Today's the day that GALE FORCE, my ninth novel, officially goes on sale. It's the seventh thriller I've published with the wonderful people at Putnam, who published my first novel, THE PROFESSIONALS, six years ago.
It's the last thriller on which I'll have the privilege of working with my amazing, esteemed editor Neil Nyren, the man who gave me my start in this business and who's been a tireless champion of my work ever since, even after his well-deserved retirement last fall.
This book also comes at a sort of inflection point in my career, too, though I'll get to that in a second.
I've always wanted to write a thriller set at sea. It's a cliche to say that the ocean gets in your blood, but if there's seawater in anyone's veins, it's the Laukkanen's.
My grandfather was a boat builder and a commercial fisherman, and my uncle a commercial fisherman, also. I spent some of the best summers of my life on his 42-foot troller, the Koskelo, chasing prawns and salmon off the coast of Vancouver Island, and Haida Gwaii.
Even my dad, who chose medicine as a career, couldn't escape the sea forever; he owns a lobster fishing enterprise on Prince Edward Island's north shore, and as you read this he's probably hauling traps out of the chilly water of the Gulf of St. Lawrence--and with any luck, they're jammed full of keepers.
I've always been fascinated by the ocean, and I always dreamed of going to sea myself. I toyed with applying to Coast Guard college after high school, and once I'd graduated from university with a degree in Creative Writing, I applied to maritime college, thinking that a life spent crossing the ocean on cargo ships would make for wonderful inspiration for a writer.
Before I could get too far down that road, though, I discovered I was just colourblind enough to fail a Transport Canada certification test, thus ensuring I would never work at sea.
But I still loved, and was fascinated by, the ocean.
Essentially, the Cougar Ace was a cargo ship filled with Mazdas that nearly capsized and was abandoned in the North Pacific, two hundred miles off of the Alaskan Aleutian Island chain.
When a cargo ship is abandoned at sea, the rights to salvage it go more or less up for grabs to anyone who can put a line on the ship and bring it to safety.
Obviously if the ship is tipped over at a sixty-degree angle, the matter is a little more complex than your basic tow.
So you have these teams of salvage experts who'll set out to a wreck in hopes of saving it, all the while knowing that they'll get nothing if they can't keep the ship afloat--or if another team gets there first.
We're talking seven- or eight-figure paydays for these big ships. But those crews earn every cent.
To me, that's always sounded like a pretty damn good setting for a thriller. Especially if you took it Clive-Cussler-style and put $50m USD in stolenYakuza bearer bonds somewhere on the ship as well.
Chuck in a rookie tugboat skipper who inherited the boat and its crew when her father drowned at sea, and who needs this big score to keep the whole enterprise, ahem, afloat, and a bunch of Japanese mafia types come looking for those bonds and, hopefully, you've got a recipe for a page-turner.
There's also a wise-ass boy genius naval architect on whom my skipper is forced to depend, even though the last time they spoke was when their romance was fizzling, a rival crew that might beat the Gale Force to the prize, and, oh yeah, a developing storm that threatens to sink the crippled freighter and take some of our fearless crew with it to the bottom of the ocean.
I sketched the story out to my agent, the incomparable Stacia Decker, a few years ago, and she was as stoked on the idea as I was.
So I carved out some time between Stevens & Windermere books to write a first draft, and when we pitched it to Neil, at Putnam, well, he was pretty stoked too.
So here we are.
I mentioned an inflection point. This is my last book under contract with Putnam, right now. I have plenty of ideas for more Gale Force adventures, and I'm really, really hoping that we can convince Putnam to publish them.
It comes down to sales. If Gale Force sells, odds are good we'll see more books.
My career will be fine, either way; I have a couple of books I'm really excited about coming next year and the year after. And I'll probably write more in this series anyway and trust they'll find a new home.
But I'm really hopeful that people will be as excited to read GALE FORCE as I was to write it.
I've always felt so lucky to be a Putnam author, and it would be wonderful to repay their faith in me with a bonafide hit. So I'll be crossing my fingers and thinking good thoughts as this book goes to market.