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Vortex, the sequel to Julie Cross’ 2012 debut, Tempest, hit shelves last week. The fast-paced thriller follows Jackson Meyer as he throws himself into his role as an agent for Tempest, a division of the CIA. Unfortunately, I don’t have Jackson’s time-traveling abilities to get you and early copy of book three. The next best thing is a chat with Julie Cross where she talks about Vortex, the final installment in the Tempest trilogy, and a new project with the Jackson cover model. [Minor spoilers ahead!]

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Vortex has been out for a week now. What’s the reaction been so far?

JULIE CROSS: So far everything has been really positive. I haven’t been able to find one negative review. And I’ve had a lot people say that Tempest wasn’t their favorite book, and they liked Vortex better. Or they liked Tempest, but they liked Vortex better. I hadn’t anticipated that, so I’m really excited about that part.

I’m one of those people. I really enjoyed Tempest, but I liked Vortex better. Is that a good thing to hear? That people like this book better than the first?

It’s a very good thing. I think that’s about the best thing that an author can hope for in a sequel is to make it better than the first one.

As much as I enjoy the books, the time traveling aspect can be pretty confusing. How do you keep it all straight?

It is really confusing, and if I could go back and change a few things, I think there are places where I over-explained. I would have been better off just backing off and not putting in so much information. But overall there’s enough story there for people to go with it. It definitely gets much simpler in book three as far as the time travel goes…. But most of the time, it really does stay pretty straight in my head, and I think that’s because it was developed in layers. It wasn’t like a big thing that I thought of all at once. I remember this part, and then I added this on. So that makes it a little bit easier.

UP NEXT: Julie talks book three and a special project with the real-life Jackson…

I’ll keep the spoilers to a minimum, but one of my favorite parts of Vortex was the twist with Jackson’s dad. Was that planned from the beginning?

I did plan that from the beginning. When I finished the first draft of Tempest I kind of decided. I had a line in there where Jackson asked [his dad] what his family was like. I think it was after he sees Eileen and his 2-year-old self in Tempest. And his dad says something like, “That’s a story for another day.” It was kind of in my head that I would have this spinoff book that was about Jackson’s dad starting out in the past. So I actually have a lot of pages of that spinoff story. I don’t know if anything will come of it.

Is that story something you want to pursue?

I don’t know for sure. It helps me a lot to write the pages, and then some of those pages ended up as one of Jackson’s half jumps in Vortex. They definitely talk about it in book three, but it doesn’t have huge significance.

Speaking of, what can you tell me about book three?

I can tell you that pretty much all the remaining questions left—as far as the world and how it became what it became—are going to be answered in the first 30 percent of the book. And then the rest is going to be to deal with this new conflict that arises and another new one after that. I hadn’t planned for it to be such a cliff-hanger ending with Vortex.It just kind of wrote itself. I had built up the physical effects of the time travel on the time travelers, and I just realized as I was writing it that it was happening to Jackson. And then that just became this big moment. I had planned for them to end up in the place that they end up, but I hadn’t planned for it to be such a dire situation.

I think people will get everything that they want in book three. There’s a lot of questions answered in the beginning that just makes you feel like you can relax and just enjoy the rest of the book. There’s still tension and mystery up until the end, but I’m not just turning the pages to have this one question answered. Sometimes I get frustrated when a book does that. I definitely don’t want that.

Does book three have a name yet?

Not yet. We’re toying with a few different ideas right now.

Shifting gears a little bit, you started a project with Mark Perini (the Jackson model on the Tempest and Vortex covers). What can you tell me about that?

It’s a work in progress. But we actually have written the first draft of that novel called Halfway Perfect. I’m really excited about it. It’s not sold or anything. Normally authors don’t talk about their works in progress, but I’m just so excited about the co-authorship process.

He writes one character, I write the other…. Mark adds a lot of the modeling world. It’s been such a learning experience for me as far as what really goes on. The book deals with a lot of things that are outside the modeling world, too. It’s kind of hitting that new adult range because the characters are both 18 and one is in college, and one is working full-time as a model. So I’m excited about it. I’m hoping we’ll be able to sell it soon and get it out there for people to read.

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