The book is called The Next Chapter. It is a thriller where Sal Russo, a writer, finds his career in a freefall after losing his wife and daughter to a terrible accident. While missing deadlines and facing an ultimatim from his publisher, he finds a mysterious package in his garden. In it, he finds a chapter detailing a young girl’s abduction. It ends with a challenge: Write the next chapter in her life, or she dies. Proving this is no mere hoax, the package also holds a plastic bag with a heart inside. Meanwhile, the police are investigating the girl’s abduction as well as the reappearance of bodies of girls who’d gone missing years earlier. At each of the body dump sites the police find a page of one of Sal Russo’s novels. With evidence mounting against Sal as a suspect, his only chance for vindication is to write the next chapter and save the girl before time runs out.
How did you research for this book?
I set the book in Bloomington, Minnesota and its surrounding cities since that’s where I live. I called various law enforcement agencies, including the Bloomington Police Department, the FBI regional office and the BCA. I spent hours reading police procedure for abductions and crime scene investigation. I also had a contact who gave me detailed information on the Mall Of America’s security procedures for the abduction scene.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
In the most unsuspecting places. For this book I woke up with an idea of a writing game where one person starts a story and the next person has to continue it. In my sleep-adled brain, I wondered what would happen if whatever someone wrote, it really took place. Around the same time I was doing a lot of thinking about God’s sovereignty and why bad things happen to good people. I had an idea of a story that would show how even though God is directing our fate, he sometimes allows us to go through terrible things, knowing that he’s working it to our ultimate good (in this case, Sal Russo directs the girl’s fate in his writing).
What has been the hardest part of writing your latest book and how did you overcome it?
Getting from one chapter to the next. The first 100 pages were both fun and hard. As I got into the story, my outline changed completely and at times I felt like I was driving blind. I overcame the writing by doing what I call the Dean Koontz method. I wrote each chapter over and over until I had it down to what I wanted it to be. Then I moved on to the next. This allowed me to focus in on each scene and craft it for tone and feel. It also allowed my brain to get the story’s tempo. I noticed the chapters get shorter and more intense as the story moved toward its climax.
What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?
That while we don’t understand why God allows bad things to happen to us, He is in ultimate control and both sees us and knows us.
What new projects are you working on?
I’m working on a thriller/Adventure where treasure hunters are looking for the broken fragments of the original Ten Commandments that Moses brought down and shattered at Mt. Sinai.
Where can people find out more about you and your writing? The programs and speaking that you do?
I have a web site, www.brynjones.celestialsign.com. There you can read about me, view a few sample chapters of my novel and read a number of short stories that have been published.
What is the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?
The best advice: My mom: “Is that the best word you can use to describe that?” also a book called “Between the Lines.”
The worst advice: The market doesn’t like novels with writers as the main characters. Or men. Male writer characters aren’t going to sell.
Anything else you’d like to take this opportunity to say?
Writing fiction is like being a superhero. There’s this gift that seems so hard to use, is often overlooked or underappreciated, and yet it comes with great responsibility to use properly and constantly, regardless of compensation.