Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’m a Philadelphia writer, living now in the Research Triangle, in North Carolina, four miles from Duke on the East and UNC-CH on the west. Yes, I referee street fights during basketball season. I have two grown children, a son who is a wood craftsman, and a daughter who does training at a tech giant here in the Triangle. My wife’s a two-time Emmy Award-winning editor-producer. (I wrote one of the winning shows and, of course, like any writer, I got a brief thank you note. Or did I?) Anyway, I write full time and binge on TV news, great spy books and movies (Three Days of the Condor; the Alec Guinness “George Smiley” series; A Most Wanted Man, Philip Seymour Hoffman; etc.) Books are written by le Carre (who else?), Philip Kerr, David Ignatius, you get the idea. The movies and books percolate with my writing. I actually start my day with a classic espionage thriller to tune my ear. I recommend the practice. I began writing professionally as a journalist, later turned to television (National Geographic Explorer, Animal Planet, History Channel), and most recently write the Jackson Guild Books, spy books that tread the line forced by a tear in our national fabric pitting a sodden PTSD victim of the first gulf war against a death spiral of national and international forces driving America down. My character Jackson Guild has no magical superhuman powers like Jack Reacher or Jason Bourne; although he is a scamp. He survives with the help of others, most of whom are out for themselves, but his friends are loyal, clever, and very wealthy. He’s lost many a battle but never a war. In fact, it’s become his job as an accidental spy to stop what threatens to become a new level of “practical” nuclear warfare brought about by the invention of a fourth generation weapon, and he’s stolen the plans. Please have a look at my most recent item for Jane Friedman. https://www.janefriedman.com/character-writers-and-portrait-photography/
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book, the third in the Jackson Guild series, takes place in the high mesas of New Mexico, at the super secret weapons labs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The story follows from a treacherous and nearly fatal effort to unmask the plotters behind a nuclear attack that decapitated the federal government. With suspicions flying, Guild discovers Russian interests are at the core of the plot. He’s gone to Los Alamos to find out why their CSI-like nuclear investigations unit has whitewashed the truth about Russia. He quickly learns why. Identifying Moscow would force the military to destroy the Russian capital in revenge, sowing the dragon’s teeth of nuclear war. Only the whitewash has held the military back. Putin’s henchman can’t be allowed to walk off with America’s crown, and Guild may have found a way to take revenge without the inevitable flights of nuclear-tipped ICBMs over the north pole.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Writing and selling have changed everything about writing. But we’re really talking about indie writing. And I like the independence. While I’m still at my desk all day, I find myself hip-hopping between spreadsheet and word processor. Keeping priorities in order is the great difficulty — writing, building an email list, promoting, advertising, testing, blogging and maintaining a website without losing track of social media is dizzying. And then there are all the terrific podcasts to follow. It’s a good thing I take long walks and long days.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Most of all le Carre, not for his matter so much as the way he solves writing problems. Philip Kerr has been an inspiration. And while I’ll never achieve the skills of these authors, it’s nice to know what to reach for.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on the fourth book in my series which will come out in the fall entitled Decline to Die. I also write occasional pieces for Jane Friedman. Here’s one I did on fantasy. https://www.janefriedman.com/a-brief-history-of-the-fantasy-genre/
I talk more about my new book but I’m the superstitious type who fears that talk steals power from writing.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
You’re part of my first, best shot, and that’s promotion. It’s the only investment in writing for which I’ve seen instant identifiable/quantifiable returns. I’m studying Facebook advertising with Andrew Dawkins and Amazon advertising with Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Beware snake oil. Start small. Think big.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
My editor at Doubleday was the best editor I’ve ever had, and the reason is that he always told me what I was doing well, which was different from years of work with other editors. By telling me what was wrong, I had to figure out what was right. But Bill Thomas told me what he liked, not only encouraging me but pointing the direction to pursue.
What are you reading now?
Philip Kerr’s Prussian Blue. Body of Lies by David Ignatius. The New Yorker.
What’s next for you as a writer?
More essays. I’m pursuing the idea that “character” is the prime stuff of fiction and that by examining how other creative disciplines evoke character, I hope to offer writers more tools to add to their work. You can see the beginnings of that project here. https://www.janefriedman.com/writers-can-learn-voice-opera/
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
Shakespeare is said to have had only 14 books in his library. So, three should get me a third of the way there. I’d take the Library of America edition of Raymond Chandler, The Profiteers by Sally Denton, and le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier…