We never miss the opportunity to go straight to the horse’s mouth and ask authors about their books, subject matter and what’s inspired them.
Author Sean Black trained as a bodyguard with former members of the Royal Military Police’s specialist close protection unit, spent time inside America’s most dangerous maximum security prison, Pelican Bay Supermax in California, and ventured into the tunnels under Las Vegas all in the name of research for his Ryan Lock novels!
With such a fantastic background of research we can hardly wait to read his latest novel The Devil’s Bounty which is set in Mexico. We cornered Sean Black for ten minutes to talk inspiration, female characters and Supermax Prisons!
Could you tell us what sparked off the initial idea to take Ryan Lock and Ty Johnson from the US to Mexico?
Like many people I’d been following Mexico’s problem with the narco-gangs, and the accompanying violence, for a long time. But I knew that I needed to find a twist so I came up with the idea of a serial rapist who is wealthy enough that he can buy the protection of these very powerful criminal gangs.
A lot of the action in The Devil’s Bounty takes place in the world of the Mexican drugs cartels. What kind of research did you have to do?
Usually most of my research is very real world. I trained as a close protection operative for almost a month in the UK as Eastern Europe before I wrote Lockdown, the first book in the series. For the second book, Deadlock, I went inside the real Pelican Bay Supermax prison in California. Anyway, the risk assessment for The Devil’s Bounty was such that it wasn’t financially practical to go to somewhere like Juarez during the time I was researching it, because I would have had to have armed security with me. So instead I read a lot and watched every single documentary I could find. I must have worked my way through millions of pages of books and newspaper articles before I started to write.
Can you give us your take on the situation in Mexico, particularly the terrible violence against women, and whether you think the situation is likely to change in the near future?
I’m an optimist. I think the history of the world is one of progress. Slow progress, but progress. The war on women’s rights is hugely significant and it’s being waged on lots of fronts from the obvious such as the wholesale rape and murder of young women in places like Juarez, to the more subtle war on women’s reproductive rights in America and elsewhere. What’s important is that men recognise this is an issue for them too, and that we stand up for our sisters.
Did you base Detective Rafaela Carcharon on anyone you have met?
There was a woman who ran for mayor in one of these border towns so I did borrow Rafaela’s attitude from her, but she was pretty much a creation of my imagination. I don’t like books where the main female character is there as a love interest for the hero so I wanted to write Rafaela as a fully fleshed out character. And she may be back at some point.
Ryan Lock is the ultimate hero – he’s rock-hard, intelligent, and he also has a heart of gold. How did you come up with such a winning combination?
The mirror is my inspiration (joke!). He’s really based on some of the guys I have met who work in high-end private security, one or two of whom are now close friends. They’re funny, generous, thoughtful human beings, but if you cross them then they’ll give you the good news.
All of your Ryan Lock novels seem to make a point of highlighting the very real issue of violence against women… Is this something you specifically set out to do?
Because I have a daughter I love and adore, it’s something that concerns me more than it might have previously and it has crept into the work. Good work comes from what is close to you.
There is much online debate on the subject of who readers prefer out of your two main characters – Ryan Lock, or his sidekick, Ty Johnson. Which of the two is your favourite character to write?
Women readers seem to LOVE Ty in quite a primal way. He’s huge fun to write because he’s so non-politically correct, but he wouldn’t work without Lock to play the straight man. It’s Ying and Yang. I love double acts in fiction. They allow way more scope for humour for a start.
A big Dead Good thank you to Sean Black for answering our questions!
Find our more about Sean on his Website.