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I don’t ususally get to meet the authors I interview, but Jon Land is an exception. I met him at ThrillerFest (more on that below) where I’m pretty sure he’s friends with everyone. He pretty much couldn’t go anywhere without someone calling out his name.
Here’s a brief interview with the man himself.
Caitlin Strong is a Texas Ranger and one tough lady. As a man, how do you go about writing vibrant female characters?
Love that question, given that it lavishes great praise on me I probably don’t deserve! Fortunately, I am a creature of my imagination—sure, all writers can make that claim but when I create the character they become as real as you to me. I know their thoughts and motivations, bad and good. I say that because writing a strong woman is really no different than writing a strong man, since I try to capture what each is dealing with and struggling through. I’ve also written some pretty awful villains capable of things I can’t even conceive of with that same process. One of the keys to becoming a better storyteller is to empower your characters to think and act for themselves.

What’s the best writer’s conference in the country?
No doubt about it—Thrillerfest! And that’s because of one word: accessibility. International Thriller Writers prides itself on close contact between even our biggest names with all of those in attendance. That goes to the very mission statement of ITW which is to support the genre as a whole and writers in their attempt to first get published and then be published more successfully. Because we have other means to support ourselves, our own goal going in is to break even and that gives us the freedom to select programming with the audience’s needs and desires as the primary goal by far. The conference is all about engagement and inclusivity, just like the organization is.
How did writing the screenplay for Dirty Deeds influence your thriller writing?
Hey, nobody else ever asks me about that—you really are 15, aren’t you? Does your wife know???? But, more seriously, my answer may sound like a copout, because it’s actually the opposite. Even though DIRTY DEEDS was a teen comedy, it’s structured exactly like a thriller: a hero who sets out on a question for a noble cause—that’s literally the structure of the film. And along the way, there are at least two big plot twists, some real villains and even a Tarantino-like mob guy with a custard center who becomes the one character who truly “gets” the hero. I wrote the role for Christopher Walken, but we couldn’t afford him. So one of the reasons DIRTY DEEDS holds up today, and has been viewed free on the Web over 50 million times, is because of that structure. But, hey, you should see my original version before we went PG-13!!!!
Most of your books are published by Fawcett, though you’ve written for many publishers including Berkeley and Tor. How has the publishing process differed between them?

They’ve differed more by generation/age than actual publisher. I say that because my golden days at Fawcett were golden because they marked the heyday of the mass market paperback. I had some of the best financial years of my career back when I was writing one book a year on a Smith Corona Typetronic typewriter. Mass market, when you were properly positioned and slotted in stores, sold an absolute ton. Unfortunately, just as paperbacks made my career, their decline has also forced me to work a lot harder than I’ve ever worked and to seek ways to expand my literary horizons. That said, that necessity has also made me a much, much better and far more ambitious author than I ever was before. This business is all about a constant struggle to remain relevant and find new opportunities when the old ones aren’t paying off to the degree they used to.
You’ve written over 25 novels, many of them bestsellers. If you were to recommend a first one for new readers to start with, which would you choose?
Well, I always believe that a writer’s work is best reflected by their most recent work. Given that, off the top of my head I’d say STRONG TO THE BONE, the 9th in my Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong series. It’s the most personal of all the titles and that makes it an ideal one to start with, since we learn something we never knew about Caitlin before that becomes the basis of the book. That said, a lot of readers like starting a series at the beginning which would mean go back to the first Caitlin Strong book which was STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE. But, in my mind, what makes a great writer is to start with any book written at any time and fall enough in love with his or her work enough to want to read them all. That’s a high bar but I love setting high bars for myself.

Jon Land is the bestselling author over 25 novels. He graduated from Brown University in 1979 Phi Beta Kappa and Magna cum Laude and continues his association with Brown as an alumni advisor.
He often bases his novels and scripts on extensive travel and research as well as a twenty-five year career in martial arts. He is an associate member of the US Special Forces and frequently volunteers in schools to help young people learn to enjoy the process of writing.
Jon is the Vice-President of marketing of the International Thriller Writers (ITW) and is often asked to speak on topics regarding writing and research.
In addition to writing suspense/thrillers Jon is also a screenwriter with his first film credit coming in 2005.
He works with many industry professionals and has garnered the respect and friendship of many author-colleagues. He loves storytelling in all its forms.


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