Interview with C.J. Box, author of the Joe Pickett novels
Off the Grid, the sixteenth Joe Pickett novel by New York Times bestselling author C.J. Box, is being published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on March 8. Strong advance buzz has been building for this book, which revolves around how terror is found – and fought – in the wild expanses of Wyoming. Game warden Joe Pickett, his best friend Nate Romanowksi, and Joe’s daughter Sheridan are embroiled in multiple plot lines that unfurl with urgency, harrowing suspense and surprising twists. The Joe Pickett character entered the literary world in 2001 and a reviewer for The New York Times once wrote, “ … Box introduced us to his unlikely hero … a decent man who lives paycheck to paycheck and who is deeply fond of his wife and his three daughters. Pickett isn’t especially remarkable except for his honesty and for a quality that Howard Bloom attributes to Shakespeare – the ability to think everything through for himself.” Fellow Penguin Random House author Lee Child has called Box “one of today’s solid-gold, A-list, must-read writers.” Read on for a Q&A with C.J. Box. C.J. Box agreed to respond to the following questions for Igloo: Sixteen novels in, what do you think accounts for the wealth of themes, storylines and characters that have kept your Joe Pickett series fresh and filled with surprises? Although the first Joe Pickett novel (Open Season) was written as a one-off at the time, the characters, themes, location, and style introduced in that book provided a great framework for the series to grow. I’ve never had to regret the foundation laid in that book. Also, because the books take place in real time the characters mature and change from book to book. For example, Joe Pickett’s daughter Sheridan is seven years old in Open Season and now 22 in Off the Grid. Because the characters get older and benefit (or not) from previous situations in the books I think that helps keep the series fresh. Plus, since each book includes a theme or controversy unique to the story (endangered species, alternative energy, the ethics of hunting, or in the case of Off the Grid — domestic terrorism) they are all stand-alones in their own way. A lot of your longtime fans will be happy that your character Nate Romanowski features prominently in Off the Grid. From a writer’s standpoint, what is involved in making Nate so interesting and unpredictable? Unlike just about every other character in the series, Nate Romanowski is based on a friend of mine although I’ve exaggerated (Thank God) his personality. The buddy I grew up with was a big blonde middle linebacker who later went on to join the military and special forces. He took me falconry hunting and through him I was introduced to the very strange and fascinating world of falconers and the mindset that goes with it. And, of course, Nate carries one of the largest handguns in the world and he’s good with it. For a reader coming to your Joe Pickett novels for the first time, which of your backlist titles, from Open Season onward, would you recommend they check out first and why? Tough question, since in their way each book stands alone. No reader would be hopelessly lost starting with any book in the series. Of course, those who’ve read them all say it’s important to start with OPEN SEASON so the reader can experience Joe’s family growing and changing, and I probably lean that direction. But there are certain books —Winterkill, Free Fire, Breaking Point, andOff the Grid – that I think could be good entry points into the series. Find out more about C.J. Box’s books below.