SUPER CONGRATS! Please tell us a little about your second book, The Avenger.
JR: Thanks, Cindy, and thanks for inviting me back to your blog. The Watcher keeps moving in and out of that Amazon Top 100 List, but it's pretty exciting because I've never made a list before. It's my little fifteen minutes of fame!AC: Previously, you told us the idea for The Watcher came from a psychology class you took. Where did you find the inspiration for The Avenger?
JR: I can't be absolutely sure where the idea came from. You know, we writers have brains that are more like warehouses than workshops, and all kinds of weird and strange stuff meanders around there firing up our synapses!
[NOTE: Aunty knows that all too well!]
JR: But I think I've always had a fairly strong grasp on religious ideologies and how they influence history. It's always been interesting to me that so many events – wars, in particular – are inspired by religious fervor. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, a Jihad. So I played with the idea of what motivates people who are deeply religious, but also are psychopathic killers. And I came up with the villain in The Avenger.
The title is a bit misleading because "The Avenger" is a term the killer applies to himself, but the hero, Jackson Holt, is also an avenger in the sense that he's trying to speak for the dead victims and repudiate the wrongs he's done himself while working for a secret organization over the years.
AC: I think the duality of the title is fascinating! Please tell us how this book is tied to your previous one, The Watcher, and your next romantic thriller, The Traitor.
JR: All three books are tied by setting to Bigler County, California, which is a fictional county based on the county where I live. It's nestled at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain, and the sheriff is Ben Slater (the main protagonist in The Watcher). The books can all be read as stand-alone novels because the resolutions are settled in each book and the happy ending guaranteed for the hero and heroine.
In The Avenger Slater's and Olivia Gant's childhood friend is Jackson Holt, the hero. Something happened years ago when Jack "betrayed" them in a sense, but no one knew the full story. This book brings the issue to closure.
AC: You seem adept at creating very scary and memorable villains. Any idea why? Are they your favorite characters to create?
JR: Trust me, I've lain awake at night wondering why my villains speak so clearly to me. I may need a lot of redemption for my "thoughts" in the hereafter.
Just kidding, of course, but villains who are two-dimensional, flat characters have never appealed to me. I've always preferred the complex, rounded villains. I find it extremely interesting to discover what makes people turn out to be the kinds of folks they are, good or bad. Are we hard-wired a certain way or does environment really affect a person significantly?
JR: I'm nearly finished with the third book in the trilogy which introduces a new hero, Ashraf Hashemi, a DEA agent at odds with ADA Isabella Torres, who played a role in The Avenger. In The Traitor Isabella focuses on putting an end to human trafficking because she believes her beautiful older sister Maria, who disappeared on a graduation trip to Mexico years ago, was actually kidnapped and is alive. Rafe is looking at the same man, Diego Vargas, for instituting new drug trafficking routes in California.
I'm having fun bringing Vargas' lawyer/bodyguard, Gabriel Santos, back as a major player in this story.
[AC rubs her hands together with gleeful anticipation because Santos is a GREAT character!]JR: After these three books have a chance to reach readers, I'm considering publishing my two historical suspense books, both inspired by real events. I hope readers will enjoy them.
Finally, I'll be returning to Bigler County for the fourth and last book in the not-trilogy (ha, ha), an untitled book which will actually be about Gabriel Santos, who's an interesting and complex villain with his own unique moral compass.
A question for the readers of today's blog: Do you enjoy seeing recurring characters in books, especially secondary ones who get their own stories?
Have you ever been fascinated enough by a "villain" that you'd like to see if he/she has a story of their own to tell?
What's your favorite fall dessert? Ha, gotcha!
Seriously, leave a good recipe for fall on Aunty Cindy's blog and I'll enter you in a contest to win a download of either The Watcher or The Avenger.