1. Mr. Grant, thank you for stopping by on my blog. Your newest thriller, RUN, came out on October 7. Tell us a bit more about this book.
Ethan, it’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for inviting me!
Everyone knows what it feels like to have a bad day. A REALLY bad day where everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. I hoped that in setting up the hero of the story, Marc Bowman, so that the bottom is torn out of his world, piece by agonizing piece, I could create a character that readers would sympathize with, and a world they would relate to. Even if I did take things to a bit of an extreme…
2. Who is Marc Bowman and how did you come up with his character?
Unlike the hero of my previous series, Marc is a civilian. He’s uber-competent in his own high-tech field, and maybe a little more comfortable dealing with computers than people. Back in August of 2012 I was walking around with a semi-developed picture in my head of how I wanted him to look when I visited the Lichtenstein exhibition which the Art Institute of Chicago was hosting that summer. I remember gazing at the trademark shading in one of Lichtenstein’s giant paintings and being hit by the realization that in a way, Marc worked with the same tools. Only instead of dots and lines he dealt in zeros and ones, and this parallel became a key theme throughout the personal and professional aspects the book.
3. What is one of the most interesting things you learned during the research for this thriller?
I was aware of the connection between covert surveillance and telecommunications from my years in the industry, but it was fascinating to discover how far things have come in the time since I left. For example, it was amazing to find out about the data storage center the government has recently built in Utah. The place is so large – five times the size of the Capitol building – that they had to extend the boundary of the town where it’s located to contain it. It can store an incredible amount of data – so much that they’re already working in yottabytes, which are 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000s of bytes. There isn’t even a word for a higher magnitude. Yet.
4. What was one of the best things about working in the telecom industry? One of the worse things?
Looking back, there are many good things that stand out to me but the best would have to be the people I worked with, many of whom are still close friends even after many years and thousands of miles. The worst would be the trend which emerged over the time I spent in the industry of ceasing to value the individual and the unique blend of skills each person brought to the team and replacing this with “management by spreadsheet,” which encouraged the creation of a one-dimensional army of clones.
5. Why do you write?
I write because I’m obsessed with telling stories—and also because it’s my job! I’m very fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I love.
6. What are your writing habits? Outlines or not? How do you go from the idea for a book to the finished manuscript?
I always liken the process of going from idea to finished manuscript to taking a picture with one of those old-fashioned instant cameras. When the photograph first emerges from the machine it’s blurry and indistinct, and yet you know there’s an image there. As you wait, the outline becomes clearer, until something recognisable appears before you. With writing, your initial idea isn’t clear enough to hang a whole novel on, but with time (and thought) it will solidify until you have enough to work with. The trick is knowing when you’ve reached that point…
7. Which part of RUN did you find the greatest challenge to write?
All the parts where Marc was faced with physical danger, or needed some kind of specialist knowledge to get out of trouble. As I mentioned, the hero of my previous series was a professional agent so overcoming assailants or recognizing when someone was attempting to lure him into a trap was second nature to him. This time, however, I had to work much harder to come up with cunning and innovative ways for Marc to outwit his enemies.
8. What are your favorite pastimes?
My favourite pastimes are reading (anything and everything), the theatre, and watching football (I’m a life-long fan of Aston Villa FC, from my home town of Birmingham, England).
9. What is your greatest satisfaction as a writer? What is your greatest disappointment?
This may sound hokey, but my greatest satisfaction is hearing from a reader that they’ve enjoyed one of my books. And the converse, my greatest disappointment is hearing that someone hasn’t liked what I’ve written.
10. What is your next book going to be about?
My next book features another new character—a homicide detective in Birmingham, AL. He sets out to investigate the disappearance of a young orphan, and in the process uncovers a series of shocking discoveries about his own past.