This book was a lot of fun to write," Baldacci explained. "I just felt good all the way through. I don't know if it was because it was a brand new character and I was doing something different, but in my mind's eye, everything seem to really click."
This story introduces a new character, Will Robie, a high-level, super undercover hit man for the government.
"There are people out there who do that sort of work," he said. "There's a high burn rate because it is incredibly stressful. Your set of field skills diminish over time."
When a new assignment goes terribly wrong, Robie has to activate "Plan C," an alternative route of escape. While he's on the run, he encounters a teen named Julie Getty, who has her own set of problems. They join forces against a set of nebulous bad guys.
"People who have read it so far, obviously not a huge number, felt it was really a ride all the way through," he said. "I wrote it pretty fast and I wanted to streamline it to keep the pace really strong, but to also feel claustrophobic."
To create Julie Getty, Baldacci had only to look as far as his daughter's room.
"I know teenage girls very well," he said with a chuckle. "I've been there, done that. It's a fine line, because Julie's smart, but she's not a trade operative, so I had to put her in situations where she would clearly acknowledge that she was totally out of her depth and scared to death."
One thing Baldacci does better than most working writers is making the readers feel like they're in the middle of the action.
"It's a really atmospheric book, so it's important to place the reader in that type of atmosphere," he noted. "I wanted the readers to feel the dread, and I wanted it to feel claustrophobic."
The many subplots swirling around Robie and Julie are there for a reason.
"For me, it's a book of misdirection, obviously," he said. "Turning the tables on my protagonist and him trying to figure out who was being targeted. Was it him or someone else I wanted to give the sense of two trains rattling down the track. You know they're going to smash into each other, you just don't know when.
"It came down to Robie and what he needed to do at the end of the day," he concluded. "He spent his whole career doing a task and worrying only about himself. Then, all of a sudden, he had to worry about someone else. It's a lot harder to do good than it is to do bad. For him, he was a predator who had to become a guardian angel."
Baldacci's team is working with a producer who loved the book and getting a writer on board to see if they can package it for a studio.
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