In this second part of my interview with Jean Hackensmith we’ll talk about her latest release, a romantic thriller titled Checkmate. She’ll also tell us about future books in this series and what other projects she is working on.
Q: Welcome back Jean. Tell us about Checkmate.
A: “Checkmate” is classified as a romantic thriller and is the first book in The Brian Koski Stalker Series. Actually, it’s more thriller than romance. In fact, it’s the start of my break-away from the world of romance fiction. I really felt a need to try something new. In fact, the manuscript I’m working on currently would be classified as Literary Fiction … virtually no romance at all. I’m not saying I won’t ever write a romance novel again, especially time travel. It’s my favorite genre and I’d have a lot of upset readers if I never wrote another one. I just want to explore other channels for a while … but more on that later.
Checkmate tells the story of Caryn Deaver, who was a victim of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her ex-husband, Dan Hamilton. Eighteen years before the story begins, Dan tied up Caryn and their children, locked them in the bathroom and set the house on fire. Caryn and the children managed to escape with their lives, and Dan was sentenced to eighteen years in prison for the crime. He’s out now, though, and is playing a twisted game, with each new move more violent than the last. Caryn’s new live-in boyfriend, Zach Riker, is also the object of Dan’s rage. He’ll do about anything, including installing a panic room in their house and buying a protection dog, to assure her safety. It still doesn’t seem to be enough, though. Dan continues the sadistic stalking, and the game—a game that includes a countdown to Caryn’s death. Even police captain Brian Koski, Zach’s best friend, can’t stop the reign of terror. Before Dan is finished, there will be five deaths. Brian, though, is determined to keep his friends alive.
Q: How graphic is this novel? If it were a movie would it be rated PG-13?
A: Yes, it would be rated PG-13, I’m sure, maybe even R because of some strong language. It really isn’t graphic in the true sense of the word. There are a few scenes that will tear at the reader’s heart, and even more that will keep them on the edge of their seat, but there’s basically no blood and gore.
Q: What type of research did you perform for this novel?
A: A lot … and God, I love the Internet! I researched everything from street maps of Cheyenne, WY; to a Fire Chief’s responsibilities and income (Zach’s the Fire Chief in Cheyenne); to stalker methods and mentalities. The most research probably went into finding out about protection dogs. Mika is an integral character in the story, and I wanted to be accurate in my representation of her abilities. Consequently, I enlisted the help of Chris Byrne from Stonehill Kennel in Connecticut, who actually trains protection dogs. Chris even agreed to be a character in the book. His help and insight were invaluable. In his own words, Mika is “a good man’s best friend, and a bad man’s worst enemy.” You can check out Chris’ company Web site.
Q: Is it difficult to write about such emotionally charged situations? Did you ever find yourself becoming overwhelmed with emotion?
A: I’m not going to divulge which ones, but there are actually two scenes in the book that even I have to brace myself for. When I was editing the book and would reach those scenes, I had to physically stop and move away from the computer, giving myself time to bolster my courage before I went on. One chapter in particular gets to me every time. Even though I wrote the scene, and have read it like a dozen times, it still, even now, makes me cry. The reader will know when they get to that spot in the book, I’m sure.
Q: Checkmate is the first in a series. What can you tell us about other books that are planned for this series?
A: In subsequent books, Zach’s friend, Brian, will leave the police force and become a Private Investigator that specializes in stalkers. He’ll team up, however reluctantly, with a psychic. I’m currently working on something else entirely (the Literary Fiction mentioned above) but once that manuscript is ready for publishers, I’ll get back to the stalker series. Several plot ideas include a judge or prosecuting attorney being stalked by a juror; a “famous” singer or actor stalking an “everyday, average” person; and a college professor stalking a student. Obviously, my main goal in this series will be to present situations totally opposite from what one would expect. For example, we’ve seen many cases in the news where actors are being stalked by a fan—not the other way around. Some of the stalking incidents will end in murder, some won’t. In most cases, once he becomes known, Brian will be called in to stop the stalking incidents while they’re on-going. If the victims die, he won’t be very good at what he does!
Q: What other projects are you working on?
A: Okay, I guess it’s time to bring that “Literary Fiction” manuscript out of the shadows. It’s called “We The People,” and it tells the story of a common “Joe Blow” who grows tired of all the bureaucracy in Washington D.C. and decides to run for President. He runs a grass roots campaign—very grass roots—and travels the country in an old RV, doing his rallies in AmeriMart parking lots. I actually contacted Wal-Mart a couple of weeks ago about using their store name and parking lots in the book, but have yet to receive a response. Until I do, the chain of stores will remain fictional—AmeriMart.
Q: Where can readers purchase Checkmate?
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: Just a huge THANK YOU to you for offering to do this interview. It is appreciated more than they will ever know.
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