I loved J.S. Law’s debut Tenacity, and I’m thrilled to have him on the blog today! He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the book, and more!
I thought it was brilliant to use your knowledge of submarines and life in the Royal Navy to write such a compelling mystery, and the opening scene is chilling. What made you decide to make your protagonist a female? Will you tell us more about how Dan evolved?
Hey, I think Dan began as part of a short story competition, which I didn’t win, with a set theme – it think it was ‘Women in a Man’s World’ or similar – so I wrote the story and created Dan in an embryonic state. I actually left her for a while then and went to write some other things, revisiting when I decided that I wanted to write a series set in the military, and that the first one would be submarine set. I loved the submarine environment as being the ‘Ultimate Locked Room’ setting, and so I wanted to put a character in there who could be the ultimate outsider. In this very male-dominated world, Dan seemed like the obvious choice. She’s female, a police officer, not qualified or experienced in the environment, so it felt like the makings of a really great story.
I hope I was right in calling it when I said that Dan exhibited symptoms of PTSD. I thought that her reaction to violence was very human, yet she had to keep much of that to herself as a woman in what is largely a man’s world. Did you do any research into psychology in order to realistically portray a character like Dan?
I did read a lot in this area and I wanted to make Dan complex and a little insular. I wanted her to be a very smart, driven woman who was comfortable in her own skin, and so didn’t really try to please others, or indeed care whether they liked her or not. Through that attitude, it means that Dan has to deal and cope with things alone, or at least she feels that way a lot of the time.
I also wanted her experiences to have shaped her. Her family, for instance, are loving and supportive; her sister is very different from Dan – she’s an open book emotionally and happy with her lot, living a life very similar to her mother’d before her – so all that happens to Dan is what makes her how she is. I won’t do spoilers, but Dan will need to change and grow as she meets newer, more complex challenges, and she’ll need to look back and face a number of things from her past if she’s to have peace in the future.
Dan relates better to men socially, so I thought that was interesting contrasted with her reticence at the thought of being in close quarters with the men on the HMS Tenacity. Was that intentional?
Dan relates to certain men quite well. I think they tend to be men with attitudes similar to her father’s–he raised her after her mother died when she was very young–and also men that she has come to know quite well over a number of years. I also think she has reason not to trust men, but in the environment she works in, she has little choice but to face that and work through it.
This is a really great question, and one I haven’t analysed as much as I thought I had. But thinking about it now, she is a conflicted person and this is one of the key conflicts. The majority of her key support network is male, not all of course, and she trusts them as much as she trusts anyone–but I think in time we’ll see more females come into that circle, which I think will help Dan to develop and move forward from some events that still trouble her from the past.
You mentioned on your website that you’ve been writing for a while. What’s one of the first things you can remember writing?
I wrote all sorts when I was very young. I have ‘secret’ notebooks from when I was as young as 10 full of song lyrics, poetry, story ideas etc. I also wrote a lot of essays and short stories. I always erred towards dark stuff too – one of my first pieces of creative writing work, for school English, I think, was about a girl running from attackers. I seem to recall my teacher ‘having words’ with me about it…
What authors or books have influenced you the most?
Author influences are many. When I realized I wanted to write crime and thrillers I looked at my bookshelves and wondered why it took me so long to arrive at that conclusion. My shelves are full of Patricia Cornwell, Lee Child, Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, James Patterson, Peter James and the list goes on. I’m also a massive fan of Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancey; these were the people who were influencing me and still do. I re-read a lot, so if I want to get something particular I might pick up the Bourne Identity for the action and plot, or William Macillvanney, Laidlaw for sense of place, Cormak McArthy for dialogue and tension – there are just so many good books about that I feel a little guilty re-reading, but sometimes it’s just what I need.
If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
One book for the first time…….. Silence of the Lambs. Just fantastic.
Have you read any good books lately? Anything you’d recommend?
I have read some very good books lately!
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh is coming to the US in May next year and I’d recommend that – I thoroughly enjoyed it and it’s twistier than Chubby Checker and the Fat Boys when they actually do the twist.
I really enjoyed The Martian by Andy Weir. Maybe it’s the science background, but I loved every minute of that.
There’s a great book called A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan that I stumbled across and really, really enjoyed; it’s very chilling!
And I’m currently enjoying I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes.
There are some great books around at the moment.
I feel there’s so much more to explore with and about Dan and I’d love to get to know her partner John Granger more. I’m also hoping to see more of Felicity Green, the criminal psychologist that Dan bonds with. Do you have more books planned?
I definitely have more books planned and I’m working on book 2 at the moment. I think John and Felicity are key characters in the series, so we’ll definitely see a lot more of both of them. Each of them brings something very different to the relationship with Dan and, all together, I think they’d be a formidable trio. In book 2 we’ll see Dan needing both of them and, as I said, she’s going to need to learn to trust the people around her if she’s to survive.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Thank you very much for having me on the blog – it’s much appreciated and I do hope that your readers enjoy the book.
Two hundred meters below the ocean’s surface, you can’t run, you can’t hide, and the truth won’t set you free.
An officer hangs himself in the engine room of naval submarine HMS Tenacity. A woman’s murder bears disturbing similarities to an old case. Lieutenant Danielle “Dan” Lewis grasps for the truth before it submerges in the gray waters of the English Channel.
Cramped, claustrophobic, and under strict command, the confines of HMS Tenacity are unwelcoming in the best of circumstances. For Dan, the only female aboard, who must methodically interrogate a tightknit and hostile crew, it’s her own special place in hell.
Recently reassigned to the Special Investigation Branch’s Kill Team, Dan’s hardheaded reputation precedes her. But facing an obstinate ship’s company, a commanding officer too eager to close the case, and a constant threat of unfriendly male interest, she learns that under enough pressure everyone has their breaking point.