What makes a woman pack up everything and walk out on the man she lives with? And why would anyone side with him?
That was my dilemma as I began writing Jason’s story in my fourth book, Phoenix.
Jason is by turns both bright and slow. Like many of us, though he is all these things he is not always good, always smart nor always kind. He is to many things around him, while at the same time very open and far-seeing about others.
Developing the characters for a book is at times a daunting task. Always characters must be distinct from each other, but must interact in a way that is believable. They must have depth, strengths, weaknesses and even quirks. And while that character must be present, and must be the heart of the story, it cannot be all of the story.
I work under the pressure of the things I hate as reader, too. Personally, I hate spoilers in suspense novels. I hate when the turns are obvious from very far away. But just as much, I hate things that come completely out of nowhere. I dislike random events that move the story forward. Though random things do sometimes happen, I find they are almost never as random as they first appear.
How often do planes fall out of the sky onto us? Rarely, if ever. How many times do we walk down a normally safe street in broad daylight and get mugged at gunpoint? Not me and not anyone I know. We all play an unwitting part in the seemingly random happenings in our lives.
In my real life years ago, I was in a grocery store when the armed Brinks guards were robbed. Was this random? Only somewhat. I shopped at grocery with lower prices, not driving to a more expensive store in a better neighborhood; I chose to live in Los Angeles (not the safest place in the world) and I entered the store in spite of knowing the Brinks truck was outside and knowing that this increased the likelihood of a robbery. I entered anyway. Am I responsible? Did I bring this on myself? No. But I’m not a completely random victim either, am I?
I have always joked that if my kids did something stupid and I asked them (as I often do) “Why did you do that?” I’d probably let them slide if they shrugged and said, “I don’t know, but it moves the plot forward.”
Just this way, I wanted Jason and the other characters in Phoenix to drive their own destinies. Who they are changes what happens to them. The choices they make bring their circumstances back around. And sometime the choices that other characters make come back to Jason, too.
In Phoenix, the characters had to drive the plot. Planes do not fall out of the sky, guns don’t go off randomly, and the past that Jason slowly uncovers happened for a series of reasons. So I found myself constantly asking, “Does this make Jason the kind of man who would have this happen?” And I molded his character so that the answer was always ‘yes.’
I hope you enjoy Phoenix, and that you find Jason to be someone you relate to, not because he’s perfect, but because he isn’t. And I hope that you find his story intriguing for the very possibility of it.
Biography of best-selling thriller
author A.J. Scudiere
It’s A.J.’s world. A strange place where patterns jump out and catch the eye, very little is missed, and most of it can be recalled with a deep breath, it’s different from the world the rest of us inhabit. But the rest of us can see it – when we read. In this world, the smell of Florida takes three weeks to fully leave the senses and the air in Dallas is so thick that the planes “sink” to the runways rather than actually landing.
For A.J., texture reigns supreme. Whether it’s air or blood or virus, it can be felt and smelled. School is a privilege and two science degrees (a BA and MS) are mere pats on the back compared to the prize of knowledge. Teaching is something done for fun (and the illusion of a regular paycheck) and is rewarding at all levels, grade school through college. No stranger to awards and national recognition for outstanding work as a teacher, trainer and curriculum writer, like most true teachers, the real joy for A.J. is in the “oh!” - the moment when the student sees the connection and it all makes sense. A.J. has lived in Florida and Los Angeles among a handful of other places.
Recent whims have brought the dark writer to Tennessee, where home is a deceptively normal looking neighborhood just outside Nashville.
Follow A.J. on Twitter: @ajscudiere
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Jason Mondy’s world is unraveling.
His seemingly secure job as a fire fighter is suddenly thrown into chaos.
The bright spot in his week is that he rescued two children from a house fire,
but he returns home that night to find all his furniture is missing.
His girlfriend has left him without warning and his nightmares keep him from sleeping.
Even just a simple trip home to find some rest leads his adoptive mother to sit him down
and tell him that maybe his troubles aren’t quite as innocuous as they seem.
Then she divulges a secret she’s kept for over twenty-six years . . .
Jason has a brother he doesn’t remember existed.
He doesn’t remember his life before he was adopted at age seven.
He only knows that he was rescued from the fire that took his birth mother’s life.
But the story is deeper than that, and the foundation on which he built his world is now cracking.
The brother he doesn’t remember it out there somewhere, left behind.
Armed with only this stunning new piece of information,
Jason embarks on a quest to find the truths buried deep in his past.
As he searches, one by one the pieces of his life fall like dominoes.
And the more he uncovers, the more everything he thought he knew
about himself and his past
begins to turn to ash.
His truth isn’t true at all . . .