Alan Jacobson
October 2010
Author of the Month
“Velocity”

Being an Alan Jacobson virgin, I
didn’t know what to expect from
his novel “Velocity”. However,
after reading the first sentence, I
knew this book would intrigue
and entertain me like nothing
else. I wasn’t wrong.
FBI Agent Karen Vail has a
problem. The man she’s involved
with, Robby Hernandez went
missing on their “vacation”. John
Mayfield—a suspect they have in
custody—could be the answer to
Vail’s biggest question. However,
fellow agent Ray Lugo—whose
wife and child were kidnapped by
Mayfield—decides to burst in to
the interrogation room and shoot
him. Lugo is killed instantly
when one of his rogue bullets
ricochets and hits him in the
neck. He leaves behind a CD
with sketchy information that
leads them deeper into a drug
cartel that’s knotted within the
grape vines of the Napa Valley
region where people drop like
flies and things are a tangled
mess.
Vail enlists the help of another
agent Roxxann Dixon to help her
find Robby. Among other things,
the two agents break the law—all
in the name of the greater good,
of course. The longer Robby’s
missing, the harder it is for Vail to
keep her wits about her. She
canvases Napa Valley looking for
him and ends up blowing his
cover in a way I never saw
coming!
This book was a fantastic read!
There were many moments
where Jacobson took me on a ride
I thought I was prepared for. He
kept me guessing at every turn
and made me need to know the
truth. What a magnificent book!
Read it!
Reviewed by Terri Ann
Armstrong, author of “Morning
Menace” for
Suspense Magazine  
We’re going to put an excerpt from his website to explain what we mean since he explains it perfectly:
“Years ago, when I was attending junior high school in New York, I was part of a “forced integration”
experiment in which teens from one ethnicity were bused into schools in predominantly other ethnic
neighborhoods. It was a volatile situation…”
“So my junior high experience was not filled with youthful exuberance. While it unquestionably taught
me valuable life lessons, among the most important were those I learned from one of my teachers. I
was in an accelerated academic program, in which I skipped 8th grade—half the 8th grade curriculum
was folded into 7th grade and the other half into 9th grade. As a result, I had Louis Brill, my English
teacher, the entire time I was in junior high. It was a transformative experience—he was a great
teacher who opened my eyes to English and made it (including grammar) fun. I still remember some
have had Mr. Brill as my teacher…”
Proof positive things happen for a reason and lucky for Alan Jacobson fans, his junior high experience
was not an every day occurrence. Enjoy the interview.

Suspense Magazine (S. MAG.): Karen Vail is a very strong female character. As a man, how did you
determine how you would write her?

Alan Jacobson (A.J.): Karen Vail came to me one day when I was writing a scene for a published
novel. She was totally unplanned and flew from my fingertips with amazing energy. She had such
spunk and personality, I realized I needed to harness it and build a novel around her. So it was not a
conscious decision to write a female lead character. It just happened. Vail came to me very
organically—and viscerally. I innately knew who she was and how she would react.

S. MAG.: We were lucky enough to receive an advanced reader’s copy of “Velocity” for review and I
have to tell you, it was fantastic! On your website you said your plan was to give Karen Vail a bit of a
rest, but a new idea came to you and it was so good, you just had to write it. What inspired you to
change your mind?

A.J.: Thank you for the remarks on “Velocity”. I love that novel. Then again, I’m extremely proud of
the entire trilogy. The funny thing is that I hadn’t intended to write Vail as a series. I thought “The 7th
Victim” was my career “serial killer opus”. I’d put all my years of research into it and left nothing on
the table. However, my publisher sat me down and told me the response to Vail was so overwhelming,
I had to make her a series character. But if I was going to write more Karen Vail novels, I had to be
able to come up with unique stories that would grab the reader the same way 7th Victim did.

After much thought, I eventually determined that to keep Vail—and me—fresh, I needed to challenge
her by stressing her in new and different ways.

“Crush” and “Velocity” were thus born. Though each novel has a defined story arc and can stand
alone, there’s a thread between the two of them that, if you step back, it becomes obvious that they
actually form one overarching plotline. Thus, there’s something introduced in” Crush” that forms the
basis of “Velocity”, and which, in retrospect, ties in to many of the things that happened in “Crush”.

After finishing “Velocity”, I thought the time was right to give Vail a break. But then an idea came to
me and I wrote down some thoughts. The next day, the story branched out in additional directions, so
I wrote down those ideas as well. I’ve been researching it for about nine months and I’m about ninety-
five pages in. The good news? I’m still just as excited by it as I was on day one.

S. MAG.: Was it your discovered love for English fifteen years prior to starting your first book, or
was it the injury, which ended your medical career, that catapulted you to write that first book?

A.J.: I’ve always loved the subject, which is why I got my B.A. in English. But my heart was set on
going to chiropractic school because I’d been helped by a chiropractor when I was fourteen years old.
My debilitating migraine headaches were cured after three weeks of treatment and I wanted to help
others the way I’d been helped.

But the injury that short-circuited my career was unforeseen and unfortunate. It was tough for me to
accept all I’d worked for—eight years in school and eight plus years in practice—were gone. But I
never lost my love for writing and I felt I should explore it rather than going back to school. My wife
gave me Jurassic Park to read and I’ve never looked back.

S. MAG.: I watched the video with you and FBI Profiler Mark Safarik on your site. You were
speaking about how Karen is always well-intentioned in her efforts, which sometimes don’t quite go
the way she intended. In “Velocity” she sticks her foot in it again and it results in a stunning plot point
that I never saw coming. You blew me OUT OF THE WATER! How do you come up with such
ideas?

A.J.: Agent Safarik told me he appreciates how Vail is not portrayed as a “super profiler” who solves
everything and gets it all right. I wanted to portray Vail as a fallible individual—just like any of us. I
wanted her to be a character we could all relate to.

Without giving away a secret, that stunning plot point you mentioned arises from something that’s
done by cops all the time—but it’s the way I set up the circumstances of the story that makes it work.
It’s not a coincidental plot device. Everything that happens in a novel should be realistic and
believable. Ironically, truth really is stranger than fiction. If I were to include some of the things that
happen in real life, a reader may say, “No way! That’s totally unbelievable.” And she may be right
because fiction has to be believable. Just because something really happened doesn’t make it believable.

Consequences have to grow organically from actions a character takes. For example, in real life,
chance meetings occur—but they should never be your prime method for tying things together in your
novel. I try to have plot devices arise from creative ideas and real police work—because that’s when a
surprise hits the reader the hardest. She’s less likely to see it coming if it’s something innocuous—and
if I do it right. I’m glad I blew you out of the water! That was supposed to be a jaw-dropping moment.

S. MAG.: Have you ever written just on instinct, the characters chatting in your ear…the whole thing,
end up writing yourself into a corner and then sit back and think, how am I going to get my character
out of this? Or do you rewrite the whole situation and change what seems to come naturally? If so, do
you ever go back to the original corner and get your character out because curbing what comes
naturally when you write rarely works?

A.J.: I write from an outline—but not a chapter outline. It can be fifty plus pages long, but it’s only
blow-by-blow because I want the ability to modify and enhance as I proceed. However, I always know
where the story is going because it’s all building to a certain end point. I can’t have the type of endings
that I have if I don’t know what that ending is before I start writing page one. All the threads have to
come together properly so the end seems inevitable when you look at it in retrospect.

I’ve never had a time where I’ve written myself into a corner that I can’t get out of; if that happened,
I’d back up to where I could make it work, or, if it was really a significant improvement over what I
planned, I would consider reworking my entire storyline to accommodate it.

S. MAG.: Where is Karen’s son’s father? Will he ever come into the books? Will he be a victim whose
murder she gets involved in solving?

A.J.: Ah ha! “The 7th Victim” addresses this. It’s a small, but significant, storyline that I enjoyed
tackling because it brings domestic violence to the forefront. Vail was a victim of domestic violence
perpetrated by her ex-husband. Can you imagine that? A tough FBI agent trained in hand-to-hand
combat is a victim of domestic violence. Does that blow the stereotype out of the water?

I discussed this with one of the profilers, and the fact is domestic violence can be a complex thing. For
example, women aren’t always the victims—men can be the abused party. One thread of “The 7th
Victim” enabled me to strike at the stereotype of the weak woman who stays in an abusive relationship
because she’s afraid to leave. And we learn a lot about Vail from what happens with her ex-husband—
and how she handles it.

S. MAG.: In the interview posted on your website, you said you always know how your books end. Is
there ever a time when you think you have it all figured out and the characters decide it’s going
elsewhere?

A.J.: Hey, who’s flying this plane? I’m the pilot, so I’m at the controls. While my characters do
sometimes say or do things that take me in a different direction, I never veer too far off course unless
it’s worlds better than where I intended to go.

If it were to take me far away from the plot I’d outlined, I’d start thinking that perhaps I had a
problem with the underlying story. I’d have to strongly consider whether to keep writing what I’d
intended, or determine if where I’m now going is really the book I should be writing. Thankfully, that’s
never happened to me.

S. MAG.: Have any of your villains been based off real world monsters?

A.J.: The numbers and percentages that Vail mentions in my novels reflect actual cases and statistics.
But that’s where the connection to real killers ends. In working with the profilers, they draw on real
cases with actual examples. But I have no interest in mimicking the things real killers have done
because there’s nothing original in that. I don’t want a reader saying, “Oh, that’s what Bundy did.”
What fun is that (for me or the reader)? I’d much rather take the personality traits for that type of
killer and play off them to create my own stories and characters. By understanding their personality
traits, I know what type of behaviors a killer will exhibit in a given situation.

S. MAG.: Have you ever had a potential story thread or situation for your characters that your friends
from Quantico told you would never work?

A.J.: When I come up with an idea, I always run it by them to make sure it’s feasible. Of course, I’m
always looking to push the envelope and do something different, as I did with the Dead Eyes Killer in
7th Victim and the Crush Killer in” Crush”. In “Crush”, because of who the killer was (which is
explored in depth in “Velocity”), little research and real-world examples existed. Fortunately, I was able
to draw off the profilers’ personal experience as to how this killer would react, the things he would do
to the victims, how he would respond to the police and so on. Equally as important, I needed to know
how Karen Vail would approach this type of killer if she came face-to-face with him.

I’ve never created something so ridiculous that the profilers said, “No way.” And I’m in contact with
them, asking questions, as I write each novel. And one or both of them reads the manuscript when I’
m finished to make sure I didn’t do something stupid that the FBI (or police) would never do—or if I’
ve gotten something procedurally incorrect, etc.

S. MAG.: What can your fans expect from you next?

A.J.: I’m hoping we’ll get the previously alluded to novel featuring the new character off the ground. If
not, the next book will be Vail’s fourth adventure. I’ve also been working a TV series that my agent is
currently shopping.

S. MAG.: All your books have very serious content; it must make you tired at times. What do you do
to unwind?

A.J.: When you’re on a-book-a-year schedule there’s no down time. I have to be researching, outlining
and writing the new project while editing and rewriting and promoting the novel that’s in production.

When/if I have time to unwind, I enjoy photography, playing with my dogs, sightseeing with my wife,
reading, following my teams: the Mets, Jets, Knicks and Sacramento Kings.

Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m a perfectionist and that I care deeply about giving my readers the
best possible novel I can humanly write. Actually, with that type of schedule, inhumanly might be the
better adjective.

We want to thank Alan for his time. We wanted to print the entire interview, but were strapped for
space. If you want to learn more about this amazing writer, check out his website at
www.alanjacobson.
com. There’s a lot to be seen on his site. Drop him a line if you have a question. Don’t quote us on
this, but we’re willing to bet he’d be happy to answer you.