The plane! Da plane!

Today we welcome J.H. Bogran as our guest blogger. José is a fellow ITW member and also serves as ITW’s Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and a contributing editor to The Big Thrill. Enjoy his thoughts on research.

Joe Moore


Just like Tattoo in the opening of Fantasy Island, I’m always excited about planes. I still recall the first time I boarded an airplane, how the Flight Attendant—I learned to call her “stewardess” back then—showed the 10 year old me how to buckle up the seatbelt, where to find the vest and how to inflate it. Excited as I was, I distinctly remember thinking it was a bit silly to go through all these regulations for a flight that lasted twenty minutes. Again, I was ten. But hey, back you could even light up a cigarette while in flight and the armrests had built-in ashtrays. Nowadays they have volume controls and 3.5 mm jacks for headsets.

With the years came more trips, longer ones, but the little thrill remained. I’m afraid my fascination with jets has transpired into my fiction. The opening chapter of TREASURE HUNT deals with the kidnapping of a Boeing 727 in mid-air, a demand for ransom, and a getaway that included a daring parachute jump, not unlike D.B. Cooper.

Back in 1997, while doing the bulk of the research for Treasure Hunt, I took advantage of the then-pioneering Internet mostly populated with corporate sites that listed their general information. I was lucky to find that Boeing took their site seriously and had pages and pages dedicated to their current and older models. Altitude, range, velocity, cabin configurations, even pictures of the instruments in the cockpit, all I need to know about a jetliner to write a novel was there. You can read the resulting scene here.

FIREFALL COVERAs if that was no enough, in my second novel FIREFALL, the life of my main character takes a twist for the worst when his wife and son perish aboard, you guessed it, a plane. I’d say it has a different approach from the previous work because the accident depicted this time is loosely based on one in real life that happened in 1972. I was born that year, but it has nothing to do with that decision, honestly. Suspense Magazine did me the honor of posting the aforementioned scene as an excerpt in their blog.

In fear of becoming “that author that always writes jetliner accidents,” I made the deliberate decision of not including a major scene aboard any aircraft in my current work-in-progress. Well, okay, I confess there is a very short one where the main characters arrives to New Orleans, but only because it was more convenient for him to fly there than to drive all the way from Houston!

As you can deduce, I love research. To me, that’s the fun part of beginning of a new project. Or maybe I’m just a frustrated pilot, or a pilot-wannabe as the current way speaking goes. It’s a fact that I can’t start the engine of my car without having plotted the entire route to my destination in my head. Something my wife is grateful for, especially during long trips as she hates reading maps as much as I hate a GPS device ordering me where to turn.

So, how about you? Do you have any pet-peeves you’re always finding ways to write into your stories?


About J. H. Bográn

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He’s a member of the Short Fiction Writers Guild and the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor their official e-zine The Big Thrill.

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Twitter: @JHBogran

15 thoughts on “The plane! Da plane!

  1. But Houston to NOLA is a straight shot down I-10, not more than five hours! Given airport security delays, time getting to and from airports and waiting for baggage, it’s almost faster to drive. But then you’d have to research which car to put your character in, and what he/she would see en route. (Hint: In Texas, not much.)

    • Welcome, JH! I’m with John. I’ve made that drive a few times (I haven’t flown since 1997) and it’s a piece of cake. And your character can always stop in Lafayette for some cracklins and boudin to break up the trip, something you can’t do on the plane.

  2. I learned to drive in a manual TR6 sports car, and never forgot the thrill of taking the corners in that car. I always manage to insert a scene involving a sports car, to this day. Nothing like those vintage British roadsters!

  3. I don’t know if it’s peeves so much, but there are a few types of people I enjoy needling. I won’t mention which types here, however, as I would certainly hate to be the cause of trouble. Okay, I’m lying, but I don’t want to be 86ed from TKZ. I think “Payback” is a wonderful thing and fiction provides a great opportunity for a few peevers to go slipping on a banana peel or falling in you-know-what. People who incessantly honk their horns (hello, LA drivers!) often get their comeuppance in my stories. In high school placing Kick Me notes on people’s backs was a joy. I wish that trend would come back. That’s a lot like Wake Up! notes that certain writers find stuck to their heads while snoozing in SB. [Note: inside TKZ joke.]

    Although this is not a peeve, I do enjoy including pets in stories – especially large dogs. I have a Pressa Canario named Molo in my latest WIP. Molo gets an opportunity to cause mayhem and deliver some bigtime payback to a couple of my favorite peevers.

    [Another Note: Bigtime should be one word – just like email. Hello, brave new world.]

    I’m doing my best to light a fire here. Somebody send a note to Basil. We need you NOWW!

  4. Someone rubbed the lamp?

    Been so busy recording and WIPing lately I’ve been a mere shadow flitting about the darkness. Which is to say, much like J.H. says above, I’ve been doing a lot of research into stuff for the WIP. One of the recurring things in all my novels is something about food and drink. Food and drink I have had and enjoyed in real life that is.

    For instance, all of them contain a reference to home-brewed stout beer and some kind of sweet wine. I also put in a reference to a favourite restaurant here in Alaska (Taco King = best Mexican food in Alaska), and usually to some Korean food dish.

    One thing I am trying to avoid in my next novels though is ending up in hospitals. All four of my current books end with one of the protags in the hospital. Really don’t know why, well, they’re beat is why they’re there, but I don’t know why my muses always take me there. Maybe I subconsciously miss being an EMT.

  5. I like animals, especially cats, and usually have one or more in book. My fictional cats do not solve mysteries, though. They are based on real cats and mostly howl for dinner.

  6. I wouldn’t call it a pet peeve, but I’m not putting babies in my stories. Infants require a lot of care, and my sleuths are too busy solving crimes. Pets, yes. Newborns, no.

  7. I’m never putting any kind of childbirth scene in my books, ever. I read this really horrific scene in a fantasy novel where the heroine breaks through her magic powers during a traumatic birth of twins. It was so horrific that I vowed I’d never, ever write anything like that.

    I do find I write doomed romance a lot, as well as mind powers and some kind of robot or AI. I’m trying to dial those way back in my current works, though.

  8. Hi Kessie,
    I’m all for doomed romance myself. If you read the Firefall excerpt you’ll see I just put an end to my protag’s “happily ever after.” 🙂

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