Hope you are ready for another thrilling CROOKED INTERVIEW. Mystery and spies are right up his alley, and he is no stranger to writing phenomenal short stories. Eric J. Gates rocks thrillers for life, and it is my pleasure to be his host as he chats about his books and Crooked Tales by Readers Circle of Avenue Park.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eric J. Gates has had a curious life filled with the stuff of thriller novels. Writing Operating Systems for Supercomputers, cracking cryptographic codes under extreme pressure using only paper and pen and teaching cyber warfare to spies are just a few of the moments he’s willing to recall. He is an ex-International Consultant who has travelled extensively worldwide, speaks several languages, and has had articles and papers published in technical magazines in six different countries, as well as radio and TV spots. His specialty, Information Technology Security, has brought him into contact with the Military and Intelligence communities on numerous occasions.
He is also an expert martial artist, holding 14 black belt degrees in distinct disciplines. He has taught his skills to Police and Military personnel, as well as to the public.
He now writes thriller novels, drawing on his experiences with the confidential and secret worlds that surround us.
1. What is your Crooked tale about and what inspired it?
‘Death of a Sparrowman’ is a spy story set in the present day but decidedly low-tech. My work has brought me into contact with several Intelligence organizations over the years and there is an internal ‘battle’ of sorts raging in all of them. There are basically two camps: one feels that intelligence obtained using high-tech means (SIGINT – signals intelligence – which composes satellites, cracking electronic cryptography, analyzing Internet traffic etc) provides the intelligence needed to feed government decisions. The other insists there is still a place for the man on the ground (HUMINT – human intelligence). I focused the tale on a man who had been a courier of critical information for his long career and who was planning to retire soon. By telling the story, I could also paint a picture of the changes in the intelligence world from its rather naïve past to the tech-obsessed present. All of this is told from the point of view of this ageing spy who is about as far removed from the ‘classic’ James Bond figure as you can get.
2. What do you like writing and/or reading best?
I love writing thriller novels with ‘a touch of strange’ as one of my readers once put it. By ‘strange’ I believe they were referring to the elements of the unknown, even paranormal, that I weave into my stories. These are often the product of deep research into lesser known mythology (such as the Cintamani Stone from Tibetan mythology that I used in ‘Outsourced’ and ‘Primed’) or the answer to questions of the ‘what if?’ variety (What if vampires were based upon real history? Was the starting point for ‘the CULL’ series).
My reading tastes run to thrillers, sci-fi, crime and mystery, and non-fiction (especially science-related) although if a book appeals to me, and it is outside these genre, that’s not an obstacle.
3. What else do you do in life apart from writing?
I’m a martial art practitioner. Having been trained in over 25 different arts, I try to keep up my ‘particular set of skills’ whenever I can, which is not that easy as the fighting ability I have is all in combat arts, not sport. To relax I cook! By now I can heat water without burning it and have gained a certain reputation for my ‘Boeuf en Croute’ – once even had a lawyer offering to represent me for free if I made them that dish a few times a year! And, of course, I’m an avid reader!
4. What are you currently working on?
Currently the words tapped out on my keyboard (if you’ve ever seen my handwriting, you’ll understand why I always use a computer) belong to the fifth and last book in my ‘the CULL’ series. This series takes an original and fresh look at vampire lore and has proven to be a firm favourite with readers judging by the number of emails I receive asking for more.
Time for Eric to interview himself – he chooses the questions and answers them. (Yes, I am crooked sometimes.)
1. Where were you born?
I’m a Brit in origin, though now living in Spain, and hail from the Wirral peninsular (turn left at Hobbiton).
2. Do you use real people and your own experience in your novels?
Very much so. Real people appear in my novels in two ways: either they are winners of the competition I run on my website where the prize is a character named after them, or they are individuals who I have crossed paths with in my prior life and who are heavily disguised (to protect the guilty). As for experiences, well, let’s just say I’ve had an unusual and interesting life…
3.What do you think is the biggest problem an aspiring author faces?
Without a doubt, it is themselves. Once they put so much effort into penning that first book, faced with the uphill struggle to acquire a readership, many give in to despair and exasperation. Yes, this is a hard profession (definitely not a pastime) and requires the three P’s to survive: Patience, Perseverance, and Positiveness. Hang in there for the long haul and meanwhile, write another book!
4. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Again, an easy one. Like most scribblers, I am always trying to improve my writing. A few years back I discovered a wonderful piece of software that I use for self-editing, and which has helped me improve my own skillset as an author in the process. No, I’m not talking about just a spell-checker. To explain why and how I use this, a while back I wrote an article which can be found on my website here: http://www.ericjgates.com/TipsTricksSelfie.html
5. Did you ever edit out something from a novel you wrote?
Yes. I didn’t include in the book what I did when I received the object used by fictional author Nic Stiles in ‘Outsourced’. But that’s another story…
ERIC’S QUESTION FOR ‘CROOKED’ AUTHORS
Ask one or more of the other Crooked Tales authors a question or more. I would kindly ask them to reply in the blog comments below. Other authors also welcome.
ERIC: As nobody has asked so far, I direct this question to Anita:
What’s the one thing you would give up permanently if doing so made you better at writing?
Not an easy one, right. If any of the other Crooked Tales Authors want to have a go at that one too, well…