Larry Kahn recently sat down for an interview with Frank Paine to learn how the rookie FBI agent got inside the mind of the stalker who tormented him in King of Paine. The conversation has been edited to avoid spoilers and maintain this site’s “PG” rating.
KAHN: Thank you for joining me today, Special Agent Paine.
PAINE: Like I had a damn choice.
KAHN: Well, since Assistant Special-Agent-in-Charge Holbrook suspended you for insubordination, I assumed you might enjoy a moment back in the limelight.
PAINE: Ass Holbrook is an Old School prick. Give me a dozen takes, and I replay the finale at The River the same way every time.
KAHN: You had an obligation to disclose the location of the crime scene, regardless of what you promised [spoiler].
PAINE: You’re thinking like a lawyer. I needed her cooperation to trap that [expletive deleted] and save [spoiler], and she wouldn’t spill the frijoles unless I agreed to preserve The River’s secrecy. A few crazy right wingers might lynch the woman if her activities there became public knowledge.
KAHN: “Spill the frijoles.” You only worked with Jeronimo Reyes for a short time, but he had a strong influence.
PAINE: I spent time with dozens of agents preparing for my role in G-Man a few years ago and more recently when training at Quantico and learning the ropes in the Atlanta Field Office. Jero was the best; he stood for everything good about the Bureau.
KAHN: Fidelity, bravery, and integrity?
PAINE: Everybody’s a [expletive deleted] comedian. You made me look like a jackass in that scene with Jero, reciting the Bureau creed, like I’m still always acting. The guys who wrote my screenplays knew how to make an action hero look good. And revealing my personal struggles? Do you really think mainstream readers are ready for a sadomasochistic hero? My PR people threatened to drop me when I wanted to come out three years ago–after the fiasco in Mexico.
KAHN: The BDSM [editor: bondage, domination/submission, and sadism/masochism] angle was central to the story–the stalker uses your kinky past to drive the Bureau’s investigation in a certain direction. Besides, it’s clear you wanted to make right by the girl. Despite your playboy image, you’re a working class kid at heart. My beta readers like you. I like you.
PAINE: (Mimicks Jack Nicholson’s voice and demeanor as Melvin Udall in As Good As It Gets) I tell you buddy… I’d be the luckiest man alive if that did it for me.
KAHN: Seriously. It’s not like you’re a whips and chains kind of guy. A few sickos may carry the sadistic aspects too far, but there’s wide interest in mild kink among couples you’d consider average. Psychologists say experimentation in the context of consensual roleplay is well within the normal range, neither perverted nor a form of mental illness. Most readers will probably find the R-rated glimpses into the BDSM lifestyle alluring, maybe even illuminating.
PAINE: Anything personal you want to share, dude? (Seems miffed his Nicholson impression didn’t get a laugh.)
KAHN: (Laughs) You’re the one with the hands-on experience. Most of my research was conducted online, reading Psychology Today articles and surfing the web.
PAINE: [Expletive deleted]! You’re big on fidelity, bravery and integrity when my reputation is on the line.
KAHN: You can’t handle the truth.
PAINE: (Shaking his head at the incredibly bad Nicholson impression) You’re a [expletive deleted] control freak!
KAHN: What’s the attraction of the BDSM lifestyle for you?
PAINE: It’s all about providing a woman the adrenaline rush she craves. A dominant’s role is to deliver the sub’s fantasy, to give pleasure even if it’s through some relatively mild form of pain or humiliation. Usually, my scenes involve creating a risk, not inflicting any real harm on the chick.
KAHN: Like your friend always said, “No risk, no thrill.”
PAINE: Those words can be more powerful than Viagra.
KAHN: I’ll keep a respectful distance.
PAINE: Again with the jokes. You really do enjoy making me look like a jerk. You made me give up my weapon–twice!
KAHN: Hey, tell me you didn’t enjoy that interrogation scene in the strip club. I could have cast you as Roger Martin, the reporter. You would have had to gain forty pounds, like DeNiro did for Raging Bull, and perform sex scenes with [spoiler]. Photos of Frank Paine’s tits floating around cyberspace would not have bolstered your action hero image.
PAINE: (Smirking) Fair point. And Kravner could not have pulled that strip club scene off.
KAHN: You’re right, you’re right. I actually completed several drafts of the manuscript–then entitled Come Into My Web–with Ben Kravner [editor: the protagonist in Kahn’s first novel, The Jinx] as the main character but ultimately realized that was a mistake. Ben’s charm grew from his youthful exuberance, his naive belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when great stakes are involved. In the new book, he was older and had joined the FBI as something of a celebrity after his rise to national prominence in The Jinx, and he came off a bit flat encumbered by the constraints of Bureau procedure and age. The story was dragging him along rather than him driving the story.
PAINE: So you went with the Hollywood upgrade to power the plot. Smart.
KAHN: Exactly. When beta readers reported liking my secondary protagonist, Roger Martin, more than Ben, I decided to recast the role. I needed to create a better character to redeem myself. I wanted the opposite of bland, and I came up with kinky. Really, really kinky. And with your dominating star power now driving my narrative voice, the story rewrote itself. I blew up all the baggage weighing me down from The Jinx, and created new, more powerful character motivations tied to the BDSM theme. The stalker, who readers must identify along with you, became more believable and frightening.
PAINE: I couldn’t crack the case until the final hours because the UNSUB [editor: the FBI’s shorthand for “unknown subject,” the unidentified perpetrator of a crime] hid behind the curtain of the Internet so well–could have been anyone, male or female. I won’t divulge his or her identity for the benefit of your prospective readers, but can I say that some of the suspects were shockingly close to me?
KAHN: Go right ahead.
PAINE: (Rolls eyes) I don’t play Abbott to anybody’s Costello.
KAHN: You’ll play whoever I [expletive deleted] tell you to play.
PAINE: (Stands up and gets in Kahn’s face) You should cast yourself as Ass Holbrook.
KAHN: Easy, Frankie Boy. Let’s wrap this up before somebody gets another black eye.
PAINE: (Sits) I hate that nickname.
KAHN: We’ll drop it in the sequel. So, tell me, which was your favorite scene in King of Paine?
PAINE: My “interrogation” of [spoiler] in the strip club was hot, but the finale at The River–the entire last third of the story–plays like Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. All of the characters have everything they care about at stake, and no solution can satisfy everybody. It was a thinking man’s dilemma, and I knew I wasn’t smart enough to solve it on my own. Someone–maybe everyone–was going to die.
KAHN: Well, we know you made it.
PAINE: You’re so [expletive deleted] nuts you might be conducting this entire interview with the assistance of a ouija board. Nothing is certain in your world.
KAHN: True. And on that note, let’s take some questions from our readers.
PAINE: We’re not getting inside the mind of the madman?
KAHN: I think we already have.
[Editor: If you have any additional questions for Larry or Frank, please submit them as comments below or use the contact form. They will reply by promptly.]
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