Two Minor Characters

Besides Rulon and Yohaba, there are other important characters in the book. I’m going to talk only about two of them: Alex – Yohaba’s brother; and Dmitri – the Russian agent leading the hunt for Rulon.
Alex is a few years younger than Yohaba and suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. The character was inspired by my step-son, Henry, who also suffered from Asperger’s and who, very sadly and unexpectedly, died about a year ago from a brain aneurism. Henry had a 160 IQ and if he wasn’t a genius, he was pretty close. But, like the character Alex, he could also be terribly impractical. Alex plays an important part in the book as he is the only one smart enough to understand the true meaning of some of the clues left behind by Einstein. I won’t say more for fear of giving some of the plot away, but I think in almost every thriller involving riddles there is some character  – usually a computer genius – who’s main purpose is to easily solve some plot problems that it would take too long for the main characters to work out. So, I make no claims to originality with this, but, will say that the portrayal of someone with Asperger’s is based on my real experiences.
Dmitri is an experienced Russian agent who is on assignment by the Russian foreign service to find Einstein’s trunk. As I developed that character I really grew to like him. He’s not a bad guy. He has a code he lives by and a good sense of humor, but he’s pretty rough and tough – a good foil for Rulon. He’s been around the block quite a few times, but he’s not a thug and even has a loving wife and daughter. A pretty normal guy doing a rough job. I developed him that way because, while I had to have villains in the book, I didn’t want the bad guys to be all bad. I’ve mentioned before that it was important for me that, despite being a work of fiction, the book be accurate. Accuracy in a novel means more than having accurate street names, it means, among other things, recognizing that human beings are complex and despite how we would like life to be, all the good guys aren’t necessarily on the same side. 
Next post will be about the accuracy of the background information – geography, Einstein’s biography, science – found in Einstein’s Trunk.
Jim
Zurich
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Rulon’s fighting skills

     Rulon is the toughest hombre west of the Pecos – or maybe it’s east of the Pecos, I’m not sure – in any case, Rulon is very tough. But he’s also normal. Though Rulon goes the whole book without losing a fight, I never wanted him to seem invulnerable or perfect. He was just a regular guy, big, slightly overweight, and constantly being put into situations that he never wanted and never looked for. Rulon is confident enough in himself that he doesn’t mind if people underestimate him, in fact, he prefers it that way. He works hard, takes his lumps, dishes them out, and whether he wins or loses, he doesn’t complain. He claims to be peace loving, and actually believes that about himself, but in reality he enjoys a good fight.
      There was a short chapter in Einstein’s Trunk that eventually got edited out, where I described Rulon’s teenage years. His mother died when he was eight and Rulon blamed God and her for that. He grew up angry at the world and at women in particular. He didn’t trust them – his mother ran out on him, why wouldn’t a girlfriend. By the same token, he was constantly getting in fights over girls. It was a paradox. One day when he was seventeen he beat up an ex-con, the toughest guy in the valley, who’d stolen his girl friend, and found himself in jail. His father bailed him out and gave him his mother’s diary to read. The words in the diary changed him for good and he ended up turning his life around, going back to church, and then to college where he majored in communications and did all right academically. He also took up hammer throwing and Greco Roman wrestling – two sports that served him well during his career at OCD.
      One day while on assignment in Marseilles, he found himself in a tight situation in a sleazy bar. He ended up fighting his way out with a Wilton Demolition model short handled sledgehammer that he found in a toolbox. The hammer has been with him ever since. In the sequel I’m writing now, I explain what happened in Marseilles and why.  
      In Barry Eisler’s John Rain series, the main character was an expert in Judo. I wanted something similar for Rulon. The hammer seemed to do the trick. But I didn’t want the hammer to be the focus of the book. In the book, Rulon only uses it twice and hardly refers to it at all. Since I’d written Einstein’s Trunk, I read that hammers make poor personal combat weapons because if you swing and miss, they throw you off balance. Okay. Rulon’s strong enough that he can control the follow-through. For him the hammer works.
      Last point, Rulon is a great shot with pistol or rifle. He grew up on a ranch just north of Twin Falls, Idaho and handled guns all his life. His father was also an expert marksman and taught Rulon, and later, Yohaba, to shoot.
     Next post will be on the minor characters in Einstein’s Trunk.

Jim
Zurich, February 28, 2011

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Yohaba – the heroine

     I definitely think of Yohaba as a heroine, in fact, in the sequel I’m working on now, she has quite a big part to play in settling the score with the bad guys. But back when I started writing Einstein’s Trunk I simple wanted someone who could be juxtaposed against Rulon. Where Rulon was religious, sober, and conservative, I wanted Yohaba to be his opposite. She was irreligious, drank, smoked, cussed, and was overall pretty liberal and aggressive. But I also wanted her to be a deeper character than just a foil to show how virtuous Rulon was. My experience in life has been that courage, honesty, loyalty, and integrity can show up in the strangest places. I really had a good time developing her character. She has a quick wit and a bit of a serpent’s tongue – it was fun putting words in her mouth.
     Early on in the book, I wasn’t quite sure where I was going with her, but then she did something that totally surprised me. I was writing the scene where Rulon had just let Dmitri go after interrogating him in her apartment, and Yohaba, out of the blue, made a very strong pass at Rulon. I remember writing a line that has since been edited out of the book, but sitting there with my fingers poised over the keyboard and wondering to myself, ‘Where did that come from?’ But I went with it, and it setup their entire relationship for the rest of the book. Rulon fell in love with her, and she with him and their relationship caused both to change. Over time, Yohaba smoothed out and lost some of her rough edges. As she grew to love and understand Rulon, she even helped him to live up to his principles. Rulon, for his part, stayed true to himself, but ended up stepping over a few lines when it came to protecting Yohaba – to the chagrin of the bad guys.
     My next week’s blog will be on Rulon’s fighting skill’s particularly on his relationship with Freya – the Wilton Demolition model short handled hammer he uses to such lethal effect.
Jim
Zurich, February 2011
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Rulon Hurt: The main character in Einstein’s Trunk

     The Bible says there is nothing new under the sun. And that may be true, but as a writer I wanted my two main characters, Rulon Hurt and Yohaba Meleksen, to be unique in the world of thrillers. This post is about Rulon. The next one will cover Yohaba – my heroine.
     Rulon Hurt s a former bull-rider and Boise State University athlete who works for a private American security company called Office Crimes Division (OCD). He’s six-foot, two-hundred-ninety pounds, self-conscious about his weight, self-deprecating, not good with women but nobody’s fool, has a dry sense of humor, and generally would rather talk his way out of a fight than be in one. He also is amazingly strong and quick for his size, having been an accomplished NCAA hammer throw and Greco-Roman wrestler.
     He has two claims to fame in the world of combat skills: First, he’s a superb shot, having grown up around guns all his life as a rancher in the Twin Falls area of Idaho. Second, under certain occasions, he carries a short-handled Wilton Demolition model sledge hammer under his jacket – a weapon he first picked up several years before the events in ET during a scrape with some murderous neo-Nazis in a bar in Marseilles.
      I wanted Rulon to be different from your average thriller hero. I wanted him to be more…well, more normal. I didn’t want him to be suave, handsome, totally self-confident, as murderous as his adversaries, laughing in the face of death, careless of human life, and conscienceless. I wanted him to have gifts but to be someone who I would enjoy spending time with, and someone I could recognize from my associations with people in Idaho.

      Jim                   

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How I wrote ‘Einstein’s Trunk’

    Funny as it sounds, I actually came up with the title first. I was talking with Kim, my wife, about the success of The Da Vinci Code, and noted how book titles with a famous name and a hint of mystery seemed to do well. After a few minutes of trial and error, and a few raised eyebrows from Kim, I settled on Einstein’s Trunk. I then sat down in front of my laptop and began typing. And as I typed, ideas came, and so did inspiration that led me down various avenues of research. The book expanded from there.
     For example, I researched Einstein’s life and found many details that fit nicely into a thriller, such as his 1939 letter to Roosevelt encouraging the Manhattan project. And then his subsequent guilt over having suggested it. Also, the story and mystery surrounding his illegitimate daughter eventually worked its way into the character of my Russian agent Svetlana Soboleva and her attempts at Einstein’s deathbed to pry away his secrets.
     Before I came up with the title, though, I had been inspired to write a thriller in the first place based on having read and loved Barry Eisler’s John Rain series. I believe I read every book in the series twice. Mr. Eisler’s books taught me that thrillers didn’t have to be one dimensional. And I also appreciated that he was very upfront about the enormous amount of research he did to create his books. Strangely, I found this very encouraging. It suggested that even someone like myself who had never worked for the CIA (I believe Mr. Eisler had, by the way) could still have hopes of writing an accurate and realistic thriller if he were willing to do the research and hard work required.
     In my next post, I will talk about how I came up with the main characters in Einstein’s Trunk.

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Welcome to my author’s blog

Thank you for reading this blog. I hope you find it interesting and inspiring – at least inspiring enough to pick up a copy of Einstein’s Trunk and read it. ET will be published on March 8th and can be found in a wide variety of U.S. and foreign booksellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Picky Eggheads, etc.
        The Picky Eggheads site has a particularly nice write-up on ET and its two heroes. The website is here:
http://www.pickyeggheads.com/book.php?isbn=9781599554525  And here is the blurb: 
      “Rulon Hurt is a straightlaced, religious, and hardworking farmer from Idaho. Yohaba Melekson is a wild, worldly, and impossibly intelligent physics student from Switzerland. But when the two discover a trunk full of Albert Einstein’s secret writings, they learn that opposites attract in this electric tale that pits truth against lies, faith against knowledge, heart against mind, and an epic struggle for survival against the planet’s imminent destruction.”

     I don’t know who wrote that – not sure if it’s someone from Pickey Eggheads or from my publisher, Cedar Fort – but I thought they did a good job of capturing what I wanted the book to do. I wanted ET to be more than just a shallow adventure story where the characters all behave as if death doesn’t exist, and who never feel guilty, never have second thoughts, never make mistakes, know all the answers, and, frankly, never behave like normal human beings. I wanted Einstein’s Trunk to be exciting, suspenseful, and realistic in a way that some thrillers aren’t.
    My next blog post will be on Monday (like my hero, Rulon Hurt, I don’t like to shop or work on Sunday), and I will discuss how I got the idea for Einstein’s Trunk. 
     Thanks,

       Jim
 

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