top of page


FIVE QUESTIONS . . . with A. J. Landau

Welcome to FIVE QUESTIONS. In this feature on my blog, you'll learn about new and exciting books from the author's themselves. You'll hear about the book, their characters, the inspiration behind the book, and other insider details. All through five simple questions.

This edition of FIVE QUESTIONS is unique in that it features A. J. Landau, which is the pen name for the writing duo of Jon Land and Jeff Ayers. They are hear to answer FIVE QUESTIONS about their new book, LEAVE NO TRACE, which is available now.

Plus, there is a bonus question from the pair, making this really SIX QUESTIONS. Enjoy.

What is your new book about?

JEFF: A terrorist act at the Statue of Liberty unveils a vast conspiracy to destroy the nation's symbols and monuments. It's DIE HARD in the National Parks.

JON: I can’t say it any better than that! I’d only add that destroying the nation’s strongest defining symbols is about remaking the country from the ground up—that’s what the conspirators are after. A total reconstruction of America into a country that’s more to their liking. And the attacks on the nation’s symbols are a precursor to a much, much greater attack that’s going to kill millions of people and open the door to that reconstruction.

What makes your protagonist(s) unique?

JON: Several things, actually. And I took the liberty of making protagonists plural because LEAVE NO TRACE features two of them. Michael Walker is distinguished by the fact that we believe he's the first hero ever to be a special agent for the Investigative Services Branch of the National Park Service—basically, the Park Service's version of the FBI. He's also one of the rare, if not exclusive, disabled heroes in the thriller genre, having lost a foot in a shootout that claimed the life of his wife on Mount Rainier. Michael joins forces with Gina Delgado, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) of the New York office, when domestic terrorists strike the Statue of Liberty. Gina is further distinguished by the fact that she's an Army-trained demolitions expert and the first-ever Latina to reach the rank of ASAC.

JEFF: Michael must wear his grief daily when he attaches his prosthetic. Gina is not very trusting of Michael, and watching them start to respect each other and learn they make a great team throughout the story is fun.

What was the inspiration behind the book?

JEFF: I have been a fan of the National Parks since I was a little kid. The National Park Service has over 430 locations, each unique. Being a mystery/thriller fan, I also wanted to read an action-adventure that visited several parks in the story rather than one mystery in one location. I tried to devise a vast conspiracy, and Michael Walker's character fully popped into my mind. Then Jon and I started talking…

JON: And my inspiration was to structure the best thriller of the year with the national parks as the backdrop. Jeff and I wanted to craft a book that was familiar in structure while being unique and original in approach. And Jeff was/is a saint for putting up on me because my thinking always keeps changing on the fly. The best content in every book I’ve ever done hasn’t been planned or been part of an outline—it’s organic to the story as it evolves. There’s nothing greater for a reader than to be surprised, to have their mouth drop. Well, my mouth dropped maybe a hundred times in writing LEAVE NO TRACE, because I was surprising myself. I guess, you might say, that was my inspiration.

What's the most interesting or unusual thing you learned while researching for this book?

JON: My co-author Jeff Ayers did the vast bulk of the research because he is an expert and a huge fan of all things national parks. I learned an incredible amount about the parks while writing the book, including the fact that over 300 million people visit the parks every year. 300 million! That's around six times more than Disney World.

JEFF: I live in Seattle, and it's known for the amount of rain it receives every year. Washington, D.C. actually has more rainfall each year! We have a scene set in an abandoned air base, and we were surprised to learn the actual location was purchased by an anonymous source. We knew right away our villain bought it!

Which is your favorite minor character and why?

JON: Lantry, an eighteen-year-old Native American boy, finds himself in the middle of a plot hatched by domestic terrorists to destabilize and takeover the United States. He's my favorite secondary character because he happens to be the nephew of a beloved, iconic character from my bestselling series ever. Even though LEAVE NO TRACE was written by "A. J. Landau," it's no secret who the real authors are, so I'm hoping my long-time readers jump in to enjoy the first in a new series while they meet up with an old and dear friend.

JEFF: Danny is a young boy who survives the attack and has evidence that Michael and Gina need to solve the case. Danny grew on me as we worked out the story.

Of all the books out there, why should readers choose this one? (What makes your book stand out from the rest?)

JON: First off, like all my books, it's lightning-paced and a blast to read for thriller fans. And it's actually a quintessential thriller featuring an evil plot by really bad guys to do really terrible things to the country. I say "quintessential" because it harks back to classics by Alistair McClean, Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum, and Clive Cussler at their best. I'm the ultimate thriller fan. I've always written books that I would have read if someone else had written them, and that's never been more true than with LEAVE NO TRACE.

JEFF: My favorite thrillers are those that make me turn the pages while also allowing me to learn from the setting, characters, or storyline. Each chapter of LEAVE NO TRACE has a factoid about where that chapter is set, which has been universally praised in the reviews.

LEAVE NO TRACE is available now, and can be purchased at the following retailers. - Supporting Local Bookstores


bottom of page