Tell us about your current release.
The Messiah Matrix is a romantic thriller with an archaeological and historical underpinning that explodes the origins of Christianity. A skeptical young Jesuit priest, sent to Rome to prove the veracity of New Testament events, encounters a vivacious archaeologist who’s discovered a legendary gold coin in the ruins of ancient Caesarea. Together they attempt to retrieve the coin, and to pursue the murderer of their mentor, and along the way unravel secrets the Vatican has concealed for two thousand years. The story is set in Israel and Rome. It’s fast-paced and explores the tension between morality and religion, doubt and faith, celibacy and destined love.
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
As all novelists do, I draw from both. Oddly enough my novel unwittingly predicted the pope’s resignation and the election of an Argentine Jesuit. But it also reflects my adolescent experiences growing up Catholic and wondering if God would really send someone to hell for eating meat on Friday or stealing $5.00 worth of peas instead of $4.99 worth.
Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I do both. I start wherever the sharpest image begins and work backwards or forwards accordingly. That’s the beauty of this computer age—you can go either way. Write the scene you feel like writing today, and put it wherever it’s supposed to go later.
Is writing your full time job? If not, may I ask what you do by day?
I’ve never written full time. I write when I have something to say or have a story to tell, which has, I admit, gotten to be more and more often. My day job is coaching other storytellers on how to get their stories to their maximum audiences in today’s challenging and changing world—and editing, managing, representing, and producing stories.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Aside from my own clients, my favorite authors go back to Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Sterne, Wallace Stevens, Thomas Hardy, Melville, Garcia-Marquez, and Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
Would you rather read than watch TV/movie?
Tell us about your next release.
I’m currently working on AFI, Inc., the first in a series of memoirs, prior to completing The Hong Kong Reversion, a thriller set in Hong Kong.
Has someone mentored you in your writing career?
John Gardner (Grendel, The Sunlight Dialogues), who edited my first scholarly book The Iliad: The Shield of Memory, constantly led me to clarify and simplify my writing. His advice has guided me through the years. Over the years I have helped dozens of thriller writers perfect their work, find publishers and film productions. Steven J. Cannell (King Con, Vertical Coffin) encouraged me to follow his lead and enter the ranks of novelists, which I did when, for my late client William Diehl (Sharky’s Machine, Primal Fear), I completed his novel Seven Ways to Die.
When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?
Although I’m a morning person, I write any time of day I can steal an hour or two from my editing, managing, coaching and producing. On an ideal day, I write from five to seven a.m. Over the years I’ve taught myself to write anywhere, and particularly love writing on the plane.
Does your significant other read your stuff?
She does. After it’s published! Way after. I like to compartmentalize things, especially criticism; and don’t ask it from those who love me. But I have a small set of loyal editors who give me hell when I’m in the revision mode. I counted forty-eight revisions of Messiah, and would still like to do one more.
How do you describe your writing style?
I’d like to think it’s fast-paced and intelligent, but I’m afraid it gets too scholarly now and then because I get carried away by the research beneath the story.
What books are you reading now?
Preparatory to writing The Hong Kong Reversion, I’m rereading Ian Fleming’s wonderful James Bond books as well as James Patterson, and Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I read all day, for joy, for research, and because my dayjob is helping storytellers find their audiences.
What are your favorite TV shows?
Currently my favorite shows, other than the ones I’m developing as a producer, include House of Cards, Revenge, Homeland, Orphan Black, and Downton Abbey.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I play tennis for two hours four times a week, go to the gym two days a week, and walk and bike as well. Since I mostly work at home, dining out with my wife and/or friends is a chief regular recreation; but travel is my favorite way of “getting away”—we alternate between Asia and Europe, with side trips to New York, Mexico and my native state Louisiana.