Meet Lawson. A cynical, wise-cracking vampire charged with protecting the Balance between vampires and humans, he is part cop, part spy, and part commando — James Bond with fangs. Lawson mixes shrewd cunning with unmatched lethality to get his job done. He tries his best to dismantle conspiracies, dispatch bad guys, and live long enough to get home. In The Kensei, a battle-weary Lawson heads to Japan for a little rest and some advanced ninja training. But he no sooner steps off the plane than lands in the midst of a Yakuza turf war orchestrated by a shadowy figure known as the Kensei. With the help of Talya, a former KGB-assassin, Lawson must put a stop to the Kensei’s organ trafficking networks, prevent the creation of an army of vampire-human hybrids, and save his own skin in the process.
How long did it take you to write the book?
Since this is the 5th Lawson book, it didn't take me as long as the firts book. I know Lawson very well by now and much of what happens in The Kensei (in terms of the martial arts subplot) is what happened to me on a trip to Japan in February 2003. It was great to be able to inject so much of my firsthand experience into the novel and hopefully, that will come through for the readers as well. I think the idea of blurring the line between fantasy and reality is a fun one to play with in fiction.
What kind of research did you do before writing The Kensei?
The Kensei, in some ways, is the culmination of my 20 years of training in Ninjutsu. A lot of what happens to Lawson throughout The Kensei is based on what happened to me during the trip I spoke about earlier. So, in order to reach that point in my training, it was necessary to study this martial arts system for many years. Additionally, some of the plot ideas with regards to the organ trafficking come from in-depth discussions I've had with several associates of mine who are involved in trying to stop the perpetrators of such crimes.
What are you working on right now?
St. Martin's just signed me on to do another Lawson novel, so the next one - THE RIPPER - will be out in Spring 2012. I need to write that and get it handed in by June. Otherwise, I'm polishing up a middle grade/YA boys adventure series right now that I hope to find a great home for. Additionally, my entire backlist (including all of the Lawson Vampire adventures) just went live on Amazon for the Kindle and on Barnes & Noble.com for the Nook. I hope to sell tons of those!
Can you tell us a little about what happened in previous novels of the Lawson series?
Each Lawson novel is a standalone adventure, so there's no need to read them in order. Lawson has dealt with his fair share of very bad people over the course of his career. In the first book - The Fixer, he has to deal with an old enemy coming back to Boston to awaken an ancient vampire god. In The Invoker, Lawson has to protect a young boy with the power to conjure the spirits of dead vampires. In The Destructor, Lawson has to battle SHiva - a half-vampire, half-lycanthrope assassin intent on murdering the head of the vampire governing body, the Council. And in the fourth book, The Syndicate, Lawson heads to New York to find his missing cousin and runs into vampire organized crime who are about to unleash a new synthetic drug upon the masses. Intermingled with these novels are some novellas and stories that pretty much put Lawson into every horrible situation you can imagine.
How would you describe The Kensei?
The Kensei is a rebirth for Lawson. By the end of The Syndicate, Lawson is burned out, battle weary and heads to Japan for some rest and advanced ninja training. But throughout the course of the book, he comes to realize a number of things about himself and his work, and even his relationship with his girlfriend Talya. So as much as The Kensei is one wild and hellish roller coaster ride for Lawson, he also comes to find a rebirth of his spirit and a rejuvenation of his understanding of his life's work.
What sets apart Lawson from other vampires?
Lawson is a Fixer - divinely chosen from birth to protect the Balance: the secret existence of vampires. He's part-spy, part-commando - think James Bond with fangs. He is the pinnacle of the elite and a whispered rumor in the world of vampires. The Fixer Service is a shadowy organization within an already shadowy race. But Lawson is also a conflicted soul: he hates drinking blood and is in love with a human woman - something forbidden in his society. So how does he reconcile the fact that he enforces the laws he himself violates? I think it makes for a very interesting perspective.
What's different about your vampires? What can you tell us about the hidden world the book is set in?
There are no sparkly vampires in my series. Lawson isn't immortal - neither are any other vampires in my books - but a member of a race of living vampires that have coexisted alongside humanity for thousands of years. Over time, their ingestion of blood has enabled them to distill the life force energy out of it, prolonging their lives and making them much stronger than normal. But the vampires are virtually indistinguishable from humanity, making them that much harder to identify, and indeed, helping to blur that line between fantasy and reality.
Thanks for being here today and good luck with The Kensei.
Thank you very much! I encourage readers to sign up for my free newsletter by going to my website: http://www.jonfmerz.net - it's got free fiction and much more every month!