Q: What inspired the plot for your latest thriller, Foreign Influence?
A: About ten years ago a terrifying white paper was published by a foreign military hostile to the United States. It was entitled, “Unrestricted Warfare,” and contained a blueprint for destroying America through a host of unusual channels that the United States would be ill-prepared to defend against. One such channel called for the conscripting of foreign terrorists to carry out wave after wave of attacks in order to beat America down, before moving on to the next devastating tactic.
I decided to take this idea a step further and ask: what if someone discovered this plan and hijacked it? What if the terror cells were already in place and could be activated by a totally different entity hostile to the
United States? Who would do this? Why would they do this? Could they be stopped?
Q: In your mind, how does Foreign Influence parallel current issues?
A: First and foremost, my job as a thriller author is to entertain. I want my readers to have the best white-knuckle thrill ride they have ever had. I want their hearts to be pounding and for them to be turning the pages so fast their fingers get blisters. To make that happen, I make my books as real as possible. That means I study not only what is happening while I’m writing, but what I see coming at us. In addition to giving an insight into intelligence gathering, espionage, and international counterterrorism operations, Foreign Influence is a peek over the horizon at many of the threats that we may very well see in the near future.
Q: What made you bring back the Troll in Foreign Influence?
A: Out of all the characters I have created, the Troll is one of the most popular. I have been looking for the right storyline for him over the past couple of books. He resonates with a lot of people and plays on both sides of a very fine line between good and evil. This book was the perfect book to bring him back for. The storyline cried out for his involvement; his special way of dealing with the world and his enemies.
Q: Where does the idea for a private group, like the Carlton Group, to gather intelligence come from?
A: I began to introduce the concept of private intelligence gathering in my novel, The First Commandment. I had been reading a lot about how backlogged many intelligence agencies had been in transcribing emails and telephone conversations of suspected terrorists. I was also keenly aware of how even going back to the time of the Romans, great militaries could not effectively wage war without the assistance of auxiliaries (a much more dignified and appropriate term than contractors).
I watched the ever-increasing role of private military corporations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Retired Special Operations Forces personnel were choosing to work with organizations like Triple Canopy rather than joining the CIA in its paramilitary efforts. Many of the men (and women) I spoke with who were doing this, shared that they were turned off by government bureaucracy and preferred serving their country via the private sector.
When I put this information together with the multiple backlogs at government intelligence agencies, it seemed only a matter of time before government would turn to the private sector for help in the intelligence arena as well. This is indeed what has happened. Since the publication of Foreign Influence, several articles have been written in the New York Times about intelligence gathering overseas by private organizations contracted by the government.
Q: It is so interesting to find a team of female operatives in Foreign Influence. What was your intent in creating this unit?
A: Over the last fifteen years, I have spent a lot of time around high-end Olympic, professional, and semi-professional athletes; both male and female. I found the women to be just as determined and skilled as their male counterparts. There were many whom I thought would make exceptional counterterrorism operatives. Just think of the places they could go and the things they could do without ever raising any suspicion.
When I heard rumors that the Army’s elite Delta Force unit was recruiting high level female athletes for exactly that kind of work, I knew I wanted to be the first to write about it. I also wanted to create a new class of hero that women could look up to and admire.
Q: What inspires you to keep writing?
A: Ever since I was a little boy, I have wanted to be a writer. I have more stories inside me than I could tell in two lifetimes.
The most interesting part of writing for me is how much I learn with each book. I try to explore several things in each new story that are foreign to me. Whether these are interesting facts, foods, locations, people, ways of doing things, etc. I want to be learning with each book I write. If I am learning, I’m having a good time. Hopefully my readers are too.
Q: Who, in your opinion, is the most memorable character in Foreign Influence?
A: There are a lot of memorable characters in Foreign Influence and I think you will get a wide range of answers to this question. It may be the protagonist Scot Harvath. It may be one of the Athena Team members. It may be the Troll. It might be someone else and that would be terrific as well. The bottom line is that I worked very hard to create interesting and compelling characters, be they in primary and or supporting roles. If they were important enough to be given life on the pages of Foreign Influence, they were important enough to be as well-crafted as possible.
Q: How about the way in which you structured the plot?
A: The plot also works on several different levels. If you want the fast-paced, edge of your seat thriller, that’s definitely here. If you want to dig deeper and pull out more subtle themes beneath the big ones that the book covers, those are here as well. There’s a lot of meat in this book and I hope people will find it very satisfying.
Q: What was your inspiration for the title of Foreign Influence?
A: I celebrated my 40th birthday at the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia. Hanging over one of the fireplaces is a stunning, full-length painting of George Washington by Jane Stuart. It is an exact copy of the portrait painted by her father, Gilbert Stuart, which is considered the most famous and important painting in the White House. The younger Stuart, however, added something to her version. In it, President Washington is seen holding a scroll upon which three words are written: Beware Foreign Influence. The minute I read those words, I knew I had the title for my newest thriller.
Q: After reading Foreign Influence, the question many readers are going to have is:
A: Next to be released is the first installment of a new series devoted to the Athena Team members introduced in Foreign Influence, and entitled The Athena Project. The book picks up on an unresolved thread and follows it through to a startling conclusion. The book after The Athena Project is Full Black, and will be a Harvath thrill-ride following a different thread from Foreign Influence.
I am very excited about both books and hope that readers will really enjoy them.