An Interview with Jaden Terrell – Jared McKean Mystery Series Author
DHG: You write a very character-driven series…tell us something about it?
JT: The seeds of the character—Jared McKean—were sown during the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan. I watched those young men being cut to pieces, the surf turning red, and they just kept getting out of those boats, pushing for the shore. And I thought, “This is what we ask our men to do. And then we expect them to come home and be loving husbands, gentle fathers, and loyal friends. And they do. For the most part, they do.” I wanted to write about that man—not necessarily about a military man, because Jared served in law enforcement rather than the military—but about a man who is strong enough and brave enough to do what needs to be done but is able to hold onto his kindness and compassion. Jared lives in a dark world, but he is not a dark man.
DHG: You’ve said you developed a supporting cast to showcase various aspects of Jared’s character. What can you tell us about that?
JT: I always wanted to start with the typical tough-guy detective and then show his deeper, more complex interior landscape. He’s good friends with his former partner on the homicide squad, and their interactions show his ability to detach, his competence as an investigator, and his tougher side. His relationship with his ex-wife is complicated. They still love each other deeply, but their core needs are diametrically opposed. She needs safety and security, but his Galahad complex constantly leads him into danger. He takes risks. “You’re a hero looking for something to die for,” she says. He doesn’t have a death wish, but he does have a serious need to be—and be perceived as—heroic. Her remarriage to a steady, less exciting but good man is a challenge they all have to work through.
His housemate and best friend is Jay, Renfield, a gay man living with AIDS. They’ve been friends since kindergarten, and their relationship, along with Jay’s illness, has helped develop Jared’s compassionate side and his tendency to take up for the underdog.
His son, Paul, has Down syndrome, and I think that relationship, more than any, reveals his gentler side.
DHG: You were a special education teacher. How did your experience in the classroom influence Paul’s character?
JT: I knew from the beginning that Jared would have a son with a disability, because that experience would give him a greater sensitivity to others. Paul began as a composite of several students I taught. By the time I finished the first book, he’d developed into his own individual person, but several of his traits, such as his taste in movies and his love of Beanie Babies, came from children I worked with. There are a few exchanges that came straight from real life. One of my favorites is when Paul has his eighth birthday, and Jared asks how old he’s going to be. Paul says, “Seven.”
Jared says, “No, Sport, you’re going to be eight.”
“Eight?” Paul says. “What happen to seven?”
I loved the innocence and wisdom in that exchange, so of course, I had to use it.
DHG: How do you balance the character development with the plotting of the mystery?
JT: It’s one of the hardest things for me. My first drafts are over-full of Jared’s personal life—I’m especially guilty of putting in more and longer scenes with Paul than I should. In subsequent drafts, I pare all that way down. It’s like panning for gold. You sift out the extra words and if you do it well enough, you’re left with the clearest essence of the relationship. At the same time, I punch up the action. I’m always asking, “How could this be worse?”
DHG: What are the names of the books in your Jared McKean mystery series?
JT: Racing the Devil and A Cup Full of Midnight.
DHG: Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
JT: I just finished the third book in the Jared McKean mystery series. It’s called River of Glass and is about human trafficking. In the opening chapters, when the body of an Asian woman is found holding a decades-old photo of Jared’s father, Jared learns that the man he’s spent his whole life trying to live up to had a secret life—and a second family—in Vietnam. A few days after the body is found, the sister he never knew he had arrives on his doorstep asking him to help her find her daughter, who has been taken by traffickers. The book comes out in October but just became available for preorder. Meanwhile, I’m working on book four.
DHG: Where can readers learn more about you and your books?
JT: My website is the best place: http://www.jadenterrell.com. I always love to hear from readers and other writers, too. You can reach me on my Facebook author page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog.
Shamus award nominee Jaden Terrell is the author of the Jared McKean mysteries and a contributor to Now Write! Mysteries, a collection of exercises published by Tarcher/Penguin for writers of crime fiction. Terrell is the executive director of the Killer Nashville Thriller, Mystery, and Crime Literature Conference and a recipient of the 2009 Magnolia Award for service to the Southeastern Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Learn more at http://www.jadenterrell.com.