Jetsam follows a divemaster collecting water samples who stumbles upon terrorists and smugglers putting her life in danger. What was one of the hardest parts of this novel for you to write?
My concept for the series has always revolved around evolution. Each book takes place in a new setting (first, Palau in Micronesia, then Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, and now in Thailand and Myanmar), brings in both new characters and prior characters in expanded roles, and, most critically, Ricky Yamamoto’s evolving personality and ability to interact with others. In this book, I chose to bring some of Ricky’s vulnerabilities to the forefront. This series is written in the first-person, requiring I put myself into the head of a narrator struggling with a crisis of confidence. It was an uncomfortable space to live in as I wrote and refined the book.
Some events in the book were chillingly similar to real-life events. Did you take any inspiration from real life when developing this book?
I love to research. I spent quite a bit of time researching the various locales, issues, and people before deciding where and when this story took place. Each book in the series weaves some sort of environmental or social issue into the story line. In the case of Myanmar, I had so much to choose from. As I wrote, and deepened my research, the story changed dramatically to integrate what I found to be a more interesting and less publicized aspect of the events of the past decade.
How do you balance story development with shocking plot twists? Or can they be the same thing?
As often as not I’m also shocked by the plot twists. Although I tend to loosely block out the book, I seldom know which character will be taking a given action and how others will react. That often leads to twists I never expected. I try to let the story write itself and I enjoy going along for the ride. So, yes, absolutely, they are the same thing — at least when it involves a Ricky story. I seldom know what that woman is going to get into next.
I hope the series continues in other books. If so, where will the story take readers?
The fourth book, Lagan (it is a real word and related to Flotsam, Jetsam, and Derelict as a term related to shipwrecks), finds Ricky back home in Hawai’i. But her itchy feet lead her on a deep adventure to the bottom of the Bikini Atoll, a Cold War scar, site of dozens of nuclear tests, and resting place for a ghost fleet of ships committed to the deep during those tests.
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