1 You developed a relationship between the characters of Chris and Sasha that acted as both plot and subplot and transcended time. Did you always intend for them to be the core of your story or did you have other ideas that didn’t make the final draft?
The first driver for plot ideas came while I was posted in Sweden and learned about Gammelsvenskby (Old Swedish Town). I was taking a correspondence course for fiction writing, and thought what a great idea it would be to include a Russian character who is actually an ethnic Swede from Gammelsvenskby. This was an idea that cooked many, many years before I got serious about writing the novel, and it never changed.
2 Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit reminded me of some of the classics of spy and mystery fiction. What do you consider to be the classics of this genre, and did you take any inspiration from any of them in generating the ideas for your story?
My favorite author in the genre is John le Carré, whose novels include The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor, Soldier Spy, and The Little Drummer Girl. Unlike spy thriller writers like Robert Ludlum (the Bourne series), le Carré concentrates more on believable relationships and less on unbelievable car chases and shootouts.
Having said that, I have to add that another author of popular fiction, Tom Clancy, rises to believability with his Patriot Games, a novel that I think of as a classic in the genre he writes. Clancy seems to do a lot of research, which makes his plots believable. The Hunt for Red October and A Clear and Present Danger are two works that show his attention to real detail.
And finally, including mystery fiction, I like John Sandford’s Prey series for dialogue. In my CIA career I worked at times with law enforcement, including both active and former FBI agents. Sandford does a great job of capturing their lingo, a talent that adds greatly to his well-plotted and well-written novels.
I make an effort to use my own voice in writing fiction, but there is no doubt that my voice has been influenced by reading these classics.
3 Do you sail? Your descriptions of the Valhalla were accurate and sounded like the classic vessel you portrayed. Does she exist outside of the pages of your book?
Boating has been central to my life, beginning with my father teaching me to run an outboard skiff when I was barely in elementary school. I built a twelve-foot outboard skiff when I was fifteen years old, did a stint in the U.S. Navy between high school and university years, worked on Fish and Wildlife Service boats in southeast Alaska for four seasons, and have rarely been without a power boat for all my adult life.
I sailed one of the early catamarans when stationed in Formosa, have sailed small dinghies and sailing surfboards., but never a large sailboat like the Valhalla. I had a friend in Denmark who owned one of the world’s classic large sailing yachts, and heard many tales about his experiences. The Colin Archer boats are legendary in Scandinavia. While spending almost ten years there I heard much about them, and did research for descriptions in the novel.
4 What are your plans for your next book? What are you writing at the moment?
I am outlining another novel, using some of the same characters as in Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit (the twin, Matthew, along with his brother Mark and dad Chris), that will be on the theme of shipping in Puget Sound and the danger of a damaging explosion in Elliot Bay, where downtown Seattle is located.