How Caitlin Strong Was Born

on Jun 14 in Blog Posts, Normal by

The origin of Caitlin Strong, arguably my greatest and most complex hero ever, owes itself to a conversation my editor Natalia Aponte had with one of the heads of sales at Tor/Forge, my publisher.  They were discussing the state of the genre and bemoaning the fact that with all the thrillers out there, bought predominantly by women, there wasn’t a single female thriller series hero.  Not one.  Sure, there were lots of women heroes driving less action-oriented mysteries, but nothing akin to what I like to call a female Jack Reacher after Lee Child’s seminal creation.

Well, after Natalia relayed this conversation to me, a light bulb went off in my head.  I was looking for a new theme and potential series hero, something dramatically different than the Michael Tiranno “Tyrant” character I was coming off of in The Seven Sins.  That was truly an over-the-top-book, as many great thrillers are, and the last thing I wanted to do was another just like it.  I wanted instead to work with a character who was more conflicted, flawed, down-to-earth.  I’d always wanted to write about the Texas Rangers, having long been fascinated by their well-earned reputation for being badass lawmen and gunfighters.  So the light bulb that went off shined squarely down on the notion of featuring a female Texas Ranger in the first of what I already envisioned as a series.

Making Caitlin a Texas Ranger, and a fifth generation one to boot, provided instant credibility for her character as an action hero.  She’s got a past she’s not too proud of and the first book in the series, Strong Enough to Die, opens with her sorely searching for some form of redemption she finds by going up against an evil Haliburton-like company called MacArthur-Rain for reasons more personal than professional.  As always, I knew very little of this when I got started.  Things just started falling together and if you asked me where it all came from, I honestly couldn’t say. But I knew I had something here that I’d never experienced before and Strong Enough to Die left plenty of room for Caitlin and Cort Wesley Masters, a man she wrongly put in prison and ultimately falls in love with, to grow and develop.

 

The second book in the series, Strong Justice, as a result, was even easier to write. And this one similarly allowed me to introduce another staple in the series:  a historical flashback subplot woven into the fabric of the story and intricately tied to what’s happening in the present.  In Strong Justice that subplot featured Caitlin’s legendary Ranger grandfather Earl Strong ridding a lawless Texas oil boomtown of criminals and, finally, gangsters dispatched by Al Capone himself.  Strong Justice also featured a renegade Mexican colonel plotting a guerrilla war against the United States and, just as importantly, Caitlin’s ever-deepening relationship with Cort Wesley and his two teenage sons.

Which brings me Strong at the Break, the latest and best of the three so far, featuring a radical right-wing militia out to start a second Civil War.  The politics of that aside, this is an intensely personal tale for Caitlin since as a teenage girl she witnessed her father kill the leader of a similar separatist movement.  Years later, it’s that man’s very son she has to stop from spilling blood in streets all across the country and the nature of their conflict takes the book to a whole new level.  Strong at the Break also features a parallel investigation Caitlin’s conducting into drugs being smuggled through Indian Reservations over the Canadian border (Did you know that more drugs come into the country that way every year than over the Mexican border?  Not many people do!).  There’s also this young Iraq war veteran at a rehabilitation facility in San Antonio claiming the army’s trying to kill him, and a white slavery ring operating out of Mexico.

Yup, a lot going on for sure and everything, ultimately, ties neatly together.  That’s my tried and true formula but it’s never worked better than in Strong at the Break.  In fact, let me go out on a limb and promise this will be the best book you read all summer.  It’s taut, exciting, and altogether impossible to put down.

So happy reading and let me know if you agree at www.jonlandbooks.com.

What’s it like writing Caitlin Strong?

18 Comments

  • Hassie Gaugau says:

    I’ve finished all three now and as you said, STRONG AT THE BREAK, is the best of yours as well as the BEST book I’ve read all summer. I am also a Jack Reacher fan and am breathlessly waiting for the next in both of your series. I have read some of your other books but I guess having Catilin as the heroine made this my favorite of yours. I’m hoping that there is more to come with Catilin and Cort Wesley. Thank you for your insight on so many different fronts. The religious/militia aspect was especially enlightening. I wish everyone could read this and see just what can happen when these groups come to power.

    • Jon Land says:

      Hassie: So sorry it’s taken me this absurdly long time to respond to you–I didn’t realize people were leaving comments and am thrilled that you did. Your comments go the heart of what I’m trying to accomplish with the Caitlin Strong books and I know you’ll be first in line when STRONG VENGEANCE comes out on July 17. And here’s some breaking news to compensate for waiting a year for me to respond: I’ve just agreed to terms with Sony Pictures to develop a television series around Caitlin and based on the first entry in the series, STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE. You’ll also be happy to hear that I’m well into next year’s book, STRONG RAIN FALLING, which is looking great. Keep reading and stay in touch . . . and next time, I promise it won’t take me this long to respond! Jon

  • This is a great series! The colorful descriptions of the areas where Catilin goes in her battles are on the money. I am always on the lookout for new series to read, and I am anxiously awaiting the next book in this series! Keep up the good work, and God Bless You!

    • Jon Land says:

      Marianne: You made my day. It means so much to me that people now see this as a collective series and are enjoying the character as well as looking forward to her continued return: first this July, less than a month from now, in STRONG VENGEANCE and then in summer of 2013 with STRONG RAIN FALLING. And you can look forward to seeing Cort Wesley, his sons, and, of course, everyone’s favorite Guillermo Paz in both books as well. You keep reading and I’ll keeping writing! Jon

  • Stacy says:

    This series is amazing! I am about three chapters away from finishing Strong at the Break and am an avid reader of all Jon Land book.

    I was just getting ready to order a few new books and came across news that a new book (Strong Vengeance) in the Caitlin Strong series is due in July 2012! Ill be pre ordering that and can not wait to read it.

    Until July Ill have to start some other new Jon Land books.
    Thanks for writing such great works!

    • Jon@Land says:

      Stacy: You are amazing for posting such nice words about Caitlin and her adventures. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that STRONG VENGEANCE will be your absolute favorite yet . . . until the summer of 2013, that is, when you pick up STRONG RAIN FALLING! More good news: Next November I will at long last be bringing back my first series character, action hero Blaine McCracken, in PANDORA’S TEMPLE for Open Road Media. The book will be available in both electronic and trade paperback editions and it will be very interesting to see how the much-missed Blaine is received after 15 years. I like to think some of Caitlin has rubbed off on him. We’ll see! Jon

  • Rita says:

    I just happened upon “Strong Enough to Die” I am so happy to get on here and find out that I have 2 more to run out and buy! Yaaay! Looking forward to reading them! 🙂

    • Jon Land says:

      Rita: It’s always such a special treat to hear from someone who just happened upon me, probably in a drug store or supermarket where one of my paperbacks was prominently displayed. New readers are the life blood for a series like this and you’ll be happy to know that Caitlin returns in July in STRONG VENGEANCE, her biggest, and hopefully best, adventure yet. Let me know what you think after you’ve had a chance to read it. Jon

  • Jon Land says:

    Stacy: You are amazing for posting such nice words about Caitlin and her adventures. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that STRONG VENGEANCE will be your absolute favorite yet . . . until the summer of 2013, that is, when you pick up STRONG RAIN FALLING! More good news: Next November I will at long last be bringing back my first series character, action hero Blaine McCracken, in PANDORA’S TEMPLE for Open Road Media. The book will be available in both electronic and trade paperback editions and it will be very interesting to see how the much-missed Blaine is received after 15 years. I like to think some of Caitlin has rubbed off on him. We’ll see! Jon

  • Dan Starr says:

    Jon, I think you taped into something with Caitlin Strong in STRONG AT THE BREAK. I have quite a few friends who are as angry as I am over what is happening right now, a topic you dealt with very well indeed. I am hearing a lot of “ballot or bullets” talk out there and it scares me. I support action, just not the kind that brings violent revolution. So, although you probably thought you were simply writing a “thriller” I’m here to tell you that you also were helping diffuse a really bad situation by illustrating the problems of armed insurrection.

    • Jon@Land says:

      Thanks, Dan, ever so much for the very insightful comment. You know, this is the first book I’ve ever done where I’ve really worn my politics on my sleeve and kind of let it all fly–a kind of venting process over how much I detest the Tea Party and everything they represent among other groups. You wouldn’t believe how many angry e-mails I’ve gotten from people who (a) wouldn’t finish the book and/or (b) assured me they’d never read another of mine. Maybe that proves my point. Even I didn’t buy into the whole notion of what I was writing with Arno and his militia movement, but then you listen to these people talk and you think, “Maybe I wasn’t so far off.” Indeed, so many of these crazies want to take us back to an entirely different time and plenty have never stopped fighting the Civil War or, as it’s called below the Mason-Dixon line, “the war of aggression against the South.” Go figure and feel free to e-mail anytime directly at jonlandauthor@aol.com.

  • ScubaMom says:

    Wonderful series!! I am a native Texan and can hardly wait for the next one to come out.

    • Jon@Land says:

      Hey, ScubaMom, what a great e-mail and I’m so glad you’re enjoying the Caitlin Strong series so much! The latest, STRONG VENGEANCE, is out now. I know you’ll love it but one thing to be aware of: I totally screwed up the geography of Galveston Island. Didn’t do enough research, though I thought I had, and the result is for me an inexcusable lapse. Doesn’t detract from the great story, though–just grit your teeth when you get to those parts and let me know what you think after you’ve turned that last page. Enjoy!

  • Janice Judd says:

    I just happened to find your books at the library and lucky for me they had the first three in your Strong series. I am looking forward until they get Strong Vengeance. Love the series and I think they are pretty true to what we may all be facing. I hope that this series last a long time and again I love these books they are the ones I just can not put down and usually read straight through.

  • coach g says:

    Are there any moe Catlin Strong novels in the works after Strong Vengence?

  • sidney orr says:

    I just finished Strong At The Break, and am already looking for the most recent – Strong Vengeance (?) – I loved it, – the plot did it for me…and am hooked on the Western+Texas Ranger+Thriller hooks/allusions……but…. hope that you move either toward a strong Robert Parker and/or Patterson-Clancy tendency toward more allusive and slightly picaresque settings, and slightly more persuasive/fuller characters…

  • żźżąłę says:

    są umiejętne oddać suma transakcji matrymonialnych, kolektywnie spośród indywidualnymi, jeśliby obejmują iż apostolstwo się na nie dostarczy im szczegółową pomoc.
    Stanowią fantastycznie oziębłe i jeśliby właściwie ostatnie potrafię sięgnąć
    – bezwarunkowe. W 4 kazusach na 5 przystępnie porwane zatrzymaniem roszczeń do uzbieranego groszu.

  • Jonathan Lucas says:

    You know you are just another real big fascist writer that has no interest for free speech. What about when government colludes with big business? That’s a danger, too. You can detest me all you want, but proves my point that you are intolerant and just as prejudice as any right or left wing bigot. I’m not angry, I’m just frustrated with the lack intellectual honesty coming of people like you and your ilk. Big business is never conservative, so get your facts straight, please. When a company grows out of proportion it’s not free market and it’s never Capitalist. Adam Smith warned about that.

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