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  • Writer's pictureJ.B. Manas

Behind-the-Scenes of The Mirror Man

Updated: Feb 3

The Mirror Man - Technothriller by J.B. Manas

The Mirror Man was an idea I had come up with based on a unique character, 35-year-old Julian Black, who lives with his mother as a recluse. He spends his days writing his never-ending novel, playing online RPG adventure games, and watching old Hitchcock films with his mom. He avoids "real life" people because for as long as he could remember, he's had an affliction whereby if he touches a person's hand, he sees and experiences their strongest memories as if it's happening to him. Needless to say, it can be pretty traumatic.

One day he sees a TV news report of a road rage murder and can't get the surviving young girl's tormented face out of his head. He risks his privacy to volunteer his talent to the local police to find the killer. That's when he meets the beautiful, tenacious, Latina police detective, Lela Mars, which doesn't quite go how he expects. Ultimately, he ends up using his considerable skills to crack that case and more.

Meanwhile, an ocean away on the French Riviera, Sebastian Blaine, a suave, master thief with the opposite talent from Julian (he can make people forget with the touch of his hand) is hired by a sinister crime syndicate. His assignment? To retrieve plans for a top-secret US prototype of a satellite defense device that can be a game-changer in the balance of world power. To complete his mission, he needs Julian, someone he hoped he'd never have to see again.

How Julian and Sebastian clash, how their pasts are connected, and how Julian can avoid being used as a pawn by the world's most dangerous crime organization drives the rest of the story, which I would classify as a technothriller.

Crafting the Story

Before outlining the book, I only had Julian developed as a character. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with him. The detective, Lela Mars, came after, but soon, thanks to some valuable input from my good friend and fellow writer, Dawn Mahan, she became such a prominent character with her own compelling arc that the story is as much Lela's as Julian's.

The trick then was coming up with an antagonist as unique and different as Julian. After all, in a thriller, the antagonist needs to stand out. That's when my brother suggested possibly making him the opposite of Julian in terms of character. traits. I took it one step further and gave him the opposite "gift." If Julian could see people's memories, Sebastian could make them forget. That took the story in a whole new direction (and gave the Mirror Man title a whole new meaning).

For the police procedural aspects, I relied as usual on some friends in the police force for accuracy. And for the scientific aspects, I often get insights from my brother, a physicist.

I don't want to spoil too much of the plot, but many of the scientific methods and projects mentioned were in fact real. Also, the opening heist, a daring diamond heist in the Brussels Airport, was based on a very real event. The true masterminds of the operation were never revealed (though a number of arrests were made) so I did some speculation there.

Location Details and More

The story takes place around the world, in Philadelphia, Paris, London, and the French Riviera (and a prologue in Brussels). I live in Philadelphia, so writing about that was easy. I had stayed at the splendid Hotel Napoleon in Paris, so that was another easy location to write about. So, some of the locations I'd been to, but for others I did research, virtual tours, watched YouTube videos, and spoke with staff.

The uniquely named, exclusive "In and Out" Naval and Military Club in London seemed right out of a James Bond book but is a very real place with a fascinating history, so I had to use that, even though I hadn't been there. That's where some secrets get revealed from MI6 late in the book.

I'd always enjoyed the delectable meal descriptions in the Ian Fleming James Bond books as well, so I went to far as to order menu copies from some of the restaurants when I couldn't find them online. I wanted the book to be a sensory experience in every way, equal parts suspense and glamour.

I also took inspiration from Hitchcock classics such as To Catch a Thief (which I reference early in the book), and North by Northwest. The location of Sebastian Blaine's suite in the iconic Carlton Cannes is an homage to To Catch a Thief.

A tense scene involving kidnapping a government scientist took place in Monkton Combe (pronounced Coomb), an idyllic village outside of Bath, UK that I stayed in years ago. I love setting tense scenes in otherwise pleasant locations.

About Sebastian Blaine

The character of Sebastian Blaine, a wealthy bon-vivant with a special skill, was based on a combination of Cary Grant and as close as you'll get to the real-life James Bond, real estate and fashion icon Alexander Kraft. Of course, Blaine is described as 40-years-old, so if it were cast in a film, I could picture Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey, The Crown) or even Benedict Cumberbatch in the role. I liked the idea of a suave antagonist, another motif I borrowed from Hitchcock. I also wanted him to be the polar opposite of the awkward Julian, relishing in luxury, with a penchant for fine cars, exquisite meals, and expensive watches. In fact, when Julian is watching To Catch a Thief with his mother, dreaming of living "the Cary Grant life" at the Carlton Cannes with Grace Kelly, the very next chapter shows Sebastian Blaine actually living that life at the very hotel.

The Finale

Building on the Hitchcock influence, before I even began writing the plot, I knew I wanted the climactic finale to take place in an iconic location, much like the climactic scenes of so many Hitchcock films (e.g., Mount Rushmore, The Statue of Liberty, etc.). I originally thought perhaps the Eiffel Tower but settled on the London Eye Ferris Wheel (which adorns the cover). Something about the claustrophobia of being trapped in a capsule high above the city in a life-or-death struggle with a villain appealed to me.

Leading up to that, in a scene where Julian is trying to escape captivity and runs from the Shard to the London Eye, dodging bad guys, there was a humorous bit where he ran into a Shakespearean theater troupe celebrating outside the Globe Theater along the Thames. That was based on an actual experience I encountered. I was walking from the London Eye to the towering Shard building (the reverse direction of the book) and wanted to have a late dinner. I happened to run into a theater troupe from the globe and the restaurant was reserved for them. Fortunately, the restaurant let me in anyway, so there I was having dinner with the actors. I played on that a little with the story, adding a little cat-and-mouse chase in the midst of the troupe and using it as a plot device.

Bottom Line: You never know where story ideas will come from!

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