THE WAY I DIE: Five Questions with Derek Haas

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 Since launching The Real Book Spy, I’ve been fortunate to get to know and interview some really great authors. 
In this case, Derek Haas isn’t just a great author, he’s one of the very best storytellers on the planet (an accomplished screenwriter, Haas penned the screenplays for 3:10 To Yuma, Wanted2 Fast 2 Furious, etc.), and I was thrilled when the creator of the hit television show Chicago Fire agreed to go on the record for our Five Questions segment.
If you haven’t read Haas’ Columbus series, you’re missing out. Especially if you love a good antihero. Columbus, one of the most feared contract killers in the world, earned himself the nickname “The Silver Bear” early on in his career, though he’s now going by the name Copeland. Following the events of A Different Life (2015), Columbus is in hiding when readers meet up with him in Haas’ latest novel, living on a remote, secluded Island in Michigan.
This book, which has a little bit if a John Wick vibe going on, is my personal favorite of the series. I love a good redemption story, and who doesn’t love seeing highly-trained assassins throw down against each other? Haas delivers all the goods and then some, and I cannot recommend The Way I Die enough. 
Read the brief Q&A below, then keep scrolling to learn more about The Way I Die, in stores everywhere today! 

TRBS: The Silver Bear is back! The Way I Die is just fantastic, maybe even your best novel yet. How did you come up with the plot idea for this book? 

Haas:  I knew I wanted to shift gears with Columbus and have him in the role of protector rather than killer.  He needed a new purpose in life and I tried to come up with a realistic way to do it, where he could utilize his professional hitman skills but use them defensively (and reluctantly).  I just launched from there and then the character kind of takes over and I try to follow him where he leads me.

TRBS: Being from Michigan, I was thrilled to learn that when we meet back up with Columbus, he’s hiding out on Mackinac Island. Having been there half a dozen times myself, you nailed the visual details and the Island’s ambiance, which begs the questions. . . why did you pick Mackinac, and how much research did you do before writing The Way I Die

Haas: I went to Mackinac for Fourth of July back in 2010, when I was making a movie in Michigan called The Double with Richard Gere.  I just loved the island and grilled the residents about what it was like to live there year round.  I kept it in my back pocket and knew I would use it someday.  It seemed like the perfect place for Columbus to retreat to following the events of A Different Life.
TRBS: When you’re not writing novels or penning screenplays, you’re obviously very busy with Chicago Fire. What is a normal day like for you, and how did you squeeze in time to write this book? 

Haas:  Running Chicago Fire takes up most of my time, so to write books, I get up early in the morning and write by hand.  No phone ringing, no kids up, no internet, and just quiet time for myself.  I usually get up at 4:30 am and work until 6:30 am when I get the kids up for school.  I try to write a thousand words a day about fifteen days a month.  I go into the office for CF around 9:00 and work until about 6:00 pm unless we have a big episode.  A day on CF can be writing an outline, supervising the writer’s room, watching a cut of the show, or visiting the set when I’m in Chicago.  I love writing so I enjoy the mornings!

TRBS: Columbus is a sort of an anti-hero, and a character you’ve developed so well over the course of five novels. Who was your inspiration when creating him, and who are some other literary characters you personally enjoy?

Haas: It doesn’t really fit the genre, but I’ve always been a huge Stephen King fan.  He’s the best storyteller of the last forty years, and I’m an avid reader and collector of his books.  I try to write novels like a storyteller sitting around a campfire, and he certainly inspired that in me.  I also love 70s crime movies like Point Break and Get Carter and I’m sure those influenced Columbus.  Literary-wise, I put Donald Westlake at the top of my list.  The best author doing it today, in my opinion, is Don Winslow.  

TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for you. . . any projects in the works that you can talk about?

Haas: Mainly just hoping Chicago Fire gets a Season seven.  I did write a pilot for Dick Wolf and NBC this year but it’s too early to tell if it will move forward.  it’s a departure from the first responder scripts I’ve been working on since 2011 so I would love it if it made it to pilot and eventually on the air, but it’s hard to determine with the vagaries of Hollywood.  I’m sure I will write another Columbus book at some point, but right now, I’m gonna sleep in for a couple of months!

The Way I DieAn explosive thriller from the acclaimed co-creator of “Chicago Fire” featuring his dynamic and compelling anti-hero, Columbus.

The way I die is two taps to the head, stuffed in the trunk of a rental sedan, my body set on fire.  The way I die is both arms broken, both legs broken, tossed off a cigarette boat in the middle of Lake Michigan, bricks in my pockets to weigh down the corpse.  The way I die is acid in a bathtub, pushed out of an airplane, strung up and gutted in an old textile warehouse in Boston. My name is Copeland.  My name is Columbus. The way I die is a shotgun in my mouth, my finger on the trigger.    

It is the middle of February on Mackinac Island, a tiny community off the northern Michigan coast.  But Columbus isn’t here to enjoy the picturesque surroundings.  Reeling after the death of his wife and relinquishing his son, he lives in isolation―in self-imposed punishment and exile.  Forgotten and alone. Nameless to his neighbors.  But even if he runs and hides, Columbus is never alone for long.  

Ten years after Columbus―one of the most original anti-heroes in contemporary fiction―first exploded onto the scene in The Silver Bear, Derek Haas delivers another riveting thriller that promises heart-pounding action and shocking twists until the very last page.

Buy This Book


A big thank you to Derek Haas for taking time out of his extremely busy schedule to take part in this Q&A! 


Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.


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