Sam Capra is finally back.
While he first starred in Jeff Abbott’s 2011 thriller Adrenaline, Capra was last seen in The First Order (2016), more than six years ago. Now, he’s back, and this time around, Sam is living a quiet life in Austin, Texas with his thirteen-year-old son. Well, as quiet a life as one can live when their primary job is to run a collection of bars and nightclubs around the world. Still, Sam hasn’t had contact with Section K, the spy agency he used to work for, that is until the last American traitor suddenly goes missing—once again pulling him back into action.
A huge fan of the Sam Capra series, I was absolutely thrilled to find out that Abbott had written another book in his bestselling series, and let me tell you, he brought it. Unable to put this one down, I read it in a single sitting. Trust me, once you start it, there’s no stopping.
Just after the release of his latest thriller, Jeff Abbott agreed to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him about everything from why he decided now was the right time to bring Sam back to what’s next for him. Check out the full interview below, then make sure to grab a copy of Traitor’s Dance, now available wherever books are sold.
TRBS: First and foremost, I am so thrilled to see Sam back in action! One of my favorite series out there, I’ve been dying for the next book, and want to start by asking you why now was the right time to bring him back?
Jeff Abbott: Thank you so much, that means a lot to me. I’m so glad to have brought Sam back, better than ever. After writing four psychological suspense novels, I felt ready to return to Sam’s world. I also felt I had learned some valuable lessons in writing the standalone novels that would help me take Sam to a new level.
TRAITOR’S DANCE moves ten years forward in time since the last Sam book, so he’s now a single suburban dad in his mid-30s, raising his 13 year old son Daniel, who is a great kid but has started asking questions about their family’s past– a past that is full of lies created to protect both Daniel and the intelligence community.
Sam still owns his bars around the world, but now he’s working for a highly secret intel agency known as Section K — the people who do the most dangerous jobs, and the people who have a more, let’s say colorful, history in intel work, so they can be more easily disavowed if the job goes wrong. Sam is a fixer for Section K and he’s given a dangerous assignment: find Markus Bolt, an American traitor who fled to Russia years ago and now has vanished–and who has possibly come back to America to connect with his grown daughter. While Sam undertakes that mission in Miami, Daniel is drawn into a mystery of his own. I had a blast writing this father and son together–I don’t know that there’s quite another relationship like theirs in suspense fiction right now. So, for me, it really felt like the right move for the series and I hope readers agree.
TRBS: What is your actual writing process like—Are you an outliner? Do you make it up as you go?–and how, if at all, has that process changed over the course of your career?
Jeff Abbott: Yes, I am an outliner. I write a short outline for my editor and the other publishing execs to review, and then a more detailed one for just my editor, my agent, and myself. I like to have a plan in place. That said, better ideas often emerge once the writing starts, and I try to respect and include those new directions and inspirations. But I’ve always been an outliner at some level. I used to write out all the scenes on index cards so I could rearrange them into more dramatic storylines, and that’s a method I go back to if the outline feels like it’s not working. I often stop when I’ve got about a hundred pages left and re-outline the rest of the book, just to make sure I’m hitting all the emotional beats and paying off the story I’ve set up in a satisfying way.
TRBS: Though I love this series especially, I am also a huge fan of your standalone work (BLAME is one of my highest-reviews books, in fact). How is writing a standalone thriller different than writing a series book, and which do you prefer?
Jeff Abbott: Oh, thank you, I love BLAME too. In writing a standalone, the gloves are off: you can put your protagonist through absolute hell, put them on an arc of growth and self-understanding, watch them become a hero, and then say goodbye to them. With a series character, the reader often doesn’t want them to change — part of the pleasure is the time spent with them, and their unique approach to solving the book’s mystery. So you have to still include, i think for modern readers, emotional stakes but not alter the protagonist too much. I’ve really tried to strike a balance here — Sam is still Sam Capra, but he’s the father of a teenager, and that comes with a lot of emotional stress (for them both) and he’s got some growing to do as a dad to better connect with his son–and to protect him from the dark world that Sam inhabits. I don’t prefer series over standalone, I love writing them both, it’s just slightly different approaches.
TRBS: What’s the last great book that you read, and who are some of your favorite authors to read when you’re not busy writing?
Jeff Abbott: I really enjoyed S. A. Cosby’s BLACKTOP WASTELAND–powerfully written. Some of my favorite authors include Laura Lippman, Harlan Coben, Kellye Garrett, Meg Gardiner, Mick Herron–too many to mention. Lately, I’ve been rereading classics by John Le Carre, Josephine Tey, and Eric Ambler.
TRBS: Lastly, now that TRAITOR’S DANCE is out, what’s next for you?
Jeff Abbott: The next Sam Capra(s) and then maybe another standalone. I’d really like to alternate more between the two rather than writing 5 Sams in a row and then 4 standalones.
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 co-hosts the ThrillerTalk podcast when he’s not streaming and hanging out with his growing community on Twitch. His debut thriller, FIELDS OF FIRE, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr says “will leave you speechless and begging for more,” is now available in bookstores. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook.