Amy: You have a black belt in martial arts and your fight scenes display your intimate knowledge of the myriad ways one human being can damage and/or kill another. Did this background help you feel suited to write thrillers, horrors, graphic novels, and other action-based genres?

Jonathan Maberry: I’ve been a practicing martial artist for over fifty years and currently hold an 8th degree black belt. I’m a former bodyguard and I taught self-defense and martial arts history at Temple University. I served as the Expert Witness for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office for murder cases involving martial arts; and in 2004 I was inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame. So…yeah, I know my combat –armed and unarmed. When I write a fight scene, everything that happens is possible, logical and practical. That varies, character-to-character and scene-to-scene, but I’m a stickler for accuracy in fight scenes. That said, I also work to make each action scene as unique and exciting as I can. And I have a hell of a lot of fun doing it!

Amy: The crises Ledger faces are primarily based in the ‘real world.’ But each novel in the Ledger series, Predator One included, contains a character or element connected to the world of horror or the supernatural. Sometimes you tiptoe the line between pure thriller and noir or horror fiction and other times you plow over it. What intrigues you about the dance between the real and unreal?

Jonathan Maberry: I’ll never stray too far from my horror roots. I’m a very active member of the horror community and I’ve been reading horror –and reading deeply into the genre—my whole life. Horror has something of a bad rap with the general public because they often think that it’s raw gore, oceans of blood, misogyny and cheap shots. Granted there is a small niche market in horror fiction that focuses on those things, but the genre is much broader, deeper, and more interesting than that. Horror stories are, by definition, character-driven because they are about emotions. All sorts of emotions, by the way, not just fear. Horror allows us to explore layer upon layer of emotional substrata. They allow us to confront the things that trouble us, and by writing (or reading) draw some useful conclusions while still being entertained.

In my fiction, I often include horrific elements, and even some supernatural elements…even when I’m writing a techno thriller. As practical and skeptical as I am by nature, I’m also very open-minded. I like to believe that the world is much larger, stranger and more interesting than my fellow skeptics are willing to accept. Like Fox Mulder in the X-Files, I want to believe. And so I let the supernatural overlap the real-world story elements.

Amy: Predator One and the other books in the Ledger series have a complex timeline that is set in different locations. How do you make sure you keep track of the passage of time accurately?

Jonathan Maberry: I like complex stories. With the Joe Ledger series, I write each book in a first-person narrative, but I intersperse that with third-person scenes that don’t involve Joe. This allows me to shape the world and inform the reader about the other characters, their motivations, and to flesh out the backstory that has brought us to the point of calamity that drives the central narrative. In real world special ops, the field operators seldom if ever meet the bad guy, and they never have a James Bond moment where the villain sits down with the spy and explains his evil master plan. So I use flashbacks to explain that plan, and to delve into the emotional, psychological and ideological motivations that have brought the villain to this point.

How do I keep track of it? I was trained as a journalist and I have a very orderly mind. I plot out the book, do tons of research, and I build a deliberate structure into each book. I write the way I think.

Amy: In a related question, do you write all the scenes that take place in one venue in sequence then take them apart later?

Jonathan Maberry: Occasionally I’ll write a subplot from end to end and then break it up so I can seed the individual scenes into the larger manuscript. That helps with continuity, particularly when developing secondary characters and relationships. Often, though, I’ll have ideas for micro scenes that need to be placed in the book even if I’m not working on that thread at the moment. I don’t force myself to write in a purely linear fashion.

Amy: You incorporate a lot of technology into Predator One, most of it based on extant software and hardware (even if it is only in its infancy stages). As you were writing, did you begin to see some manifestations of your imagination leak into reality? If so, can you cite an example?

Jonathan Maberry: Predator One began as a far out bit of paranoid thinking. When I plotted it and wrote it, the FAA had not yet given approval for private use drones, and autonomous drive systems were only being introduced. I speculated on ways that could go wrong, or be misused. Since the book came out –almost immediately—I began seeing news stories about hackers manipulating the GPS on a vehicle, or using GPS and autonomous drive systems to steal vehicles. We saw remote hacking of planes and drones. And drones have interfered with firefighters in California and Oregon, they’ve crashed on the White House lawn, they’ve caused injuries, and there’s even a video of one being reconfigured to fire a handgun. Sometimes it’s scary to see your ‘science fiction’ in the headlines.

Amy: Can you give us a tease about what Captain Joe Ledger will be doing next?

Jonathan Maberry: Joe Ledger will return in 2016 in KILL SWITCH, which is one of the strangest novels I’ve written. It includes elements of quantum physics –particularly multi-dimensionality and superstring theory; the threat of ISIS; illegal trafficking in antiquities; forbidden knowledge; elements of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu story cycle; and the failed CIA ‘Stargate’ psychic espionage project. I had a ton of fun with that.

Then in 2017, we’ll have DOGS OF WAR, the 9th Ledger novel –and that will deal with all of the dangers inherent in robotics and AI; but there will also be an anthology of Joe Ledger stories, with new tales written by a slew of my bestseller friends, including Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon, Dana Fredsti, Weston Ochse, Steve Alten, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Seanan McGuire, Scott Sigler, Ray Garton, Larry Correia, Jon McGoran, Joe McKinney, Jeremy Robinson, Jennifer Campbell-Hicks, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, James A. Moore, David Farland, and Claire Ashgrove.

And we’re in serious discussions about a Joe Ledger feature film.

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