Lawson is a member of a race of living vampires that have evolved alongside humanity for millennia. He's a Fixer - an elite spy/commando charged with protecting the Balance: the secret existence of his race. To do that, he goes after rogues and criminals that would expose the vampire world. In THE KENSEI, Lawson is battle weary. He heads to Japan for some much-needed rest and advanced ninja training. But he no sooner gets off the plane than finds himself in the midst of a Yakuza turf war; worse, his human lover (and ex-KGB assassin) Talya shows up with an agenda of her own: finding a shadowy figure known only as the Kensei, who is trafficking in human body parts. Somehow, Lawson's got to handle all of this and more and save himself in the process. Not exactly the vacation he thought he'd be having, that's for sure!
As I read The Kensei, I was impressed with the depth of authenticity you portrayed in not only the world, but the characters as well. How long did you spend on research?
The Kensei is the result of several decades of martial arts study - including 20 years of my own study of ninjutsu - and there's an awful lot of myself in the experiences that Lawson has. Ninjutsu is a fascinating martial arts system and what Lawson goes through in the book mirrors what I went through during a trip to Japan in February 2003. That's one of the things that makes this book so special to me - there's a lot of myself in it. I hope that comes through when folks read it.
I see there's going to be a TV show based on Lawson's character coming soon. (http://jonfmerz.net/producer/new-ronin-entertainment/the-fixer/) Can you tell us anything about that yet, or do we have to wait?
I can tell you that we are moving ahead full speed on the production. We expect to shoot the pilot in the first quarter of 2011 and I'm very excited about it. This is an independent television series, meaning we're producing this outside of the normal Hollywood system. That gives me greater control and ability to do the story arcs as I want them done so they mesh with the books. I don't what them to be separate, per se. If you read the books, you can watch the show and the worlds will blend perfectly. That's very important to me as the creator. Also, we will be unveiling the brand new website http://www.thefixer.tv/ within the first few months of 2011 and also the trailer for the show, which hasn't been seen by anyone but our investors at this point. Needless to say, I can't wait to start production - we've got a fantastically talented cast & crew. Awesome people. Just great.
What inspired you to begin writing?
I grew up with a passion for reading, so I suppose it was only natural that I started thinking about my own stories. And eventually, I saw them so much as movies in my mind, that I got tired of not putting them down on paper. After my time in the Air Force, I was working in private sector security doing executive protection and related work. I had time. I finally decided to see if I could actually write something and make it work. My father had passed away only the year before and I was acutely aware of the number of dreams he'd left unfulfilled. I was determined not to leave my own unfulfilled.
I know this question might be a bit redundant, but it's always fun to see what the answers are. What is your favorite thing about writing? Your least favorite?
My favorite thing about writing is getting into the dialogue between characters. I love it when a conversation just goes. There's a back-and-forth repartee that I really groove on. How is the conflict building within the speech? Who's going to have the witty barb this time? I love that. I also love the thrill I get out of writing a good fight scene. So much of my life has been devoted to studying fighting and combat, that when I'm able to convey it in such a way as to make it accessible to every reader - even those who may never have been in harm's way - then there's something really special in doing that.
My least favorite? Probably writing proposals and synopses. I hate that. I don't like outlining and it's something I've very rarely done. I like to write from the hip and see where it goes and how it develops. Outlining, for me, robs me of that surprise.
If we were able to look at your bookshelves, what kinds of books would we find?
A lot of history, a lot of martial arts books, and a lot of cartoon books like Bloom County and Calvin & Hobbes. I also have a ton of young adult series, which I think are some of the best reads out there right now.
What would we catch you doing in your free time?
Playing with my two sons, studying martial arts, reading, listening to music, and creating an unstoppable entertainment juggernaut. I love going out to dinner with my wife and enjoying a good drink.
Where can readers go to learn more about you and your books?
Please visit my website at http://www.jonfmerz.net/ and beside to sign up for my free newsletter, Boston Nocturne, which offers free fiction and exclusive content every month. I have a ton of ebooks available on Amazon.com as well.
Jon, thank you so much for chatting with us today. We wish you the best of luck with your books, and I for one will be looking forward to the TV show when it comes out.
Thanks so much!
If you'd like to read the review we've done for The Kensei, then click here.
There's also an ongoing tour contest which features the following prize - the replica sword used to film the book trailer for The Kensei, as used by Brandon Stumpf who will be starring in the television series THE FIXER (based on the Lawson novels). The sword has the following features.
Overall Length: 41 in.
Blade Length: 28 in.
Handle Length: 10 3/4 in.
Tsuba Material: Copper.
Blade Material: High Carbon Steel.
Handle Material: Hardwood with Nylon cord wrap, flat black matte.
Includes black cotton sword storage/carry bag.
For legal purposes, this is an unsharpened blade, but it's a very nice piece, with great feel and weight. Winner will also get a certificate of authenticity, verifying that this is the sword used in the trailer shoot.
In order to be entered into the sword drawing, readers must buy a copy of The Kensei and then forward their proof-of-purchase to Jon F. Merz at firstname.lastname@example.org. For physical bookstore purchases, please scan your receipt and for online purchases, simply forward the email receipt. If you buy more than one copy, then each copy purchased counts as an entry - in other words, if you buy three copies, you'll be entered three times.
One winner will be chosen at the end of the tour, in late Spring 2011.