Robert Lane resides on Florida’s west coast. His debut Jake Travis novel, The Second Letter, was received with critical acclaim and was awarded the Gold Medal in the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) 2015 Benjamin Franklin Award for Best New Voice: Fiction. His other novels in the stand alone series are Cooler Than Blood and The Cardinal’s Sin. He’s here today to chat about his protagonist Jake Travis, and about his writing.
Welcome, Robert! You’ve created an unforgettable protagonist in Jake Travis. He’s been called a winning hero, a standout sleuth, larger than life, wisecracking—and the list goes on. What do you think sets Jake apart from other mystery characters?
Every reader reads a different book, and sees characters differently. For me, Jake is more vocal about his self-doubts than other protagonists. I think that makes him more human, and allows readers to identify with him. He is vulnerable to moments of introspection and almost embarrassed by his feelings. I find that more endearing than a cut-out tough-guy. I’ve also tried to surround Jake with secondary characters of substance. I don’t what his appeal to stem from a weak supporting cast.
How did Jake Travis come to be? Any autobiographical components?
Jake Travis had a long gestation period. He came to be because I was not finding to read what I wanted to read. The autobiographical component is on every page…between the words.
You’ve drawn comparisons to John D. MacDonald. How does that feel?
The similarity lies in the setting; Florida is a major character in both series. Also, both protagonists operate under their own moral code, and are more than willingly to make a difference in someone’s life. I think it ends there. John D.’s protagonist, Travis McGee, had a new woman in every book, and a good portion of them ended up dead, which makes one wonder why he was so popular. Jake stays loyal to Kathleen, and would be lost without her.
What, for you, is the best part of being a writer?
Writing three hours every morning, and then having ideas gel the rest of the day: No, Kathleen wouldn’t say that. Change “ill” to “sick,” it’s got more teeth. Why would a character do what I had him do? Did that character lie to me yesterday morning? Little twit, I knew I couldn’t trust her.
And what’s the hardest part of being a writer?
Putting it out there.
What do you think makes for a good mystery?
Mystery, Smystery, Blistery… it doesn’t matter. It’s all about characters. Great characters create great plot. A book with great characters and great plot is a joy to read and sticks with me long after the last page is turned. That is what makes a good novel.
What’s next for Jake Travis? What’s next for Robert Lane?
Jake Travis: Jake’s hard at work finding the man who abducted and killed his sister nearly thirty years ago in Naked We Came. It is the most personal of the series, as Jake is forced to face his past, and decide if he is nothing more than a product of his environment. It will be out the fall of 2017.
Photo and cover art published with permission from the author and provided by author’s publicist.