OBS reviewer Lindsay is back with a new interview for all of our readers. This time she had the opportunity to chat with author Jackson Burnett about his book ‘The Past Never Ends’, where they talk about the inspiration behind the story, the characters, future projects and more. Enjoy!
Lindsay: Why did you you decide to write The Past Never Ends?
Jackson Burnett: Recent legal mysteries and thriller had been leaving me pretty cold, and I wanted to portray the world I experience as a practicing attorney. The legal process is unpredictable and a lot of times pretty messy. Cases are often resolved because of seemingly random events. I wrote The Past Never Ends as a mystery to provide a deeper and more authentic experience of the legal system and to explore randomness in the pursuit of justice.
Lindsay: Chester Morgan’s character goes through a growth process during the course of the book. We see him develop into a partly new person at the end. Is his renewed sense of self something you had planned for the main character or is this a result of Morgan’s realization that Tanya’s murder had broader implication than he originally believed?
Jackson Burnett: That’s a great question. Chester Morgan’s character changed more than I anticipated. First starting, I thought Morgan might have a “Eureka!” moment but not much more. Of course, that’s not what happened. Yes, his character changed, in part, from his realization the murder had broad and disturbing implications, but also, from Morgan’s pursuit of truth itself. The main thing, though, was his involvement with Maria, the living mirror of Tanya.
Lindsay: Alan Kinman is a total mystery, we never know who he really is or his true connection to Tanya. Why did you decide to reveal so little about his character and do you believe that this leave the book open-ended or that this approach is intended to leave the reader wanting to read more?
Jackson Burnett: Alan Kinman is the quintessential nobody. In a sense, Kinman is all of us when we find ourselves minimized or with our voices unheard. Alan’s quest for Tanya’s death to be treated with dignity soon becomes Morgan’s personal quest. Still, Morgan’s client is odd and perhaps dangerous. It’s not clear Morgan even trusts the guy. Because of Kinman’s simple demand for respect, though, major changes ultimately occur in the community. The character is left a mystery so readers are left to ask: Who was Alan Kinman anyway? Why did he appear from nowhere and why did he disappear? That’s the reason he remained, and remains, a mystery.
Lindsay: The image of William Harrison’s dead body haunts Morgan throughout the book until he uncovers the truth about his friend’s murder. I thought this was a creative addition to the storyline and Morgan’s character development. Do you see this as a major development for Morgan or is this only a small piece of a growth pattern?
Jackson Burnett: A major development. Most people react to death, particularly traumatic death, viscerally and not with objective detachment like you see so often in mysteries. The image of William Harrison’s dead body haunts Morgan because at some level Morgan knows something is not right about how Harrison died. Morgan doesn’t articulate this, but he knows it deep within himself. At one point, Attorney Morgan says “Justice isn’t about fixing the past; it’s about healing the past’s future.” If the truth about Harrison’s death had remained hidden, that image would have stayed with Morgan, perhaps leaving him scarred or embittered. When Morgan uncovers and speaks the truth, the image disappears and his past’s future is healed even if the legal system may otherwise fail.
Lindsay: Was there any real life inspiration for the characters in the book or did they evolve as your story developed?
Jackson Burnett: When I imagine what Chester Morgan looks like, I see Raymond Burr in the old Perry Mason TV show reruns. There are little snippets of real people in the novel and little snippets of me in each of the characters, but it really was an evolution, I think. The pathological relationship between Tanya and her mother is based on a similar situation I came across in a business lawsuit of all things.
Lindsay: Do you plan on writing any additional books? Will we see anymore of Chester Morgan or is this it for him?
Jackson Burnett: I have a rough plot and the first chapter imagined of a second Chester Morgan mystery, but I doubt we’ll see him again. He’s definitely analogue and isn’t likely to adapt to the digital world very well. Two novels are actually in the works. One is a prairie Gothic kind of thing. The other is a coming of age novel with magical realism twists.
Lindsay: If you can have lunch with any author, past or present, who would it be and why?
Jackson Burnett: If the other author joined me in the present, Gaston Leroux, the author of The Phantom of the Opera. That book is an incredible achievement. It works on so many different levels and continues to resonate deeply with readers. If I could travel to the past, I’d like to have lunch with Alexander Dumas, the author of The Count of Monte Cristo (among many others). Dumas and Dickens created the template for the popular novel. Dumas was also a bon vivant who lived in Paris at the height of the Romantic era. He loved good food, excellent wine, and had over forty documented mistresses. I figure if my conversation with him didn’t go well, I’d still enjoy great dining and drink, and have some wonderfully alluring company, too.
Thank you to author Jackson Burnett for a great interview!