Good day, book people. I’ve been getting lost in books for most of 2020, often re-reading a number of my favorite authors of fiction. Strangely enough, I’ve even found myself re-reading a number of nonfiction books as well, mostly true crime, biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. I find it fascinating to discover what people gravitate towards with regards to their reading habits. Do authors of romance novels only read romance? Are they inspired by true-life romance stories? Do political thriller authors only read other political thrillers or about real-life politics? James McCrone, the author of Emergency Powers, has stopped by today and graciously offered to share with us what helps him from blurring the lines between fiction and reality. You’ll be amazed at what he has to say. Thank you, Mr. McCrone, for taking time away from your busy schedule to spend a few minutes with us today. I turn the blog over to you.
Blurred Lines – Separating Fiction from Reality
Recently in an interview, I was asked: How do you keep your written world from encroaching on your life?
I have the opposite problem. As I’ve written elsewhere, I often find myself sailing too close to the wind. My political thrillers have a ripped-from-the-headlines urgency, but it’s not because I troll the newspapers for material. Rather, as I tell my story I try to think like the bad guys—”what would they do?” And “what needs to happen for them to succeed?” And of course, how would my protagonist counter them?
In many ways, my writing ends up anticipating the headlines, and it’s dismaying how close I come to real events. My recurring character is FBI Agent Imogen Trager, a Poli-Sci Ph.D. turned agent—”as tough as she is smart”—and in my debut thriller, Faithless Elector, the center of the conflict were a group of Electors who had switched their votes. (It came out in March of 2016, before the major parties had even held their conventions.) In Dark Network (2017), the conspirators try to gain a toehold by undermining the Justice Department and the Attorney General.
In the novel that debuted this month, Emergency Powers, I have the conspirators working hard to get a pliant Attorney General installed. There are also an increasing number of “acting” officials, rather than those approved by the Senate; the OPM (Office of Management and Personnel) has been subsumed.
I need for the real world to stop intruding on my written world!
I don’t write about real people or real situations. It’s just that some real people start acting like characters in my books. I think this is because I do let real problems inform my approach to a story and the plot. And through exhaustive research, I ask—What’s possible in this situation? What’s plausible? Who would make the decision, and why? What would the antagonists do to cover their tracks? Or to deflect attention? How would they muddy the water?
How would they try to get away with murder?
And, of course, I ask myself what every writer must ask: what does the bad guy/villain WANT? What will s/he do to get it?
I remember an interview with Jon Stewart, the former Daily Show host. He was asked about the political nature of his show, and he said something like, “Yes, it’s political, but my job is to FIND THE FUNNY…” or, for writers like me, the job is to FIND THE STORY.
Mysteries and suspense-thrillers are compelling stories about characters forced into action by circumstance—of character revealed through action. Answering the questions above and getting the details right makes for verisimilitude. Sometimes too much!
I should say a quick word about a related matter. There are no real people in my books. I think that if you use someone real—or a thinly disguised version of him/her—you run the very real risk of turning the novel you’re writing into a partisan rant, a screed.
*That’s what social media is for. 🙂
So I have a very real problem keeping the fictional and the real world separate because each informs the other—fictional needs beget events that somehow come to pass. Some days I think I should focus on stock market investing!
by James McCrone
on Tour October 1-31, 2020
The accidental president is no accident. The investigation that was FBI Agent Imogen Trager’s undoing may be the key to stopping a brutal, false flag terrorist attack meant to tighten a puppet president’s grip on power.
Emergency Powers will delight mystery and thriller fans (“Great for fans of Brad Meltzer, David Baldacci.” –Publishers Weekly) And politics junkies will enjoy the ripped-from-the-headlines urgency. But it’s about more than the headlines. And darker. A story of corruption and redemption, achieved at enormous personal cost, featuring FBI Agent Imogen Trager: “a memorable protagonist—as tough as she is smart.” (Kirkus Review) Indeed, “Three tough female characters steal the show: FBI agents Vega, Sartain, and Trager. Overall, the power dynamics of these women…are something special.” (T. LIEBERMAN, Independent Book Review)
As the story begins, Imogen is haunted—and sidelined—by a case she couldn’t solve. When the president dies in office, she knows that the conspiracy she chased down a blind alley still has life in it—and she needs to get back in the hunt. As bodies pile up and leads go cold, the main target from that old case reaches out to her. He’s still at large, and now he needs protection. Imogen doesn’t trust him, and it’s not only because he’s offering intel that sounds too good to be true. He’s already tried to kill her once.
Set in D.C., Seattle and small town America, Emergency Powers is a story of corruption and redemption, achieved at enormous personal cost.
“A high-stakes political thriller that feels so chillingly true, you pray it’s not”—TOM STRAW, seven-time NYT bestselling author, as Richard Castle
“RECOMMENDED” – Kate Robinson, US Review of Books
“Compelling, heart-pounding and thoroughly intriguing…”— STEPHEN MACK JONES, August Snow, Lives Laid Away
“Keen portraits of true patriotism—and the courage that drives it.” — ART TAYLOR, The Boy Detective & The Summer of ’74
Published by: James McCrone
Publication Date: October 1, 2020
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 9780999137727 (9780999137734)
Series: An Imogen Trager Thriller
James McCrone has a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Washington, in Seattle. He’s a member of Crime Writers of America (NY Chapter), Sisters in Crime (DE-Valley Chapter), Int’l Assoc. of Crime Writers, Philadelphia Dramatists Center, and Int’l Thriller Writers.
He’s the author of Faithless Elector and Dark Network, the first two Imogen Trager “Noirpolitik” suspense-thrillers about a stolen presidency. The third Imogen Trager thriller, Emergency Powers released in October 2020. His short story, “Numbers Don’t Lie” appears in the anthology Low Down Dirty Vote, Vol. 2 (M. Berry, ed.), out on July 4, 2020.
A Pacific Northwest native, he now lives in Philadelphia with his wife and three adult children.
James’s work explores characters pitted against forces larger than themselves. Both on and off the page, he’s fascinated with politics and issues of social responsibility and justice.
Catch Up With James McCrone:
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This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for James McCrone. There will be 4 winners. Two winners will each receive one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card and Two winners will each win Emergency Powers by James McCrone (Print ~ US and Canada addresses only). The giveaway begins on October 1, 2020, and runs through November 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.