By Maggie James
I'm delighted to welcome to my blog today Robert Bidinotto, author of the Kindle bestselling novel 'Hunter'. Set in Washington, D.C. during a wave of vigilante killings, it’s the tale of two strong, idealistic loners. Dylan Hunter is a crusading journalist with a mysterious past, working to expose outrageous leniency in the criminal justice system. Annie Woods is a beautiful security officer at the CIA, sworn to track down the unknown assassin of an Agency employee. They meet after a brutal criminal act of violence against mutual friends.
As the parallel investigations by the CIA and the police begin to intersect in surprising ways, Dylan and Annie fall passionately in love. But they don’t realize that the shocking secrets they’re hiding from each other are propelling them headlong toward shattering personal conflicts—or that a terrifying predator is targeting them both.
I can vouch for the fact it's a great novel. Now, on with the interview...
Thrillers for thinking people
You say that the failings of the US legal system formed the basis for HUNTER’s plot. Will future novels incorporate other areas of interest to you, such as environmental issues?
Maggie, my nonfiction background was writing serious journalism and commentary about current events and controversial topics. Now that I’ve turned to fiction, I find that I’m incapable of writing stories that do not have serious themes.
Because I write thrillers, readers have every right to expect, above all, entertainment—colorful characters in fast-paced plots with lots of action, romance, and suspense. But in a Bidinotto thriller they also will find provocative perspectives on important topics. My goal is not only to keep readers turning pages late into the night, but also to encourage them to rethink the conventional “wisdom” on various topics. So, call these “thrillers for thinking people.”
Let me stress that, in my stories, the action doesn’t grind to a halt while characters just sit around pontificating at each other. That’s boring. Instead, I weave important themes into the very fabric of the characters and plot. The conflicts, confrontations, suspense, and story resolution all revolve around the characters’ values and viewpoints. So, the reader’s emotional investments in the characters and their fates become part and parcel of the ideas.
That was my approach in HUNTER: It dramatizes corruption and leniency in the criminal justice system. But readers will find even more controversial themes in BAD DEEDS. It’s set in the environmentalist movement—another long-time interest of mine. But let me assure you, my perspective is not “politically correct.”
Place your bets: Reacher versus Hunter!
Let’s imagine a showdown between Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and your Dylan Hunter. Reacher has the brawn, but can he compete against Dylan Hunter’s brain? Tell us how Dylan Hunter would win!
Ouch. First of all, I love the Jack Reacher character and have enjoyed most of Lee Child’s thrillers. Second, fictional characters—whether Lee’s or mine—can do pretty much anything the author wants them to; so Lee and I can always imagine and invent ways in which Dylan Hunter could defeat Jack, or vice versa.
Now, if you’re asking about a physical confrontation between the very smart, very ruthless, and very large Jack Reacher, vs. the very smart, very ruthless, and considerably smaller Dylan Hunter—well, I don’t think the boxing commissioner would allow such a match. Both guys also fight dirty, however, and maybe Dylan would have a few tricks up his sleeve that Jack wouldn’t expect. Who knows? Either way, things would get bloody.
If your question is about something more than a physical fight—well, I’m sure that Dylan, with his money and background, could come up with a lot of high-tech spy gadgets to even the odds.
With its passionate love affair between Dylan and Annie, HUNTER marries crime fiction with romance. Do you see yourself ever joining the growing ranks of male romantic novelists? Or perhaps exploring other genres besides crime/thrillers?
Pure romance novels? Probably not. However, after I’ve given Dylan a good run, I do have ideas for novels outside the thriller genre. Stay tuned.
Ayn Rand and the Objectivist movement
To what extent has your interest in philosophy, in particular the Objectivist movement of Ayn Rand, influenced the character of Dylan Hunter?
All writers are products of past influences. From Ayn Rand’s writings, I’ve certainly drawn a romanticized outlook on life. I’m not a literary naturalist or so-called realist, in the sense of dramatizing a cynical, downbeat, or defeatist outlook. My heroes and heroines have moral codes and values; they are strong protagonists, not playthings of fate and circumstances; they make hard choices and pursue their values relentlessly, and with integrity; and most of the time they are victorious. So, that’s one way Rand has influenced me.
Another is Rand’s focus on justice. Dylan Hunter’s view of justice, and commitment to it, is unconventional and quite “Randian.” The justice theme was explicit in HUNTER, which dealt with the criminal justice system. But that same theme will be explored, in its many facets, in all the subsequent books, too. Justice is the philosophical thread that will tie them all together.
Stylistically, I think I owe some things to Rand, but to others, too. I’ll let readers draw their own comparisons and conclusions.
Does your interest in philosophy extend to spiritual and religious issues and if so, do you ever envisage writing fiction around those areas?
Yes, and yes. Although, given what I just said about Randian influences, some people might expect to be able to predict how I’ll approach these issues. They’re likely to be surprised.
Influences and vigilante action
What fiction authors and books have influenced your writing the most?
I hope nobody presumes that, in mentioning the following names, I’m suggesting that I write like any of these amazing authors.
For their influence on me in how to write stories built on substantive philosophical, psychological, and political themes, I’d say that, in addition to Rand, there is Shakespeare, Hugo, Dostoyevsky, Ibsen, Edmond Rostand, and George Orwell. I also love Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons—a dazzling play about intellectual independence and personal integrity. All these great writers demonstrated that you can entertain readers and say something important at the same time.
Two of my favorite thriller authors—Brad Thor and the late Vince Flynn—showed that you could also build nail-biting thrillers on serious political themes. Many other thriller authors have influenced me in terms of how to craft a gripping action tale and create memorable heroes. Besides Brad and Vince, I would add Lee Child, Stephen Hunter, and Daniel Silva to the contemporary top rank. I love the earlier novels of Jack Higgins, Nelson DeMille’s “John Corey” thrillers, the “Spenser” series by the late Robert B. Parker, the mysteries of Robert Crais (especially his Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novels), and the old classic thrillers and mysteries by Alistair MacLean, Donald Hamilton, and Mickey Spillane.
Of course, many, many other writers outside the thriller genre have influenced me over the years, from Charlotte Bronte to J.K. Rowling to Robert Heinlein to J.R.R. Tolkien.
You’ve made it clear that you do not espouse vigilante action. Have people tended to assume otherwise and if so, have you been wrongly criticised for this?
Some readers and reviewers wrongly assume that because I write vigilante fiction, I would endorse it in real life. I wrote an essay about this very topic on my blog, “The Vigilante Author”; here is the link.
The case for self-publishing
Would you ever accept a traditional publishing deal or will you stick with self-publishing? How do you see the future for self-published authors?
I plan to stick to self-publishing for a host of reasons. (I’ve described those here).
Today, an author will probably do far better by self-publishing. A publisher will take most of your rights and royalties, usually in exchange for a tiny advance. By self-publishing, you won’t surrender or share those rights and royalties with anyone. You also keep total control over every aspect of your book: its content, cover, pricing, and marketing. A publisher’s unilateral decisions about those elements can kill your book’s commercial prospects, which happens frequently.
Many writers think that a publisher will take the burden of marketing off their backs. Not true—unless your name is Grisham or Child or King. You’ll still have to do the promotion yourself. All that a publisher can do for you--maybe—is get your book into some bookstores for a couple of months, before it is remaindered and/or goes “out of print.” At a time when more and more bookstores are disappearing, and more and more book buying is moving online and toward ebooks rather than print, it makes less and less sense to hand over your precious manuscript to a publisher—then let them reap the lion’s share of the rewards forever.
The future for self-publishing authors is bright. Never has there been a better time to be a writer. No “gatekeepers” can keep you from being published anymore. You can publish as much as you want, as fast or slow as you wish, at whatever length, in whatever genre—or none. You have complete freedom now. That said, competition for reader eyeballs is ferocious. Competing with millions of other titles, your book had better be good, and you had better learn how to market it. I offer my own marketing tips here.
'Bad Deeds' - the next Dylan Hunter novel
Tell us more about your next book, BAD DEEDS. Any news about when it will be published?
BAD DEEDS is another vigilante thriller, the sequel to HUNTER. It’s on track to be released near the end of May. It features the same hero and heroine—Dylan Hunter and Annie Woods—and many of the same supporting characters. Here’s the basic story premise:
At a cabin in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest, Dylan and Annie seek to heal the wounds from their ordeal at the hands of Adrian Wulfe, the twisted psychopath featured in HUNTER. To build a life together, Dylan promises Annie that he’ll abandon his violent ways.
But ideological zealots and Washington’s political elites have conspired to terrorize and plunder the hard-working locals. These victims have no protector against the bad deeds of the powerful and privileged . . .
. . . except for one man. A man as ruthless and violent as they. Because in the face of injustice, Dylan Hunter cannot walk away—even if it costs him the woman he loves.
Introducing the gorgeous Luna!
Finally, I was very taken with the photo of your gorgeous cat, Luna, who appeared as a character in Hunter. Can we expect her to reappear in 'Bad Deeds'? Does she, with typical feline arrogance, consider herself your muse?
Luna not only appears in BAD DEEDS; she actually plays a pivotal role in the story. Really! If you want to see how a pet cat can help create serious, nerve-wracking suspense in a thriller, well, you’re just going to have to read the book.
And yes, the real-life Luna often lounges on a blanket at my office window, sunning herself, interrogating passing birds and squirrels, and voicing her literary advice while I write. It sometimes makes me self-conscious, I tell you!
UK Readers, purchase 'Hunter' here - click the Amazon link below
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