Stepping Into The Shoes Of An Icon: How To Start A Project This Monumental


I get a lot of questions on the subject of how I went about taking over the Mitch Rapp series. Now, with a few books under my belt, I thought it would be fun to do a few posts about it. 

You’ve probably already guessed that the first order of business was research. I reread all 6,512 pages of the Rapp books and took almost 150 pages of notes. Every weapon Mitch had ever used. Mike Nash’s kids’ names. Even Vince’s word choice and how he liked to construct action sequences were deconstructed and agonized over. 

While not as enjoyable as when I’d devoured the books as a fan, it was a great way to get to know the characters’ and author’s quirks. Did you know that despite being one of the greatest thriller writers of all time, Vince never started books with action scenes? Or that many of his action sequences somehow involve a dog? 

After a while, I was seeing through the lines on the page. I felt like I was getting a strong sense of how Vince saw the world, his hopes for America, and his fears regarding the threats we face. I can tell you, for instance, that he wasn’t a fan of the Saudis, but that he was somewhat more sympathetic to Iran. He was also fascinated by the financing of terror, with Western bankers often playing a part. And, of course, there was his (and probably everyone’s) frustration with America’s political process. 

By the time I got to Protect And Defend (book 12 in the chronology) I was beginning to see glimmers of his moods, when he was struggling to remember an arc from a book he’d written years ago, and even when he was pushing a deadline. It was then that I started testing myself. Could I anticipate what the next plot twist would be? Had Vince’s characters become real enough to me to anticipate their reactions, thoughts, and conversations? 

It was only when I could stop analyzing the books and start feeling them that I put pen to paper. Fortunately, Vince’s last novel, The Survivor, left a lot of clues as to where he wanted the series to go. That made the follow-up to The Last Man a perfect book for me to start with. As the series has continued, though, I find myself focusing more and more on Vince’s overall philosophy and how he would have applied it to an ever-changing world. 

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