Concept and Background
My original desire to write Redemption came partly out of a love for the fast paced, escapist adventure stories that used to captivate me when I was younger, and partly out of a long standing fascination with history. Pretty soon I knew I wanted a story that was set very much in the present day and jumped quickly from location to location, but which also included elements that tied it to the past. This idea eventually led me to create the two main characters; Drake and Maras.
Drake represents the present. He’s younger and still relatively new to the world of covert operations. He certainly has some baggage (much of which will come out later in the series), but he’s still something of a blank slate with lots of potential for growth.
With Drake, I also wanted to get away from the notion that the protagonist must have some special skill or ability to aid him in his journey. Drake’s not physically dominant, doesn’t have a photographic memory or computer hacking skills or anything like that. Instead he has to rely on nothing more than determination, resilience and quick thinking – three things he has to use a great deal in Redemption.
Maras on the other hand represents the past. Her character has its roots in the dark days of the Cold War when East and West faced off across a divided Europe. She’s older and more experienced than Drake, having spent the better part of two decades doing dirty jobs for the CIA. Her experiences have left her jaded and embittered, but also extremely dangerous.
Thrown together in a race to survive, their differing outlooks and experiences allowed me almost endless scope for creating tension and interesting exchanges.
Ryan Drake, the main character, works for the CIA as a Shepherd – a special operative who finds and brings home lost agents. In Redemption he’s handed the task of breaking into a seemingly impenetrable Siberian prison and rescuing an inmate identified only as Maras. Things seem to go well, until a phone call from a disgraced CIA agent and former student of Maras forces Drake to go on the run with her.
Pursued by his former comrades and thrown together with a dangerous woman he doesn’t trust, his journey for answers takes him from Russia to America, Saudi Arabia and finally Iraq.
For me the story is all about the changing relationship between Drake and Maras. To begin with he’s deeply distrustful of her, which soon gives way to anger and resentment as things begin to unravel for him. Gradually however he begins to see the humanity in her, and the two of them form a bond of sorts through their shared experiences. It’s not exactly a cosy friendship, as the end of the novel proves, but it’s definitely intense.
As the title suggests, this books is about the pursuit of redemption. Both Drake and Maras have done bad things in their pasts, and are each searching for a way to make that right. However by the end they each realise that redemption can’t be given by someone else – it has to be earned.
The novel also deals with people’s desire for power and the danger that goes along with it. More than one character in this book compromises on what they know to be right in order to ascend to a position of power, and while that doesn’t automatically make them bad people, it starts them down a path that there’s no coming back from.
I also love playing with the notion of who the ‘bad guy’ really is. No character should be 100% good or bad in my opinion, and I think that holds particularly true for the antagonists. In Redemption, characters may do bad things but in their own minds (and perhaps even in the real world) they’re serving a greater good. I think that makes them far more interesting because it gives the reader a different perspective.
The Future of the Series
I certainly see Redemption as the first step in a complex overarching story that will develop over the course of five books. There are an awful lot of unanswered questions at the end, both for Drake and Maras, and the next four books will see both of them searching for answers – sometimes together, sometimes apart and sometimes against each other.
The sequel, which I just finished writing a few weeks ago, is titled Sacrifice and will be released next summer. Set in Afghanistan, it sees Drake and his team brought in to investigate the shooting down of a chopper by a radical insurgent group. Naturally though, nothing is ever simple for Drake, and soon he finds himself in way over his head, surrounded by enemies, and with few people he can trust.
Read SHOTS' review here