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Extended press kit interview for OFF THE GRID
Q: Your acclaimed debut thriller MONKEEWRENCH was published in 2003. If you could point to one element of your writing approach that has evolved over those years, what might you point to?
A: The entire creative process is constantly evolving; inspirations and the world around us are constantly changing, so we approach each novel with a unique perspective and strategy. A straighter answer is to tell you what hasn’t changed in our approach to writing a novel – it very simply begins with an amorphous blob of ideas and emotions that eventually gather and organize and spawn. If you’ve ever seen microscopic footage of a virus proliferating, that’s kind of what goes on in our heads. Except it takes us longer.
Q: The terrorist threat described in the pages of OFF THE GRID is far more extensive than any of the villainy presented in your previous five novels. Did you have to undergo a more extensive period of research to deal with this larger canvas? And how did you locate the security information on which the premise of OFF THE GRID is built?
A: We love doing research for our novels and OFF THE GRID is no exception, but the heart of the plot was simply a matter of extrapolating a scenario from current events. We recognized the trend of more tech-savvy, opportunistic terrorism — lone wolves being inspired and directed via the Internet. Global, post-9/11 security has made the successful launch of another horrific, large-scale event unfeasible, but we believed that a coordinated, simultaneous attack on multiple soft targets nationwide could achieve a similar goal and was probably a more imminent danger. Our contacts confirmed our speculation – anything diabolical we could think of is probably already in the works.
Q: While most of the colorful Monkeewrench gang—Annie, Harley and Roadrunner—here remains true to the forms in which you introduced them in 2003, the enigmatic Grace seems to have undergone a pretty major shift in what one might call her earlier state of perpetual trauma. How and why did it occur to the two of you that it was time for Grace to evolve in this manner? Was that decision brewing for a long period, or did it arise just when the writing of OFF THE GRID was set to commence?
A: Grace has been haunting us for a while – she is one of the major players of the series, and the relentless nature of her fears was starting to turn us both into neurotic messes. We love Grace, and we wanted to free her, allow her an arc. Most people make gradual changes throughout the course of their life, but the traumatized often remain static until they finally reach a tipping point, then the changes happen quickly and they can be pretty dramatic. We decided now was the time to finally unlock her dungeon and open up new opportunities for her future.
Q: Regulars Gino and Maggozi provide much of the humor in the Monkeewrench series with their peppery, politically incorrect banter, and they certainly live up to their reputations in OFF THE GRID. Do you have more fun writing the scenes with these two than those with your other characters? It certainly reads that way…
A: Gino and Magozzi are like dessert for us. They are constantly straddling a moral and ethical gray line and there is nothing like relentless existential conflict to bring out the dark humor in people.
Q: You also created two supporting character gems in this book in the form of Claude and the Chief, two Vietnam War veterans who still possess considerable Game. Are you hoping to weave them into the story of the next Monkeewrench adventure, or was this just a one-shot for these two old-timers?
A: We loved creating and writing Claude and the Chief, who are both mosaics of people we know. They served a very specific purpose for this particular book, but if there were ever characters we’d love to bring back at some point, they’re right up there on the list.
Q: No doubt you receive constant feedback from your fans, those located both here and abroad. Can you share a couple of the more frequent requests you receive from them? And, have you ever bowed to their will by incorporating one of those suggestions into a story?
A: Here are the top three:
We wish we could, but we’re tortoises. It’s in our DNA. And in all the lab experiments we’ve conducted thus far, we can’t seem to splice the hare gene into our genetic make-up.
WHEN ARE GRACE AND MAGOZZI FINALLY GOING TO GET TOGETHER OR MOVE ON?
It appears there are more romantics out there than we thought. But the truth is, if we go that route, it will be very anti-climactic. Of course, on the flip-side, the constant tension and lack of real movement in their relationship begs for some sort of progress. We’ve really kind of gotten ourselves into a pickle with this particular element of the MONKEEWRENCH series, which is a main reason we chose to give Grace some arc in both SHOOT TO THRILL and OFF THE GRID. We’re hoping that will unleash some potential for an interesting, unexpected twist in the future.
The third area of most concern for readers is Charlie the dog, and reader comments usually come in the form of a threat: IF YOU EVER KILL CHARLIE, I’LL NEVER BUY ANOTHER PJ TRACY NOVEL AS LONG AS I LIVE. Hey, trust us – we bow, we humbly defer! Charlie is officially immortal. He will outlive us all.
See what nice fans we have? They care about love and animals.