Jason Pinter does it all.
From running a publishing house (Polis Books) to cranking out page-turning thrillers himself, Pinter covers the genre from all sides—all while raising two adorable little girls, a challenge I understand quite well, as I’m still balancing being TRBS, editing, and raising my six kids, too.
My admiration for Pinter started a couple of years ago when, like many, I saw his social media posts detailing the life of super dad, publisher, and, of course, writer. Most people don’t understand just how hard it is to sit down and crank out an 80-100,000 word manuscript that’ll later, through an often rough and vigorous editing process, be turned into a finished novel for the world to read. It’s hard to put good words down on a perfect day, let alone on the kind of crazy, hectic days that Pinter has somehow mastered—and the craziest thing of all is that his latest book is by far his best work yet, at least in my opinion.
Falling somewhere between what readers have come to expect from thriller masters Harlan Coben and Lisa Scottoline, Pinter’s Hide Away introduces readers to single mom Rachel Marin, who—when she isn’t focused on raising her kids—is moonlighting as a tough-as-nails vigilante, dishing out her own brew of street justice while keeping a closely guarded secret tight to her vest. Looking for a new beginning, Rachel up and moves her kids to a small town in Illinois, where she hopes to offer them a shot at a normal life.
Things take a turn, though, when the mayor winds up dead, and Rachel can’t help but get involved, especially after local authorities blow his death off as a suicide. Rachel knows it was murder, and as she sets out to locate the killer, she quickly finds herself surrounded by danger after her own secrets threaten to come storming back, complicating an already delicate situation . . .
I absolutely loved this book. The last time a thriller caught me this off guard was a few years ago when Jeff Abbott’s Blame (2017) came out, delivering a wicked twist that capped off an adrenaline-fueled reading experience that I’ve never forgotten. Pinter, likewise, packs more than a few surprises along the way, and just when you think you have things figured out—he pulls the rug out from under you.
Thankfully, Pinter took time away from his busy schedule to go back on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him everything from how he came up with the idea for this book to how the heck he finds time to write, given all his responsibilities.
Read the full Q&A below, then make sure to pick up your copy of Hide Away, the first book in a riveting new series from Jason Pinter, which has already racked up over 450 reviews on Amazon while holding an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. Trust me, you do not want to miss this one!
TRBS: First of all, let me just say that I LOVED this book and cannot wait for Book Spy readers to get their hands on it. Personally, I think it’s your best yet. How on earth did you come up with the plot idea for this one?
Pinter: Thank you so much, when someone is as widely read as you are in the thriller/crime genre, knowing you made an impact is hugely rewarding.
The story started with the character of Rachel Marin. I began writing Hide Away a few months after our first daughter was born, and I couldn’t have written it before having kids because I needed that emotional core of wanting to be a protector. So I’d wanted to start a new series, and Rachel came to me almost fully formed. I consider her a bit of a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Sarah Connor from T2, in that she’s brilliant, capable, and strong, but also in some ways very, very broken and vulnerable. Something awful happened to her family, and while she’s honed her skills to try to prevent it from ever happening again, it’s also blinded her to other things.
I loved the notion of a woman who was strong and capable, but also had children dependent on her. She couldn’t just go out at night and fight crime—she has two kids to feed, to get ready for school, to nurture. So how do you balance that? I thought it would be a fascinating premise, and thankfully it seems like readers are enjoying the ride so far.
TRBS: Those who follow you on social media know that you’re a dad to two beautiful girls, a husband, and that you’re busy running Polis books. So, how do you find time to write––and what is your writing process like?
Pinter: My process is very, very different from what it was before I started Polis or had kids. Back in the day, my favorite time to write was 10pm-2am. I loved the solitude, literally writing in the dark with no distractions. Well, as most parents of young kids can tell you, even stay up until 10pm is hard some days. So for Hide Away, it was writing when I was at the office, or after my daughter was asleep, or on weekends when she napped. No longer could I really write when I “wanted” to, I wrote when I could.
As for the writing itself, I’m a half-pantser (that sounds very disturbing, actually). What I meant by that is I don’t start with an outline, nor do I really write with one. But I always tend to have three demarcation points when I start a novel: I know how it’s going to start (the opening conflict), I know a scene around the midpoint where the story takes a swerve, and I generally have a sense of how it will end—even if I don’t know how I’m going to get there. But even though I don’t write with an outline, I’m constantly realizing new ideas for the books—scenes and character developments and even little details. And I keep a running log of all these ideas, often literally thinking of them and then texting them to myself so I won’t forget. So by the end of a book, even if I don’t have an “outline”, I have a 20-25 page single-spaced document of all these ideas and developments that pop in there during the writing.
TRBS: Oh all the jobs and titles listed above, which one is the hardest?
Pinter: Parenting, easily. If I fail at writing or publishing, it’s a job and it’s money and it’s self-esteem. All are important, but they can all, hopefully, be replaced. If Polis closed down, or I never got to write another book, I’d be disappointed beyond belief, but, I’d survive. If I fail as a parent, that’s catastrophic and unacceptable. I’d rather fail myself a million times over than fail my daughters once. So parenting is harder because there’s infinitely more at stake.
TRBS: I know that Polis has a bunch of really great titles set to come out this year. Can you tease a few of them here?
Pinter: I am so excited for this year between Polis and our nascent imprint Agora, which is devoted to underrepresented voices and stories in crime fiction.
On the Polis side, we have James Queally’s riveting debut novel, Line of Sight, coming March 10th. I’d call it a cross between Michael Connelly and George Pelecanos—and it’s going to blow people away. In April, we have Both Sides, an anthology of border noir stories edited by the incredible Gabino Iglesias. I’d wanted to work with Gabino for a long, long time. For me, there are few writers who combine talent and hustle to a greater degree. And I felt this collection was timely and important even before the recent controversy around American Dirt. The roster Gabino assembled is simply jaw-dropping.
In May we have Hunting Ground by Meghan Holloway. Meghan published a fantastic historical crime drama last year with us, Once More Unto the Breach, but Hunting Ground starts a new series, that very much reminds me of Lisa Gardner, that I think will establish her as one of the most versatile writers in the genre. In May we also have Skin Deep, which is the first in a new mystery series and the first crime novel from acclaimed author Sung J. Woo, about a Korean-American adoptee named Siobhan O’Brien who must investigate the disappearance of a girl who disappears from her college dorm. Then into the summer and beyond we have an epic literary border crime novel from Anthony Award-winner Johnny Shaw, the debut thriller The Man in Millan by Vito Racanelli for fans of Daniel Silvia, and new books from Joe Clifford and Tori Eldridge, and a great debut from Andrea J. Johnson.
TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for you and for Rachel Marin moving forward?
Pinter: I literally just turned in the final draft of the second Rachel Marin novel, currently titled A Stranger At The Door which will be out early next year. It was such a joy to expand on the world I started building in Hide Away, deepening the characters while also introducing new ones, and giving Rachel a whole lot more trouble to get into. After that, I have some thoughts, but I’ll keep them to myself. For now . . .
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.