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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Brief Conversation with a Phenomenal Author, Jonas Saul

This week, I had the extraordinary pleasure of learning about my favorite Author, Mr. Jonas Saul. Jonas was kind enough to allow me the opportunity to interview him for my blog.

Jonas has been writing novels and short stories for more than twenty years and has written over thirty novels and fifty short stories including the Sarah Roberts Series, the Jake Wood Series, and the Mafia Trilogy.  His Sarah Roberts series and the Jake Wood series are both optioned in Hollywood.

     Tell us about your newest release for Sarah Roberts, Book 18, “The Terror”:

The Terror is the eighteenth novel in the Sarah Roberts Series. This woman has been through a lot in eighteen books and this novel is no different. She’s confronted with the task of solving the mystery of why a random set of bombings have besieged the city of Kelowna—bombings that have the authorities perplexed.

Why Sarah? Because she had proven herself over the seventeen novels before this one as something of a fixer.

Sarah started out as an unknown vigilante in book one, Dark Visions, and built her reputation over the years. What makes her unique is her dead sister, Vivian. Sarah’s sister speaks to her, offering prophetic tidbits of information about the future. In the beginning, Sarah was an automatic writer. She would black out and while unconscious, her sister would channel through her hand to write a prophecy. That ability has evolved throughout the novels and over time Sarah is now able to hear her sister in her head. In the current novels, they speak internally quite often.

Although, in The Terror, something happens that has never happened before, leaving the sisters—one alive, one dead—with a tenuous connection that proves quite difficult for Sarah to navigate when she needs her sister the most.

     Please tell us about future books in the Sarah Roberts’ series:

Book nineteen is called The Chase. It’s slated to release in the latter part of March. The Toronto Mafia, one family of the seven that oversee Toronto operations, is in pursuit of Sarah to fulfill their personal agenda. Only one person suspects why they’re hunting Sarah and when that person is confronted with the truth, there’s nothing left to do but sacrifice himself to save Sarah’s life. But with all good plans, this one is fraught with error and everything goes wrong. That’s where The Chase begins!

Book Twenty, The Betrayal, is due by June or July of this year. This novel will be a very moving book for many as someone—or someones—very close to Sarah, someone she’s come to trust over the years, has betrayed her in the worst way. The betrayal means certain death for Sarah. When she finds herself in that terrible position, there are no tricks left in the bag. In a way, book twenty is the end of Sarah as the trust is gone and the betrayal is earth-shattering. The Sarah we have grown to know and love must exit this cruel earth to join her sister. Alternatives are limited and this book ends in a graphic, fitting way.

But alas, book twenty-one is called, Sarah’s Return. Unfortunately, this novel is not due until sometime next year. It all depends on the writing and publication of this novel, but it may be held up until late 2018. I have a brief outline but have not started writing a single line of this novel as of yet.

     Where do you see Sarah Roberts in five years? In ten?
Sarah will continue to grow. That much is certain. If anything, that’s the one constant I’ve always strived for—making sure Sarah evolved in some way during the process of each novel. In five years I see Sarah encountering villains in book twenty-five or thirty. In ten years I see Sarah with a daughter of her own. I can’t wait to write her daughter as Sarah’s child has even more psychic ability than Sarah has, not to mention telekinesis. Finally, one day, many years from now, Sarah might move on and be in her daughter’s head, guiding her along, but with Sarah’s particular, unique voice. This is all hypothetical at this early stage, but one can dream.

Lastly, in the five to ten years, I see Sarah on the television with her own TV series and possibly on the big screen in a successful movie franchise—at least I hope so!

     When did you come up with the idea of featuring the names of your readers as book characters? Are you the only author that does that?

I must start the answer to this question by revealing a true fact about me: I have difficulty remembering names. Like someone who suffers from prosopagnosia and can’t remember faces, I can’t recall names too well. (Family and close friends excluded—those names are no issue).

When I’m reading a book, once a character is introduced, I forget their name. It’s quite maddening, really. Ten pages later, Mary and John are meeting up for coffee and there’s all this tension and I have no idea who Mary and John are. This happens every single novel. So I have to perform name association for each and every novel I read. I have to really work hard at remembering names.

I’ve always loved the name Sarah and the name Aaron because of its unique spelling with the As. Parkman only has ever been called Parkman in the series. I have no idea what his other names are, even if he has another name.

During the writing of any novel, I have a small pad of paper beside me while typing. In this pad, I write down the name of every character and who they are and why they are important and so on and so on. Sometimes I even have to write the chapter they’re in to recall who I’m writing about. The worst is when a reader says, “I loved what you did with (enter a not-regular character name from one of my books here).” I’m usually lost as the names elude me unless it’s the main character or villain and I wrote their name several hundred times, I have no idea who they are.

Finally, (long answer—I know), coming up with names is even worse. I have to use something called a name generator. That led to the idea of using reader names so I didn’t have to think them up anymore. In fact, using a reader’s name helps me because I’ve talked to that reader on social media and will remember their name more readily.

Originally, I came up with the idea for book five, The Victim, when I used Mara as a female detective. Mara Martinez was a reader from the Toronto area who often expressed her love for the Sarah Series. To honor her and immortalize her name, I added it to the series and expressed my gratitude in the Afterword. By book seven, The Vigilante, I was doing it again. Then readers began emailing and messaging me to add their names to the series. I have more names than I could ever use now, but I love doing it. I’m beyond grateful for the readers I have and if they want their names in the story, I’m more than happy to do that, not to mention how much it helps me with my name-memory deficiency.

     How far ahead do you generally plan for a novel in a series?
I’m usually four books ahead at any given time. Whether in a series or a standalone, I’m usually four novels ahead with one or two other novel ideas floating around. Outlines are written out for those four novels and all that’s needed after that is time at the computer.
Novel schedule for 2017:
1.  “The Chase,” Sarah Roberts Book 19 - Due March 2017
2.  “The Betrayal,” Sarah Roberts Book 20 - Due June 2017
3.  “The Target,” Jake Wood Book 2 - Due August 2017
4.  “Ruthless” - a standalone thriller - Due November 2017
5.  Book three to The Snake series (Jake Wood) is due early 2018 (In this case, Book three of the Jake Wood Series has no title and is not outlined yet.)

     Do your book characters ever dictate the storyline to you? For example, you’re writing away and you have a thought in mind for a scene, then someone does something you would have never expected?

In some ways, yes, but only minor characters. My main characters already have their outline, their mission statement. For me as an author, Sarah or Parkman never deviate from what they need to do or who they are. They can come across as unpredictable at times, but that was part of the scene, part of my plan.

Minor characters, on the other hand, have often surprised me. I might set out to write a scene where one character was set to die by the end of the scene but they made it out alive. I’m surprised by this, but it usually works out as I learn that I needed that character later on. Or the opposite can happen.

Sometimes characters have been known to alter the outline and make the story take another route entirely, but I love that and I flow with it.

     You sort of left us hanging in “The Snake”. Please tell us about your upcoming release of “The Target”, number two in the Jake Wood’s series. What will that be about? When is the estimated release?

As mentioned above, The Target, Book Two in Jake’s series, comes out this summer. At this point, I feel August is a reasonable estimation for release but things can change.

The Target starts off with Jake trying to deal with what he’d done at the end of the first novel while still reeling over the loss of Wendy, his fiancĂ©e. As the authorities are hunting him (his fingerprints were pulled from a doorknob at a murder scene), Jake is going after Fortech Industries, the company that was responsible for the chemically altered snakes and who is the employer of Adam and his team. This ultra-secret agency becomes hard to find all the while the authorities are getting closer to Jake. As time runs out, only his ex-partner Kirk, with a little help from Wendy, can save him. The ending is insane and sets up for book three as Jake learns more of his powers and grows to become part man, part snake.

     You’ve brought characters from other series into the Sarah Roberts’ series like Darwin Kostas, and his wife, Rosina from “The Mafia Trilogy”, and Aaron Stevens from “The Specter”. Do you envision pairing Jake Wood and Sarah Roberts in an upcoming novel?

At this time I have not. It’s always an interesting thought for me as a writer because these characters take on a life of their own. Sarah’s with me all the time. My wife will say something and I’ll be like, “Hey, that sounded just like Sarah!” Sometimes I even write that stuff down to include in a book. There are a dozen things Sarah’s said in the novels over the years that came from my wife.

Since these characters are so real to me, I love when they cross-pollinate my novels. It’s like bringing back an old friend. At the end of the Mafia Trilogy, I wept. The final scenes took longer than the others as I had to keep wiping my eyes to see the keyboard. The love Darwin had for Rosina, the things he endured to save her and get back to her. That he would gladly die for her, moved me beyond words. After the Trilogy was over, I missed them immensely, thinking about them in the Italian hills of Umbria.

I couldn’t stand it any longer.

When Sarah took a train north of Rome in Book Eight, The Rogue, I had Darwin and Rosina sitting on a bench at the train station. They met. The rest is history. Darwin’s a big part of Sarah’s life and has even saved her life several times since Book Eight. Darwin has a huge part in The Chase, Book Nineteen!

Jake Wood and Sarah? Not sure. The jury is out. Maybe. Possibly. They spend a lot of time in the same city. Who knows, maybe they’ll bump into each other on the street one day. I’ll let the characters decide this one.

     Describe your best day:

My best day is up at 7:00 am with coffee. Read for an hour and then consume breakfast. In my office by 9:00 am where I spend anywhere from 30-60 minutes responding to emails and browsing the news and social media sites. Also checking sales and reviews on the novels.

Ideally, I like to start typing my word count of the day by 10:00 am, but sometimes I end up starting at 10:30 am. After two thousand words, I’m ready for a break. I head off to the gym where I work out for an hour, then return home for coffee and lunch.

Back at my desk by 1:30 pm-2:00 pm to complete another couple of thousand words. My goal is three to four thousand words per day, five days a week. I used to write more and produce 5-6 novels per year, but I’ve slowed down. Now I’m getting 3-4 novels written and released per year. That schedule works much better for me.

Ultimately, I’m usually done writing by 4:00 pm and heading up to the library (in our house) to read. I’m a vociferous reader and love to get into my easy chair slightly before dinner to begin reading. By 7:00 pm, my wife has finished her writing and her artwork and will often join me in the library. We sit with the fire going, a tasty beverage in hand, classical music emitting from the stereo, and a book in our hands until bedtime which is usually close to midnight—or whenever we can pull ourselves away from whatever book we’re reading at the time.

That’s my best day. Mostly, that’s an average day. Sometimes life gets in the way and that routine has to change, but that’s what we love to do. Work throughout the day, workout to avoid a complete sedentary lifestyle, and read each and every evening.

To learn more about Jonas Saul, please visit his author page on Amazon, his Website, Twitter, and Facebook.