In an effort to get his very reluctant 11-year old son to get interested in reading Jeff Gunhus wrote his first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter. Since then, Gunhus has become a bestselling author of thriller and horror novels for adults and the middle grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. As our Author of the Day, Gunhus talks about his novel, Killer Pursuit, shares how he juggles writing with being a father of five and reveals why he creates quiet moments in his books.
Please give us a short introduction to what Killer Pursuit is about
Killer Pursuit follows FBI Special Agent Allison McNeil as she searches for a dangerous serial killer in Washington DC. The killer’s most recent victim is a high-society call girl with video cameras set up in her room. Everyone in DC wants to find the film footage. Allison seems to be the only one focused on finding the killer.
Tell us a bit about your journey as an author. What inspired you to start writing and what is it that kept you going?
As a kid, I grew up in Greece, Cyprus and Saudi Arabia. We had no TV with English programming so I spent my time lost in books. Over time, I wanted more control over the worlds I visited, so I began to write my own stories. That impulse stayed with me throughout my life.
How do you juggle the responsibilities of being a father of five while making time to write?
I write between 5-7:30 every day. It’s before the kids get up and I also find that when I’ve half-awake I come up with some of my craziest ideas. The reason is that I’m somewhat prolific is that I write pretty much every day. Even if it’s a half hour while sitting on the gym floor at my 7 year-old’s basketball practice, I make time. People say they don’t have enough time to write, but they do. It’s like saying you don’t have enough time to eat. You figure it out if it’s important enough to you.
What inspired you to include hidden cameras in this thriller?
I liked the idea of politicians being caught with their pants down, literally. I thought it would be interesting having people looking for the footage from the cameras for potential blackmail, other people on the film wanting to reclaim the footage to protect themselves, and then Allison in the middle of it all just trying to bring justice for the murdered girl.
Killer Pursuit is a very action-packed. How do you manage to keep the pace, keeping readers at the edge of their seats?
The action comes naturally. What I work on more is making sure to include the quiet moments to have readers feel for the characters. Action for the sake of action gets boring, I think. So I try to build the characters out so that it’s clear what the stakes of the action are for each person. Allison’s relationship with her dad are the scenes I receive the most emails about and they are the quietest scenes of the book. That gives me the space to then blow things up and cause complete mayhem elsewhere!
Did you plan out the twists before you started writing or did some of them just "happen”?
A combination. I do outline my books before I get going, but I’m not rigid about the outline. Often, the most fun part of writing is when a character does something unexpected. Sometimes these detours are fun but don’t function in the overall story, so they get cut. But I still write them to explore what might happen.
Tell us a bit more about Alison McNeil. What makes her tick?
Allison is a complicated character, driven by her hardwired sense of right and wrong, but alienation in a the still-a-man’s-world inside the FBI. She continues to deal with her rape while she attended the US Naval Academy and how she was let down by that institution. That experience, and her experience in the FBI, have made her cynical of institutions, but not cynical about her country. I like to say she’s tough, smart, flawed and unstoppable.
The story is told in alternating voices. Why did you pick this approach?
As a writer and a reader, I enjoy walking in the shoes of different characters and see their unique view of the world. I’m not a fan of omniscient point-of-view, so alternative voices gives me the experience I want during the creative process.
Politics are an important theme in this book. Why?
It’s part of setting. I live just outside of DC, so politics permeates everything. I find the machinations of power interesting, especially how human imperfections and weakness play just a large role in the behavior of our leaders. It’s fun to be a fly on the wall and imagine how these conversations happen.
What are you working on right now?
I’m in copy-edits on a new thriller with sci-fi elements and just finished the first draft on a new horror novel.