When people ask me about my “book’s hero,” I quickly correct them and say that in my novel there are no heroes, or villains for that matter. “Sleeper’s Run” is not about good vs. evil. I wanted to create a story that reflected the world as it is, not as we wished it were. Unlike what the media would like us think; life is far more complicated than a news bite. Truth is relative and popularity seldom qualifies an opinion. The characters in “Sleeper’s Run” are people; they have their alliances, ideas, idiosyncrasies, personal baggage and all the accoutrements proper of a person.
One of the earliest comments my first editor had, was that Eric didn’t seem too heroic and Nathan wasn’t antagonistic enough. Earlier drafts of Sleeper’s had no clear opponent, other than a system of international politics and corruption. According to the editor, this concept was too esoteric for a thriller and I should go back and study the rules of the genre. Sure, I compromised at certain points; after all, I wanted to be a publishable, commercially viable author. But the whole “good guys vs. bad guys” angle seems too shallow and insincere to me. As much as I like cartoons, I have no interest in writing one.
I could do stories with Eric Caine until my fingers fall off; I love the character. Yet to me, he is a man. He had done things that were heroic and others that were questionable at best. Nathan Blake and the rest of the cast are the same way. I leave it to the reader to bestow the qualifiers as they see fit.
Eric is a character born out of contradictions; he's physically tough, but mentally brilliant; educated and privileged, yet very hands-on and laborious. These are but a few of the traits that comprise him. Thrillers have great laconic characters: tough, blue collar, disenfranchised loners, who are amazingly capable in their respective fields, but hapless in the larger society. I’m a sucker for this type of protagonist, but I wanted Eric to be a departure from this concept. He wants to be part of society and thrive in it. Eric doesn’t want to be alone and has more skills than those he learned in the military. He is highly educated, well traveled, eloquent and funny. The Air Force was part of his life, not the sum of his existence. Originally, he wasn’t going to have a connection with the armed forces, but the story makes it clear that it was going to take a certain type of background in order to confront the plot’s challenges.
Eric’s similarities to the genre’s main characters might appeal to the lovers of this kind of thriller, but is the differences that make him stand out and appeal to those who might have never given this type of book a second glance. Perhaps that is one of “Sleeper’s Run” main strengths; a book that is so familiar but takes the reader to uncharted territory. Keep on running!