"Mr. Whitehill, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions and extinguish some curiosity. Dog & Bitch Island is riveting and takes the reader on a thrill ride. While writing this story-line, what things do you focus on to keep the reader intrigued?"
"I need to write plenty of action to keep the reader (and myself as author) intrigued by the story’s progress. Yes, a novel is the one place a writer could stretch out the interior monologues of the characters, but there needs to be plot twists, and plenty of mayhem to keep up the pace. It’s not a thriller if the main character takes long, soulful, introspective walks in the forest. There’d better be a sniper behind a tree, or a pitfall trap, or a rabid bear pretty darn close by to keep the adrenaline flowing."
"Snipers...bears...traps. Sounds right up my alley. Tell us, Mr. Whitehill, a little about your research or experience for the accurateness in the military and law enforcement processes. What background fun facts can you give us?"
"To keep the military and police procedures as accurate as possible, I spend plenty of time researching on the internet. I also have contacts at the FBI who are very generous with their time informing me of leadership hierarchy, and the roles of folks at various strata of the organizations. To learn about the Bermuda Police Service in regard to Dog & Bitch Island, I must to give a shout out to the many officers there who fielded my questions. That said, any errors are my own by oversight or intentional invention."
"I like how you cover all the important details. How are you molding Blackshaw's character with each book in the series? For example, you portray real life struggles and flaws. It is like we read along with the life shaping events. He is not a perfect character like some authors have written into their books. Tell us more about that."
"Blackshaw is flawed. He makes mistakes. He’s got his wife, LuAnna, and good friend, Ellis, to work with him on being a better person, but there is always friction; he has too much animal force in him to go along just to get along. If there was ever a burnt gunpowder aftershave, you’d swear Blackshaw wore it.
In the first book, Deadrise, I had to establish Blackshaw’s credentials as former military with an investigator’s mind. His conflicts with his own neighbors on Smith Island were almost as deadly as with his sworn enemy, Maynard Chalk. I mean, even after five titles, Blackshaw is still a roughhewn guy, but now, mixed in with his Viking Berserker’s savagery in battle, we’re also seeing he is capable of great tenderness. As the books progress, a growing sense of darkness lurks in his soul because of what he must do during the missions to survive; that’s balanced by the light that comes from a deepening of all his relationships, and greater self-awareness."
"I think you passed all that onto the reader quite well. This animal force...beast mode...sounds primal. I guess we all might have some of that deep down. Are you get emotionally attached to these characters? What decides their fate?"
"I am quite emotionally attached to my characters, the good and the bad too. To develop an excellent character whom Blackshaw readers will care about requires that I really flesh them out and make them real. No one will feel anything if they are two dimensional cardboard cutouts. They need full backstories, worries, and goals. Even antagonists get up in the morning believing in what they must do. It’s just that in their moral chemistry, a bad person puts his own needs before the needs of the many, and the laws that shape them. They’re human.
I let the course of the plot dictate who lives, and who dies. For a time I fell under the sway of a Game of Thrones style of storytelling, in which characters are drawn really well, and then killed off for the emotional boomerang, the shock such deaths might give the reader/viewer. I have since found it more challenging to keep a character alive to see how much worse I can make things can get, and to deepen the emotional impacts without killing somebody off. That’s an art. Sometimes, death is too good for an evil character. If I keep them alive, I get to make them suffer longer for their disgusting ways, and Blackshaw is right there to help me do it."
"Excellent strategies to keep us sucked into the moment and waiting for the next adventure. [giggle] I like the part about keeping evil alive. Dangle things and prolong suffering. Sounds justifiable. What is next for Blackshaw?"
"Dog & Bitch Island took Blackshaw et Cie far from home, ringing the Atlantic with the smell of blood and gunpowder. In Blast, which I’m working on now, the threat is once again much closer to home in the Chesapeake Bay, and it has the potential to drive all the Smith Islanders from their beloved archipelago forever. The only problem is it’s the dead of a hard winter, and the Chesapeake is locked up in solid ice."
"Sounds like an iceberg of danger, death, and damnation. I would join Blackshaw in that adventure, you know. I love snow. "
[rolls eyes and sips his coffee]
"Mr. Whitehill, what do you want your readers and Blackshaw fans to gain the most from this book in the series?"
"Glad you asked. In Dog & Bitch Island, it’s absolutely about LuAnna Blackshaw stepping forward into the missions in true 100% partnership with Blackshaw and Ellis. There is so much more to her character in this book, from how her advanced pregnancy reshuffles all her priorities, to how she uses her investigative skills now that they aren’t fettered by being in law enforcement anymore. She cuts up rough. She has always been a key character propelling the plots, and shaping Blackshaw’s character evolution, but in Dog & Bitch Island, she really comes into her own. I would not be surprised if LuAnna got a full novel all her own soon."
"I noticed her role was evolving. She is a very likable character. Keeps Blackshaw in line. Were there surprising directions in character development in Dog & Bitch Island? Were you always sure of the path of the story-line and characters? If not, what changed?"
"Over all, I was sure from the start that all the relationships in Dog & Bitch Island would deepen in intimacy. But there is a significant death in the story; and it’s quite surprising how profoundly it is affecting readers. I have heard that sometimes when someone recovers from a serious illness, they experience a sense of loss or even grief for the illness, because horrible as it was, it took over and shaped their lives completely. When it’s gone, the patient has a difficult time reorienting toward what it is like to be well again. I don’t know if that is true, but some of the characters have that strange response to the death of someone very toxic and dangerous, who has been a fellow traveler on this journey with them for a long time."
"Just putting down a book after the final chapter is difficult and feels like the death of a good friend. When you kill off intense or great characters, it kills me. Not that I matter. But I just wanted to pass that along in case you want to take it easy on us in the next book. Anything you would like to add?"
"As always, I want to thank you, Momma Fargo, for your continued interest in Blackshaw and his growth, both as a franchise, and as a character. I have a feeling he might run into a character very like you at some point down the trail. "
"All be darned. A possible doppelganger. I hope she is awesome. Don't make her look like a boob or have her wear impractical shoes for the operation. But if you do, name her Delilah or Heather. Those names are more appropriate for that type of character. If she is fantastic I think Fargo or Kathryn are fitting. Final words?"
"I hope all of your tremendous readers dive into the Blackshaw series this spring and summer. The print books and ebooks are available pretty much everywhere, even at www.Walmart.com now! The titles in order are Deadrise, Nitro Express, Tap Rack Bang, Geronimo Hotshot, and Dog & Bitch Island. It’s been so much fun to discuss Blackshaw with you today."
"Thank you, Mr. Whitehill! It has been my pleasure!"