In doing some research I found an author that I can’t believe we haven’t covered before. Author Jonas Saul just released the seventeenth book in his Sara Roberts series called “The Pact.” However, that’s not the only thing that Jonas Saul has written. Even though for many authors that would be a heck of a career, he also has The Mafia Trilogy, Jake Wood series, a couple of standalones and let’s throw in a horror book. Yeah, Jonas has been working hard to bring some great books to the genre.
Jonas has been writing for over two decades and has thirty novels and over fifty short stories to his credit. At times, he has outranked Stephen King and Dean Koontz on the Top 100 Author chart on Amazon. He recently gave a two-hour speech to a creative writing class at the Okanagan College in Kelowna, B.C., and did a reading on stage at the Okanagan Valley Writers’ Festival in Penticton, B.C.
Jonas has traveled extensively to scout settings for his thrillers. After three years in Greece, one year in Italy, and almost six months in Denmark and Hungary, Jonas brings rich cultural diversity to his novels. Currently he’s in Canada for one year, then back to Europe for more research and touring.
His Sarah Roberts series and the Jake Wood series have both been optioned in Hollywood.
Let’s take a look inside the latest book, “The Pact,” and then you can check out his interview that we did with him.
Sarah Roberts has lost her ability to hear her sister’s messages. All forms of communication with Vivian are gone. Unless Sarah fulfills a pact with Vivian, one she knows nothing about, their ties will remain severed forever.
In a time capsule Vivian prepared almost twenty-five years ago, when she was still alive, prophecies and documents await Sarah. Several of the documents are addressed to people Vivian thought Sarah might know in the future. When Sarah’s father mails these documents, Sarah’s world is flipped upside-down. Instead of Sarah hearing her sister and performing tasks, Sarah’s friends are the ones hearing Vivian’s words through the letters she wrote to them years ago.
Back then, Vivian hadn’t been clear on what each person should do to save Sarah’s life. Since the near future affects Sarah personally, Vivian cannot intervene and communicate with her directly.
The future becomes the enemy and the only way to stop it is to cease moving forward to die. Sarah fights to stay alive without any spiritual guidance, something she has never done before, which becomes her undoing when she walks into a trap she cannot walk away from, and no one is there to save her.
Suspense Magazine (S. MAG.): “The Pact” is your latest Sarah Roberts thriller. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Jonas Saul (J.S.): With “The Pact,” I wanted to do something completely different. Throughout the series, Sarah receives messages—prophecies—from her dead sister, Vivian. In “The Pact,” I turned that on its head. I had Vivian leave a time capsule behind to be opened twenty-five years after her death.
Inside this time capsule were letters to people in Sarah’s life currently. Her father mailed these letters not knowing their contents. Vivian saw what was going to happen all those years ago and now, through her letters, instructs Sarah’s inner circle on what to do to save Sarah’s life. In “The Pact,” Vivian isn’t talking to Sarah. She’s talking to Sarah’s family and colleagues.
I love how it translated to the page and, thankfully, so did the readers. “The Pact” released June 30, 2016 and as of now has over fifty 5-star reviews on Amazon.com.
S.MAG.: Now that you have reached seventeen books in the series, who is Sarah Roberts now?
J.S.: Sarah began as an innocent eighteen-year-old girl, unsure of the world around her, lonely, and lacking confidence in “Dark Visions,” Book One. Today, she’s a crime-fighting badass, martial arts and weapons trained, sassy, cunning woman who finds balancing her love life with her vigilante exploits a more difficult task than expected.
Readers around the world have fallen for Sarah, calling her the female Jason Bourne, or Jack Reacher. One reader said, “Sarah Roberts is one in a million. If you’re her friend, she’ll crawl through Hell to protect you. If you’re her enemy, she’ll send you there.”
S.MAG.: Keeping a series fresh for this long is a challenge for any author. What is your trick?
J.S.: I carefully manage Sarah’s character arc. Who she was in the first few books has changed because of the experiences she’s had to endure.
Sarah matured throughout the series. Sarah grew up—twenty-six years old now—in a way no one would wish upon their most-hated enemy. She’s been locked up, held hostage, sexually assaulted, and had to kill to stay alive. She’s fought serial killers, street gangs, human traffickers, psychopaths, rogue government agents, and even computer hackers throughout the series. Each event changed her in some way. Maintaining her humanity throughout the series has been a challenge. There were points when she wanted out of the vigilante business. She couldn’t deal with the underworld any longer. It was all too consuming, too dark. Then there were times when she got pissed off enough—that underworld fight was all she wanted.
Finding her core, maintaining a piece of her while allowing her to grow into who she is today, has been my biggest challenge, but also what keeps the series fresh. After reading the first few books, watching Sarah grow became the highlight for many readers.
S.MAG.: Looking back in the series, are there one or two characters that stand out and could possibly have their own story?
J.S.: Funny that question should come up because this is exactly what has happened. Sarah’s boyfriend, Aaron Stevens, has his own story. It’s a novel I wrote called “The Specter.” Also, one of Sarah’s closest confidants, Darwin Kostas and his wife, Rosina, have their own stories—“The Mafia Trilogy.” Lastly, we meet Drake Bellamy in “The Hostage,” Sarah Roberts Book Four. In “The Victim,” Book Five, Drake is presumed dead. He returns in “Losing Sarah,” Book Sixteen, with a new name and a new identity. Drake Bellamy has his own novel called “The Threat.”
Looking back, I realize that I’ve always been writing the Sarah Roberts series, even if I wasn’t writing one of the numbered titles in the series itself.
S.MAG.: When you look at the “canvas” with each new book, what is the one thing that scares you?
J.S.: Being able to outdo the previous book scares me some. Being able to manage Sarah’s life, to manage the tension and the plot long enough to sustain another winning novel in the series. Three books in a series, sure. Seven or eight books in a series can become daunting. Fifteen books? Twenty? Okay, the fear rises with each title.
The funny thing is that kind of fear doesn’t immobilize me. It challenges me. It sets me up. Ultimately, it motivates me to fill that blank screen with text. Words that lead me—and the reader—on a journey. On an inside look into Sarah and what’s happening to her at any given time. For that, I’m grateful. Because of reader response to this series, I’ve decided to write book after book until the readers lose interest or I hit fifty installments. My goal is to end at Book Fifty in the Sarah Roberts series. I have plans for Sarah’s pregnancy, her baby, and many more adventures down the road.
S.MAG.: Why was Sarah the perfect character to lead your series?
J.S.: Sarah started as an automatic writer in Book One. She would black out and write prophetic notes. When she awoke, she would respond to these messages from the Other Side. Now, in the current novels, the note sender—her sister Vivian—just speaks to Sarah in her head. They’ve evolved their communication to this place and it’s still evolving. I have new plans for the next novel, “The Terror,” Book Eighteen, as their evolution reaches new heights.
Sarah was the perfect character to lead the series because of her vulnerability. Her loss, her tenderness, but also her ability to call people out on their shit. She has an uncanny ability to see through people and understand their motivations.
When I was fourteen, I lost my brother. His death was hard for me to deal with at that young age. Years later, he would visit me in dreams. He would talk to me. There were several times when what he said came true, and short of citing those incidents here, it was my dead brother that inspired me to write the Sarah Roberts series and have Sarah’s dead sister working through her. The theme of these novels is hope, and Sarah’s out there fighting for the underdog at all costs.
S.MAG.: Do you have a certain order in which the books should be read?
J.S.: Each book is written in a way that each story is separate. The main characters, Sarah, Parkman, and Aaron, continue throughout the series, but the stories stay isolated per book.
My advice, though, is to start at “Dark Visions,” Book One, so you can meet the young Sarah and grow with her to the current novel. This series thrives because of Sarah and who she is. By starting at the beginning, a reader will be able to connect better with her as she goes through the stages in her life that a lot of people can relate to. To date, since 2011, over 1.3 million copies of the Sarah Roberts series have been downloaded in e-book alone, with that number increasing monthly.
S.MAG.: What is your favorite word and your least favorite word, and why?
J.S.: I love words like octothorp (the pound sign), or words like jocund, abrogate, vitiate, malefic, vituperate, and obdurate. Really, any word that is rarely seen in commercial fiction today. I try to add several of these words into each novel I write. I dislike common words like very, little, suddenly, and nice. In my opinion, these words can suck the tension and seriousness right out of a scene.
S.MAG.: What is on your DVR right now?
J.S.: Right now I’m watching Ray Donovan. An excellent show about a “fixer” who can fix anything but his family. I’m also lost in the world of Mr. Robot and Better Call Saul. In the past, I’ve loved Sons of Anarchy, The Sopranos, and Breaking Bad.
S.MAG.: What can fans expect to see from you in the future?
J.S.: The next three Sarah Roberts books are outlined. Book Eighteen, “The Terror,” will be available by November. Followed by Book Nineteen, “The Chase,” and finally, “The Betrayal,” Book Twenty, will release Spring 2017.
“The Target,” Book Two of my Jake Wood series will also be out this winter. Both the Jake Wood and Sarah Roberts series have been optioned for Film/TV.
In August, I signed with Gandolfo Helin & Fountain, a literary and dramatic rights agency. Within days of signing the contract for representation, I was meeting with a publisher interested in a substantial print deal for the Sarah Roberts series. More details on that to come as soon as I can announce them.
I’d like to take a moment to thank you for this opportunity and wish Suspense Magazine all the best in the future. It’s been an honor working with you.
We would like to thank Jonas for taking the time to talk with us. For more information on his work please visit his website at www.jonassaul.com. ■