Before I even thought about the plot for my first novel, I had already decided a number of things. First, I wanted to write a series of books with the same lead characters as many successful writers have done, people like John Sandford (the Prey series) or Robert Crais (the Elvis Cole books). One reason I like this format is that I’m lazy – I wouldn’t have to invent new characters for every book. Second, I wanted the books to be set in Washington, D.C. There were several reasons for this: I love Washington; I’ve lived and worked there; and I understand a bit about how the government works from my former career. Most importantly, though, with a D.C. setting I could pick up a paper any day of the week and read about the shenanigans taking place there and get an idea for a plot for another novel.
I then decided that the world of fiction didn’t need another detective or cop as the protagonist. There are already too many good books, written by too many good writers, which have detectives or cops as the heroes. So I came up with the idea of DeMarco, a lawyer, an average guy, not all that happy with his job, and who works for John Fitzgerald Mahoney, the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Mahoney’s a man who has some good traits and more than a few bad ones: he’s an alcoholic, he cheats on his wife, he’s somewhat shady, but at the same time loves life and the American people. I like the idea of DeMarco working in Washington for the Speaker because this allows him to become involved in big issues, things like an assassination attempt on the president (The Inside Ring), a case involving espionage (The Second Perimeter), or terrorists and corrupt politicians as is the case in House Rules.
The third major character in my books is Emma. I wanted a strong female character and I think Emma meets that criteria. Emma is retired from the DIA – the Defense Intelligence Agency. She’s an ex-spy. What I didn’t want was for Emma to be a love interest for DeMarco. The protagonist being in love with or married to his partner has already been done, or overdone, or done too well – and I didn’t want to go down that road. So Emma’s older than DeMarco, brighter and more principled, and maybe tougher too.
Lastly, my novels have been influenced in various ways by my former career where I worked with high-ranking military officers and civilians in the Department of Defense and had dealings with numerous other government organizations and members of Congress. Because of my background, I know how our government works and how the people in it tend to act. In my second novel, The Second Perimeter, some of the action takes place at the naval base where I used to work and the plot, in part, came from a real life security problem at another government organization.