Name: Philip Chen
Where are you from: I was born in China and came to the United States in 1949
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc: I have degrees of Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering with Distinction from the University of Virginia, Master of Science from Stanford University, and Juris Doctor from the University of Minnesota. I was an ocean research engineer, environmental engineer, trial attorney, investment banker, and international private equity manager in Africa, among other things. I am married and have a son, daughter, and three lovely intelligent granddaughters.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Phil: For the nearly 30,000 readers (thankfully, many actually paid for the book) who have downloaded my first very realistic science fiction thriller, Falling Star, I can tell you that I am about fifty percent through with the sequel. Some readers felt that the first novel, which was always meant to be a series, left too much unexplained. I think that those readers will be pleased to know that many of the threads will be tied together in this sequel and that you will understand why the first volume developed as it did.
Not to be poetic, but I saw my series like a composer would see an opera. You open with a theme, and then expand into different areas of thematic expression. In the end, you demonstrate how these themes interact and how they eventually come together in the finale. My sequel will do that.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Phil: I did not wake up one day and decide to be a writer. In fact, when I did wake up from the series of horrific nightmares I suffered in 1990, I became consumed in trying to understand why. In these dreams, gangs of seemingly ordinary people roamed the country wreaking havoc and sowing destruction. They indiscriminately killed people; in my nightmares I saw skyscrapers explode and fall to the ground in flames.
Chillingly, at the time I was working for Lehman Brothers and had just moved out of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. My office was on the 106th floor of Two World Trade Center.
I was also traveling on almost a weekly basis to London from New York on business. I also was carrying one of the earliest lightweight laptops.
Tiring of the rubbish that I was reading on the flights, something told me to use that laptop to transcribe my dreams. So I start pecking out the story during the long plane rides back and forth between New York and London. Once I started, the story seemed to write itself, as though my characters lined up one at a time to narrate their story to me. During my often week-long stays in London and over weekends at home, I punched away on the laptop. Within six weeks, I had a manuscript of about 520 double spaced pages.
After finishing this story, my nightmares disappeared. It was as though the story had to be told.
I made all the stops in the legacy publishing world for twenty years trying to get someone to pay attention to what I thought was an urgent story about foreign spies who lived among us for decades and who stuck out when something incredible happened. All doors were summarily slammed in my face, although I did receive encouragement from one senior executive at a major house and one literary agent. However, no one would take a chance on what they deemed a story too unbelievable to be true, written by a nobody author.
Then in 2010, Russian spies were found to have been living among us for decades, marrying unknowing Americans, raising children, buying homes, holding down mundane jobs and lying in wait for the word to strike. Just like my fictional spies were described as doing almost twenty years earlier.
It was at that time, I decided to give the newly developing self-publishing industry in eBooks a try. I’m glad that I did; this is a story that has to be told.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Phil: When my first positive reviews started coming back. This novel has been reviewed almost eighty times across the many venues that it has been sold with a composite review of 4+ stars.
The novel seemed to strike a chord with people who enjoyed a fast moving, extremely realistic science fiction thriller.
Of course, despite the fact that this fictional novel was vetted and enjoyed by people some of whom had served in the military, including one who had received some of the country’s highest military honors, the book had its detractors. Surprisingly, the one theme that they jumped on was that I did not use the right weapon in any given scenario.
My favorite positive review ended with the following statement, “Mr. Chen’s writing style is precise, almost military and chock full of information that makes the reader wonder if this story might not be fiction at all, but something very real and very disturbing.”
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Phil: As explained above, this story actually came to me in a series of terrifying dreams; many of the events in those dreams have actually come true: The Russian spies of 2010, the attack on the World Trade Center, the country’s obsession with rocks from space, and mysterious objects hidden in the depths of the seas.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Phil: My background and training leads me to a very direct, factually based (except when I am engaging in literary license) writing style. Because of my ocean research background, I was able to spin a story that often led to readers believing that the events actually occurred.
Alan Caruba, a literary critic and charter member of the National Book Critics Circle, even went so far as to say, “This novel stands out for the way you are introduced not just to the characters, but the physical reality in which they live, the sights and even the smells.”
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Phil: That is part of the story.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Phil: There are many messages in this book. Perhaps my personal favorite is self-discovery. By saying this, my principle character is beset with many issues growing up and through his professional life; those are the experiences that lead to the conclusion of this volume of the series.
I do not believe any of the people who have talked about this book have noted this underlying theme.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Phil: Much of this story is traceable to real-life experiences, obviously fictionalized to make the story work. It is not however a documentary.
For example, the opening chapter sets the tone of the book:
Buffeted by surprisingly gusty winds for a brilliantly clear day, the propeller-driven Lockheed P-3B Orion bumped along just one hundred feet above the turbulent ocean surface. Creaking squeals of metal rubbing against metal bared the struggle of the aluminum machine; fighting to stay airborne against the unrelenting pounding and shifting forces of nature.
As if the low-pitched groans and twisted squeaks of the anguished metal structure weren’t enough, the harnessed men on the Orion were violently tossed about by the constantly changing winds of March.
Everyone, that is, except the airplane’s young pilot who, while struggling to maintain the Orion on a steady course, anticipated each bump of the Orion as though he were riding a bicycle along a rocky mountain path. The pilot wore a dress hat, crushed by headphones, in clear violation of rules. This look was just how Thomas “Buck” Morrow saw himself. Flight helmets were for sissies and fighter pilots, but then only because of the tight confines of a jet cockpit.
The controls of the airplane jerked and kicked in Lieutenant Commander Morrow’s hands as he constantly monitored his many-gauged instrumentation panel. The white numbers and pointers on flat black backgrounds jumbled together in a profusion of data points. He knew he had to fly by the instruments at this altitude since relying on his senses could be fatal, so he checked the gauges relentlessly, particularly the altimeter and the artificial horizon. All the while he kept a practiced eye on the endless expanse of white-capped, grayish blue water rushing headlong toward him. Observing him, one could easily be lulled into believing that the pilot was out for a Sunday drive. His practiced hand kept the course true, even as his gaze swept languorously over the instrument panel.
The pilot’s nickname in the squadron was Buck, short for “Buckeroo”, a name given him by his fellow officers because of his cowboy antics when flying the squadron’s planes. The squadron’s mechanics in particular cursed Buck behind his back after yet-another aircraft bending mission. It was their sorry task to clean up and tune the Orions after Buck’s many antics.
Buck’s outwardly calm composure was betrayed only by the steady, methodical chewing of peppermint gum, which would abruptly stop when the Orion hit a particularly rough spot of air. His young, rugged face remained passive as he maneuvered the plane expertly along its tricky course. The workhorse Orion was not designed for such low-altitude flying, but that wasn’t Buck’s concern, he was just there to fly the damn thing.
His co-pilot also held on to the controls. He was older and had been in the Navy longer than his Academy-educated pilot, but Buck was the boss and the boss controlled the plane.
The co-pilot, however, maintained a careful watch on the instrumentation, straying every once in a while to glance at the intensely calm pilot. He knew that they should not be flying at this low altitude under such gusty conditions, but that wasn’t his call. He was there as a backup in case his pilot needed help keeping the Orion in the air.
In the compartment immediately behind the pilots, the Orion’s navigator sat strapped tightly into his small seat. The officer’s ruddy complexion was capped with brown hair, in the crew cut style popular with young flying officers. Safely anchored to his seat, the navigator hunched over his table plotting the plane’s course and giving corrections to the pilot over the intercom, carefully enunciating each number and direction heading over the hissing and popping sounds of the headset. Next to the navigator sat a tall, gawky Navy Lieutenant who had been able to jam himself somehow into the small aircraft seat. As the science officer, Frederick Evans was responsible for data monitoring and instrument maintenance.
The atmosphere inside the Orion was hot, damp, and close. The overwhelming environment of the cabin was heightened by the intermingled odors of aviation fuel, the heavy pungent aroma of lubricating oils, the sulfurous vapor of rubber hoses, the sharp smell of ozone generated by electronic gear, and the cumulative sweat of its current and long forgotten crews. More accustomed to the open space of surface ships than the close quarters of this airplane, the science officer worked hard to keep his breakfast down.
He swallowed continually to counter the burning taste in his throat and wished that he hadn’t had that second helping of half-cooked bacon — it hadn’t even been that good, not like how his aunt used to cook it, over a low heat, simmering for a long time. His efforts to hold back the burning taste in the back of his throat was complicated by his efforts to avoid the nausea that came naturally from the hot, confining, constantly shifting and bouncing environment. The steady pulsating drone of the Orion’s propellers added to Evan’s disorientation.
The worst aspect of the Orion was the smell, that damn stink of ancient vomit.
Evans was focused on the cluster of cathode ray tubes locked into the gray metal framework, mere inches from his young face. He methodically followed the multiple green traces as they slowly made their way from left to right. Both Evans and the navigator were securely strapped to their seats, but the wrenching up and down and the side to side movements of the Orion made it hard to take notes and to adjust the instruments.
“What the — What was that?” blurted Evans as he watched the greenish trace on the magnetometer’s oscilloscope suddenly spike upward from its normal baseline level. Instinctively, he marked the latitude and longitude on the strip recorder that ran parallel to the oscilloscope trace.
“Captain, can we run that transect over?” said Evans, trying hard to suppress the excitement in his voice.
“What did you see, Fred?” came the low-keyed voice of the young pilot over the scratchy intercom.
“Something odd; really odd. Like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
Evans felt his already uneasy stomach violently traumatized as Buck whipped the Orion into a sharp, bronco-busting right bank. G-forces pinned Evans deep into his seat. Despite this, he was able to frantically grab an airsickness bag from its cubicle. In one great heave, Evans made his contribution to the already gamy air of the cabin. His quickness in grabbing the vomit bag saved the delicate electronic instruments from becoming fouled with the remains of a hasty, ill thought-out breakfast.
Buck was good, perhaps one of the best Navy pilots assigned to oceanographic reconnaissance — he could fly a survey transect so straight you’d think that someone had painted a white line on the ocean surface. But, like all Navy pilots used to landing on bobbing corks in the ocean, he wasted no time on formalities.
“Too bad that black shoe has a squeamish stomach,” Buck said to no one in particular; chuckling to himself.
“What did you say, Captain?” said the co-pilot.
“Oh, nothing. Just horsing around.”
“Damn, there it goes again,” murmured Evans, feeling feverish and light-headed, but vastly relieved after his encounter with the vomit bag.
“What’s going on, Fred? Sure you’re not just looking at some chicks down there?” said Buck, abruptly dipping his left wing as if to get a better look. Evans felt his stomach burp at the maneuver.
“No, wish it were. Sorry to disappoint you, Captain. We just confirmed that something down there is screwing the hell out of my magnetometer. We just had one hell of a spike in the readings.” Evans looked over the endless ocean surface, dark grayish-blue water with choppy waves and frothy whitecaps.
“What do you think it was?”
“Don’t know, Captain,” said Evans. “But could we try that transect again?”
The Orion stayed on site, running and rerunning the same transect until Evans, despite his uneasy stomach, feverish countenance, and burning throat, was satisfied that the magnetic anomaly was really there and that the readings were not just the result of an instrument malfunction.
As the Orion made one final bank and headed back to base, Evans stared at the gray-blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean trying to rationally answer the question that burned in his head. Why would his instruments act up here in the middle of nowhere; over the Hatteras Abyssal Plain, where there should be nothing but background?
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life
Phil: Yes, my ocean engineering work allowed me to accurately describe certain equipment and passages accurately. My erstwhile military training (ROTC) and work with naval systems helped me in describing military situations. Generally, my life and what I went through as an Asian-American helped in portraying my principle character and how he would react in given situations.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Phil: I don’t read as much as I used to, but my appetite included science fiction, adventure, moral dilemma, and documentary books.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Phil: I can’t say that any one author influenced me more than anyone else. However, I have enjoyed reading people like Franz Kafka, George Orwell, Isaac Asimov, John McPhee, Tom Clancy, Arthur C, Clarke, Ernst Hemmingway, and Jules Verne, to name a few. Many have compared my writing style to Clancy and James Patterson
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Phil: I am currently working my way through John Meacham’s, Thomas Jefferson, The Art of Power.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Phil: The real beauty of online publishing is that it has unleashed so many voices that have heretofore been silenced by the legacy book publishing business. No longer are new writers bound by having to write formula books that would appeal to some publishers idea of what is profitable.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Phil: I am fifty percent finished with the sequel to Falling Star.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members
Phil: None. Nobody believed that I could write.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Phil: At age almost seventy, it is a hell of a time to start a career. However, I do have a few more stories rattling around my synapses.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
“He was killed by a hit and run jogger.”
“That’s not really funny, you know,” said the third man in the small booth of the disturbingly clanky coffee shop of the posh hotel on the fringes of Georgetown.
“Yeah, but damn it you just can’t get morose. The facts are vague, but as far as we can tell, he was trying to hail a cab at 21st and Pennsylvania when he was bumped by a jogger. After the two collided, witnesses saw the jogger run off and Johnson fall to the ground. He lapsed into a coma and never recovered.”
“What happened to the jogger?”
“He got away.”
“That’s outrageous. Didn’t anyone give chase?”
“No, it happened too quickly. It looked like an accident and everyone rushed to help Johnson.”
“Did he say anything?
“Nope, he never regained consciousness.”
“Why is this person of interest to us?”
“William Johnson was a Marine Corps Colonel and, more importantly, he was one of us.”
“Was there an autopsy?”
“Of course. As soon as CSAC heard that one of its assets had been hit, it took control of the investigation. Johnson was initially taken to the D.C. morgue, but our personnel quickly interceded and transferred his body to central headquarters in Newport News.”
“The toxicology analysis found a significant concentration of curare mixed with a neurotoxin of unknown chemistry in his tissue.”
“Any cuts, bruises?”
“Nothing except for a puncture wound, like a large hypodermic needle, with significant skin discoloration around it. Like, you know, a botched injection.”
“Sounds like the Bulgarian attack on one of its exiles in London in the Sixties,” commented Mike Liu.
“Yeah, that’s right,” replied Tom Jamieson, shifting ever so slightly as he glanced casually around the small coffee shop. “Only difference is the Bulgarian was able to make it back to his office and died several days later. In Johnson’s case, it was instantaneous.”
The third man at the small table who had been listening to the tale of Colonel Johnson’s demise was George Smith, the civilian security chief for CSAC, an interagency group whose existence was a closely held secret of the United States government. Both Mike Liu and Tom Jamieson were agents of CSAC. They had been called to this breakfast meeting by Smith on orders from the Old Man, himself.
Smith was dressed in a dark blue suit, brilliantly polished black wingtip shoes, starched white shirt, and striped necktie. His dark brown hair was closely cut and neatly combed in place. The familiar scent of a popular aftershave hung over Smith. His eyeglasses were constructed of heavy black plastic, some say as a political statement harkening back to the presidential campaign of 1964. Secretly, George wore these glasses in an attempt to copy the look of singer Roy Orbison, whom George greatly admired.
Mike, in Washington to attend a conference on Independent Energy Producers, was a Managing Director of Franklin Smedley & Associates, a major investment bank in New York City. He was the partner in charge of the investment firm’s global project finance practice. Because Mike’s practice was international he had to travel extensively around the world working on various project financing assignments, which provided an excellent cover for his long time clandestine relationship with CSAC.
As a Level One Agent, Mike could be called at any time by the Old Man to serve in the defense of his country. In the past, these assignments ranged from domestic matters quickly dispatched to international matters of state. Level One agents reported to no one except the Old Man and were known for their great efficiency in taking care of matters, discretely and often with extreme prejudice.
Mike was dressed in his customary dark gray pinstriped suit, mirror bright, plain-toed black shoes, a white buttoned down cotton broadloom shirt, and red and blue necktie. His graying hair was combed severely back on his head. Mike’s tanned countenance was the product of both heritage and hours spent fishing, his one secret vice. Mike did not carry a scent, having decided some years ago to put his lime cologne in his closet where it was promptly forgotten.
A member of CSAC since his days as a junior naval officer serving under Robert McHugh, Mike instinctively knew that if he was called, McHugh, now Chief of Operations at the super secret agency, had some reason however immediately obscure.
McHugh kept his Chinese-American protégé as a Level One Agent even after Mike finished his active service tour in the early Seventies to work in private industry. Mike remained a reserve officer in the United States Navy and was now a commander. However, his occasional duties for CSAC did not normally require activation.
For example, during the tense three week period five years ago in the Red Army affair, Mike was called to investigate and cauterize leaks in a secret government laboratory even though he was ostensibly there on a privatization study. His duty was discharged with, as they say, “extreme prejudice.” The leaks went away, far away, even as Mike concluded that the privatization did not make sense for his investment group.
Mike didn’t know, nor particularly care to know, exactly what being a Level One Agent for CSAC entailed. He just did what he was told; precisely and with certain results.
Whenever the Old Man had an assignment for Mike, the beautiful and willowy Margaret Marston was always there with his orders and his .38 caliber seven shot Walther PP. The automatic pistol had been Mike’s to use for the last twenty five years. Despite the fact that Mike had “retired” from the agency in the mid-seventies, Mike had been seconded regularly by McHugh to work with civilian agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Mike was intrigued by the tale of a Marine colonel killed by a hit and run jogger.
“What was Johnson doing that was so interesting?”
After quickly glancing around to satisfy himself that no eavesdroppers were about, George Smith replied quietly “Bill Johnson was with a special Marine detachment assigned to Operation Gabriel.”
“Operation Gabriel?” asked Mike.
Both George and Jamieson became abruptly quiet.
When George called to set up a meeting, Mike explained that although he was going to be in Washington for the Independent Energy Producers Conference, he was not going to be able to get up to CSAC’s local office. He could however meet Smith for breakfast at his hotel.
Curiously, George jumped at the chance to have breakfast at the relatively open, and certainly unsecure, coffee shop. Although he was taken aback by Smith’s eagerness to see him in such a setting, Mike rescheduled his other business breakfast to make himself available.
“We’re not at liberty to describe Operation Gabriel unless we are secure,” interjected Jamieson, whom George had just introduced to Mike at breakfast. “This café is not the place for such discussions. I’ve been in many places where the seemingly ordinary businessman sipping his morning coffee and reading the newspaper was actually secret police.”
George was visibly taken aback by Jamieson’s curt reprimand. He was, after all, a relatively junior agent. However, he knew that Jamieson was right. Mike remembered a trip to Doha once on a project financing, when ordinary habitué of the local coffee house, seemingly sipping their morning coffee, were pointed out by his British counterparts as Qatari secret police. There was no suggestion that this couldn’t also happen in Washington. For that matter, the extravagant hotel that Mike stayed in had electronic eavesdropping bugs in all the rooms; another factoid his British counterpart gleefully imparted.
All of their in-room communications were written on flash paper after which they were set afire in the ash tray. Apparently the Emir of Doha did not trust his fellow emirs and liked to listen in on all their conversations.
Given Mike’s other job, Mike had not met Jamieson before today. In his introduction, George said that Jamieson had been assigned to work with Colonel Johnson on Gabriel.
Jamieson used his role as an international free lance stringer for one of the major television networks as cover for his CSAC activities. He, was dressed in a brown wool tweed jacket, despite the warm weather in Washington. He wore a blue all-cotton broadloom buttoned down shirt from his favorite sports apparel company. His khaki cotton twill trousers were neatly pressed and were held up by a brown hand cut leather belt. His brown loafers covered green cotton Argyle socks.
Jamieson preferred a popular aftershave, the scent of which fought with Smith’s cologne; the battling scents eventually taking over the small booth in which the trio sat.
Tom’s sandy colored hair was a bit on the long side, which annoyed the much more conservative Smith to no end. Underneath his tweed jacket, a Beretta sat in a brown leather shoulder harness. Tom had been called upon to use his seven shot Berretta many times during his career with CSAC, as did all of its agents. Despite his long service to CSAC he had yet to rise to the coveted Level One rank, a position rarely given. If this bothered him, it did not show in his demeanor.
Level One was the pinnacle of an agent’s career in CSAC. The training received by Level One Agents was among the most grueling of any in the world. These agents were taught to shoot first, ask questions later – if at all. They were accountable to only Robert McHugh.
“Yeah,” joined in George Smith, as he pushed a manila envelope over to Mike. “You will find out more in these sanitized briefing papers.”
The waitress came up and asked if that was all they needed. The three men in the booth fell silent at her approach.
“No that will be all,” said George. “Could I have the check?”
“Thank you,” said the waitress and left.
“So what do you want me to do?” asked Mike.
“The Old Man wants to know your availability,” replied George Smith, cryptically.
With that, the three parted company, Mike to attend the IEP conference and George Smith to CSAC offices in Northwest Washington.
Jamieson walked down Pennsylvania Avenue toward H Street, and after casually glancing back to make sure he wasn’t followed, he stopped briefly to make a call at a corner pay phone.
“Hello, Jamieson here.”
“We had our meeting.”
Jamieson’s pale blue eyes stared at the telephone for a moment. He then turned and quickly continued his walk up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House press room.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Phil: As I said, I write in a factual, realistic fashion. It is, however, fiction. As such it is often hard to balance my realistic style of writing with the fictional nature of the work. When I do write realistic passages, I try to research them as thoroughly as possible. For example, when I described soldiers in the 1970 timeframe, I put them in uniforms and had them carry weapons appropriate for the time period.
You can’t put in a parenthetical each time you shift from a real-life description of something to a wholly fictional passage. If so, I would have to annotate my entire story.
Having said that, one of my favorite exchanges was the one in which a fan took me to task for my use of a magnetometer on the initial flight of the geomagnetic survey that discovered something strange in the Atlantic Ocean. This geophysical oceanographer felt that a different instrument would have been better in this circumstance. I had great fun exchanging posts with this fellow ocean research explorer.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Phil: I wish I did. However, my life’s travels have been such that I have gone many different places and experienced many different cultures. This has helped me greatly in writing my books.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Phil: I designed my own covers. In Falling Star, I used a photograph with permission from Tomo Yun (website: http://www.yunphoto.net/en/).
In addition to writing, I am a graphic artist and cartoonist. My cartoons has appeared in the New York Times experimental web news paper, “The Local”, in one print edition of the New York Times, on an official CNN iReport, and on many websites. My latest collection of cartoons can be found in Scenes of Strangeness (http://amzn.to/Scenes-of-Strangeness).
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Phil: Writing was easy. Getting it published by the legacy bricks and mortar publishing industry was impossible. I thank my lucky stars for Kindle.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Phil: A thicker skin. I learned that not everybody was going to like my novel. I also learned that some will actually try to destroy it for their own purposes. The phenomenon of extremely negative reviews on books that are deemed popular has been noted in many places. In this sad world, authors will get people to turn in negative reviews of another’s work with the hope that those negative reviews will drag their competitors down, ostensibly opening up opportunities for their books to rise.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Phil: Do not ever let anyone tell you that you can’t write. If you have a story to tell; write and self-publish it. If others believe in your story, then it will rise above the common crowd. In any event, your story will be out there, forever.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Phil: Thank you, especially the ones who actually paid for a copy. This story is fiction, despite the fact that many of the events portrayed therein have actually come true. Let’s just hope that the conclusion doesn’t. That said, the government’s fascination with space rocks particularly starting in 2013 is troubling (you will have to read the book to understand this).
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Phil: Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. I remember doing a water color of that story and it ending up in a city-wide grade school art exhibition.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Phil: Other than writing and cartooning, my biggest pleasure is derived from playing with my three extremely intelligent and lovely granddaughters. Their knock-knock jokes are fabulous.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Phil: Science fiction and realistic dramas.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Phil: Food- Chinese, what else? Color – Green. Music – Eclectic from country to classical. I particularly like the music from the forties and the fifties. However, I strongly believe that music died in 1974 with the advent of disco.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Phil: I have had a very interesting career path. I have been an ocean research engineer, environmental engineer, trial attorney, investment banker, private equity manager in Africa, cartoonist, and writer. As an ocean research engineer, I worked on programs that are classified to this day dealing with very deep ocean systems. I have one United States patent for an ocean mooring system. One project that I can talk about was the Deepstar 20,000 a free swimming submersible capable of descending to twenty thousand feet into the ocean depths. This technology appears prominently in my novel.