Strong Light of Day with Jon Land

My guest today is a familiar face in the Lair, USA Today Bestselling Author Jon Land.  Today marks the release of Strong Light of Day, the latest installment in his series about Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong.  The book is an RT Top Pick.

Welcome, Jon! For readers who may be new to this series, please tell us about Caitlin Strong.

Jon-Land-smallShe’s a Fifth Generation Texas Ranger with a heroic, gunfighter mentality right out of the Old West. Think female Jack Reacher, Lee Child’s iconic character. Caitlin’s tough as nails and for her life is all about balancing that nature and tradition with the maternal instincts she feels for the two sons of her ex-outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters. Basically, I created Caitlin to be the kind of female action hero that’s very unique in the thrillers. And by casting a woman in that role I was able to utilize the kind of emotional angst and growth also seldom seen in the genre.

9780765351159As you know, we love kick-butt women in the Lair, so I’ve included the first book’s cover at right for new readers. What inspired you to pair Caitlin with someone like Cort Wesley Masters?

I wanted to match her with someone who was every bit her equal as well as equally conflicted about where the future was going to take him, not quite comfortable in his skin. Beyond that, I also wanted to reverse the traditional paradigm. So, instead of the man roaming around with a woman always trying to tame him, it’s the man—Cort Wesley—who’s raising two kids and trying to figure out how to pay the bills and make ends meet. It comes down to creating conflict and ambiguity, one feeding the other.   Caitlin and Cort Wesley are never entirely sure what it is they really want or, perhaps more accurately, it keeps changing.

What do you think that relationship brings to each of them, and what are their difficulties with it?

Wow, that’s a really good question! And let me answer it with the first thing that comes to mind. The relationship between Caitlin and Cort Wesley is at its strongest when they’re threatened and forced to revert to the people they really are, their true natures. That’s what best defines them and when they feel the most at home in their own skin. It’s not that they like violence, so much as they accept it as a necessary evil and tool, to be employed when themselves or those they love the most is threatened. The thing that frightens them the most, the thing they have the most trouble handling of all, is normalcy.

9780765335128How does Strong Light of Day fit with or play off of the earlier books?

I write each book to be read as a standalone, so the reader won’t feel he or she has missed anything. So STRONG LIGHT OF DAY plays off the other titles in a few different ways. First, it contains a great threat to the entire country in the form of agro-terrorism, an attack on the nation’s food supply. And emotionally we learn something very surprising, even shocking, about one of Caitlin’s surrogate sons.

The thing I’ve tried to do since I started this series was continuing to challenge my characters emotionally and I think this one confronts them with their biggest emotional challenge yet. And it’s something a lot of families have to face these days which creates a wonderful dichotomy between the normal balanced against the extraordinary. You might say that’s the formula for the series’ success.

Would you like to share an excerpt?

Strong Light of Day opens with the disappearance of thirty high school students who were on an overnight field trip at a Houston nature preserve. The next morning, two of the missing kids walk out of the woods: Luke Torres, the son of Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong’s outlaw boy friend Cort Wesley Masters, and his friend Zach. This scene picks up with Caitlin “observing” a Houston detective named Pepper interrogating the boys.

CHAPTER 16

Armand Bayou, Texas

Luke nodded. “There was one thing,” he said, looking at Caitlin.

“Go ahead, Luke,” she coaxed.

“I saw lights.”

“Lights?” Pepper raised.

“More like flickers. Out in the woods to the right of the field where we were sleeping—to the west, I think. They were there and then they were gone. Then they came back again.”

“You mean, like flashlights?” Caitlin asked him.

The boy shrugged, then shook his head. “I don’t know what they were but they weren’t flashlights. I don’t know, I remember thinking maybe it was fireflies.”

Caitlin took her penlight from her pocket and ran its thin beam about a bare wall. “Like this?”

“Yeah,” Luke said, leaning forward, “something like that.”

“So it was after midnight when you had to take a leak,” Pepper started, taking the discussion back a bit, “and Zach came with you.”

“After midnight for sure.”

“And when did you see those lights, those flickers?”

“A while before that.”

“You were awake the whole time?”

“Well . . .”

Caitlin could see Zach stiffen as Luke groped for words, working his boots back and forth on the floor.

“I don’t like sleeping outside,” he said, leaving it there.

Another detective carrying what looked like Luke’s backpack entered and whispered something to Pepper, as he pressed a small Zip-loc bag into his hand. Caitlin watched something change in the detective’s expression, gleaming like a predator’s with prey suddenly in his sights.

“You boys want to tell me whose backpack this is?” he asked, ignoring her.

“Mine,” said Luke.

“And this?” Pepper continued, opening his hand to reveal a joint inside the Zip-loc bag.

Luke swallowed hard. Zach looked away.

Pepper took a step closer to the couch. “Did you hear what I just asked you, son?”

“I did,” Caitlin interrupted. “And I’m going to assume you had a warrant to search that backpack.”

“Do I need one?”

“According to the law you do, Detective.”

“What happened to Doctor?” Pepper asked, behind a frown.

“I’m still waiting for an answer.”

“I thought I told you I don’t need one, since the search involved imminent danger in the commission of a crime.”

Caitlin almost said bullshit but kept her tone professional, even as her blood began to boil. “Even if that were true, Detective, you have no evidence of any such crime.”

“Hey, maybe thirty missing kids doesn’t qualify as a crime to the Texas Rangers, but it does in these parts.”

“Not if these parts are located in the state of Texas and United States of America, it doesn’t and you know it. Please give the boy back his backpack, sir. You can keep the joint. What we have here is two kids doing their best to help us out in a very trying situation. Why don’t we keep things there and avoid the distractions?”

“You call possession of drugs on a school field trip a distraction, Ranger?” Pepper challenged, flashing the Zip-loc bag before her.

Caitlin pretended not to see it. “What drugs? All I see is something obtained illegally that you might as well throw out before the court does. We on the same page here yet?”

Detective Pepper’s face was turning red, his eyes gone jittery as if he were trapped between intentions. “I believe I should continue the interview alone. You have a problem with that?”

“I have a problem with bullies. That’s why you won’t be continuing the interview at all.”

Pepper’s expression came up just short of a smirk. “You gonna draw on me, Ranger, get into your comfort zone?”

“You’re not worth the price of the bullet, Detective.”

Before Pepper could respond, a commotion erupted out beyond the room, Caitlin noting the rapid shifting of bodies through the window as something like a dark streak of energy cut straight through them. An instant later the door to the office burst open, and Cort Wesley Masters surged inside.

* * *

“Get over here, son,” he said to Luke.

Captain Tepper followed in his wake, must’ve been running interference when Cort Wesley made his presence known at the visitor’s center entrance without a badge or any law enforcement ID. Luke bounded up off the couch and practically leaped into Cort Wesley’s arms.

“We’re gonna sort this out. We’re gonna make some people pay for whatever they did here,” Cort Wesley said, hugging him.

“What did he just say?” Pepper snapped, his face an even deeper red.

“Rangers are running lead on this now, Detective, until the FBI sets up shop,” Tepper informed him, sizing up the situation. “You got a problem with that, take it up with the Department of Public Safety. But this is Ranger business, so thank you for your service and please stand aside.”

Pepper’s eyes fell on Cort Wesley who was holding Luke against him with a single arm now, the other one held low by his hip with fingers bent claw-like halfway to a fist. Then he turned to D. W. Tepper who’d just recovered his breath.

“Nice zoo you’re running, Captain. How’s teaching the animals the limits of their cages going?”

“Why don’t you step inside mine and find out?” Caitlin asked him.

Whoa!  Can’t wait to dive into my copy, which I downloaded when it went live after midnight. You’ve written several series. What do you particularly enjoy about this one?

I alluded to that just above, but let me phrase it differently: The great John D. McDonald once defined story as “stuff happening to people the reader cares about.” Well, all thrillers have plenty of stuff happening, but what makes the Caitlin Strong series special is you really care about her and everyone else you’ve gotten to know over time, the emotional core of the book being just as important as the structural core.

9780765368393A few books back, I covered a financial crisis Cort Wesley Masters was in the midst of and I already hinted at the emotional challenges both he and Caitlin face in Strong Light of Day. But the other thing that comes to mind is that the series allows me to always incorporate a historical sub-plot featuring Caitlin’s father, grandfather, or great-grandfather involved in some adventure or investigation that has a direct bearing on what she’s pursuing in the present. That’s not only what separates this series from my others, but also what separates it from the bulk of other thrillers out there, what makes the Caitlin Strong books truly special.

That works especially well in Strong Light of Day which teams the unlikely pair of Caitlin’s Texas Ranger father Jim Strong with Cort Wesley’s criminal father Boone Masters. That makes for a great parallel to Caitlin’s and Cort Wesley’s relationship in the present.

Is there anything in particular you would like readers to understand about Caitlin?

Hey, another awesome question! I want readers to understand that she’s the kind of person who’s got your back. The kind of person you can rely on no matter the depth of the crisis or how bad things get. She’s the kind of person who’d answer her phone at three AM when you’re out there somewhere, lost or in trouble. She’d never let you down or, especially, never let down anyone she loves or who’s important to her. She lives by an old-school code that is sacrosanct to her, setting high standards for herself and almost as high for others. She doesn’t have a lot of patience for those who’d hurt others or use them to better their own station in life. In a nutshell, Caitlin Strong always does the right thing.

What’s next for you?

I literally just submitted my initial draft of the next book in the series, STRONG COLD DEAD, which will be published next fall. Before that, though, March will see publication of my second nonfiction book TAKEDOWN, about a celebrated undercover drug officer who comes out of retirement to battle the biggest drug gang in the country (sounds like fiction, doesn’t it?). And then in June the first in the series I’m doing with the great Heather Graham, THE RISING, will be out.

That’s the amazing thing about this business. Here I’ve been doing it for over thirty years and an opportunity like that comes up. You just never know what’s going to happen next.

For more information about Jon, visit his website or connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

One commenter today will receive an autographed copy of Strong Light of Day. So tell us what you like about law enforcement heroes or heroines, bad boy heroes, or families in jeopardy, or ask Jon a question about his work.

 

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Comments

29 Comments

  • flchen1 says:

    How exciting, Jon! Glad to see you in the Lair again, and glad to hear there’s a new Caitlin Strong story out! Do you have a set number of books in mind for this series, or do you have a lot more ideas for Caitlin to write?

    Congrats, btw, on your new series with Heather Graham! Will that be romantic suspense, or will there be paranormal elements or other themes as well?

    I’ve always enjoyed law enforcement characters in part because I love that extra element of justice being served and applied… The excitement that goes with that is a bonus as well 🙂

    • Hi, Fedora–looks like you snagged the rooster again! I hope he’ll behave for you. I would also like to know the answers to these questions.

    • Jon Land says:

      Fedora: What a wonderful way to start the day, with two great questions from an old friend. First, I have no set amount of books in mind for Caitlin. As long as the series remains fresh and I keep having a blast writing the books, I have no plans to stop. As for THE RISING, my collaboration with Heather Graham coming in June, it’s actually more science fiction featuring a pair of young heroes who are high school seniors. King of a crossover book in that respect and there’s PLENTY of suspense, both romantic and otherwise!

  • Mary Preston says:

    You have to have good guys to catch the bad guys. Love it when both are intelligent and resourceful and the stakes are raised.

    • Mary, I share your preference for intelligent, resourceful characters, and I think they show best when put in plots that challenge them. The Caitlin Strong series does that very well.

    • Jon Land says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Mary, and I think you’re going to really enjoy the villain of STRONG LIGHT OF DAY, a billionaire oilman named Calum Dane. I think the distinction that will resonate with you is what separates Caitlin Strong and Dane. Both are intelligent and resourceful, both driven to succeed. The difference lies in Dane’s inability to control his emotions. His temper and tendency to overreact, to believe he’s beyond the law, defines his evil just like Caitlin’s steadfast and equally driven nature to stop people like him while never losing control defines her as a hero.

  • Sandyg265 says:

    I like law enforcement characters because my boyfriend used to be a police officer.

    • Sandy, how cool! Does he read suspense, or has he had enough of that in actual life?

    • Jon Land says:

      Sandy: I’ve always been blessed with a very large following in law enforcement and the military. I don’t always get the process and procedure right, but I love when I meet or hear from these true heroes that, more importantly, I’ve captured their sensibilities: the way they think, act, and respond. Their dedication, loyalty, and single-minded pursuit of what’s right. Nothing means more to me than that.

  • Jon, I have a question I didn’t think of until I was putting the blog together. How did you decide on Texas and its famed Rangers as part of your series? I noticed that you always cite references in the books, ones I hope to get around to reading someday.

    • Jon Land says:

      I’ve always been a huge fan of Westerns in general and the Texas Rangers in particular, but the opportunity to write about them just never came up. When I decided to write a female action hero, the Rangers were a natural fit because of their near mythic stature. And since women can’t serve in groups like the Navy SEALs and Delta Force, making Caitlin a Texas Ranger proved the perfect backdrop for her to showcase her skills and take on the role of a traditional thriller hero as a woman instead of a man.

  • catslady says:

    I love reading about strong women. (and now that two women just passed as Army Rangers it seems quite fitting). I think “doing the right thing” is one of the most important things and today it’s needed more than ever. Loved the excerpt.

    • Hi, Catslady–wasn’t that cool about the women passing the Rangers course? I love the excerpt, too.

    • Jon Land says:

      I remember you from my past visits, Catslady, and hope you see this post since I totally forgot to check back in last night when I returned home. I think you’re really on to something with both the relevance and timeliness of the Caitlin Strong character, a woman thriving in a traditionally male world. It’s almost like she was ahead of her time, since the first book in the series was published in 2009. But the kind of societal trends you’re raising is also the kind of thing that can turn her into a viral character, a female Jack Reacher in that way as well!

  • Sally Schmidt says:

    I think this is a must-read series for me. I like anything about the Texas Rangers, and updated for a woman and today’s problems make it that much more interesting.

    • Sally, I also am interested in the Texas Rangers, maybe from watching The Lone Ranger and a lot of westerns growing up.

    • Jon Land says:

      Music to my ears, Sally, and I’m so sorry I missed your wonderful comment yesterday! Interesting that your thoughts play right off Catslady’s above. I think I’m learning something here right now, that being that maybe Caitlin was ahead of her time when she first appeared, but now–maybe and hopefully–those times have caught up with her.

  • Ellie says:

    Your novels are captivating, enthralling and intriguing. I have been enjoying the Israeli novels greatly and look forward to the Strong ones now.

    • Ellie, I’ve read some of that series and enjoyed them a lot.

    • Jon Land says:

      Wow, Ellie, you made my night–would’ve been last night if it’d remembered to check back in, but better late than never. I think you’re going to really enjoy the Caitlin Strong books and will likely see them as an outgrowth of the Ben and Danielle series. Writing is a progression and I’m not sure I could’ve written Caitlin if I hadn’t done that series first. And, to your point, there are a lot of similarities between the two in terms of their skill sets and sensibilities. I’d say that as a Texas Ranger and an American, Caitlin is more accessible to a wider audience. Easier for readers to relate to her and I think that will serve to only heighten your enjoyment of the series. And you can e-mail me directly at jonlandauthor@gmail.com to let me know!

  • Anne says:

    Law Enforcement Heroes are real men who have character, backbone and strength of character which is what I value in a real man.

    • Anne, I think those qualities in law enforcement heroes are part of what makes it seem so awful when someone on the force is in league with the bad guys.

    • Jon Land says:

      Anne: Once you dig into the Caitlin Strong series, I hope you see that your on-point thoughts also apply to women. And I’d be curious to hear what you think and whether if your mind I pulled it off. E-mail me at jonlandauthor@gmail.com to let me know and sorry for this delayed response.

  • Pearl says:

    Being a Law Enforcement Hero is a tough job. By far the toughest especially nowadays. The man who opts for this career has ethics, morals and above all valor which I admire.

    • Pearl, I agree, it’s a tough job.

    • Jon Land says:

      Pearl, I think you’re highlighting an interesting theme here that I wish we’d had an opportunity to explore further, that being the increased visibility law enforcement has gained and, with that, the increased scrutiny. So much media coverage has been so negative in the last year or so, it’s easy to forget or neglect exactly the point you’re making. In that respect, I honestly believe that Caitlin Strong is emblematic of everything that’s good and right about law enforcement professionals. In that respect, this forum has opened up an entirely new window for me into her character and her potential to thrive in the marketplace. Let me know if you have any further thoughts at jonlandauthor@gmail.com.

  • Huzzah! Jon Land is back in the Lair ! Jon, your first visit to the Lair introduced me to your books and I have been a fan ever since. LOVE Coitlin and Cort! And one of the many attractions of this series is the reversal of roles – Caitlin as the hellraiser and Cort as the guy trying to corral normal for his family. It makes for such great tension and attraction between them.

    Romantic suspense and law and order type books are some of my guilty pleasures. I write historical romance so reading RS is a little mini vacation from nineteenth century England from me.

    Our local law enforcement agencies are basically good old boys and bullies with guns, but there are thousands of law enforcement officers out there doing a thankless job for less than stellar pay and I admire their courage, devotion to duty, and sense of honor. I have a couple of second cousins who are county sheriffs, both in counties outside of the one in which I live, and they truly are passionate about their work. They’re great guys and our family is very proud of them in spite of the fact we all worry for them every day.

    Looking forward to reading Strong Light of Day! The excerpt already has me intrigued. Keep ’em coming, Jon! And good luck with the Heather Graham project!

  • Jon Land says:

    Louisa, I can’t tell you how much that means to me. You made my day/night and have reinforced my desire to both personally and directly introduce myself to new readers as well as renew relationships with veteran ones like yourself. I wish I could speak to all my readers directly, but that would mean I wasn’t selling many books, so it’s probably not a good idea! That said, forums like The Lair allow me this kind of give and take and I always emerge richer and better as a result. Stay in touch with me at jonlandauthor@gmail.com!