I’ve got something really cool and different for you all today. One of my favourite authors, Will Jordan, recently released the sixth instalment in his Ryan Drake spy thriller series, titled Ghost Target.
Will was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about his books, himself and his life as a writer.
I hope you all enjoy!
Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
My name’s Will Jordan, and I’m a thriller writer from Fife in Scotland. I’m known for my series of books about ex-soldier turned CIA operative Ryan Drake, and the shady dealings and conspiracies that he and his team become embroiled in following a mission to free a mysterious woman named Anya from a Russian prison. The series has been noted for its strong characters and complex overarching storyline which is gradually uncovered with each new instalment.
Why should people read your books?
Although they have all the elements you’d expect in a thriller series (conspiracies, intrigue, double crosses, fights and action), these books are all about the characters. These aren’t superhumans who venture into the most deadly situations without fear, or who move from adventure to adventure with nary a backward glance, but realistic human beings with all the frailties, strengths and weaknesses that come with it. They constantly change and grow throughout the series, as do their relationships towards each other. The fact that many of the characters are strong female leads is something of a rarity in this genre too.
What got you into writing?
I’d always enjoyed telling stories, and I suppose that tendency got stronger as I got older. I was however extremely secretive about it, never daring to share anything with friends or even family. Once I was able to get online, I started posting some of my work in creative writing forums, and strangely found it easy to share my efforts with complete strangers. But the more I did it, the more I realised it was what I wanted to do for a living.
What do you enjoy most about being an author?
Getting paid to do something I love, and having the creative freedom to write what I want. For me, it’s the best job in the world.
How do you go about writing? Do you plan out your books ahead or improvise as you go along?
I always plan them ahead, usually by writing a short synopsis and then gradually working in more detail until I’ve got 10 or 15 pages outlining the entire story. This is invaluable for me as it ensures I don’t write myself into a corner later, and that each of the main characters has a clearly defined arc and a reason for being in the story. That being said, nothing is set in stone and there’s always scope for improvisation as I go, so it’s more a flexible guide than an absolute set of rules. I’ve yet to write a synopsis that I stick to!
Deception Game was probably the toughest to write. I had a big change of heart about how certain events and subplots should play out when I was half way through writing it, so I had to go back and rewrite large sections of the text. This really slowed my momentum, which I think is critical to finishing a novel. Ghost Target, my latest book, was probably one of the easiest to write because it was so character driven.
What is the most enjoyable or interesting thing you’ve done while doing research for one of your books?
Probably visiting rifle ranges to fire the weapons used by Drake and company. Reading about such things for research is all well and good, but nothing beats doing it for yourself, experiencing the noise, the smell, the weight of the guns. It really helps get into the mindset of the characters.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Don’t write what you think other people want to read; your story must be one that you personally want to tell. It must be something that inspires and motivates you, because believe me there will be plenty of days when you don’t fell motivated to write.
What was your experience like getting your first book, Redemption, published?
Redemption was easy to get published! Everything leading up to that point was a bit harder. I’d actually written another book prior to Redemption (now known as The Book Which Shall Not Be Named), which was good enough to land me my agent. It then did the rounds with UK publishers, and came oh-so-close to getting a deal on a couple of occasions, but never quite made it. I was forced to go back to the drawing board and start a new novel, which actually worked out great in the long run because the Drake series has much better longevity than what I’d planned before.
Then, a couple of months after sending it off to my agent, I got The Call telling me I’d been offered a 3 book UK deal. Much Champagne was drunk that night, believe me! Foreign rights deals followed soon after, and that’s what got the ball rolling.
What is your latest book, Ghost Target, about?
Ghost Target picks up about a year after the events of Deception Game, my previous book. Drake and his companions have been disavowed by the CIA for a supposed act of treason, and have gone into hiding in Europe. Living a quiet life in a remote coastal villa, Drake has started to put his previous life behind him, only for it to suddenly catch up to him in explosive and deadly fashion. Realising he’ll never escape the CIA’s corrupt Director Marcus Cain, he resolves to take the man out during a secretive visit to Pakistan, and gathers together a reluctant group of allies to put his plan into action. Needless to say, all does not go according to plan, and Drake soon learns there is more to Cain’s visit than even he could have imagined.
Being from the UK yourself, why did you choose to make your main character Ryan Drake a member of the CIA?
Partly because I wanted the series to have an international feel. I wanted a hero that could bridge the gap between the UK and US, and I rather liked the idea that Drake is a bit of a fish out of water in the CIA. Being a foreigner, he’s already a bit of an outsider, and I think that provides a unique window into this particular world.
Also, most UK publishers are keen on having British protagonists, so to some extent you have to play to that expectation.
You’ve been telling one overarching story throughout all of your Ryan Drake books, so do you have a set number of books to finish the story and would that be the end of Ryan?
I don’t have a set number of books, but I know where the series is heading and how it will wrap up. For me it’s more important to make sure each book tells a compelling story while also driving the overarching plot closer to its conclusion. It doesn’t matter if that takes 5 books or 20, as long as it’s done right.
When you’re dealing with big overarching storylines like this, it’s a great chance to show how characters can change and grow because of their experiences. Drake is a very different character now than he was when first introduced in Redemption, and I’d expect him to change even more by the time the series concludes. As for what will become of Drake once this storyline is finished… well, you’ll have to wait and see!
Do you have any plans to write anything outside of your Ryan Drake novels?
Not in the short term at least. The Drake universe is growing bigger and richer with each book, and the international setting and diverse cast of characters allows me to explore basically anything I want. It’s the perfect sandbox for a writer to play in. I’ve got various spin-off books, novellas, sequels and prequels planned (with and without Drake as protagonist), so there’s plenty for me to tackle.
That being said, everything has to end eventually. Longer term, I’d like to take a crack at writing an epic fantasy saga, since I’ve already gained plenty of experience at big overarching storylines. I also love globe-trotting adventure novels, solving ancient mysteries and so on, so I’d be interested in doing that too.
And finally, what kind of books do you like to read?
Well, I don’t get an awful lot of time to read these days! There are always writing projects demanding my attention. But when I do, I’m all about escapism in my books, so I love adventure novels in the Clive Cussler vein. Anything with an exploding vehicle and ancient ruins on the front cover is probably going to make me happy.
That’s it! Thank you Will for taking the time to answer some questions. Everyone, go pick up a copy of Ghost Target!
From Marseille to Islamabad at breakneck pace… it’s kill or be killed for Ryan Drake and his team
Ryan Drake, once a decorated field operative, is now wanted for treason. On the run from the CIA’s corrupt Deputy Director Marcus Cain, he has spent the past six months in a remote French safehouse. Drake’s former life seems to be behind him, but the uneasy peace is shattered when Cain moves against him with startling force.
Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan is faltering in the wake of a devastating suicide attack. Cain though has a plan to find and destroy al-Qaeda’s top commanders. And nobody will stand in his way.
Backed into a corner, Drake turns to the deadly but unpredictable Anya – once Cain’s most promising agent, now his most bitter enemy. With tensions running high and their uneasy alliance threatening to tear itself apart, Drake’s hastily assembled team travels to Pakistan to intercept Cain.
With the fate of the War on Terror hanging in the balance, loyalties are tested and scores settled, as Drake embarks on the fight of his life. Only one side will survive…
From the bestselling author of Black List and Deception Game, Ghost Target is the sixth Ryan Drake thriller, and an incredible tale of deception, desperation, and ultimate betrayal.
You can also follow Will on Twitter at @WillJordan83.