My latest book is a thriller, titled, SIX SECONDS. It is a standalone that took shape by refining a number of unrelated scenes, dramas and events I had observed during my time as a reporter; such as the heart-wrenching anguish of interviewing a mother whose child had vanished. Then there was the time I was on assignment in Nigeria, not long after the September 11 attacks. I was in the Abuja where I saw a boy in a slum wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Osama bin Laden’s picture and message calling him #1 Hero. On that African trip I also visited Ethiopia where I watched old women, who lived in some of the harshest conditions on earth, weaving fabric on a loom in the slums of Addis Ababa. Prior to that, I was in the Gulf where I talked to British aid workers, and at Kuwait’s boarder with Iraq. I also talked to peacekeepers from Canada concerned about the toll land mines were taking on children who plucked them from the dunes. And I’ll never forget the big city homicide detective back home who confided that he was haunted by the case he couldn’t clear. Then I remembered years back, when Pope John Paul II visited my city where I was attending university. I went out to see him and met an international student who joked about assassination as the papal entourage passed by our group near the campus. It got me thinking, what if I took these elements and twisted them into fictional threads that were all connected? What if ordinary people from different parts of the world became ensnared by extraordinary events that could alter history as a clock ticked down on them? Suppose it all came down to six seconds?
Throughout my years as a writer, the authors who inspired me in my fledgling efforts were Hemingway, Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, James M. Cain and Ira Levin. Later on, I turned to Elmore Leonard and Thomas Harris, when it comes to Harris, Leonard, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, I try to keep up with their latest work, although it is a challenge these days because there are so many demands on my time.
When I consider the vexed issue of violence in crime fiction, I think these days it is all subjective, really. The writer creates the world they wish to present to the reader, so it becomes a matter of choice. However, since Cain slew Abel, violence has always played a role to one degree or another in storytelling. From Little Red Riding Hood, to American Psycho, as humans we cry, we fear and we bleed. Personally, I don’t care much for violence in my stories but I have used it when the story called for it.
And I would imagine it would be the same for sexuality, as to whether a contemporary writer opts for frankness or discretion. Again, it is a matter of choice. Fiction is a mirror to human experience. However, family, friends -and friends of my teenaged children – read my books, so I have to be careful. Basically, my books have no sex scenes.
That also brings up the question of politics and whether it’s possible for a writer these days to be apolitical. In my case, I try to be apolitical. I am a storyteller not a politician, not a legislator or social engineer. If you find morality, justice and political fervour within the pages of my books, so be it. Just remember, the work is, above all, a story populated by fictional characters.
I rise about 4:00 am and review my previous day’s writing for 30-45 minutes. Then during my 30-40 minute commute by bus to my full time day job as a communications advisor, I make notes in long hand in the journal I create for the work in progress. I let those notes gestate in my subconscious during the day. On the return commute, I revisit the journal and upade my notes. If I have enough energy in the evening, I will try to draft a few new sentences, or go for an evening walk with my notebook before knocking for the evening to watch TV and relax a bit. A bed time, I will review my journal notes and make new ones. On the weekends, I sleep in until about 6:00 a.m. I’ll work in my home office turning my notes into sentences and paragraphs that grow into chapters. If I am travelling, I’ll take my laptop and attempt to work while waiting for flights, aboard jets, in hotels during down time. I adhere to this routine, but it is only possibly because my family accommodates it. I am very blessed that way.
I’d like to think that the principal appeal of the kind of fiction I write is being presented with story that you cannot ignore, a tale of ordinary people facing life-defining circumstances, a story that compels you to go on to the next page while your dinner burns, or you miss your next train stop. I set out to take readers on a thrill ride. I’ll strap you in, tell you only what you need to know and caution you to hang on for the ride of your life. It’s that simple. Otherwise what is the point? Truly. Do you want to invest your money and time in a plot-less, self-indulgent book that rambles, drones on and on until your eyes beg to flee the page? Oh do you want a story that makes your heart beat faster? Life is short, your choice.
My relationship with my editor and publisher is superb. We have positive constructive discussions I am consulted on many of the promotional and marketing aspects of the business. It gives me a feeling of respect and inspires me to go all out with author-generated promotional efforts. My current publisher misses nothing and makes every effort to do everything possible.
When I’m writing, I principally write for myself, however at the same time, I must keep my reader in mind. It’s a marriage that stems from a journalistic background. First and foremost I want to write a story that I am passionate for, one that I am driven to tell you. But as go along, I ask myself as I compose nearly every sentence, what do readers want to know, what do they need to know at this juncture? Sometimes I do it instinctively other times it’s a challenge finding the proper balance between convey information and presenting a story that moves.
THE DYING HOUR is my next book to be published in the UK September 2009, by MIRA BOOKS. Originally released in 2005 in the USA and Canada, the International Thriller Writers selected it as a finalist for a Thriller Award. THE DYING HOUR is the first book of a trilogy and features the debut of Jason Wade, a rookie crime reporter with The Seattle Mirror. Jason’s an underdog from a working class family who sets out against all odds to find a missing college student who vanished in the fog-shrouded mountains of the Pacific Northwest. THE DYING HOUR will be followed by the other books in the series, EVERY FEAR and A PERFECT GRAVE.
The next book I just finished writing is VENGEANCE ROAD, which will be published in the USA and Canada September 2009. It launches a new reporter series featuring Jack Gannon, a jaded loner, who dreams of leaving The Buffalo Sentinel for a coveted job with a global news wire agency in New York City. Gannon pursues the story of a murder and disappearance of a nursing student and a single mother, and their chilling ties to a hero cop who has been living a lie.
SIX SECONDS is published by MIRA BOOKS