strong enough to die

How Caitlin Strong Was Born

on June 14th, 2011 in Blog Posts, Normal by | 18 Comments

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

What’s it like writing Caitlin Strong?