HALLIE EPHRON: We're so happy to welcome Dana Haynes. He writes thrillers, the kind that make you hang onto the seat of your chair.
Today is the launch date for his brand new thriller, ICE COLD KILL. Dana's first thriller, CRASHERS, introduced an unusual cast of leading characters -- unusual, that is, for a male writer. I'll let him tell you about it --
DANA HAYNES: When I came up with the idea for CRASHERS, my first thriller about the people who investigate air disasters, I knew I wanted a large ensemble cast. And one of my earliest decisions was about the female characters.
I’d read thrillers, and like many people, I hadn’t found a lot of female protagonists. The women tend to get saved in thrillers. I’m less interested in reading about the savee than I am in the saver.
So I decided CRASHERS would be populated with strong female characters. Not one or two, but four of them.
The next challenge: How to make them unique individuals. I’m not just a mystery/thriller fan, I’m a journalist by training. So that part was easy: In my day job, I see strong women in leadership roles all the time! So I had a wonderfully bright spectrum to choose from.
For CRASHERS, I got the honor of writing dialog for:
• Kiki, the former Navy officer and expert in the cockpit voice recorder, who has a funky, California vibe and a born gift for hearing audio clues.
• Susan, the Beltway insider and intergovernmental liaison who clears the bureaucratic bramble out of the way of her Crashers.
• Daria, the former Israeli soldier and spy who gets involved in the story not because she’s heroic, but because she’s bored. She goes on to be one of the heroes, but her motivation is questionable. It’s noteworthy that Daria is the breakout star of CRASHERS, with her own debut novel, ICE COLD KILL, hitting the stands this month. Daria is grand fun to write because she’s unpredictable and more than a little crazy.
• And Meghan, the pilot of the doomed airliner. She was the toughest to write because (not giving away much here), she doesn’t survive the first chapter. And yet, Meghan’s heroic effort to save her plane, her passengers and her crew had to be the mortal heart of the story. If the audience didn’t care about Meghan, they wouldn’t care about clearing her name. That was a tough writing nut to crack.
Deciding to open up my story to strong women gave me the luxury of a diverse host of characters to choose from.
It’s a good lesson for all writers. The more we confine our definitions of “hero” and “villain” – be it through the lens of gender, race, age choices or whatever – the more we confine our storytelling and the more we exclude readers from seeing themselves reflected in our stories.
HALLIE: After CRASHERS, Dana came out with BREAKING POINT, and his new novel ICE COLD KILL is out today from St. Martin's.
Daria steps into the lead in this one -- here she is in the novel's opening chapter:
Ray Calabrese looked up from his BlackBerry to see Daria Gibron stride
into the Rodeo Drive wine bar in Lycra exercise togs and sneakers, her
hair slicked back, sans makeup.
It wasn’t the part of Los Angeles that many people tried to carry off, the
I’m-just-back-from-kickboxing look. She used her fingertips to brush
still-damp black hair behind her ears. Her togs were two-piece,
skintight, abdomen-baring, and black with red piping. She either had
been working out or had joined the Justice League of America;Ray
couldn’t tell at a glance.
I'm guessing that's her on the cover, too, taking aim at the reader.
Welcome Dane to Jungle Red. His comments have me thinking about strong women in crime fiction, and whether I've ever read a book with four of them.