From self-published to traditional publishing, author J.T. Patten has built up a loyal following of readers who’ve embraced his “blacker than black-ops” brew of authentic espionage thrillers.
Now, after two books starring his fan-favorite protagonist Sean Havens, Patten is kicking off an all-new series after signing a three-book deal with Kensington (which we announced here) back in October of 2017. The first book in his new series, Buried in Black, comes out Tuesday, November 20th, and introduces the world to Drake Woolf, who works with JSOC Intelligence Support Activity.
Just ahead of his new book coming up, I caught up with Patten to talk about Buried in Black and asked him about everything from self-publishing vs. traditional publishing to what’s next for Woolf in 2019 and beyond. Read the full Q&A below, then click here to pre-order your copy of Buried in Black today.
TRBS: Man, you crushed this new book! Tell me about how you came up with the actual story idea . . . where did the plot idea come from?
Patten: “Thanks, Ryan. I wanted to do something different from other authors but still stick to the sub-genre that I have been writing in. I ultimately chose the Intelligence Support Activity, or Task Force Orange, due to its timeliness today of converging more technical intelligence with ops. From headlines of hackers, drones, surveillance, etc., it seemed time to highlight a lesser-known capability that still has plenty of action and suspense. It also was a bit of a defensive play because the subtle and deep nuances of the special mission unit can’t be faked. So, I’m using a little barrier of entry to differentiate myself beyond the dark and gritty that I’ve done so far and that of the typical genre types that are often replicated.”
TRBS: After releasing two self-published novels, you’ve finally gone the traditional publishing route. What’s that been like, and what advice do you have for new and aspiring writers?
Patten: “Well, at the risk of exposing myself a bit . . . I’m a bit of a loner, so self-publishing allowed me to do my own thing when I wanted and how I wanted. That’s my comfort zone. But to put out something better, I have to push myself more into team mentality recognizing that usually more people who focus on what they do best can really improve the quality of the book. I love working with the people of Kensington, Lyrical Underground, and my editor Gary Goldstein.
“Gary isn’t afraid to tell me what could suck and has a keen sense of the market. I had an idea for a cover, but the design department hit it over the fence. So, going traditional allows me to just focus on the writing while true experts handle the rest. As far as advice for aspiring writers, don’t give up and don’t be afraid to go it on your own. My first two books were not of interest to many agents and publishers because of the darkness and raw violence. If I would have changed what I was doing just to fit in, I may have found representation sooner, but it wouldn’t have been my voice. I’m not a great writer, but I think I have a unique story voice. That’s what people get with my books. New writers shouldn’t compromise their true voice even if it means waiting a bit. That said, if you don’t care about your voice and just want to sell a ton of books, swallow your pride and listen to the editors and agents so they have something they prefer that they can sell or work with.”
TRBS: In this book, Sean Havens is no longer your main character. Was it hard to move on from him, and how is Drake Woolf, your new hero, different than Havens?
Patten: “Kensington wanted something fresh. I came up with Drake Woolf, as a result. Once I was writing the story, I realized Drake needed a guide–or mentor. I only knew of one man who could understand and appreciate Drake Woolf, and that was Havens.
“Since the tier one and intel ops community is so small and tight-knit and I had already developed a world, it seemed right to call on “Fritter” Havens to help out the man from Orange. The biggest difference between Woolf and Havens is that Woolf is afraid to lose people so he doesn’t let anyone get close. Second, he’s an institutionalized operator bouncing from tour to tour. He is part of the counterterrorism operational fabric and knows nothing different. Sean, on the other hand, longs for the adventure, but once he’s in it misses family and home. He counts on family and friends being there even if he tends to drag wars back with him that has decimating consequences to his loved ones. Woolf knows better. Sean wants to straddle mowing lawns and grilling at home with running ops in third-world countries.”
TRBS: Who are some of your favorite authors, and what was the last great book you read?
Patten: “I like so many authors for different reasons. Stephen King gave me a love for suspense. Thomas Harris gave me a taste for the darkness in books. Mark Greaney gave me the Gray Man, which was quite different, at the time blending a few different styles of Clancy and Forsythe but with Mark’s own flair. The last great book I read was either Mark’s recent manuscript or Last Son of the War God. That was a fun read.”
TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for you now that Buried in Black is set to be released, and when can readers expect to see more of Drake?
Patten: “I just submitted The Presence of Evil last week. Drake goes to Chicago on the trail of a Hezbollah wannabe who steals radioactive material. The Iranians recognize that the repercussions of an attack would mean a reprisal so they send in their own team to stop the WMD threat. Problem is, in signals intelligence, you lack context and Drake assumes the IRGC Qods force wet team is coming to the U.S. to conduct more strikes. As you can imagine, confusion leads to body count.
“The third book, Collision Course, is what I am working on right now. Drake is sent into the Special Forces Q-course, Robin Sage, which is a literal wilderness of mirrors in an unconventional warfare setting of warlords and unwitting participants. Needless to say, there will be a murder in Pineland that Drake will be involved with and special forces candidates struggle to know what is real and part of the exercise. That one is going to be an exciting stretch for me as I add (hopefully) more suspense and mystery to the darkness and grey morality that readers have come to expect in my books.”
“Takes readers deep into the shadows with an explosive narrative that could only have been written by a man who has been there himself. Buried in Black delivers!”–Mark Greaney, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Deeper Than Deep State
In this explosive new series, former intelligence expert J.T. Patten takes you deep inside the top-secret operations you’ll never see on the news: our deadliest weapons in the war against terror . . .
Buried In Black
In the clandestine world of shadow ops, he’s known as The Man From Orange. A master of surveillance, signals intelligence–and silent killing–special operative Drake Woolf has been groomed and trained by the old-guard intel community after his CIA father and mother were murdered in Tunisia. Now he works for Task Force Orange, handling cases the government doesn’t want its fingerprints on. Woolf can always be relied on to carry out an assignment with surgical precision–and exterminate a threat with extreme prejudice. But his latest mission is different. Woolf knows the targets personally. He trained them in Iraq to be the perfect killing machines. Known as the “Mohawks,” these Iraqi rebels know our secrets, our strengths, and our weaknesses. And they’re using this knowledge to launch the deadliest attack the world has ever seen–on American soil . . .
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) 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.