Interview: JC Ryan: A Man and his Dog

Originally, J.C. Ryan (his pen name) was a military officer turned lawyer who then became an I.T. manager before becoming a bestselling author of spellbinding archaeological mysteries and action-adventure thriller novels. 

Born and raised in Namibia, with Afrikaans as his first language, J.C. Ryan served in the military before being sidelined from a crippling back injury. 

Returning to university, he studied law, had a private legal practice for over 15 years, moved to the Gold Coast of Australia in 2008, to work as an IT project manager. It was the commute from the Gold Coast to Brisbane for ten years that exhausted him, and on the trip he would keep his mind occupied developing stories.  

He doubted himself, wondering whether he could tell a good story, so started writing non-fiction, self-improvement books, but found that unappealing. After watching a documentary on the pyramids in Egypt he realized he had a good story after all. 

He published his first novel in May 2014 using the Kindle Direct Publishing service of Amazon. He was quickly surprised by the response and immediately a fan-base started to grow. 

In October 2019, at the age of 63, JC left his day job and turned to writing full-time. He now has over 30 books under his belt, and counting.  He only publishes through KDP, although print copies are also available through Amazon.

 His success has allowed him to enjoy a comfortable income from royalties produced by the books, and he appreciates the fan base for each of the series, and he is always encouraging to new authors. 

J.C. Ryan was asked about the Rex Dalton thriller series, which features a main character, Rex Dalton, and Digger, a Dutch Shepherd he inherits that works with him helping people throughout the world.

How did you decide to come up with Rex and Digger and what were the changes from the concept to the second novel?

My inspiration comes from reading the modern-day action heroes such as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath, Mark Greaney’s Gray Man, Greg Hurwitz’s Orphan X, Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne and others. 

Those heroes have a large and loyal fanbase and that made me wonder if they might like one more hero, actually two heroes, a special operator with a special dog.

I discussed my idea with a good friend of mine, Mitch Pender, a military dog trainer, who guided me through the intricate and amazing capabilities and psychology of those majestic four-legged soldiers. 

Mitch has a lifetime of experience and an exceptional depth of knowledge as a military dog handler and trainer.

The rest is history. The action hero fans love Rex and Digger.  I published book 15 in the series at the end of December 2021. Thus far I have almost 12,000 reviews with an average 4.5 to 4.8-star rating for every book. Reviews such as these say it all:

“Want a thrill a minute, then read JC Ryan’s thrillers with his remarkable characters, Rex and Digger. You’re in for a treat and a “wild ride!”

“What great series! Started with 1st book and halfway thru knew I couldn’t/wouldn’t stop. Adventure hero with a conscience, Rex and Digger take care of those who need to be stopped.”

“I’ve been addicted to reading this series; not able to put them down. I feel like I know Rex Dalton, Digger, Catia, and the others as friends. I hope the series continues as I never grow bored with them. The politics and history are really interesting and timely. Always a thrilling adventure.

Your audience have adopted Digger and your fan base is quite loyal to the character of Rex and the dog. Why do you think that is?

Yes, the reaction to the duo surpassed even my wildest expectations. I guess people in general like animals especially so when it comes to man’s best friend. And like my readers often say: 

“What’s not to like?” 

“Love a tale about a smart animal who loves to work with a human that understands and respects it’s abilities.”

“Rex Dalton and Digger make me very happy! Excellent mysteries! I love these great stories! Always a treat! I’m always sorry when I get to the end!”

How long do you think you can continue to write Rex stories and are you concerned that at some point the readers may decide it is enough?

The world remains a dangerous place in fact, the last few weeks things have gone from bad to worse with the Russians invading Ukraine and China threatening to attack Taiwan. As long as the bad actors remain, the services of Rex and Digger will be in high demand. 

I am current working on book 16 in the series. I have ideas for at least four more stories right now. And every few weeks I get a new one. So, it’s not a shortage of story ideas but rather a shortage of time which determines how many more stories will see the light and how frequently. 

As long as my readers ask for more, I will keep on writing. 

Your other novels span a range of genres, from The Rossler Foundation Mysteries, which follow threads of the ancient astronaut theories, to The Brainstorm Series that delves into nanotechnology and cyber warfare and more. How have they fares compared to the Rex Dalton thrillers and why do you think there is a difference.

The surprising thing is that a good 80% plus of my readers of the pre Rex Dalton and Digger series have made the switch and love it. My earlier series are still being read widely with the exception of the Brainstorm Series—for some reason the two books in that series never got the traction I hoped it would. I guess it is because those books are perceived to be totally in the science fiction genre even though they’re not. 

How do you write? Your routine/time of day/method? 

The last few months I spent about 3-4 hours a day writing. I also spend a lot of time reading books in my genre and try to read a book every 10 days or so.  I keep a file of book ideas, and whenever an idea comes up, I write it down there, and when I happen across some information related to it, I also file it in the ‘Ideas’ folder. That way I don’t get distracted by the ‘next shiny object’.

Once I am ready to move on to the next book, I spend a lot of time thinking through the theme and storyline and write a very high-level outline. 

Then I think through the flow of the story and start to write a detailed outline. By detailed, I mean some of my outlines are 150 pages or more. The longest outline I wrote so far was a little over 230 pages. In this process of creating the detailed outline, I do my research on the various topics, finalize my characters, timelines and story flow.

By the time I am done with my detailed outline, and I start writing, I pretty much just finish the book. It’s almost like ‘copy typing’ or ‘filling in the blanks.’ I am so into the story by then, I usually struggle to keep my fingers moving along quickly enough. During this time, I work closely with an editor to edit the book, which they do overnight, also making developmental suggestions. I know that’s not how most “how to write” books advocate it, but that’s what works for me.

Do you find writing a rewarding career and if so what are the high points for you?

Yes, its the most rewarding career I ever had. I guess part of the enjoyment is the fact that at my age, the time when some people start to be forgetful and becoming weird, I have an excuse when my family and friends catch me talking to myself– I’m conversing with the characters in my stories. Make no mistake they can be an unruly bunch and it sometimes take a lot of talking to get them to toe the line. 

What do you see ahead for your writing?

I will continue writing until I can’t do it anymore. My wife and I are planning to become digital nomads traveling the world in a year or so, visiting many countries and places while I continue writing along the way. 

J.C. Ryan Books

The Rex Dalton Thriller Series
The Fulcrum
The Power of Three
The Inca Con
No Doubt
The French Girl
Duty of Care
Donna Teresa
Under the Pope’s Window
The Shanghai Strain
The Delphi Technique
The Rossler Foundation Series

The Rossler Foundation Series
The Tenth Cycle
Ninth Cycle Antarctica
Genetic Bullets
The Sword of Cyrus
The Skywalkers
The Phoenix Agenda
The Rowen

The Carter Devereux Series
Nothing New Under the Sun
The Wolves of Freydis
The Alboran Codex
The Nabatean Secret
The Labyrinth of Minos
The Exonerated Series
Judgement call
Damned if You do Damned if You Don’t
The End Justifies the Means

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