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September 5, 2011 | by  | in Arts Books | [ssba]

Interview with… John Hart

Jay Collins talks to John Hart about his latest thriller, Iron House

You used to be a lawyer and now you’re writing thriller novels. Do they go hand in hand? It seems like there are many instances of lawyers branching out into this area. Why thriller novels for you?

I never set out to write thrillers to tell you the truth. I just set out to write a story and they just sort of turned into that I guess because deep down I find that interesting. I really care about writing characters, it’s really fun to have the high stakes that peel away all of the façades that people put on and see what’s going to happen. An example I like to use is a shameless theft of a great quote from an Alabama writer named Joshua Jackson, who says “If you want to introduce your readers to the people you’ve built, put all of your characters into a locked room and set one of them on fire.” Which when you think about it is genius because somebody is going to try to kick down the door, somebody is going to freak out, somebody is going to put out the fire, but it is not till you put them into that type of situation that you see who they are and what they do. I would describe my books as character-driven thrillers, not because I have any literary aspirations but because I really enjoy building interesting people and putting them through their paces, and thrillers are a great way to do that.

One thing that links all four of your novels is the rich and detailed characters that you create. Iron House is certainly no exception to this, with characters such as Michael and Julian, who are dangerous, but in Julian’s case also quite fragile. What is your process for creating characters like these?

The simple answer is simple imagination and lots and lots of deep, uninterrupted thought. I mean what kind of person is going to be interesting enough to drive the type of story that you wish to create? In Iron House it is obviously a very hard charging story, it’s the most violent thing I have ever written. Most of my books are not like that and so I needed really specific types of characters to make that happen. The trick for me is really ‘what motivates them?’ If at the end of the book the reader is going to look back and say “I believe the character would have done those things”, which is not the same as saying “I would have done those things” but that character would have done those things. You really need to get down to the heart of what makes those characters capable of that type of action.

You talked about how Iron House is more violent than earlier works, but there is also the romance between Michael and Elena. Do you find it difficult to mix action and romance into a novel without compromising the essence of a thriller?

I don’t find it difficult. It is always a question of proportion of course. What is interesting about Elena is that she is very specific in her role. She is the only truly innocent person in the story. In a story full of villains, conflicted characters and people who have done bad things, Elena is a pure soul. I really wanted a mirror against which Michael would have to view the person he has become. He would have to gauge the value of the man he was and so much of the story is not just about the depth of the feeling between these people but the manner in which Elena reacts to the truth about what Michael really is and the exploration of whether or not she can accept it. Can she move beyond it and still love him or is he lost to her forever because of the things that he has done? It gives the chance to provide additional tension to the story and you know whether or not it’s a thriller, tension has to be present or else it’s boring and flat. That is the primary thing, there has to be some tension, some question about what would happen with these characters and so it is maybe a more wholesome kind of tension in the book, as opposed to some of the more violent tension.


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  1. Indy says:

    Full of slaeint points. Don’t stop believing or writing!

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