Almost daily, I receive private (and sometimes public) inquiries about the status of my current work in progress, WINNER TAKES ALL. The delay in finishing and publishing the third tale in the Dylan Hunter thriller series is taxing the patience of his devoted fans, and knowing that only adds to my own stress. I feel I owe readers an explanation, and perhaps a public comment will ease the number of personal email replies I’ve had to write.
The book has posed challenges for me on a number of levels. For one thing, the story must harvest seeds I planted in the first two installments of the series: Dylan’s future course, where his relationship with Annie may be headed, the ominous hints left hanging at the end of BAD DEEDS. Now, that sort of thing would be true of almost any ongoing series, and all series authors face such challenges. In addition, however, I also want the series to remain at least loosely tied and relevant to things going on in the real world. Yet complications have arisen for me because of actual events that have happened recently.
For one thing, there’s been turmoil at the CIA during the past two years, due to a major reorganization. For another, the unexpected outcome of the presidential election surprised everyone. I didn’t foresee either of these events when mapping out my future “series arc,” yet both bear considerably on it. (E.g.: How does the CIA reorganization affect the careers of Grant Garrett and Annie Woods? What does the sudden change in the country’s political leadership and direction imply for the current story, which takes place during a presidential election? How do their implications affect my planned future stories?)
I felt compelled to rethink and adjust the plot structure of WINNER TAKES ALL so that future books will incorporate these facts — and thus seem realistic to savvy readers, rather than go off into a completely made-up, far less credible fantasy world.
However, the greater challenge I’ve had to confront was answering the questions: How can I realistically continue the “career” of a vigilante assassin, over the long term? What could plausibly motivate Dylan to continue on that course? What will that mean for Dylan’s relationship with Annie? Or with ever-suspicious cop Ed Cronin, hot on his heels?
Not only does WINNER TAKES ALL have its own deviously complicated tale to tell; it also must answer all these questions that bear on the series future, too. So, though I never planned things this way when I began to write HUNTER, this new book must resolve issues implied or left open in the first two books — in effect becoming the completion of an opening series trilogy. After this one, the series can continue, moving in fresh directions. But squeezing all of these factors and requirements — plus rapidly changing national events — into a single, fast-moving, page-turning thriller has been a mind-boggling, at times overwhelming, plotting and writing challenge.
Happily, after much pondering and reworking, the book finally jelled for me, and I’ve been making good progress in the writing. But it’s taken far longer than I expected. Right now I’m shooting for a March completion and release, barring any more outside interruptions (and there have been plenty of those, too).
So, to fans of the series, thank you for your continuing eager interest, and apologies for your long-taxed patience. I hope both will be rewarded soon, and that you will feel that WINNER TAKES ALL was worth the wait when it’s finally published.