Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes Andrew Mayne.
The author of Angel Killer: A Jessica Blackwood Novel (Bourbon Street Books, $14.99), Mayne is also an illusionist who stars in A&E’s reality show Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne. He started his first world illusion tour while still a teenager, and was soon headlining in resorts and casinos across the globe; he has since worked behind the scenes creatively for David Copperfield, Penn & Teller and David Blaine. With the support of talk show host and amateur magician Johnny Carson, Mayne started a program to use magic to teach critical thinking skills in in public schools for the James Randi Educational Foundation. He makes his home in Los Angeles.
Initially self-published, Angel Killer was released in a revised and edited edition in September. Booklist praised, “Professional illusionist Mayne introduces a fresh angle to serial-killer hunting through FBI Special Agent Jessica Blackwood … Despite the focus on magic and showmanship, Mayne forgoes gimmicks, instead dissecting illusions with human behavior, math, and science without losing sight of the story’s big picture … [this release] will no doubt be popular among fans of procedural thrillers.” Further, Genni Magazine noted, “Angel Killer will have you compulsively turning pages until the very end.”
From the publisher:
In this self-published bestselling e-book by a real illusionist—the first thriller in a sensational series—now available in paperback, FBI agent Jessica Blackwood believes she has successfully left her complicated life as a gifted magician behind her . . . until a killer with seemingly supernatural powers puts her talents to the ultimate test.
A mysterious hacker, who identifies himself only as “Warlock,” brings down the FBI’s website and posts a code in its place. It hides the GPS coordinates of a Michigan cemetery, where a dead girl is discovered rising from the ground . . . as if she tried to crawl out of her own grave.
Born into a dynasty of illusionists, Jessica Blackwood is destined to become its next star—until she turns her back on her troubled family, and her legacy, to begin a new life in law enforcement. But FBI consultant Dr. Jeffrey Ailes’s discovery of an old copy of Magician Magazine will turn Jessica’s carefully constructed world upside down. Faced with a crime that appears beyond explanation, Ailes has nothing to lose—and everything to gain—by taking a chance on an agent raised in a world devoted to seemingly achieving the impossible.
The body in the cemetery is only the first in the Warlock’s series of dark miracles. Thrust into the media spotlight, with time ticking away until the next crime, can Jessica confront her past to embrace her gifts and stop a depraved killer?
If she can’t, she may become his next victim.
Now, Andrew Mayne reveals the magic behind Angel Killer …
1) What inspired you to write ANGEL KILLER – and how do you feel that the inclusion of illusion allows you to put a fresh spin on the genre?
It started with the idea for Jessica Blackwood, the protagonist. I wanted to write a character who has to rely more on her critical thinking skills than a body of knowledge. While she knows the secrets behind magic, she’s much more of a magical thinker – able to look at the impossible and figure out how it could happen.
I thought that would be a unique way to write about magic which I really hadn’t seen done before. If I put her into the mystery and you’re with her as she solves what’s happening, you come away with a richer experience than just telling you a secret.
2) You initially self-published the book. To what do you credit its early success – and how do you feel that this revised edition has enhanced the overall story?
I’ve thought about this a lot and don’t have a simple answer. My best guess is that Jessica is very relatable in an interesting world. We seem to be fascinated with insider knowledge and she’s got that in spades, without being alienating.
This new edition allows me to go deeper and show you a few more corners of the story. It’s substantially longer and gives a little more dimension to certain parts.
3) Tell us about Jessica Blackwood. How did you endeavor to understand her character – and what made you decide that she’s a protagonist worth revisiting?
Jessica is a composite of a few people I know. I thought a lot about former girlfriends and all the times I didn’t understand what they were thinking until much later.
I never set out to prove I could write a convincing female character. I just wanted to write about a person who has to deal with the world in her own way with her particular set of strengths and weaknesses.
I found writing for Jessica enjoyable because she’s not a static character. She’s figuring things out and learning. That means from book to book she gets to evolve. Jessica two years from now would approach a case like the one in Angel Killer very differently.
4) How did you find your background in illusionary to benefit the craft of writing a mystery – and what’s the key to balancing those magical elements with “playing fair” for the reader?
A good magic effect is the same as a good story: There’s a compelling conflict and a resolution.
Playing fair comes down to making sure the audience feels the outcome was worth the investment of their time. I’ve seen magic shows and narratives fall flat when the audience feels you didn’t treat their time with respect.
I think a good mystery should have people acting as intelligently as possible. Too many stories fall apart when the writer takes the easy way out and has people act irrationally. Everything a magician does should make sense in the moment.
5) You grew up an avid reader. In your opinion, what is the importance of reading from a young age – and how does that exposure to books influence creative output?
Reading is the best way to get inside the heads of people other than yourself. If you never read, you’re only going to be exposed to the thoughts of your friends and family.
Aristotle put it best: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” The first step is to get those other thoughts.
Reading the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin had a tremendous effect on me. The same with Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith. My friends and I used to trade Robert Heinlein arguments back and forth. Whenever I read a science book, I think of Isaac Asimov’s non-fiction books that I used as a kid to learn about how the world worked.
Fiction like Frank Herbert’s Dune put religion and politics in a different light that made me more interested in them.
I never met any of those authors, but they’re just as real of teachers as any I had in school. That’s the power of reading.
6) Leave us with a little teaser: What comes next?
Sometimes good people do bad things out of belief. What are the consequences? How do you find someone who wants to make it seem they never existed?
With thanks to Andrew Mayne for his generosity of time and thought and to Leigh Raynor, Publicity Department at HarperCollins Publishers, for facilitating this interview.