by JT Ellison
I can hardly believe I’m saying this…
It’s that time again. I have a new book coming out on Tuesday. SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH is the sixth book in the Taylor Jackson series, and the sequel to 14. The Pretender is back, and finally making his move on Taylor.
When I started this series, I planned to avoid any and all tropes from the thriller genres – damaged heroines, lurking serial killers, brilliant villains, skeletons in the closets, the works. And guess what? My naïveté was astounding. Over the course of six novels, I’ve come to realize that these are the many characteristics of the genre. They aren’t tropes, but instead vital, exciting vehicles for both character and series growth. Who wants a character who is too perfect? Who wants a villain who is simply a blunt instrument? Who wants the whole story laid out for them from day one, with no hope for growth, or opportunity for falling down?
Not me. Not anymore. As I’ve grown as a writer, as a world builder, I’ve come to understand some of the fundamental truths about storytelling. The most basic of those truths is this – as long as it’s grounded in an element of reality, it’s going to work.
Is it possible for a serial killer to target a homicide cop? Of course it is. Permission granted, ma’am. Sally forth and murder at will.
Oh, if it were only that easy…
We’ve talked at length about the writer’s journey, about how sometimes you just have to get out of your own way and let the story do what it’s meant to do. I had to do just that with So Close.
Because, you see, So Close sees a different side of Taylor Jackson. She is her own anti-hero – not noble, not just, and certainly not worth looking up to. She is driven by a force out of her control, one that taps into the edge of darkness she treads along so very carefully. That force is revenge.
Revenge is a tricky thing when you’re working with a hero. Especially a hero you’ve set up to be militantly GOOD. Good people don’t plan to murder. Plain and simple.
And yet, here I am, with a book about a militantly good person who is planning the demise of another human being.
I blame James Bond.
I was struggling with the facts of the book. In order to make things go the way I wanted, I had to allow Taylor to drop her goodness, even if just for a fraction of a second, and contemplate taking another life on purpose. The minute you decide to let a character out of their proscribed box, the blackbirds descend, cawing incessantly. You can’t do that.
Caw – People will hate you for it. Caw – They’ll hate Taylor. Caw – No. Caw caw – The answer is definitively no.
Hey, blackbirds? Fuck off! My book. MINE.
And so it went, for several Sisyphean writing months, until one night, late in the evening, after all sane people had gone to bed, I was watching Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace for the umpteenth time. I’m a big fan of Bond in general, all things Ian Flemingish. I’m a Connery girl. I always thought I’d hate a blond Bond. Boy was I wrong. I think Daniel Craig is a brilliant addition to the mythos. He has that caged fury that is so necessary to an assassin. Yes, he’s suave and debonair. Yes, the ladies all want him. But this Bond recognizes that an element of his soul is black, and instead of running from it, he embraces it.
In Quantum of Solace, Bond is out for revenge. He’s going to take down the people who stole his lover from him. Irrational, yes. Ill-conceived, absolutely. People around him begin to get hurt. And yet he strives onward, never looking back. No regrets.
And we cheer him.
We laud him.
And we wish we could do the same.
So at two in the morning, I realized that yes, by God, I could allow Taylor to follow her instincts. I could allow her out of her box, unleash her on the world, to hunt the man who has been hunting her. Even a cop can succumb to vigilantism, especially when the people around her are getting hurt.
I finished the book. It worked, and I think, worked well.
Lots of crazy things happened while I was writing SO CLOSE. We had a title change. We had a date change. But most notable was the loss of my editor, Linda McFall. There is nothing, nothing! worse than losing your original champion. I hated to see her go. We’d formed a very symbiotic relationship, one that needed only nudges in red to get points across. So I was lost, both career wise and book wise, for several months while we decided who would take over editing me.
I was thrilled when Adam Wilson, my assistant editor of the first four books, took up Linda’s mantle. I turned the book in and we began the journey of revising together, each learning from the other, until this puppy was whipped into shape. I think Adam’s touch on this book made it what it is. He wholly embraced the concept of Taylor as vengeful angel, owned it with me. Together we found the exact right path to lead her down.
Taylor as vengeful angel. How far we’ve come in three short years.
SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH officially goes on sale Tuesday, though there are certain online retailers who have it available already. The audio book, coming March 1, is performed by Joyce Bean, and a true tour de force. I hope Joyce gets major recognition for her work on this book – she’s taken my words and created a world I never knew existed. It’s an intense experience listening to your own work . Usually I have to stop after a few chapters, cringing at word usage or phrasing, lamenting my purplish, bruised prose…. But on this? I forgot the book was mine and got caught up in the story – she’s that good. Digital copies are available for all your ereaders. And to celebrate, for a limited time, SWEET LITTLE LIES is on sale for just 99 cents. And if you send me a copy of your receipt for SO CLOSE, I’ll send you SWEET LITTLE LIES for free, and enter you in a drawing for a brand new Kindle.*
I forget sometimes how exciting it is to have a new baby out in the world. Whether it’s simply distraction, worrying about the next book, and the next, a self-defense mechanism in case of bad reviews, or a concern with overloading my fine friends and readers with BSP, I haven’t been going all out shouting this one from the rooftops. But I’m here now, asking you – please, buy the book. Read it. Let me know if you think Taylor is wrong.
I bet you don’t.
Because we all need someone to play the hero.
And a little extra incentive today – tell me you’re favorite hero or anti-hero and I’ll send one commenter a signed copy of the book.
Wine of the Week: Veuve Cliqout, to celebrate the baby’s arrival in the wild.
Talent borrows. Genius steals. Evil delegates.
It’s a hideous echo of a violent past. Across America, murders are being committed with all the twisted hallmarks of the Boston Strangler, the Zodiac Killer and Son of Sam. The media frenzy explodes and Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson knows instantly that The Pretender is back…and he’s got helpers.
As The Pretender’s disciples perpetrate their sick homages – stretching police and FBI dangerously thin – Taylor tries desperately to prepare for their inevitable showdown. And she must do it alone. To be close to her is to be in mortal danger, and she won’t risk losing anyone she loves. But the isolation, the self-doubt and the rising body count are taking their toll: she’s tripwire-tense and ready to snap.
The brilliant psychopath who both adores and despises her is drawing close. Close enough to touch….
“Ellison’s sixth novel featuring homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson is arguably her best book to date. A tense thrill ride filled with secrets, raw emotion and death, newcomers will love it as much as her longtime fans. After completing this one, you will scream for the next book.”
– Romantic Times, 4 1/2 Stars TOP PICK!
* Click here for more details on this special offer