Last week, Rick Nichols’ third John Logan spy-turned-private-eye thriller, THE SHELTERING TREE, was released by Seven Realms Publishing and it occurred to me that, although I’ve interviewed Rick before on this blog, you guys might not be aware of the story behind John Logan. I realized that there is most definitely a story to share here…a story of true dedication to the dream of writing. A story of how a fictional character can take on a life of their own, latch onto the writer, and annoy the crap out of them until the tale is finally told. A story about just what happens when an author doesn’t give up on their dreams. And apparently, a story about the power of a McDonald’s milkshake. lol
I also realized that there are many who now follow this blog that have never read a John Logan story. To be honest, that’s sad to me. These books are so much fun. A tribute to the classic hardboiled detective tales of yesteryear. Shades of Mike Hammer, Sam Spade, and Spensor…with a mixture of Jason Bourne or Burn Notice. No, if you’ve never read any of these books, you owe it to yourself to do so and I wanted to make sure you were aware of them.
But as I mentioned before, I have already interviewed Rick before, so I decided to do something a little different with this post. Instead of asking him a series of questions, I simply asked one question of Mr. Nichols: Can you tell us the story behind John Logan?
The following is his response. Enjoy!
In 2010, my first novel Survivor’s Affair, introduced the world to former spy turned private detective John Anthony Logan. The fact that I was even writing a novel was lost to most of my family; only my closest friends and my wife really knew of my love of writing. With the publication of the book and subsequent two sequels, I’ve been asked many times about the process. How did I create John Logan? Where did he come from? What was the process?
First off, I’ve been writing since I was a child. I loved writing, drawing my own comic strips, telling stories. I loved sci-fi as a kid and many of my childhood tales took place on spaceships with lasers blasting and ships zooming through the stars—oh, it was fun stuff. As I got older I turned to the pulp paperbacks of the day, specifically The Executioner series by Don Pendleton. His prose was magic to me and really got me interested in writing. Don gave me the spark.
|Book 1 of the series|
When I was in college I began to get an idea for a character named John Logan. I’d read The Ninja and Black Heart by Eric van Lustbader during this time, and I was struck by how his unarmed combat scenes were so effortlessly written. Having had a martial arts exposure in junior high and college, I’d had an idea for a novel involving a character skilled in martial arts, but had always found relaying the combat scenes to be frustratingly hard. Lustbader showed me the key and Logan began forming in my head. I knew he would have been raised in Japan, but not be Japanese. He would be an outsider there—something I felt as a kid—and that he would also be a widower. I felt that his struggle to come to terms with the loss of his wife provided a window into his soul.
The novel wouldn’t come. No matter how hard I tried, it always ended up in the trash can. Looking back now, I realize that I had not found my voice yet but I was still too naïve and ignorant to know that writers even had a voice. After college, I went into the military. Again I tried. Logan became a futuristic elite soldier fighting deadly alien invaders. I kept his Japanese background and his dead wife but his world had been changed drastically from the original concepts. Again, the story went nowhere. Disillusioned and frustrated, I shelved the whole novel idea, reverting back to writing short scenes and ideas for my own private pleasure, never to let them see the light of day. I wrote sci-fi, horror, fantasy, even an erotic thing or two, but kept them hidden and personal.
And still, John Logan haunted my head, nagging me, refusing to release my imagination.
On New Year’s Day, 2000, I sat at the keyboards, trying once again to breathe life into Logan. By now, Mason Killian had also taken shape, the result of a short detective story I’d written about a former CID agent turned PI. He’d needed a sidekick and Mason Killian had appeared in a café booth. The story didn’t pan out but the character of Killian impressed me with his taciturn manner and sunglasses.
My daughter, nine years old at the time and wise beyond her age, asked me “Are you still trying to write that stupid novel?” (See, I told you she was beyond her years.) When I said yes, she said with a smile “I’ll bet you a chocolate milkshake you won’t have it done by Christmas.” She marched off and I sat staring at the blank whiteness before me, knowing she was probably right. My eye fell on a nearby copy of Raymond Chandler’s works. I love Chandler. And an idea struck me. Since I loved the hardboiled detective novels so much, why not make Logan a PI? Keep his spy background but maybe he quit the spy game to be with Shikira and became a PI but she’s dead and….
I began to type. By the second paragraph, I knew I was onto something. The first draft bore no resemblance to the book that appeared ten years later. I bought a few books on writing (Barnaby Conrad’s book on how to write fiction was the first and I still love it to this day.) I joined a local writers group and shared snippets of my novel and was surprised to find their insights supportive, their critiques accurate, and their encouragement invaluable. I finished a second draft and revised it many times. It was slow and frustrating but something wonderful was happening. I was finally learning the craft of writing a novel.
In 2009, I got a phone call. A fellow who remembered me from the writers group was starting his own publishing company. He wanted to publish my Logan story; could I send him the manuscript? I did and we went to work on it again, polishing, honing it. Whole scenes were edited, deleted, or moved. Logan’s motivations and actions were questioned in certain scenes, forcing me to either change it or defend him. Along the way, I learned more about Logan, discovered new layers to him, events from his past, things that still remain known only to me but they are there, an integral part of his makeup.
As I write this, I am working on the fourth installment in the Logan series. I have explored new aspects of him–his relationship with Killian and Teri and touched upon some snippets of his past. For me, Logan is so easy to write because I know everything about him. If you asked me, I could tell you his date of birth, give you a complete history of his life, what car he drives (never mentioned in the books so far), and other things not revealed yet to his legion of fans.
That, I think, is the essence of creating a good character. The more you know about them, the easier it becomes to know how they react to any situation. Yet, Logan has surprised me on occasion to the point where I’ve stared at the screen and went ‘huh?’
Almost three decades ago he appeared in my head while I sat in a college library and has been with me ever since. It’s been a long journey but I’m glad he stayed around and was so patient with me. We have much more to do together.
Rick Nichols is the author of Survivor’s Affair, The Affairs of Men, and The Sheltering Tree featuring private detective John Logan. You can find out more about him at his website www.ricknicholsonline.com
Thanks so much, Rick! I truly appreciate you taking the time to do this guest post this week.
And readers, I hope you will take this opportunity to pick up your copy of the John Logan books! They are available in print wherever books are sold, as well as all the different ebook formats (Kindle, Nook, iPad, Sony, etc.).
Here’s the link to his latest book, THE SHELTERING TREE through Amazon Kindle: