When I was growing up in the 80s, there were a few very popular TV and movie trends that defined the entire decade. Miami Vice with their pastel suits and neon lighting. The A-Team with mohawks and chains. There was, of course, Rambo, stuntman-bounty hunters (my personal favorite!), and…NINJAS. I can’t even begin to tell you how big ninjas were when I was growing up. And every kid in my neighborhood wanted to be one. Well, you know that didn’t happen…at least for me. But some people…well, I guess they’re a bit more disciplined than me. Some people actually grow up to follow their dreams of being a dark clad ninja…and one of those people is today’s featured author, Jon F. Merz.
But ninjas are only part of what makes Jon an interesting author to introduce you to. There is, of course, also vampires. That’s right…in a world of sparkly vampires that make teenage girl’s pulse pound, Jon has created a real “man’s man”of, um, the vampire world. We’re talking like a major kick-butt, commando/spy/hitman vampire known as Lawson!
His most recent Lawon Vampire novel was just released this month and it was this release that prompted me to introduce you guys to this very innovative approach to the darker fanged vampires of literature.
Here’s a bit about what the newest Lawson novel, called THE KENSEI, is all about:
Meet Lawson. A cynical, wise-cracking vampire charged with protecting the Balance between vampires and humans, he is part cop, part spy, and part commando — James Bond with fangs. Lawson mixes shrewd cunning with unmatched lethality to get his job done. He tries his best to dismantle conspiracies, dispatch bad guys, and live long enough to get home. In The Kensei, a battle-weary Lawson heads to Japan for a little rest and some advanced ninja training. But he no sooner steps off the plane than lands in the midst of a Yakuza turf war orchestrated by a shadowy figure known as the Kensei. With the help of Talya, a former KGB-assassin, Lawson must put a stop to the Kensei’s organ trafficking networks, prevent the creation of an army of vampire-human hybrids, and save his own skin in the process.
Here’s the book trailer for THE KENSEI for your enjoyment!
Sounds great, right? Well, you can pick up a copy of it right here! You know you wanna!
Anyway, the first Lawson Vampire novel came out a few years back by Kensington. It’s called The Fixer. Here’s the product description for it as well:
A cynical, wise-cracking vampire charged with protecting the Balance – the secret existence of a race of LIVING vampires that have evolved alongside humanity for thousands of years.
Part-spy, and part-commando — James Bond with fangs. Lawson mixes shrewd cunning with unmatched lethality to get his job done. He tries his best to dismantle conspiracies, dispatch bad guys, and live long enough to get home.
The name’s enough to make Lawson go ballistic. The last time they tangled, Cosgrove butchered fifty people. Now he’s back in Boston and the Council wants him dead. But Cosgrove has other plans.
An ex-KGB assassin with secrets of her own, and skills to match Lawson, she wants revenge and doesn’t care who knows it.
An ancient legend. A whispered myth. And if Cosgrove has his way…an inevitable reality.
And there have been many other Lawson books since. Including: The Invoker, The Destructor, and The Syndicate. There have been a number of other Lawson short stories and novellas too and you can find them in ebook form through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Recently, had the great fortune to talk to Jon about Lawson, vampires, ninjas (boy, I don’t get to use those two things in a single sentence often!), writing, and the plans for Jon’s future. Here’s what he had to say:
1) Your latest book, The Kensei, was just released this month. It’s book five in your Lawson vampire series. Tell us a bit about Lawson and his world. For those who may not know the premise of this series, tell us a bit about it.
Lawson is a member of a race of *living* vampires that have evolved in secret alongside humanity for thousands of years. When many bands of early man slew mighty animals and drank their blood believing it gave them the beast’s power, early vampires did the same – just with the blood of humans they slew in battle. Over time, this ingestion of blood changed vampire bodies to the point that they distill life essence from the blood – what you’d call ki in Japanese or chi in Chinese. This infusion of life force energy enables the vampires to live much longer lives and have more strength and agility.
Lawson himself is a Fixer – divinely chosen from birth to be one of the elite few who protect the vampire world from discovery by human. Part-spy, part-commando, Lawson is a whispered rumor in his society – James Bond with fangs. He’s who the Council calls when someone steps out of line and threatens to expose vampires to the rest of the world. But Lawson is very much his own man; forever questioning his place in this universe. He’s morally conflicted a lot of the time, but rapid-fire quick with one-liners and killing moves.
At the end of the day, Lawson tries his best to put the bad guys away, dismantle conspiracies against his people, and live long enough to get home.
2) A vampire/commando/spy…a very intriguing concept…especially in a world of sparkling vampires. Where did the inspiration for Lawson and his world come from? How did the series come about?
Lawson was born in a short story I wrote back in 2000 called “Past Imperfect.” It was a perfect combination of my two loves: espionage novels and short horror stories. At the time, I was out on Zoetrope.com trying to improve my craft using feedback from other writers. A bunch of people read the story – loved it – and suggested I turn it into a novel. I took a year to flesh it out and turn it into a novel. In early 2001 I landed my first agent who sold it to Kensington by May in a two-book deal. Now I had a sequel I had to write. And then in October, she sold two more books on the back of a very nice blurb that the late Robert B. Parker gave me. So now I had four books. But things didn’t work out with Kensington and the series got dropped. I never stopped believing in it, though, so in the interim, I wrote more Lawson material – short stories, a novella for Myspace, and a fifth novel. I kept searching for a new home and in 2009, found a great editor over at St. Martin’s who actually *got* the series, and Lawson. And now, we’re hopefully going to do a whole lot of books together.
3) What are some of your greatest influences (whether authors, books, TV, or movies)?
I grew up reading a ton of stuff. I lived down the street from a huge botanical park, so my summer days involved hitting the library early and then settling in over at the Arboretum with a pile of books and the warm breezes keeping me company. I loved being transported in the pages of other people’s adventures, so I suppose it was only natural to want to do that myself some day. Simultaneously, movies like Star Wars had a huge impact on me – that sweeping epic – although I really enjoyed The Empire Strikes Back even more. TV shows like SWAT, The Rat Patrol, and later, The Equalizer were all very important to me as well. As I grew older, David Morrell’s excellent Brotherhood of the Rose really became something like a model blueprint for me to follow as I tried to craft my own thrillers.
Aside from entertainment, my martial arts training has had a huge impact in my life. That and my military training have taught me exactly what I’m capable of doing if I put my mind to it.
4) I’ve already shared a few of the Lawson books with my readers in the body of this blog post. What other books/stories have you written outside of Lawson’s world? Can you give us some details about these?
The first ebook I ever published was Parallax, a psychic suspense espionage thriller that details what happens when two professional assassins kill at the exact same moment and find themselves mentally linked with each other. Vicarious is a supernatural thriller about an ex-FBI agent tracking a serial killer he comes to realize is actually intent on resurrecting Satan. Ninja is a prequel story for a fantasy series I hope to find a home for. And I’m currently polishing up a MG/YA boys’ adventure series that I really want to find a great home for.
5) Now from what I understand, you are a real life ninja! How did this come about? How many years have you been training? What prompted you to train in this particular discipline?
I grew up being bullied quite a bit, so I eventually tired of having to deal with it. It was one of those moments where you say, “right, enough of this crap. I’m pretty sure this isn’t how my life is supposed to be.” I started looking through Black Belt magazine, thinking about taking something, but then I happened upon an article of these supposedly superhuman dudes called ninja. How they could vanish in a puff of smoke, kill with just a touch, and bend time and space to their will. Wow. Talk about making a first impression. I was sold. But at the time, there was no one teaching this style in my area so I had to content myself with a variety of other styles (for which I’m glad since it actually makes me appreciate different systems a lot more than I would have otherwise). Eventually, 20 years ago, I found my teacher in Boston -Mark Davis of the Boston Martial Arts Center-and haven’t stopped training since.
Authentic ninjutsu is so much more than the stereotypical silliness you see in movies or on TV. Of course, that was what hooked me initially, but as I grew to learn more, I found it to be a truly fantastic system for self-protection. That said, the system has a lot of idiots in it-people who can’t even throw a basic punch and have what I affectionately cal “Obi Wan Kenobi Syndrome” where they want all the supposedly mystical powers without ever doing any of the “grunt” training that is necessary to survive. Needless to say, if you’re interested in ninjutsu, you have to be very careful of who you study with. Between the scam artists and the idiots who have some ridiculously high level black belt with only five years in the system, it can be a challenge. I’m very lucky to have as wonderful a teacher as I do.
6) Besides writing and ninjitsu, what other things do you like to do? What other projects (outside of the literary world) do you have going on?
I formed a production company with my good friend Jaime Hassett to take the Lawson Vampire adventures to the television world. We’re producing the series completely outside the Hollywood framework and we’ve already assembled a fantastic cast & crew here in New England. Really talented folks like Brandon Stumpf, who plays Lawson, and many others. We’re looking to start shooting the pilot episode over the next month or so. Once we have that in the can, we’ll sell broadcast rights to the show and keep going.
Otherwise, I love spending time with my wife and two sons. If we’re not otherwise busy, we like going out for a late meal on Saturdays and enjoying some great dinners.
7) Now I know you just now released The Kensei, but do you have any other books you’re currently working on that our readers can look forward to in the future?
St. Martin’s is releasing book 6 in the series, THE RIPPER, next Spring. I need to get that written. I’m also finishing up an early Lawson novel called The Madagascar Matter. And my free newsletter is running a serialized Lawson piece called Mission: Malta. You can sign up hitting my website at http://www.jonfmerz.net
That’s the great thing about Lawson’s world. Given his longer lifespan, I can dip back and forth throughout his timeline and write more adventures, introduce more characters, and have some crazy fun. It’s pretty nice.
8) Finally, if you could offer just one piece of advice to aspiring writers out there, what would it be?
Work. And then work more. And harder. Don’t just throw crap out there. Publishing is changing. I write both traditionally published books and ebooks. I make my income from ebooks sales and regular books sales. It’s tough navigating those waters, but before you even contemplate that task, make sure you have a right to sail them. This isn’t the path to get-rich-quick. Work on your craft and your ability to tell a great story populated with interesting characters. Then deal with the business end.
But if this is really your dream, then never let anyone kill it. Don’t give them that power. If you want it, go get it.
Thank you, Jon, for a fantastic interview. We wish you the very best of luck!
If you want to learn more about Jon and his books, then check his website out here: http://jonfmerz.net/
. And be sure to pick up THE KENSEI and all of Jon’s novels! I have a feeling, you won’t regret it.