Blog Tour: The Jump by Doug Johnstone
We are so excited to be involved with Doug Johnstone’s Blog Tour. Mr. Johnstone is an author of thrillers who has been praised by the likes of Ian Rankin and Irvine Welsh. He has written seven books including Gone Again, which is available in the U.S. He is also a freelance journalist, a songwriter and musician, and has a PhD in nuclear physics. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Jump is his seventh novel and a fun summer read. Doug has been kind enough write a piece for us on his writing process, specifically he shares how writes about the character of place. I’d like to hand it over to him. At the end of his piece, I’ve included a link to other stops on his blog tour. You’ll also be able to enter to win a copy of The Jump.
The Character of Place by Doug Johnstone
One of the most gratifying pieces of feedback I’ve received for my new novel, The Jump, was when a reader said that she felt like the Forth Road Bridge was a character in its own right.
Let me just give a little bit of background. The Jump is my seventh novel, all of them have been contemporary thrillers set in modern Scotland. The action in The Jump happens in the small town of South Queensferry, a few miles outside Edinburgh on the coast of the Forth estuary. South Queensferry is overshadowed by two gigantic bridges, the road and rail bridges, that stretch over the firth north to Fife. The road bridge is a suspension bridge similar in design to the Golden Gate Bridge, while the rail bridge is a more famous crisscross of red steel struts and supports, a grid that looks a little like a rusty squeezebox.
Both bridges literally cast a shadow over the small town – it’s impossible to go along any street and not be able to see one or the other – and it creates a really odd sense of claustrophobia that I thought would be excellent to use in a thriller.
That claustrophobia, that darkness, is multiplied a hundredfold in The Jump because of what has happened before the book starts. The novel opens with middle-aged Ellie struggling to come to terms with the death of her teenage son, Logan. Six months ago, Logan jumped from the road bridge to his death. No suicide note, no previous signs or attempts. Just a simple step and he was gone.
So Ellie goes up to the bridge every day as a kind of pilgrimage. She also swims in the waters below, and runs in the nearby hills, trying to shake off the grief that engulfs her. On the day the book opens, she finds another teenage boy there, about to jump, and she intervenes, but what starts as an altruistic act takes her into deeper danger than she could imagine.
So obviously the bridge is important to the story, and I felt I had to convey it as viscerally as possible. I have walked and driven across it many times, and it’s a remarkable experience. Because it’s a suspension bridge, it actually wobbles. It properly shakes when a truck goes across, and you can feel the vibrations in the handrail all the time. It’s very unnerving. And that drop below is equally scary.
When I was standing on the bridge researching The Jump, a bridge worker came along in the maintenance van to check if I was OK. He had seen me on the CCTV, looking as if I was loitering, and he wouldn’t leave until I did. Turns out it was part of the suicide-prevention training that all employees undergo.
And the noise of the bridge is extraordinary. It’s a main highway north, with constant heavy traffic, and even down below, in the small houses and pubs and shops that shelter beneath the colossal legs of the bridge, the continuous rumble is unnerving, putting you on constant edge.
All of which, again, is terrific for creating tension in a narrative, for creating a sense of inescapable fate that my characters can do nothing about. I’ve done a similar thing in many of my previous novels – write from one point of view only, restrict the physical action of the book to a very small area, use all the senses to bring the background to life as much as possible. The smells and tastes of the characters’ confined world. But if I’m honest, The Jump feels like the most intense atmosphere that I’ve created, and hopefully some of that is down to treating the place, the setting, like a character.
Thank you so much to Doug for sharing this thoughtful and interesting piece on his writing process. Please check out his book. You can find your copy here: The Jump.
For a chance to win a copy of his book, enter the sweepstakes: Rafflecopter giveaway for The Jump.