What inspired you to write?
A. During the Cold War we and the Russians understood that either side could destroy the other so neither attacked. The current situation is one sided and we seem to be waiting for a nuclear weapon in a container in New York or Long Beach. I wanted to get the thought into the global conversation that the combination of loosely controlled nuclear weapons and terrorists represents a threat to those things that are important to the Muslim world as well as to the West. Such a realization might influence the leaders of Pakistan and Iran as well as religious leaders.
Tell us a little about your main character? Is he/she someone you’d like to meet?
A. Mike Curran is an average American, the son of a South Side Chicago cop, a Notre Dame graduate, an Iraq War veteran, and a laSalle Street stock broker. When he is the victim of a dirty bomb at Union Station he gives up on the government and embarks on a plot with an Army companion and a group of friends to demonstrate that important Muslim sites are also at risk if nuclear weapons are not controlled. The Target develops the how and why of Mike’s plot as well as that of the jihadists.
Mike has several foils: Aisha al-Rashid, a moderate Muslim woman who is the sister of one of the Union station bombers; Lon Proulx, a former CIA operative who vies for control of the plot; and Barbara from Berkeley, a liberal blogger who offers snide intellectual assessments of the story’s major actions.
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=wiswor0a-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1432734822&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrCan we have a snippet from the book?
There is a brief explanation on page 158 as to why Mike was willing to take a friend’s lead in doing something out of character:
A week passed. Mike thought about action and inaction, times when he had seen the need to do something, but had waited too long. Generally, in his experience, prudence and deferral had paid off, and a thousand little acts had accumulated into a good life. But that hadn’t saved Maggie… or Dennis Murphy. Mike had carried the burden of Dennis Murphy from St. Rita’s, to Notre Dame, and to Iraq, where he had hoped it was buried. But it was not.
Murphy had been a half-year older, one of the neighborhood kids that got an OK from Mike’s mother when he wanted to go out to play after dinner. As Mike gravitated toward college prep and football, their time together had diminished. Mike hadn’t noticed it, but Murphy had no real friends, and, as he settled into shop and business classes, had stopped talking about his older brother who went to Northwestern, as if he were embarrassed to not share his capabilities. At sixteen, Murphy had access to his family’s car, and was briefly invited to join the right table in the cafeteria… until several others got their licenses. When Murphy found Nietzsche’s nihilism and wanted to talk about whether anything mattered, Mike turned him away. When Murphy tried to become a Goth with black clothing and pierced ears, Mike shunned him. When Murphy ran his father’s car off the Skyway between the Dan Ryan and the Indiana Tollway at 100 miles per hour, Mike vowed to never again turn away from a friend.
Karl was a friend.
How many unpublished books do you have lurking under your bed?
None. The target is the first.
How did you find the publisher/agent? What was the journey like? Ever feel like giving up?
I did all of the regular things: directories of agents; speed dating events at Thrillerfest; blind letters. I did have an agent for a year and thought that I had a small publisher in the Chicago area, but that did not work out and I eventually decided to use Outskirts Press to just get it done. While I am happy with the responsiveness, print quality, and marketing ideas of Outskirts, I am disappointed that the economics do not allow good distribution with book stores and libraries.
How do your juggle a writing schedule with real-life work, or are you a full time writer?
My other work is as a personal financial manager which gives me great time flexibility. Fortunately, I can afford to build my brand as a writer without it being my primary means of support.
What’s the best/worst part of being a writer?
The research is actually the most fun. People love to talk to you if you promise that you will treat them fairly in the story. I could sit in a plaza for hours watching people, reading, and creating the story in my head. Research gave me the excuse to wander around the United Nations neighborhood in New York, ride back and forth on the Metra trains in Chicago, and hang out in a bar in Ripon.
The worst thing is copy editing. Actually, developmental editing was fun. I had a great editor, Ed Robertson, who led me through a 30 % rewrite but I chose to do my own copy editing since I had the software. Never again.
What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
A. I do best when I wake up at about 6 AM, think for ten to fifteen minutes about how the story should develop, and write for two to three hours with juice and coffee. I need to be mentally refreshed to let my mind wander with my characters and let them solve my plot problems.
Before I really start writing I create an outline and biographies for the key characters. The ideas have been germinating for quite awhile but the act of capturing them is relatively mechanical and I can do that for many hours at a time.
Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?
I keep a notebook for ideas that come at random times, but virtually all of my writing is done at the computer. It is hard to imagine writing with a pen or a typewriter.
What do you draw inspiration from?
People. I have been fortunate to be around many interesting people who are reflected in my characters: the liberal blogger who teaches economics at Berkeley; Mike’s ROTC leader at Notre Dame; his childhood friend who commits suicide; the CIA agent who goes native in Ethiopia; the Catholic priest who counsels Mike after the bombing at Union Station; and many others. I have also been a bit playful in using my friends’ names as characters, although I may charge for naming rights in the next book.
Do you set goals for yourself when you sit down to write such as word count?
I generally write short chapters which contain a central thought or action. If I am fresh such a chapter takes two to three hours to write. I come back later to do grammatical cleanup.
Are you a published or a self published author and how do you come up with your cover art?
My publisher is Outskirts Press, a Print On Demand publisher who does a wonderful job in terms of responsiveness and print quality. They offer an option of a third party cover designer who was able to translate my ideas into an attention catching cover. This was particularly important because I wanted to educate the reader about the geography of the Red Sea area and did not want to bury the map inside the book.
What are you working on now that you can talk about?
The premise is that a group of Texans decide to exercise the option to seceed which the Lone Star State was given when it joined the Union. The story will present a range of perspectives about the state of politics and an undercurrent of conspiracy for and against. I plan to publish early in 2012.
How do/did you deal with rejection letters?
It is very helpful to understand that even the best authors have generally had many, many rejections before being discovered. I am a fan of Kaizen, the Japanese concept of continuous improvement, and view rejections and thoughtful bad reviews as free input on how I can get better. But it does help to have positive feedback from strangers every once in awhile and one of the good things about the industry is that there are a lot of nice professionals willing to offer encouragement as well as constructive criticism.
Reviews are similar. I have about 30 four or five star reviews on Amazon; the one two star review is thoughtful and will help me be a better writer in my next book.
What’s your advice about getting an agent?
I do not have the answer. I have learned that it is a mistake to sign with an agent who is not adequately connected to the publishing houses and I would probably try to work through a network of friends to get directly to a publishing house if I could not attract an effective agent. I expect that my marketing efforts and reasonable success with The Target will be influential for my second book, but time will tell.
Do you have a critique partner?
I followed the advice and example of Stephen King in “On Writing”. When I am writing I want to be free to write whatever I feel without worrying about what somebody else will think. Once I have a satisfactory draft I share it with my wife who is an avid reader and has a masters degree in creative writing.