J.T. Brannan : Extinction (review + Interview)

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JT Brannan is the Bradford-born author of Extinction, Origin and Stop at Nothing.

Trained as a British Army officer at Sandhurst, before deciding to pursue a writing career, he is a former national Karate champion and doorman.

He now writes full-time, and teaches martial arts in Harrogate, where he lives with his wife and two young children.

He is currently working on his next novel.

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 An extraordinary discovery in the Sahara desert will turn history on its head…

A series of unexplained phenomena create shockwaves across the globe – a huge religious statue moves its arm, and there’s a spate of floods and earthquakes. Many think it’s the end of the world…

Investigative journalist Alyssa Durham receives a call from an old friend claiming that these phenomena may not be entirely natural, but when he is assassinated in front of her, she finds herself on the run for her life.

Alyssa teams up with Jack Murray, a scientist from a secretive government research laboratory, to uncover the truth. But who wants them dead, and what are they trying to protect?

As chaos descends, Alyssa and Jack are drawn into a battle against an unknown enemy with the highest possible stakes, because one thing they’ve learnt is that nothing is safe from extinction..

Review

I had high hopes for this book and it didn’t let me down. When I first read the authors debut book Origin I found myself initially a little incredulous at the scope of the book. But then I re-read the book and found myself marvelling at the brass balls of the author, his ambition, drive and imagination to cover so many of the unanswered questions in the world, so many conspiracies under one book cover.

That however gave me a set of expectations for book 2, and initially my first read didn’t deliver that same ballsy scope, but then instead it delivered a quality thriller, and built to a world defining action packed book. One with great characters, ambitious global implications, high octane action and some very tight sparse fast paced writing.

As per book one JT Brannan keeps the reader guessing throughout the book, the edge of the seat action means that the book can easily be a single sitting read, 400 pages goes so fast. Its a real testament to the writing style, skill and the plot of the book.

I’m not going to explore the plot its self, the product description gives enough flavour, anymore is too open to spoilers. Suffice to say, nothing is as it seems, big brother is watching you, and nothing is to crazy and idea, it may just be true.

(Parm)

Q&A

Thank you for agreeing to answer some questions:

1: Book 1, what gave you the inspiration for such an insanely ambitious plot?

My agent asked me to come up with a high-concept thriller, and I remembered a story my wife and I had discussed one evening. We had been talking about advances in science, and wondering what effects this might have on a future society. How long could people live, after embracing genetic engineering, advanced medicine and nanotechnology? We decided that the most likely scenario would be that the rich – those who could afford it – would be the major beneficiaries, which might polarise society even more than it is today. What would result from such conflict? This discussion led me to develop a story which explored these ideas, but it was very much in the science fiction genre, and so the idea was shelved. But when my agent asked me for a unique, high-concept idea, I went back to this story and decided to twist it around and use it as the background for a contemporary action thriller. I’ve also always been interested in conspiracy theories, and I thought it might be fun to see if I could find links between any, in order to come up with a unique, all-encompassing conspiracy that could help to explain everything. Ambitious, as you say, but lots of fun!

2: After the high of book 1, book 2 is always a nail biter (congratulations on pulling it off) Was it hard having to start with new characters?

No, I really enjoyed it. It was a chance to explore different people with different ideas. In Extinction, neither Alyssa nor Jack have any sort of combat training, and I thought it would be interesting to see how these ‘non-professionals’ would cope when they’re hurled into a very dangerous environment. There’s a bit more of the ‘everyman’ about them than the characters in my first novel, and I think the result is really exciting. We really don’t know if they’re going to get through it or not.

3: What was the inspiration for book 2?

I’d read about HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) whilst researching Origin, and although it didn’t make an appearance there, I was very interested in what I found out and wanted to use it in another story. Essentially, it is a huge antenna array in the Alaskan wilderness, used to examine the ionosphere for the purposes of research into radio communications, navigation, and so on. But there are some people who claim that it is really intended to be used by the US military as a ‘weather weapon’, an ultimate WMD that can destroy entire countries through deliberately causing natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

I was also reading a lot about Gaia theory, the earth’s ongoing history of mass extinction events, various beliefs in a natural destruction/regeneration cycle and so on.

When I was thinking about my second book for Headline, it occurred to me that these two things put together might make for quite an interesting conflict, and therefore gave me the background to Extinction.

4: Without giving away any plot for book 2, book 3 will require new characters. Have you thought about a series using a repeated character?

Yes I have! My agent and editor have both asked me to explore such a venture, and so I am developing an idea for an ongoing series right now. I can’t say any more about it yet, but watch this space!

5: Will we see any more Mark Cole? (for those who have not read Stop at Nothing, do so its fantastic, the American Bond)

If there is enough interest, I would love to. I already have ideas about other adventures for Mark Cole, so maybe one day!

6: If you had to sell Extinction in your own words…..

Extinction is a fast-paced, exhilarating rollercoaster ride of a thriller, which deals with the most terrifying threat of all – the complete eradication of life as we know it.

7: Do you have your own writing process?

Not really anything laid out in stone, as such. The only thing is that after the concept phase, I like to research everything and plan it all out in meticulous detail, before I write a word of the actual novel itself. As far as the writing goes, I write at whatever time of day I can fit it in, wherever I happen to be. Sometimes I write at the dining table in our conservatory, other times I write in the café at our tennis club, and other times I write on the sofa whilst my daughter watches cartoons next to me. I’ll try and write an average of 1000 words a day, but this can range from absolutely nothing, up to 10,000 words if things are really flowing. I try and be as flexible as possible, which is important with a family. If the sun’s out and it’s a lovely day, we’ll all go out somewhere and I’ll write some other time.

8: Any tips to pass on to an aspiring thriller writer?

I think reading a lot is very important. You have to really love the genre, know it inside and out. I don’t mean you have to know anything about the authors, or remember every name of every character they’ve ever written; it’s more about the feel of the genre, how to get those ‘hooks’ in, how to get a reader to keep reading. Reading thrillers and trying to identify what makes the good ones work so well is a large part of this.

I would also recommend reading works on structuring stories too, as I believe it is vital for novels in the thriller genre to be properly constructed. If you set something up, there has to be a pay-off later in the book for instance. If not, the reader is going to feel cheated in some way. You have to know where the story’s heading, or you won’t be able to layer things in throughout; the ending will just appear out of nowhere, and again the reader might well feel cheated. Story by Robert McKee is good one to start with on this topic. It’s written from a movie screenplay perspective, but the principles hold up just the same for novels.

Another thing is to write. Everything needs to be practised if you want to be good at it, and writing is no exception. There comes a time when all the reading has been done, all the research, all the theory. There’s only one thing left, and that is the actual writing itself!

9: Top 5 favourite books?

Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy, First Blood by David Morrell, Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, and The Running Man by Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman.

 10: Book you wish you had written?

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. Who wouldn’t want to have invented James Bond?

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Filed under Action/ Adventure Thrillers, J T Brannan, Thrillers

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