The author of thrilling Emily Graham series (Disruption, Distraction, and Disbelief), John Jamison has given some cool answers to these questions. I really love the reason for why he writes that he answered in Question#4, and as a reader of the series, I can say that he definitely succeeds in making the readers really think.
Disbelief is the latest book in the hooking Emily Graham series.
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1. How did you use different settings in the Emily Graham series to build suspense?
The only conscious thought I have given to the settings for the Emily Graham stories is that I wanted them to live primarily in the Midwest. I’ve read lots of stories taking place on the East Coast and West Coast, or maybe someplace like Chicago. There is nothing wrong with that, but I’ve spent most of my life here in the middle and have come to believe we can be just as interesting or crazy as those other places.
As for the specific settings in the first book of the series, Disruption, I started out only knowing that it focused on a towboat going up the Mississippi River. I opened Google Earth and realized that meant it must get started somewhere around New Orleans, and as I wrote the first chapter, I found out that I was right. From there, I just followed the boat as it went up the river.
The key setting of the second book, Distraction, was St. Louis because that’s where I had read about the landfill that sparked the story. The new book, Disbelief, did not begin with that same kind of pre-defined place, but Emily was in New Orleans when it started, so New Orleans it was.
2. What are some of the other locations you’d like the series to visit?
I, personally, would really like to have Emily have a reason to go to someplace like Holly Bush, Mississippi. I don’t know why, but it just sounds like a place Emily would enjoy visiting and I’m guessing no one has written a story about them yet.
3. How do you think Emily has matured or changed in ‘Disbelief’ since she was first introduced in ‘Disruption?’
I think Emily’s greatest growth has been internal. Not that much time has passed in the three stories, but she has been confronted by a lot of pain along the way. Her father’s condition, the death of a close friend, betrayal by more than one person she had placed great confidence in, have all made their marks on Emily.
She has always looked at the world and authority with suspicion and more than a fair share of sarcasm. But, I believe she has become even more reflective through it all, asking questions about her role in the agency, who she can truly trust and rely on, and if there might be room for another person in there somewhere. On the outside, she’s still Emily. Inside, she is becoming Emily Part Two.
4. What inspires you to write about these characters and stories?
There are two parts to this answer. First, I love a good story, and to me, the best stories involve authentic characters experiencing authentic situations. There is a magic that exists as I sit and write the words that describe the story I am watching unfold in front of me. My only conscious thought is to keep myself out of the way and make sure that I what write does not sound written but can be experienced by the reader first-hand. I write because of the magic, the discovery, the fun and surprise of it all.
Second, I write the stories I write because they are based on real things that either have or could actually happen today but are things we just aren’t talking about. We have so many vulnerabilities today, even in the middle of Nowhere, Illinois, yet we ignore them. We have major infrastructure weaknesses that one hijacking could turn into a disaster. We have towns and cities built upon radioactive and biochemical waste dumps that are a step away from disaster. We have built our lives around technologies that do wonderful things, but also could easily be turned against us with a few lines of well-placed computer code. Most of us do not even know these things exist even when they are buried right underneath us.
I write my stories, first, to entertain, but I also to hopefully lead to a reader say, “Hey, is this real? Is that landfill really there?” I believe we face some things that require some serious thinking about. It seems were are very good today at voicing opinions and responding to those we agree or disagree with, but I wonder if we are losing that ability to really think? My dream is that something in my stories might spark some thinking. Thinking is good.
5. You also write children’s stories under the pen name Pops Jamison. How does writing your process differ for those books?
My writing process is essentially the same. My first step for either genre is to allow an idea to ferment in my mind until it comes to the point where it becomes “real” to me. Once it is real, all I need to do is sit down, watch the story unfold, and write down what I see and hear. It’s the same for both. My children’s books are shorter, but I have to be more careful with language since my young readers can be so literal at times. I can use fewer words and let the illustrations do their part. Fewer words means less time spent editing, but more time picking and choosing the absolute best word to spark the synapses. But the actual writing itself process is pretty much the same.
6. What’s next for Emily?
Emily’s number one rule for life is to NEVER ask “What’s next?” The question has never, ever, led to anything good. All I know right now is that she is ready for whatever the next story brings.
Have an awesome time reading the series.