The Inspiration Behind Echo

Unfortunately for the whole of humanity, I get most of my inspiration for plots from the headlines and real crime stories. And to make up for my being a creative leech, I give a face to the victims of crime and focus on the human spirit in the face of adversity. And my latest release, The Echo of Violence (Avon, Sept 2010), is no exception.
I sometimes watch a TV show called “Locked Up Abroad” on the National Geographic channel. One day, I saw the horrific tragedy of Martin and Gracia Burnham. The Burnhams were Christian missionaries who were abducted in the Philippines in May 2001, while at an expensive beach resort celebrating their anniversary. A terrorist group of Islamist Separatists called Abu Sayyaf took the Burnhams as well as twenty other hostages, holding them for ransom. Over a year later, Philippine commandos attempted to rescue the couple and a Filipino nurse. Two of the hostages were killed in the shoot-out and Gracia Burnham was rescued. Her husband Martin didn’t make it through the ordeal. More on this story can be found by clicking here.
I was also in the middle of writing my book when the incident at Mumbai occurred. I researched the details to add authenticity to my terrorists. For information on that tragic event, click here. I compared the facts of that shocking attack to various elements I had written into The Echo of Violence, things like the way the terrorists communicated with each other, their weapons and their tactics. And after consulting with my weapons expert, I had a cohesive story that felt ripped from the headlines.
But the real essence of any story lies in the emotion and the conflicts. So I pitted my terrorists against a compelling character who I still haven’t gotten out of my head or my heart. Jackson Kinkaid wouldn’t consider himself a hero, but in The Echo of Violence, he’s the only one standing in the way of a cruel fanatical terrorist leader, bent on making a name.
Kinkaid is a dark mercenary, riddled with guilt and grief over a tragedy in his past. He’s a broken, deeply private man. And in a self-destructive manner, he’s chosen to live life on the edge and risk everything to secretly steal from the dangerous men he works for—the drug cartels—and use that money to fuel his vendetta as well as various charities. Like a modern day Robin Hood, he funds worthwhile causes, including a Haitian missionary school run by his only real friend, Sister Kate. But when a group of masked terrorists attack the Catholic nun’s fundraiser and take hostages—an event where Kinkaid is the guest of honor—the race is on to save Sister Kate and the others.
Kinkaid tracks the terrorists long enough to witness them leave Haiti, bound for the mountains of southeast Cuba, treacherous terrain peppered with terrorist training camps. And with Cuba bracing for a hurricane and videos of the hostages’ beheadings being posted online, time is running out.
Shot in the raid, Kinkaid is battling a raging infection to stay on his feet long enough to rescue Kate. Being wounded has forced him into asking for help from the only organization he knows is capable of conducting the rescue, but he doesn’t trust Garrett Wheeler, the leader of the covert group, the Sentinels—and with good reason. To manipulate Kinkaid, Garrett assigns operative Alexa Marlowe to lead the mission, someone who once had feelings for Kinkaid. And when Alexa’s orders put her at odds with Kinkaid rescuing Kate at all cost, no longer is the mission about saving one life. Far more is at stake.
The Echo of Violence is book #3 in my Sweet Justice thriller series. Each book reads as a standalone plot, even though the characters’ and story lines continue. And the next time you see a compelling news story or read a headline that grabs your attention, you might have the makings for a great book.

16 thoughts on “The Inspiration Behind Echo

  1. Welcome, Jordan, and thanks for your thoughts on stories from the headlines. I’ve always collected news clippings, and look for the human element. All three of my Try books (Try Dying, Try Darkness, Try Fear) had their start with a little news item. For Try Dying, it was this bizarre murder suicide that I put on page 1 (and wrote a book to go with it). In Try Darkness, it was a little swindle going on with L.A. downtown transient hotels. And in Try Fear, it was a guy arrested for drunk driving in Hollywood. He was six-six and dressed only in a Santa hat and G string. I thought, this would be a good client for my protagonist.

    Truly, I wrote those three books from those small items. We just have to keep asking “what if.”

  2. Welcome to TKZ team, Jordan. Great to have you here. The germ of each of my 6 thrillers started with a news story or magazine article. I always chuckle when asked where I get my ideas. The question should be: how do writers choose from the thousands of ideas that surround us each day? Good luck with THE ECHO OF VIOLENCE.

  3. well, as a reader, i will come from the other side…if i want to read graphic violence…and it’s inception is the news….then i only need to walk to the end of the driveway…grab the arizona republic and have at it!! kathy d.

  4. Interesting juxtaposition of your reference of inspiration and Joe Mooore’s blog of yesterday. Kathie d. suggest you read Joe’s offering and I think the distinction will be clear.
    Violence/events that have a real world seed are credible and the challenge in fiction, IMO, is to make stories ‘real’ and emotionally accessible.
    News is information. Fiction is entertainment and, when successful, has a unique personal impact.
    Surprising to me is that many folks do not enjoy fiction reading. Unfortunate for them.

  5. Thanks for joining us, Jordan! I look forward to sharing Thursdays with you.

    What a coincidence, I read Burnham’s book while researching Kidnap & Ransom! I tend to do the same thing- usually something that i stumble across in a newspaper of magazine ignites the initial story idea.

  6. Hey James–I loved your comments on newspaper clippings. I have a file too. Or my bookmarks online. And yes, strange things can catch an author’s eye. I think my family is considering donating my brain to science–to find out how it works. (I’m just glad it does.) One of my favorite women’s fiction authors, Marcia Preston, wrote the Piano Man after seeing a TV commercial about heart transplants. I loved that book.

  7. Hey Joe–I laughed when I read your comment. So true!! And what I love too is the way ideas can blend into one another–seemingly very different things can somehow find a home in a writer’s brain. And an author’s mind never stops. It’s not like we can go home at night and leave it all behind on the job. LOL But I wouldnt have it any other way.

  8. Hey Kathy–Great to see you here and thanks for your comment. Authors walk a fine line in how much violence to put on the page. But one of the ways I look at it while I’m writing–I try to give a voice to the victims of crime. And to lessen the reality of a particular crime (to a point) won’t portray the victim’s plight well enough, IMO.

    When I wrote Evil Without A Face, I read countless testimonies from women who were trafficked and I had to show their story in the harsh light of day, but I still tried to be sensitive to my readers. It’s never easy.

    I had a friend whose sister had been murdered. And when she finally shared her story, it broke my heart. And her words often appear in my books, because her honesty in how it felt to have a loved one taken away in such a manner, it struck me and I’ve never forgotten it. Thanks again for visiting.

  9. Hey TJC–Thanks for your thought provoking remark. Crime fiction has been my comfort read since I was a kid. And after the Virginia Tech shootings, I blogged about why we read it, given all the violence in the world. Readers and authors had different takes on the topic, but it all boiled down to one main reason. Fiction allows justice to prevail when real life may not. That struck home with me.

    And the title of my book is about how violence echoes beyond the one act. It’s like a ripple effect on still water. It radiates out to affect so many others, beyond the victims. So I focus a lot on that aspect – of how crimes affect others. It’s one of my themes.

  10. Hey there, Michelle–So great to virtually share Thursdays with you and the rest of TKZ gang. A great group. And thanks so much for asking me.

    The Burnhams story was so compelling and sad.

  11. Hey Joe–I loved what you said in your post yesterday. It reminded me of an email I read from Lee Child when he was the International Thriller Authors mentor for the debut writers in 2008. He said that it’s not about writing what you know, but more about writing what you fear. That has stuck with me too. And I took it a step further and made it writing about what makes you happy, sad, and what you love, because writing is about capturing emotion.

    From the first time that man wrote on cave walls, attmepting to tell a story, writing is about conveying the emotion of any story to make a connection with readers. And writing a book is nothing if a reader doesn’t pick up that book and take the journey with the author–to complete the circle of that creative process.

    So your post the other day sent me down memory lane to Lee’s comment and made me happy to be an author. Thanks.

  12. Hi Jordan, and welcome! I love ripped-from-the-headlines stories. They enable you to have the (fictional) experience of stepping inside a scary world, seeing the “what if” of what life there would be like.

  13. Good article and welcome to you Jordan.
    I love it when stories connect to fact in a manner that makes us question whether they are fiction or reality.
    Inspiration comes in many forms, headlines, chance encounters, dreams, and so on. The main character in my book Faithful Warrior was based on two guys, one I met and another I was told about. The first walked into the local VA Voc Rehab office while I was fixing their printer. The scene was like this.

    Clerk: “Hi can I help you?”
    Veteran: “Yeah, I just retired from the Army and need to be trained for a new job.”
    Clerk: “What did you do in the military?”
    Veteran: “Oh, well…it’s not a transferrable skill.”
    Clerk: “You never know, most jobs in the Army have counterparts in the civilian world. So what did you do?”
    Veteran: “Kill people.”
    Clerk: “Oh. OK. Yeah…that’s uh…yeah, not transferrable.”

    The second was a guy I heard about from a church deacon. He said there was a plumber in his church who had a very lucrative conract with the US Government going around the world fixing plumbing problems in government buildings that required a high level clearance. The man one day asked for counseling from the pastor and this deacon. During the discussion he confessed that while he really was a plumber and did get paid for fixing government plumbing issues his primary job for over 20 years(this was unknown to even his wife) was to flush away human problems for the government. After a recent hit was discovered to have been incorrectly assigned (ie the gov had him kill an innocent guy) he needed to confide in someone.

    Those two people became Pastor Michael Farris, the Faithful Warrior.

  14. Hey Martha–So great to see you here too. Yay!! Hope the writing is going well for you.

    And thanks, Sheila. So far ECHO has gotten good reviews, always a good thing. And my mom gave it a thumbs up. LOL

    Hey Kathryn–Thanks for taking time from your writing day to say Hi. I love being on this blog with you.

    And Basil–Your story reminded me about the first time I virtually met my weapons expert. Great guy. He’s been invaluable to me and he really expands my thriller world with what he knows, but his experiences are more than a little scary. He reminds me that there are people in this world who secure our borders and protect our way of life–at the expense of living a “normal” life in ignorant bliss.

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