Original Q & A posted on March 16th, 2011 over at ZenWeezil.com
Tell me about "Blood for Treasure"?
The elevator pitch is…it’s a modern adventure about a clandestine expedition tasked with capturing the world’s first and only trillion-dollar treasure. Can you tell I’ve had to say that once or twice?
The cab ride pitch is… it’s a book for anyone who loves epic action/adventures filled with high-octane escapism. If you like your hero wielding a sabertooth-tiger-bone-handled machete, smoking-hot videographers with a death wish, firewalking, bare-knuckle brawls in Singapore bars, jungles that make Predator look like Kansas, 10-foot man-eating tigers, modern samurai sporting hand-forged sniper rifles, blood-thirsty Komodo dragons, nefarious private mercenaries, Marines rocking and rolling with bleeding-edge machine guns and portable lightning packs, armed-to-the-teeth hovercrafts nicknamed “Jaws”, underwater chases through piranha-filled rivers, gold bars as far as the eye can see, and a lava-spewing volcano…then this book is for you.
On a professional level…it’s book one in a trilogy of modern adventures. On a personal level, it’s a straight-up labor of love for the genre.
Samurai with sniper rifles sounds sweet, but tell me there is still some old fashioned swordplay somewhere in the book. Hari Kari maybe?
Let’s just say that one of the climactic duels is settled with blades. And there are definitely other blades woven throughout the story, for sure. You have to have them on some level when you’re dealing with samurai. But ultimately, because of the saturation of the samurai katana in modern pop culture, I did want to try and explore what other weapons a modern samurai would be all about. Simply put, the samurai were a one-strike/one-kill type of warrior. And with the sniper rifle being a one-shot/one-kill weapon, I tried to capitalize on that as an extension of their warrior mentality.
I’ve been hooked on the genre from the moment my parents took me to the theater to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I was too young to catch Raiders in the theater…so I had no idea what I was in for. By the time I walked out, my mind was blown. To me…of the original trilogy…it was by far the best, visually speaking. Raiders is a hands-down masterpiece of the genre, but after Raiders I’d rank Temple as second in terms of pure escapism and action/adventure sequences. And as a kid…being a part of that…in the theater…all I can say is that it was a visceral experience. More to the point, as a young storyteller, it was a religious experience. The seed was definitely planted by the time I went to bed that night.
As I grew older, and dove deeper and deeper into storytelling, I realized that the action/adventure genre is a very fundamental genre with regards to mythology…so that began to draw me even closer to the genre. I think one of the reasons that’s true is because the action/adventure genre dovetails perfectly (creatively speaking) with mythology’s fundamental “hero’s journey” story template…which Joseph Campbell talks a lot about. There’s a very real primal connection between the two…which lends the genre an ageless, for-all-time feel to it. And I love that.
So how much work and time went into writing this novel?
As with any labor of love, a lot of both. I started fleshing out the world of an original action/adventure story about 4 years ago. I spent the first year gathering the basic elements. I knew I wanted it to be centered around a modern explorer – because oddly enough, no other major action/adventure franchise had tapped that type of lead character yet. You had archeologists (Indy), ex-soldiers ("The Mummy" series), researchers ("Sahara"), gun-toting bird-trappers ("Romancing the Stone"), and tomb raiders (Lara Croft series). But no legitimate explorers that lived and breathed the essence of modern exploration. And ironically, those are exactly the type of people the original B-series films were based on. Guys like Hiram Bingham III, etc. Plus, the themes associated with exploration are rife with the elements of adventure. So once that central piece was locked into place, I began heavily researching the themes of modern exploration, as well as modern explorers themselves.
Beyond the main character, I knew I also wanted the entire fabric of the story to be evolved. Truth be told…it had to be evolved. It’s a genre that’s been mined pretty heavily. So to at least attempt to be fresh…I knew it had to be evolved on some core levels. The challenge is to do that while still maintaining the flavor and essence of the genre. So…for me…that meant a hybrid where the stoic explorer on the hunt is accompanied by a collection of worthy characters. And being a huge fan of stories like Predator and Aliens…that meant Marines. Specifically…a hypothetical, clandestine Marine Force Recon unit. And they couldn’t just roll in on a truck. Thus…”Jaws” was born.
I knew I also wanted a great love interest, but again…she had to be evolved. Meaning…at least for me…she had to have a streak of danger equal or greater than our hero – as well as a personality to match. And the attraction between them had to be grounded in some type of realism. In this case…their shared drive to explore the world, as well as their mutual tendencies to push themselves out of their comfort zone. In short…they needed a bond that would not only sustain, but would also thrive, in life-threatening situations. So I started researching women with extremely dangerous careers.
I also wanted a collection of great bad guys. Some you’d like, some you’d hate, some you wouldn’t see coming. To me…the more gray area a bad guy has, the more interesting they are. It’s true for all characters, but it seems to really resonate with bad guys. And the modern, adventurous professions that seem to have the most potential for that gray area are private mercenaries and private treasure hunting firms. Both professions are defined by what motivations the people involved bring with them. Most are legitimate, with very up-front, on-the-surface intentions. But some are completely nefarious. And those are the ones I focused on.
And then, of course, I wanted a very clearly defined villain…someone who’s nothing but an enemy of the expedition. Like a lot of people, I’m drawn to the samurai culture. Partly because they kick so much ass. But also because my family has a bit of Asian history to it. My paternal grandfather was born and raised in Shanghai until he was 16. And when he moved back here, that culture most certainly came back with him…through behavior, food, furniture, etc. So growing up, I was surrounded by it. Obviously, samurai are Japanese not Chinese, but samurai are of the same ilk, if you will. And because of that, the samurai culture became an extension of my interests. So when it came to this story…I wanted to tap into something that I could really dig into and be passionate about, and samurai seemed like a very natural selection for me.
By the end of the first year of work, I had done the research I felt necessary, and locked in all of the major elements – characters, settings, buildings, weapons, vehicles, etc. Ultimately, I had everything…except the plot and MacGuffin. Small details.
I refused to go with a MacGuffin that had even been hinted at within another well-known action/adventure story. So…finding an original MacGuffin took another year. And when it finally came, it was 2 AM, and I was crawling through articles in the New York Times online archive. And I found an article from 1987 about the legend of the Tiger’s Treasure…what it was, how it was believed to be real, how the legend was that the U.S. had actually failed to find it on multiple attempts, etc. And that was it. As soon as I found that article…everything fell into place, and I was off and running.
I spent the next 3 months outlining the story, piecing the plot together, fleshing out more character details, etc. Then I wrote the first draft over about 6 months. I took a 3 month breather to get feedback from my manager, family, friends, etc. Then went in and did a hard second draft over about 3 months. All told, the writing took about a year. From there, I took another 6 months to make final preparations for rollout (typos, formatting, inserts of additional scenes, etc.) And now here we are.
Why do a Kindle version?
Great question. Three reasons. First, publishing digitally is the quickest way for a novelist to connect to his/her readers. Why wait a year to deliver it in print when you can wait a day to deliver it on a device? Second, the medium of the digital novel encourages quick fixes to problems (typos, color corrections on the cover, etc.) that used to be set in stone once the book went to print. Why allow something to be forever when you can fix it overnight? And third, being a programmer and web developer myself…I live, breathe, communicate, socialize, and consume entertainment digitally. Why stop when it comes to putting out my own work? Not to mention the process saves trees, and there’s good karma in that.
So how do we get this book, and what if we don’t have a Kindle?
It’s available via Amazon.com for the Kindle. If you own a Kindle, then you know the drill. If you don’t have a Kindle, simply download the free Kindle app onto your iPhone, Blackberry, PC, etc…then search for the book title inside of it…and voila. And please be sure to post a star-rated review on Amazon when you’re done. Good, bad, or ugly…those reviews are a critical part of the process for everyone involved.
What was the hardest part of getting the book out?
Coming to accept that no matter how hard you try, you simply will not find every typo.
Well, thanks for answering my questions, it was a lot of fun and I will be sure to download a copy and give it a read.