Hey guys. Thank you for joining us at the Coffee Time Romance & More. Today I bring you the charming Mr. Jac Wright, if his characters are anything to judge him by, *winks* to discuss his book The Reckless Engineer. The subject is suspense so it will be a slightly different interview then we normally do since I have loads of questions to ask and things to know before he goes. *evil grin*
So let us begin the interview. Mr. Wright, thank you so much for taking time out and joining us. Please first help yourself to the yummy sweet and salty goodies in front of you and with your favorite beverage ranging from coffee, tea, and hot chocolate to delicious shakes and smoothies; sit back and make yourself comfortable before I bombard you with questions.
I just finished reading The Reckless Engineer and it was refreshing change from the mysteries normally available in the market. I love love love the descriptions of Portsmouth. Made me want to convince hubby to pack the bags and shift there. *winks*
Please tell our readers about the premise of this book and the characters?
LOL. I wanted to set the first story of THE RECKLESS ENGINEER series in Portsmouth because both my mother and I love the city and the surrounding beautiful Hampshire countryside. Portsmouth is also the birthplace of Charles Dickens whose work I love. My mother loves Dickens and one of the earliest memories I have is of her reading Oliver Twist and David Copperfield to me as a child.
I also knew I was going to set the series around an engineering environment and that my series lead was going to be an engineer like myself. High drama, power struggles, and human interest stories play out in these high tech arenas every day. Yet there are hardly any books that tell their stories; there are not many books that they can identify with. I feel compelled to tell their stories in this series.
The plot of the actual story is derived as the complement of the plot in my short story, THE CLOSET. Both books look at the troubles my protagonist can get into because he acts blinded by passion and romantic love. In THE CLOSET I am right inside my protagonist’s head telling my reader how it feels for him. In THE RECKLESS ENGINEER I hardly give my protagonist, Jack Connor, a voice, keeping him in custody for most of the book. Instead I explore how his actions impact the people around him: his family, friends, and people at his work.
What made you pick the title, The Reckless Engineer?
I took the word “reckless” from the word “reckless abandon” with which my protagonist acts. Of course this is in large part a drama series centred around an engineering firm that is closely associated with a solicitors’ legal firm and my series leads and some protagonists are engineers.
Are the characters completely fictional, loosely or completely based on someone you know or yourself?
The series lead, Jeremy Aiden Reid, is based a lot on me, or rather what I should like to be. He lives the life I want and I live it through him. A lot of my life experience gets into my other characters, but in a very disjointed way mashed together with purely fictional parts which makes the end result fictitious. For example I might pick some parts of a personality from someone I have known, some mannerisms from a stranger I might have seen at a mall, and the looks of a TV actor, all put together with an entirely fictitious set of circumstances.
The whole story including the title is revolving around engineers and their adventures. My question is why an engineer? Why not the lawyer fighting the case or the P.I. or even a detective?
I am an engineer and some of my best friends are engineers, and I specifically set out to write a series of drama set in the field. The only hero in fiction I can think of who is an engineer is Barney from the Mission Impossible TV series. There is Q from the Bond series, but he is an old and geeky supporting character working from a bunker. There are so many legal and medical dramas, but where are the dramas centred on engineering firms? I wanted to bring an engineering drama to life, treated for an audience not familiar with the profession the same way that legal and medical dramas are.
One important reason I wanted to create a hero like Jeremy was to attract youngsters to the field. I have deemed this particular story to be for an 18+ audience because it deals with infidelity in the plot. The future books in the series, however, will be very YA friendly. I want young adults to know how entertaining, satisfying, powerful, and glamorous the engineering field is so that they will be attracted to the profession.
I quite deliberately shy away from any stereotype sleuth in literature who is self-important and egotistical and over-dominates the "episode story" (ie in this book the story around the murder, Jac Connor, and his family). If Jeremy is like any other character in literature, it is Watson in the Sherlock Holmes series, the highly skilled and qualified professional amateur who is an apparent bystander. However, here he is the amateur sleuth.
An engineer would make a very strong amateur detective. They have brilliant, sharp, and analytical minds that are trained to absorb minute details in the environment. They are strong problem solvers and solution creators; solution creation to difficult problems is what engineers do in their day to day work. If you put a problem or a question before an engineer his mind will switch into solution seeking gear and the question will bug him until he can find an answer, until he comes up with a solution that will surprise those around him. An electronics engineer also has the means and the skills to build gadgets like hidden miniature cameras, miniature microphones, and other electronics surveillance equipment. They are mechanically good with their hands and can, for example, work mechanical locks as well as electronic ones. They have the capacity to hack into anything via software. This is why Jeremy is going to be a super amateur sleuth.
True true.. This is certainly what I found refreshing about this book.. I think the ‘engineers’ might be the new hot stuff after this.. *grin*
I read that you are a published poet and also write short fiction series. So what made you venture into the genre of murder/mysteries and write a full-length novel rather than stick to poems and short stories?
The short answer is that it was inevitable natural progression. I started writing poetry and then progressed to short stories. By 2008 I had a collection of about 20 poems and 12 short stories. My short stories all have an element of suspense very similar to Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. And I then just woke up one day and wanted to start writing a full-length series.
Becoming an engineer requires lots of passion and dedication. Electronic and electrical engineering is one of the toughest subjects of engineering to the best of my knowledge and not for everyone. So what made you move to writing instead of continuing in your professional chosen field or rather not go for literature in university instead of engineering? How did your field help you in your writing career?
I have not given up engineering. I am a specialist in electronics as well as Machine Learning (or the so called Artificial Intelligence) algorithms and I am coding a Wavelet Neural Network as we speak. I have always had one foot in both literature and the sciences. My mother enrolled me in Trinity College Speech & Drama classes when I was 3 which I attended and studied poetry, drama, literature, and creative writing every Saturday and some afternoons for 14 years. All this time I was studying the sciences to be a medical doctor at school. In 10th grade I realized I loved mathematics and was really good at it and therefore I rebelled and chose to read engineering subjects for A Levels and University.
Stanford, where I went to undergrad school, has a strong Liberal Arts program and a culture that stresses that you can be equally good at subjects that are considered opposites of each other. And hence I took creative writing through my university years also and kept on writing. I intend to keep both activities going right through life. I would feel some part of me missing without either.
*Whao! Amazing.. Best of luck with your WNN venture.. Would love to read about it in your future books too..*
I am curious to know what was your family’s response to your wanting to write professionally? Are you still working as an engineer full-time? If yes, does it interfere with your writing?
My mother loves it. She has always been an addicted classics reader and wants me to stay with writing more literary fiction. However, I also have a bit of my father in me who got me addicted to crime fiction and crime production series like Tales of the Unexpected (based on Roald Dahl’s fiction), Perry Mason (Earle Stanley Gardner’s fiction), Mission Impossible (the TV series), and adventure series like MacGyver as a child.
I take on engineering subcontracts which gives me more freedom with structuring my time, but I am always pressed for time––I always need more time to write.
I know a number of engineers, including my hubby, but I have found them more to be nerdy, serious types who while do have a sense of humor but their sense of adventure is pretty lacking. Sally and Jeremy do not fit the perception of what an engineer would be like. Was it deliberate making them like that, or it just happened?
I have worked in engineering for years and there are different kinds of characters in the field as in any other. I have known engineers who have different side interests like playing in their own punk rock band; some I know rebuild and drive classic racing cars, brew beer, and lock pick as hobbies (at university any one of us who got locked out of rooms or cars used to call him), love skiing, do surfing and boating, are singer songwriters etc. I can actually name at least one real engineer that has an interest above. You’d be surprised how adventurous I am myself and I am a living example the stereotype is not right.
I think Jeremy’s close association with Harry, his best friend who is a barrister, throws him into this situation and he rises to the occasion with the typical engineering mindset of wanting to solve the problem at hand using whatever resources he has.
*Ah! That might be it.. Now I do recall one of the engineers I know being a really good musician and another really good writer & poet.. I missed these details in the serious work discussions.. My mistake..*
I could not understand the charm of Jack. He is one lucky chap; has gorgeous, intelligent women falling and fighting over him, two intelligent kids, in-laws willing to cover up his flaws, a job most people would die for, amazing loyal friends and yet he could not help straying each time. What is wrong with him and the women losing their heads over him?
It is true that Jack Connor is cast in a nerdy role. He is somewhat smaller in build and his psychology is that he overcompensates for it by going after glamorous and vivacious women, a much more dangerous way of getting through a midlife crisis than buying a Ferrari as it turns out. Ha, ha. He is, however, brilliant, charismatic, amiable, funny, a great friend, and sexually charged. There are women who are attracted to these inner qualities although he is not exceptionally good looking. Caitlin, for example, is attracted to him because his parents approve of him as well as to his brilliance.
The first time round he got sucked in by the money and the glamour and dumped Marianne to marry into money. However, Caitlin has too strong a personality for him. Haunted by a long lost love a part of her is unemotional and “frozen”; she does not love him passionately like she loved her first guy and Jack senses this.
Jack has this midlife crisis and he thinks he can get away with the affairs. It is like, when males and females work closely together sometimes something just clicks and things turn to romance without your realizing it. Can women and men really be friends without any underlying sexual tension, be it either attraction or aversion? That is the question. The Freudian theory is that we cannot, and I agree with the theory in large part. Look at the world. There are ministers, presidents, and royals that get into big messes because of romantic love. There are parts of us humans that work at a much more primal psychological level that defies intellectual logic and reasoning.
I like Jeremy. He is a much better guy then Jack yet he does not have women falling over him, career is in almost shambles till Jack comes into the picture and is obsessing over his ex, for reasons known only to him. Whyyee?
I think that some of the women who fall all over Jack fall for his big money. Jeremy is not as rich and has not married into family money. Also Jeremy is much better looking and much more confident in himself, and he does not have Jack’s need to go after women for reassurance and for his own self confidence. So he is more selective with women and lets them know he is not interested by his behavior and body language. Women do fall for him, as you know half way through the story when Annie comes into the picture. Maggie though strings him along, never really letting him go. She is a doctor, and Jeremy values her intellect. Jeremy has been in that relationship for a long time. Long time relationships don’t just stop cold turkey a lot of the time. The phrase that sums up that relationship is “a slow pull on the plaster off the raw wound.”
The Jeremy, Maggie, and Annie triangle is in a slow build-up here and will come to the foreground and play out in the next book.
The recession hit the economy of London and the South of England hard and companies were struggling because clients were not buying high tech items that were considered luxuries. I wanted Jeremy and his story to convey the difficulties of a small engineering firm struggling through the recession and coming out of it well like some of small firms have done by the skin of their teeth while the others have had to file for insolvency and shut down. So there is some socio-economic commentary in the book there.
*That must be what I liked about him.. His resilience and confidence despite inner turmoil..*
Your characters are somewhat relatable with their flaws and everything though I admit we mostly want to read larger-than-life, more fictional than real heroes, I still like them. Was it difficult to write them? Do you purposely invent challenges for your characters? If so, what were some of them?
I studies Freudian and Jungian psychology during Stanford’s Liberal Arts program and I have kept studying it over the years. When I build my characters I give each one an overriding psychology and keep him or her true to it through the book. Sometimes they struggle against it because of demands of the people around them and from the pull from their own conscience, but they will always remain true to their overriding psychology and personality in large part.
I do create challenges for them. In the next book––BUY, SELL, MUDER––I am putting my characters in a grand plot in a London branch of a very unlucky American Investment Bank plagued with money laundering, LIBOR fixing, and algorithmic trading glitches. To top it off we start off with a heist while Jeremy is trapped above the ceiling wiring his new CCTV security system, modelled on the Great Northern Ireland bank Robbery. So my protagonists and supporting characters must rise to the occasion, though not in a way that will be out of character for them or go against human nature and psychology.
I am also prominently developing my larger-than-life character, Otter, as Jeremy’s sidekick in the next book.
*Wow! Sounds interesting..*
Tell us about the funniest experience you’ve ever had.
The rhythmic movement of trains put me to sleep, especially after a hard day’s work. I used to live in the suburbs of West London at one time and take a one and a half hour train ride into and out of the city centre for work. You’d be amazed how many times I have slept past my stop after work and gone half-way through England towards Bristol before waking up. The ticket inspectors were very good to me and they never charged me once, but put me on the next train in the reverse direction. Soon I was on first name basis with most of the ticket inspectors on the line. At one time they were even saying I was suffering from narcolepsy. Needless to say I didn’t try to enlighten them otherwise.
For a debut novel in suspense, you did an amazing job. I could not keep the book down till almost the end. It kept me guessing in the Whodunit game. The characters, the motives and the coincidences were intricately woven to not give away the plot till too late. I admit, the only time I figured the whole thing out was in the last 7 chapters and then I smacked my head, *Why didn’t I see this earlier?!*
Thank you so much. You have made my day. :^)
This book has received rave reviews from all over including Amazon’s top 500 and top 1000. Most of them say exactly what I feel regarding this book. This is remarkable start for any author. What were your initial expectations regarding the reviews for this book? How did you celebrate the very first glowing review?
I emailed it to my parents and called them. My short story was also much loved. One of my readers wrote to me how much she loved it and wanted me to keep writing that series because she is dyslexic and found it difficult to follow long novels. I actually cried.
*Awww.. That was a very sweet and the one of the best heart-touching feedback..*
How did you find this genre in terms of writing? Do you find short fiction drama easier or suspense or both are pretty much same?
Full-length books are more time consuming to write, but short fiction writing requires you to develop a character and make an emotional impact with a very economic word-count which is very difficult. They are both equally challenging, or easy, in their own way. Believe it or not poetry is extremely difficult, much more challenging than fiction. Just getting a poignant point into one page and also handling the imagery, rhythm, and the rhyme is amazingly hard.
*I will certainly not argue that.. Always found poetry the most difficult and annoying to write in school..*
How difficult is it to incorporate suspense & action for a good believable story? Does it require outlining the story beforehand; go with the flow or both? Any misconceptions you faced while writing suspense? Was adding a touch of romance easy?
Suspense and action fiction comes naturally for me. I grew up with it because of my father’s influence. I never outline anything; that is too clinical for me. I write as and when inspiration hits me. Generally, for me, the core idea of the story for a book comes inextricably interwoven with the main characters in the story in a moment of sudden inspiration. The story is very powerful when this happens.
For example, I woke up late on a warm summer day last June with an image of a fugitive escaping and running away from an overturned van transporting him to court from prison that had met with an accident. Prisoners wear normal clothing in England, not orange jumpsuits, and they are not in chains. He runs into the crowds and a bus parked behind a mall to hide among the people only to find that it is a film set. The actor playing a main character of the movie and the director are having a fight. The actor suddenly punches the director in the face who falls backward. My protagonist fugitive hiding among the supporting film crew catches him and breaks the fall. The director gets up, wipes the blood off his nose, fires the main actor loudly, and asks him to get out of his movie set. He turns to my protagonist and asks: ‘You there, what’s your name?’ ‘Art Miller,’ he gives a fake name. ‘Art, you are playing Michael Fallon. His trailer is yours now. Go with my crew and get dressed.’ And there I have the plot, the main characters, and the first chapter of my standalone book to come, In Plain Sight.
From this point I create my characters, give each one an overriding psychology, and let them drive the story forward organically. I use my training in drama for the scene setting, because each book is a set of 50 or more dramatic scenes. And I use my training in poetry to adorn the prose.
Romance––i.e. writing the love scenes––is much more difficult for me. My family background is very conservative and one “did not speak of such things.” I have always also been a classics and literary fiction reader because my mother loves to read them, but I have read very little romance. So I have had to pick up the skills along the way.
*Hahaha.. Count me first in line for the ‘In Plain Sight’ book then.. The image and concept sounds so much fun..*
How far are you willing to go for research? Have you for instance, done the things you had your characters do in the Reckless Engineer to add authenticity to the scene to make it realistic for readers?
Oh yes. I have a best friend who is a barrister and I have followed him, and his solicitors, through their cases from initial arrest, to prison visits, to appeals to capture and write the legal aspects of the book. I have trawled through legal books for hours with him. I provoke people to test out and capture their emotional reactions. I have volunteered backstage at a London West End theatre to write the scene introducing Otter. I am currently looking to volunteer in a movie production to write the rest of In Plain Sight.
Splendid! You are one cool author.. *grins*
Any other writing projects you are currently working on? Blurbs, sneak peeks? Any plans on trying out other genres?
In Plain Sight described above is in the works. So is Buy, Sell, Murder (The Reckless Engineer #2). I have The Bank Job (Summerset Tales #2) also half written.
Which characters will we be re-visiting in the consecutive series of the Reckless Engineer? Can we expect spin-off to this series and some happy endings?
I think we have happy endings in The Reckless Engineer for Jeremy and for each of the love stories in the book. The wrongdoers get punished, but not excessively.
Yes, Jeremy, Harry, and Otter carry the series forward. Jeremy’s love triangle with Maggie and Annie comes to the foreground and plays out in the next book and one of them will be joining Jeremy through the series.
What books/authors were your favourites as a child and what characters stand out in your memory from them today? Would you or have you incorporated that character in your stories as a tribute or inspiration?
I loved Charles Dickens’ books and a lot of delightful characters stand out––Mr. Micawber, Artful Dodger, Peggoty, David Copperfield’s Aunt, Betsy Trotwood etc. I created the Dickensian character Magnus Laird especially in honour of Charles Dickens. I loved Agatha Christie books in my teens though her characters are not that deep; they are more plot driven books than character driven books as you know. Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. Enid Blyton’s mystery and suspense books. Earle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason series. I read a lot of classics too: Wuthering Heights, Emma, Mill on the Floss, Lorna Doone, etc.
When new authors start out, I imagine it can be rather daunting and a bit stressful to fit in and get to know fellow writers. Have you found your writing career to be an easy adjustment? Any personal experience you want to share with them about your journey?
I have loved the experience and have found myself embracing it. Only lack of time keeps me from doing more of it. I am not very confident in person or face-to-face, but getting to know other writers and readers as well as bloggers online has been really a great experience. I don’t particularly like some of the acidic and militant exchanges going on on the Internet; so I have avoided such people, sites, and blogs, but those have been only a few. I have met really great friends online. I find myself a little uncomfortable with the word “fans” because it carries connotations of a one-way relationship. It is not one way for me at all. I learn a lot from them and enjoy the exchanges. So I consider them friends.
*Yes I have heard about such sites and blogs too but fortunately have not come across them.. Sweet.. Am sure the readers would be delighted to hear this..*
Any last comments or message for all your readers out there and us, here at Coffee Time Romance and More?
Seize the day. “Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future; concentrate the mind on the present moment.” - Buddha
Well with that thought-provoking quote we will sign off. Thank you so much for taking time out to spend time with us here at Coffee Time Romance & More and giving us more insight to your books and writing. I really enjoyed and hope you will join us again. Best of luck and success to you. Readers I hope you also enjoyed as much as I did. I cannot wait to read other books by Mr. Jac Wright. The author email and website is on the top of the page. Am sure he would love to hear from you all. We would also love to hear your feedback. See you next time with another great author.