Today I’m welcoming Jac Wright, author of The Reckless Engineer. Thank you for stopping by, Jac!
All about Jac . . .
Jac Wright is a published poet, published author, and an electronics engineer educated at Stanford, University College London, and Cambridge who lives and works in England. Jac studied English literature from the early age of three, developing an intense love for poetry, drama, and writing in Speech & Drama classes taken every Saturday for fourteen years, and in subsequent creative writing classes taken during the university years. A published poet, Jac’s first passion was for literary fiction and poetry writing as well as for the dramatic arts. You will find these influences in the poetic imagery and prose, the dramatic scene setting, and the deep character creation.
These passions – for poetry, drama, literary fiction, and electronic engineering – have all been lovingly combined to create the first book in the literary suspense series, The Reckless Engineer. There are millions of professionals in high tech corporate environments who work in thousands of cities in the US, the UK, and the world such as engineers, technicians, technical managers, investment bankers, and corporate lawyers. High drama, power struggles, and human interest stories play out in the arena every day. Yet there are hardly any books that tell their stories; there are not many books that they can identify with. Jac feels compelled to tell their stories in The Reckless Engineer series.
Jac also writes the literary short fiction series, Summerset Tales, in which he explores characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances in the semi-fictional region of contemporary England called Summerset, partly the region that Thomas Hardy called Wessex. Some of the tales have an added element of suspense similar to Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. The collection is published as individual tales in the tradition of Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers and Thomas Hardy’s Wessex Tales. The first tale, The Closet, accompanies the author’s first full-length literary suspense title, The Reckless Engineer.
1. How did your life as a writer begin?
I have loved English literature since I my mother enrolled me in weekend Speech & Drama classes when I was 3 years old. My mother had this rack full of books like The Pickwick Papers, The Tale of Two Cities, Lorna Doone, The Animal Farm etc. stacked on it along with piles of Readers’ Digests. She used to read to me from them even as a toddler when I was too young to read; and soon I was reading them myself. That sparked my interest as a reader and a writer very early. The early writing was for lessons only, however, both at regular school and weekend Speech & Drama school, until I went to Stanford.
I thought of writing as merely a hobby for a long time. My primary education has been in science and engineering and I thought of myself as an electronic engineer only by profession. I still think of myself as an engineer moonlighting as a writer.
There was one aspect of the culture and education at Stanford University when I was a student there – the idea that you need not be pigeonholed into just one area of talent. You can be a “Renaissance man” who can excel at many things that are considered the opposites of each other. Stanford liberated me from my limited self-image. I started writing seriously when I took my Freshman English course during the first year at Stanford, and then I kept writing over the years.
I first thought about presenting my work for publication only from about 2008. One needs a level of maturity and life experience to write with impact and I felt that I had reached this stage about that time.
2. What makes you feel inspired to write?
I cannot deliberately pull my inspiration. It has to come to me naturally from somewhere in a creative place deep in my subconscious mind. I can only keep myself distracted and focused on the other passion in my life, engineering, or reading a good book or two, waiting for it to come. I can try to help it along by immersing myself in the environments and settings that might spark something creative at the back of my mind.
For example, this June I woke up with this image of a fugitive, a man escaping from the van transporting him from prison to the courts that had had an accident and overturned by the roadside. Prisoners wear regular clothes in England and are not chained. He runs into the crowds and a bus parked behind a mall to hide among the people only to find that it is a film set. The actor playing a main character of the movie and the director are having a fight. The actor suddenly punches the director in the face who falls backward. My protagonist fugitive hiding among the supporting film crew catches him and breaks the fall. The director gets up, wipes the blood off his nose, fires the main actor loudly, and asks him to get out of his movie set. He turns to my protagonist and asks: ‘You there, what’s your name?’ ‘Art Miller,’ he gives a fake name. ‘Art, you are playing Michael Fallon. His trailer is yours now. Go with my crew and get dressed.’ And there I have the plot, the main characters, and the first chapter of my standalone work to come, In Plain Sight.
The core idea of the plot and the main characters in it come to me as a sequence of images, like a segment of a movie or a disjointed dream.
3. How did you come with the idea for your current story?
For The Reckless Engineer, I first knew the setting: I knew I wanted to set the story in Portsmouth because the first stories I had loved were Dickens’ stories that my mother used to read to me. And so I took the steps to move to Portsmouth. I try to do justice to the beautiful seaside town that is the birthplace of Charles Dickens. I explore the city’s industries, the beautiful beaches, the hospital, the pubs, the hotels, the suburbs, and so on in loving detail.
I also knew that the series was going to be a series around a cerebral and resourceful engineer that is something like a cross between MacGyver and Barney from Mission Impossible series. I modelled the hero after my own personality. I built two “Dickensian” characters purely to honour the great author – the bumbling solicitor Magnus Laird, and the character I am developing as the hero Jeremy Aiden Stone’s sidekick, the gay and black London West End actor, Otter.
I built the plot around the troubles that a brilliant and charismatic guy (the character Jack Connor) can get into whose character fault is that he is weak in love, someone like John F. Kennedy. Then I built the characters of the four very different women who are in his life who pull him in different directions. He doesn’t know what he wants and changes his mind at different times. I then built the plot from the troubles arising from this very intense conflict.
4. Tell us about your writing process. Do you outline, or are you more of a seat of your pants type of a writer?
A full-length novel takes about one year to write, but the idea for it is usually sparked and will have been working at the back of my mind for as long as three or four years before I sit down and start putting the first words on paper. After that I write in spells as and when the inspiration comes to me. Sometimes I might leave one story aside and write a bit of another story that will have come to me as a strong image.
I work from the core plot idea and the main characters in it. I am firmly entrenched in Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury school of writing; I give each character a psychology and I keep the characters true to it through the story. I got interested in Freudian and Jungian theories of psychology during, again, Stanford’s Liberal Arts education program, and I explore these theories in my characters. I then let my characters and their psychology guide me and drive the story forward.
I love world building even though the world that I build for my character is a little corner of contemporary Britain that we live in. I select a setting, put my characters in it, and let them carry the story forward.
5. What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
I was a student of drama for over a decade and hence I like dramatic scene setting. I just love the dramatic scene in chapter 15 of The Reckless Engineer in the Sitting Room of the McAllen Mansion. The billionaire McAllens are the family of Jack Connor’s wife and the scene is set in his house while Jack is still in custody. The scene ends with some unexpected news of Jack Connor’s fate. (I don’t want to give too much away.)
I can see the scene in my mind like a stage production. Everybody has secrets they are hiding and all is not what it seems.
6. What is the highest goal that you desire to meet as an author?
I’d love to write a screenplay for Ridley Scott some day or write a screen play for Miramax, but that is a dream.
7. What is your usual writing routine?
There is no routine. I write in spells. At times I might write all day long for over a week, and then I might not write anything for several weeks. At times I might write for a few hours a day. I find I cannot force myself to write; if I do it feels contrived and does not come out quite right. I have to wait for the inspiration to come to me. When I hit the Writers’ Block I just have to leave it and do something else until it comes to me.
I do a couple of things when I hit the Writers’ Block. I hit one just before the scene in Chapter 15 of The Reckless Engineer. One thing I do is I set the manuscript aside and read a good book. I read two Agatha Christie books at this point – At Bertram’s Hotel and Cards on the Table. Then when I returned to my writing after about a week I decided it was time to bring Jack Connor home. I had kept him in custody until that point. Everything came easily to me after that insight into how I should progress the plot.
I reached a second, nasty block when I needed to write the scenes with Jeremy in a Portsmouth seaside hotel, The Royal Atlantic, in The Reckless Engineer. This time I knew the plot, but the prose was not coming out right. I had moved out of Portsmouth by then. I took 3 days off and checked into The Royal Beach Hotel in Southsea, Portsmouth. I did the same, volunteering at a back-stage to help a friend at the Gielgud theatre to write the scene in the London West End.
When I do this I do not write while I am at the scene. I just immerse myself in the environment and absorb the people, the sense of the surroundings, the sounds, and the views. I might take some photographs. And then I come out of the scene and do something entirely different for about a week, letting the ideas and images work at the back of my mind. Then when I sit down to write again the words just flow naturally.
These two techniques – reading good books for a break and immersing myself in the scenery I want to write about – have always helped me out of brief spells of the Writers’ Block. They have never failed to get me writing again.
The Reckless Engineer
Love is a battlefield. The aftershocks of an affair reverberate out to those in the lives of the lovers, who will NOT take it lying down.
Jack Connor’s lives an idyllic life by the Portsmouth seaside married to Caitlin McAllen, a stunning billionaire heiress, and working at his two jobs as the Head of Radar Engineering of Marine Electronics and as the Director of Engineering of McAllen BlackGold, his powerful father-in-law Douglas McAllen’s extreme engineering company in Oil & Gas. He loves his two sons from his first marriage and is amicably divorced from his beautiful first wife Marianne Connor. Their delicately balanced lives are shattered when sexy Michelle Williams, with whom Jack is having a secret affair and who is pregnant with his child, is found dead and Jack is arrested on suspicion for the murder.
Jeremy Stone brings London’s top defence attorney, Harry Stavers, to handle his best friend’s defence.
Who is the bald man with the tattoo of a skull seen entering the victim’s house? Who is “KC” who Caitlin makes secret calls to from a untraceable mobile? Has powerful Douglas McAllen already killed his daughter’s first partner and is he capable of killing again? Is Caitlin’s brother Ronnie McAllen’s power struggle with Jack for the control of McAllen Industries so intense that he is prepared to kill and frame his brother-in-law? Is the divorce from Jack’s first wife as amicable on her part as they believe it to be? Are his sons prepared to kill for their vast inheritance? Who are the ghosts from Caitlin’s past in Aberdeen, Scotland haunting the marriage? What is the involvement of Jack’s manager at Marine Electronics?
The cast of characters is made even more colorful by the supporting entourage: the big Scott and his gang, Hosé and Heineken, who carry out Douglas McAllen’s “troubleshooting;” McAllens’ bumbling solicitors McKinley and Magnus Laird; Caitlin McAllen’s handymen, Cossack and Levent; and Jeremy’s sidekick, the gay black actor working in the London West End.
While Jack is charged and his murder trial proceeds in the Crown Court under barrister Harry Stavers’ expert care, Jeremy runs a race against time to find the real killer and save his friend’s life, if he is in fact innocent, in a tense saga of love, desire, power, and ambition.
“The Monday that Michelle Williams started work at Marine Electronics was a scorching hot midsummer day. From the fourth floor wall of glass on the west wing of the seven-storey building owned by Marine, Jeremy and his fellow engineers were treated to a panoramic view of the landscape stretching all the way to Portsmouth Bay where the waters lay out in the sun and made light ripples, too lazy and too content to get up and make even the occasional wave. The bay was thus greeting the day cheerfully shimmering in the mid-morning sun when Steve, the QA team leader, brought Michelle over for a quick introduction to Jeremy’s team. Quality Assurance essentially meant “testing”; a QA team sat next to each engineering team and ran many series of rigorous tests after Engineering was done with the research, design, and development of various stages of a product.
Engineering was a male dominated field. There was only one female, Sally Trotter, in Jeremy’s team of one physicist, one mechanical engineer, and ten electronic engineers. He could see that Michelle’s long bleached hair, sleeveless low-cut blouse, endless legs tanned from a bottle, three inch stilettos, and hot-pink claws—so long they were surely retracted in for typing—did not go unnoticed by the boys.
She wasn’t Jeremy’s type. He preferred a more elegant, darker, and a more understated beauty—a little curvier, less ‘processed’, and much more intelligent—by which he meant his then-estranged partner, Maggie, with whom, though they had been separated for nine dark months and four long days, he was still deeply emotionally involved. . . .”
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