Monday, June 4, 2018

Happy Pub Day!

Tomorrow is the pub day for Taylor Zajonc's thriller THE MAW, which Booklist called "a top-notch genre-blender."  Eeeee!!!!  

One of the things I love about Taylor is that his books always make me feel like I'm at the movies--he does a fantastic job of creating tension, keeping a fast pace, and creating amazing characters.  Be sure to buy a copy of the book and also check out his Wrecking Crew series!

First off, tell us about THE MAW!

THE MAW is the story of Milo Luttrell, a young Georgetown history professor whose career and personal life have fallen to tatters. Redemption comes with a mysterious invitation to the recently rediscovered mouth to the largest cave system in Africa. A team of elite cavers has assembled to map the cave, and, with Milo's help, discover why famed British explorer Lord Riley DeWar was drawn to the deep--and why he never left. 

Your previous books, THE WRECKING CREW and RED SUN ROGUE, partially tie into your real-life experience as a maritime historian and deep-sea salvage diving.  Did you draw on any past adventure when writing THE MAW?

Of course! Back in the day, I went through months of pretty extensive Wilderness Search & Rescue training. We practiced underground technical rescues, and I joined my new S&R buddies for some pretty rad caving and canyoneering trips. The world of caves and caving became a fascination for me, and the basis of this novel. 

Besides your own experience, where else did you draw inspiration when it came to writing the characters and plot? 

I'm an obsessive researcher; and spent months combing through modern and historic materials about deep cave expeditions to bring this story to life. I think readers will be captured by the allure of the deep from the first page to the final revelation, just as I was. 

What is your favorite plot twist in the book?

My favorite plot twist in this book struck a very personal tone. Protagonist Milo Luttrell finds out he wasn't asked to join the expedition just for his expertise in a missing explorer. His highly accomplished ex-girlfriend, the expedition's doctor, pushed hard to include him and give him one last chance to redeem himself in academia and resurrect his career. On one hand, it's a devastating blow to learn he was invited because she felt sorry for him. But on the other hand, her unflagging faith pushes him to become rediscover himself and solve an incredible mystery. 

What was is like getting back into submission mode with publishers again?  Did you feel more relaxed or confident this time around?

Would it be terrible of me to say I don't remember ... ? My son was just turning one when this was on submission, and a lot of that time period was a sleepless blur. I have some vague memories of the usual mix of excitement and dread, but beyond that it's mostly lost to me at this point.

What is some fun promotion you've done for the book?  Anything upcoming we should be keeping our eyes or ears out for?

My favorite promo for this book was a photo shoot in a subterranean lava tube at the base of Mt. St. Helens. I met up with cave photographer extraordinaire Josh Hydeman ( for the session. He's just back from a National Geographic Adventure assignment to a massive cavern system in Mexico, the guy is the real deal and a monster talent behind the lens. He had me doing some really awesome stuff - long exposures, multiple flash, even jumped in for a swim in an underground river. Verdict? It was January, and it was very, very cold, but I loved the excuse to throw a little adventure into all the promotion I'm doing. 

What is a fun fact about yourself?

I don't just write about explorers - I am one. I'm a member of the Explorer's Club and helped discover and identify a number of lost deep sea shipwreck. Part of my mission as an author is to bring my sense of wonder and fascination with history and the natural world to readers. The best way to do that, I believe, is to write a helluva good story. 

Any advice you want to share with your fellow thriller writers?
Thrillers are propelled by tension. It's your job to provide that tension. Take away your character's security blanket. Show that they're vulnerable. Put them into impossible situations. Make their brilliant solutions backfire. Give them multiple critical problems to solve at once. Failure is always an option, and things can always get worse. Every victory, big or small, must come with an unbearable cost or sacrifice. By using these narrative techniques, you force your characters to become their true selves, which is the only way they'll get out alive.