More than anything, I know that even if I chase that rabbit all the way down, it still won’t please everyone.
When we're starting out, we're often to privy to terrible advice. What's the worst advice you've had?
The Path to Publication series (advice for newbie writers) was fun to write, mostly because I was throwing those posts out there as I was learning the business. The worst advice? Write what you know. What I know is boring. Instead, write what interests you, but research the heck out of it and fill your world with amazing characters with cool things to say and do.
Is there anything I haven't asked that you wish I had? Ask here...and of course, please answer!
“Steve, will you buy me a beer at Thrillerfest?”
“Why of course, Dawn, I’d love to. I’ll buy you many.”
Thanks, Steve. I'm banking on it!
Check out Steve's bio below, or skip right to the bottom of the post to find out how you can keep tabs on Steve, and more importantly, where you can get your hands on his books.
Steve P. Vincent is a thriller writer from Victoria, Australia. He lives with his wife in a pokey apartment in Melbourne, where he writes on the couch in front of an obnoxiously large television and an attentive goldfish.
Steve’s debut novel, The Foundation, was published by Pan Macmillan / Momentum in September 2014. It debuted #1 on the Amazon ebook political fiction rankings and was iBooks Book of the Week in May 2015.
His second novel, STATE OF EMERGENCY, was published on 11 June 2015 by Pan Macmillan / Momentum. His third novel, Nations Divided, will be published by Pan Macmillan / Momentum in late 2015.
Steve is a regular contributor to The Big Thrill and The Victorian Writer.
When he’s not writing, Steve keeps food and flat whites on the table working for the man. He enjoys beer, whisky, sports and dreaming up ever more elaborate conspiracy theories to write about.
He has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Political Science and History. His honours thesis was on the topic of global terrorism. He has travelled extensively through Europe, the US and Asia.
Where to Buy Steve's Books:
Publisher links (with retailer links inside)