Five questions with: Author Tom Hunt

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Reading: Tom Hunt, One Fatal Mistake

Prairie Lights — Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.
Washington Free Public Library — Saturday, Jan. 26 at 11:15 a.m.

Iowa author Tom Hunt. — David Field

A disastrous accident embroils a family in terror in Iowa native Tom Hunt’s new thriller, One Fatal Mistake. When 18-year-old Joshua hits a man with his car, he has no idea that his choices will be the catalyst for a chain of horrifying events. On a collision course with Joshua and his mother Karen are three wanted fugitives, whose own mistakes will also lead to tragic consequences.

The tension is well-established at the beginning of the story as the reader is given a few critical details which, though scanty, suffice to make clear that something serious and terrible has happened. The narrative then shifts to Amber and Ross, a married couple with a difficult history, who are seeking to make a break with Ross’ violent brother Shane. As their paths cross those of Joshua and Karen, each will have to make difficult moral decisions while the tension continues to escalate through a series of violent encounters. Before long, all of them will find themselves struggling to stay alive; some may not succeed.

The characters in One Fatal Mistake are well-drawn and though not all are sympathetic, all do have recognizable motives and complex personalities. Karen is a nurse and a single mother trying to raise her son; her compassion for others is shown as both a strength and a flaw. Joshua is a motivated and not-particularly-rebellious teen who wants to make his mother proud. Teddy, Joshua’s father, is at first portrayed as impulsive and inconstant, but his character deepens throughout the book. Others, even those who occupy antagonist roles, are shown with depth and a certain amount of compassion. Hunt’s use of alternating viewpoints helps the reader to gain insight into all the characters and the reasons for their choices.

Though this book is titled One Fatal Mistake, it is actually about a successive series of mistakes, each driving the plot toward its inevitable end. It is the synthesis of all the mistakes which causes the events of Hunt’s story to explode into the maelstrom of violence that will change the lives of everyone caught in it. Errors of judgement and morality, as well as of common sense, create situations in which the worst will occur. None of the major characters is left untouched or unchanged.

The familiar terrain of the Eastern Iowa Corridor will be welcome to many readers. Taking place in and around Cedar Rapids, the book also features the Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area, the Cedar River and a hint of Iowa farm life, adding welcome color to the narrative. Hopefully, One Fatal Mistake will soon become a familiar part of the reading for Iowans interested in tightly plotted thrillers.

Hunt answered some questions for Little Village ahead of his upcoming readings in the area.

‘One Fatal Mistake’ is out Feb. 5, 2019 from Penguin Random House’s Berkley imprint.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching while working on a book?

My first novel, Killer Choice, required quite a bit of research. There were a number of medical scenes and processes that I had to research and learn about. That wasn’t particularly enjoyable (I prefer to spend my time writing!), so I tried to keep the scenes/settings that required research to a minimum in One Fatal Mistake.

Obviously, your Iowa background helped to inspire your most recent book. What parts of your personal history growing up in Iowa were most influential in writing One Fatal Mistake?

Much of One Fatal Mistake takes place on a farm. Growing up, I always thought that a farm would be a great setting for a thriller novel or movie. Farms are quiet and a little creepy. You’re out in the middle of nowhere, with no one to turn to for help.

Isolation plays a big part in One Fatal Mistake. There are plenty of stretches of Iowa that are very isolated, so it worked perfectly to have Iowa as the book’s setting.

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Was it intimidating to write a second book after the success of the first?

Not at all. The publishing industry is structured so things have to be done far in advance, so I was working on One Fatal Mistake long before my first book was even released.

What did the reception of your first book motivate you to do differently in your second?

I don’t think the reception of the book motivated me to do anything differently, really — if anything, it motivated me to keep things the same. Most reviewers seemed to enjoy the writing style in the first book (fast-paced, a lot of things happening), so I tried to write in the same style for One Fatal Mistake.

Whenever I got stuck with One Fatal Mistake, it was always very motivating to see a positive review for the first book to give me a little confidence.

What was the most difficult scene to write in One Fatal Mistake?

The ending. It was the same for the first book, too. I suppose that’s because there’s a lot of pressure to not disappoint the reader after they’ve gotten this far, and you also want to make sure you tie up all of the loose ends.

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