If you’ve had the privilege of meeting Jonathan, you already know he’s insightful, funny, and a genuinely good guy. If you’ve haven’t met him but have read his Joe Ledger series, you might have guessed that the man who created Ledger embodied him with qualities he values and shares. If you aren’t familiar with the series, you’ll be sure to pick it up after you read what Jonathan has to say about Predator One . . .
Amy: Captain Joe Ledger, the protagonist in Predator One and the previous six novels in the series (along with one short story collection), is a multifaceted individual–sometimes a compassionate friend and sometimes a hard-nosed killer. What went into the creation of this character and how do you think he has changed, if at all, throughout the series?
Jonathan Maberry: I’ve always loved thrillers and action stories, but within those genres, what appeals to me most are protagonists who aren’t simply muscle heads. I’m not into ‘gun porn’ or purely testosterone-driven fiction. Actually, I’ve always gravitated toward the thinking-person’s hero and the hero with a heart. Characters like John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee are among my favorites. Along with that, I’ve always loved the old pulp novels featuring inventive and heroic characters like Doc Savage, G8, The Avenger, and The Shadow. They were smart as well as brave, and even though they went to extremes it was always in defense of the helpless or innocent.
My first three novels were straight horror but even while I was writing them I knew that I was going to try a thriller one of these days. I was sitting in a diner drinking coffee and working on notes for one of my nonfiction books when a couple of new characters began having a conversation in my head. That happens if you’re a writer. (If you’re not a writer it’s pretty much a cry for help!) I realized that these characters belonged to a new book; something I hadn’t written yet. I explored who they were, and the character of Joe Ledger emerged. He’s a former Baltimore cop who is working through damage from a terrible childhood trauma. He gets hired into a covert government department tasked with opposing terrorists who use cutting-edge science weapons.
Joe combines elements of several people, including a little of my own childhood – and my snarky sense of humor; as well as skills and philosophies present in a few soldiers and special operators I’ve admired over the years.
Amy: What was the kernel idea that germinated into Predator One?
Jonathan Maberry: I’m a science geek. Always have been. Maybe that started while reading the Doc Savage pulps, with all their weird weapons. Or maybe it was H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. Hard to say. One of the things a writer does –particularly a thriller writer—is to look at what’s happening in the world and speculate on ‘what’s the worst that could happen’. Funny thing is I’m not actually a pessimist, but I’m enough of a realist to know that certain technologies can be very easily misused. Drones are a prime example. On one hand they’re cool and useful –you’ll soon be able to get pizzas and purchases delivered via drones; but they are also very dangerous. They’re extremely easy to use for criminal behavior and terrorism. Already we’re seeing drones being used to ferry drugs and weapons across the border from the cartels. Drones have flown right over the walls of the White House. And along with that we have autonomous drive systems, remote-guided GPS systems, artificial intelligence, and related technologies. All terrific if used for the betterment of mankind…but dreadful if used against people. And, sadly, there are always idiots, criminals, and terrorists out there who are looking for easier ways to do more harm.
That’s the foundation on which Predator One is based. A terrorist organization uses these technologies to launch a wave of destruction against the American people. It would be comforting to say that everything in that book is pure science fiction…but pick up the newspaper or look at the headlines on the Net. This stuff is actually happening, which scares the bejeezus out of me.
Amy: Without giving anything away, Predator One has a real, and very controversial person as an essential part of its fabric. How do you know when enough time has passed to include a provocative person or topic into one of your novels?
Jonathan Maberry: I always put real people in my novels. As I see it my stories take place in the real world –sort of—and it would be strange if that world were missing the things all of us know. That includes brand-name products, real locations, and people. Some of those folks are friends of mine who stood too close while I was casting my book –which is always a danger when you’re friends with a writer. Some are folks who’ve won contests to be in my books. Just recently I participated in the Pixel Project, as one of a dozen bestselling authors who donated perks as part of an awareness-building campaign against domestic violence.
But I also include folks I don’t know. I’ve name-checked Stephen King, U2’s Bono met Joe Ledger in King of Plagues, characters refer to popular talk show hosts and political figures. Some living, some dead. So, it’s likely to encounter anyone from Jon Stewart to Osama Bin Laden. Anything’s possible.