Interview with thriller author Jonathan Ross

Today’s special guest is
mystery author Jonathan Ross. He’s
chatting with me about his new thriller/suspense novel, The Jumbee’s Daughter.
Welcome, Jonathan. Please tell us a little bit about
yourself.
I grew up in St. Thomas US
Virgin Islands, the Mojave Desert California, and Cocoa Beach Florida. I
remember adventurous summers in St. Thomas, exploring the wild bays and
mountains of my stepfather’s estate, which became the setting of The Jumbee’s Daughter. I served in the
Navy and am now a practicing naval architect living with my wife in Maryland. I
have brewed Guinness stout in Dublin, crossed the Pacific in a World War II
submarine, danced Sevillanas in
Spain, ate with chopsticks in Taiwan, and explored a prehistoric cave in
France. I speak fluent Spanish and enough French to order a nice meal and find
directions.
Please tell us about your current release.
Viewpoint character Anika
Hegner comes from a long line of Danish colonists on the island St. Thomas. She
is pure Dane, except for a drop of Jumbee blood, straight from the Dark
Continent. Since childhood, she has delighted in shape shifting to a black cat
and scaring the unwary. She’s a young woman now and often seeks the
peacefulness of her family’s abandoned estate on the wild south side of the
island. But her peace is shattered when she finds a taciturn Army veteran
trespassing. He claims to be working for the police to trap drug smugglers, but
she is not so sure. Back in town she meets a handsome Latino who is a dream to
dance with during the tropical evenings. He says he has come to the island to
open a new business, though is vague about his line of work. She discovers that
both men are engaged in a deadly contest, winner take all. Scary things begin
to happen on the estate, especially at night. A final confrontation is days
away. Anika chooses to help one man succeed. She prays that she has chosen
well, for the decision is one of life or death – his and hers.
What inspired you to write this book?
I have always wanted to
have St. Thomas as the setting for one of my novels. I got the chance when I
had a vision of a lonely black cat sitting on the runway at the St. Thomas
airport, viewing all the passengers leaving a plane that had just landed. In
the story this turned out to be Anika.  
Excerpt from The
Jumbee’s Daughter:
Mike Stiles shook
hands with his best friend on the planet. They stood inside a stifling room in
the St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, airport, piled high with boxes, some wooden
and some cardboard, all marked “urgent.” A single light burned in a ceiling
socket. Stiles swatted a mosquito.
Walters gave him a
once over and seemed to draw his own conclusions. It had been nearly a year
since they’d served together in Afghanistan, where they’d lost the third man of
their trio to an enemy sniper. Walters looked Stiles in the eye.
“Thanks for coming
down; like I said on the phone, I really need you.”
Stiles shifted his
weight, uncomfortable at the compliment. “Well, it seems I’m having trouble
fitting into civilian life. I figured helping you out would be good therapy.”
Walters gave Stiles
another look and said, “Most people have trouble when the return home. The
truth is, combat fucks with your head, no matter how tough you are. Happened to
me, happened to most people I keep in touch with. But we gotta move on. It gets
better if you try; if you don’t try, it eats your lunch.”
“Roger that. Can’t
just sit around looking at the wall like a fucking Zombie.”
“It’s ‘Jumbee’ down
here, Mike.”
“What?”
“On the island
they’re called ‘Jumbees.’ They’re spirits of the dead and they are mean
motherfuckers. All the islanders believe in them. The folks here even shut
their windows at night to keep the Jumbees out. I used to work here before I
joined the Army, and the guys I met told me stories. I’m starting to believe
there’s some truth to all of it. Anyway, you’ve got to treat Jumbees with respect
when you talk with the locals.”
“Always trust the
locals.”
“Except in the
sandbox.”
“Hoo-ah.”
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m writing Scent, a thriller/suspense novel in
which the viewpoint character, James Goodwin, uses his olfactory equivalent of
perfect pitch to sniff out people’s emotions, from love to malice. He earns a
handy living by uncovering corporate cheats, but he’s growing bored. When
billionaire Garth Cotton asks him to cook up the world’s first love potion,
James smells a grand challenge, and accepts. But once on the high seas in
Cotton’s mega-yacht, James smells treachery. He sniffs out secrets that land
him and Cotton’s dazzling assistant, Samantha Heartgrave, on a timeline to
death. To save himself and Samantha, James must exercise his gift of smell in
ways he never dreamed possible.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was in the fifth
grade, the class was too noisy and our teacher threatened to make us all write
a paragraph that described how to button our shirt with one hand. I thought
this would be wonderfully fun, and from then on realized I had a passion for
writing.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day
like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to
write?
I obey the first rule of
aspiring writers: “don’t quit your day job.” I find time to write by promising
myself a dozen or so hours each week, and then simply putting off all other
work, hobbies, and chores during that special time. I write creatively in the
morning when I’m fresh and do my research in the afternoon. Other than writing,
I spend my time on my day job, learning ballroom dancing, and fiddling.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My writing quirk is how I
come up with story ideas, which is always a vision that pops into my mind: a
submarine covered with jungle vines for Death
in a Carolina Swamp
, a man who can smell evil in Scent, and a lonely black cat who is also a beautiful woman in The Jumbee’s Daughter.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to design
miniature submarines to explore the ocean. So in a way I got my wish, because I
served in a submarine and bathyscaphe, and now I get to design ships.
Anything additional you want to share with the
readers?
Yes, for other aspiring
writers: write because you love to, and treasure your readers.
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