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July 16, 2009

When a Place is More Than Just a Location

While Quinn, Orlando, and Nate are the main characters of the Quinn thrillers, and there is a group of sometimes rotating secondary characters that appear and reappear as needed, there is also a character in each novel that you might not realize is there.

That character is location.

What do I mean by this? When I set out to write THE CLEANER, the first Quinn book, I knew I wanted to make it broad in scope. In other words, I didn’t want to confine his stories to just one city, or one state, or even one country. It wanted them to be international, in the way that I had enjoyed international thrillers in the past. I wanted the locations to come alive, and not just be places where conversations occurred and actions took place. I wanted them to be characters. I wanted the reader to feel like they were really in the cities and countries I took them to.

Which meant, of course, the places Quinn would visit had to be places I had visited also, because it’s hard to get the feel for a location just by using the Internet. I’ve been lucky, and have done a lot of travel in my life. Before it would be for whatever company I might have been working for, or on a vacation. Now I travel for Quinn, deciding where I want a story set and going there to get the lay of the land.

For THE CLEANER, I relied on locations I had visited in the past. The two places that seemed to naturally fit as I was writing were Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Berlin, Germany. I loved the feel of each city, the smells, the sights, the texture of life. So I strove to recreate my impression on the page. In THE DECEIVED, Quinn travels to Singapore, a place I also love.

I wanted to start SHADOW OF BETRAYAL someplace that would be both interesting and unusual. As I thought about it, the memory of a trip I had taken in the early 90s came back to me. I had gone to Europe to visit some friends. I spent some time in the UK and in Belgium, then one of my friends and I went to Ireland for a week. There we rented a car and drove around the southern part of the country.

One day we were on this very quiet road just enjoying the beautiful green scenery. We came around this one corner, and there, a little off to the side, was what looked like a church. I say looked like because it was obvious no one used it any more. Bushes and trees were growing up all around it.

We stopped the car and got out for a look. It was completely fascinating. It was this small, stone church, complete with a little graveyard. There were no doors or windows on the church, just holes where they’d been. There was also no roof. Inside the walls of the church, more bushes and trees were growing creating a de facto Mother Nature congregation. It was odd and beautiful.

As I was remembering this, I realized that this church would be the perfect place for the opening scene of SHADOW OF BETRAYAL. Of course, I had to make a few adjustments, like setting the church further back from the road, and making said road even less travelled than it was. The truth is, I don’t even know if the church is still there or not, but it doesn’t matter. It’s still there in my mind and that’s what I wrote, turning this little part of Ireland into a minor character in my book.

I hope you enjoy the location characters as much as I enjoyed writing them. And don’t worry, Quinn’s travels are nowhere near done.

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