“From Marseille to Islamabad at breakneck pace… it’s kill or be killed for Ryan Drake and his team
Ryan Drake, once a decorated field operative, is now wanted for treason. On the run from the CIA’s corrupt Deputy Director Marcus Cain, he has spent the past six months in a remote French safehouse. Drake’s former life seems to be behind him, but the uneasy peace is shattered when Cain moves against him with startling force.
Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan is faltering in the wake of a devastating suicide attack. Cain though has a plan to find and destroy al-Qaeda’s top commanders. And nobody will stand in his way.
Backed into a corner, Drake turns to the deadly but unpredictable Anya – once Cain’s most promising agent, now his most bitter enemy. With tensions running high and their uneasy alliance threatening to tear itself apart, Drake’s hastily assembled team travels to Pakistan to intercept Cain.
With the fate of the War on Terror hanging in the balance, loyalties are tested and scores settled, as Drake embarks on the fight of his life. Only one side will survive…
From the bestselling author of Black List and Deception Game, Ghost Target is the sixth Ryan Drake thriller, and an incredible tale of deception, desperation, and ultimate betrayal.”
I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Ghost Target blog tour. Ghost Target, written by Will Jordan, is book six in the Ryan Drake series of novels and was published by Canelo last month (July 2016). I haven’t come across Will’s main protagonist, Ryan Drake, before but I’m thrilled to have a copy of Ghost Target on my mountainous TBR so look out for a review in the near future.
Will has very kindly written a guest post for us today. So, without further ado, I will hand you to over to Will:
Writing an ‘Espionage Epic’
I was on my Goodreads author page a couple of months ago, answering a reader’s question about my Ryan Drake series, when something rather interesting happened. He made an astute and, to me, quite startling observation:
“It helps that you’ve constructed what could be called an “espionage epic” of sorts, only instead of Gods and legendary warriors, you’ve got spies, killers and large intelligence services “
I’d never quite thought about it in those terms before, but the more I mulled over that comment the more sense it made. I had, in effect, taken an epic fantasy series structure and transported it into the present day thriller genre.
So how (and why) on earth did I end up doing such a thing? Well, even though I’d committed to writing a series of thrillers about covert operations, conspiracies and hidden conflicts, there were certain things that had come to bug me about this genre – the biggest of which was the reset button effect, where characters basically don’t change from book to book. Their experiences – good and bad – don’t affect them in a meaningful way. They just continue as they always have, bounding from one adventure to another.
This wasn’t for me at all, because it’s not how real people act. Real people are constantly changing and developing, growing and learning from the things they’ve seen and done. Traumatic experiences often leave deep marks that go far deeper than physical scars, while important lessons can inform the way they respond to future situations.
In short, I wanted a series based around real people.
A human hero
One of the things many reviewers have picked up about my main character Ryan Drake is that he’s surprisingly human and vulnerable compared to many heroes in the genre. He doesn’t have the brute strength and unflinching machismo of Jack Reacher, the fearless bravado of Dirk Pitt, the deadly skills of Jason Bourne. He can make mistakes, he can be misled, he doesn’t always have all the answers or know how to prevail in every situation.
Why did I make him this way? Because I knew his development as a character was going to unfold gradually over a series of many books. If I made him near perfect right from the start, where did I have left to take him? How could he change and grow and improve?
No, I wanted to take a different approach with my protagonist. In fact, I wanted to do the same with all of my recurring characters. Why? Because for me, that’s the joy of writing a series – depicting not just the action, but the effects of that action on those involved.
A tiny example is that during my first novel Redemption, Drake is disarmed and threatened by another series regular Anya (an older and more experienced operative). On the face of it, this seems to be nothing more than a brief, violent encounter between these two characters. However, two books later Drake is able to use exactly the same technique to overpower an opponent who’s got the drop on him. He’s learned from his experience, and is able to put those lessons to good use, gradually becoming stronger and more capable as a result.
By the time of Ghost Target, my sixth book, Drake has become tougher, more jaded and cynical than ever before. He’s more of a threat to his enemies than he’s ever been, but his experiences have left him questioning what he’s actually fighting for, what he and his companions have risked and sacrificed so much to achieve. It isn’t until the war comes very suddenly and violently back into his life that he realises there can be no walking away from the life he’s chosen.
Getting the balance right
“As someone who despairs at the fact the complex ‘serialized arc’ format is under attack by readers, I commend you for being an author not afraid to have a grander vision than just making stand-alone closed loop plots for your novels, and instead, make a sweeping tale with a unifying arc.”
The quote above pretty much sums up my entire thoughts on the Ryan Drake series.
For me, any story has to constantly feel like it’s building towards something. This applies both to individual novels, and also to the series they’re part of. Every book is a stepping stone on the path to the ultimate end of the series, the pieces of a larger puzzle coming together. Not only is there an overarching storyline to my books, but a complex backstory involving most of the major characters whose details are gradually expanded and fleshed out. Again, it’s important for me to show that every character isn’t just influenced by events in the present, but also that they have a life and a history all of their own.
Of course these books need to be able to stand on their own merits, to tell their own stories, and I always try to include enough background to put their events into context for first-time readers, but I believe the Ryan Drake series is a far more rewarding experience for those able to enjoy it in its entirety.
And when it’s finally over, well, I hope I can look back on it as something truly unique.
Thank you, Will. You’ve made me look forward to reading Ghost Target even more thanks to this fascinating post. I may also need to add the first five Ryan Drake books to my wish list (just don’t tell my other half!).
Will Jordan is a British thriller writer, born in Fife, Scotland in 1983. His works to date include:
Redemption (Ryan Drake 1) – 2012
Sacrifice (Ryan Drake 2) – 2013
Betrayal (Ryan Drake 3) – 2014
Black List (Ryan Drake 4) – 2015
Deception Game (Ryan Drake 5) – 2015
After graduating high school he moved on to university, gaining an Honors Degree in Information Technology. To support himself during his degree he worked a number of part time jobs, one of which was as an extra in television and feature films. Cast in several action/war movies, he was put through military boot camp and weapons training in preparation.
Having always enjoyed writing, he used this experience as the basis for his first thriller, REDEMPTION. He was able to supplement this with visits to weapon ranges in America and Eastern Europe, as well as research trips to Washington DC, London and New York.
For his second thriller SACRIFICE, he was able to interview members of the British armed forces who had served tours in Afghanistan. His fifth novel in the Ryan Drake series, DECEPTION GAME, was released in November 2015.
He lives in Fife with his wife and two sons.