Name Eric J. Gates
Age Old, yet younger every minute I write.
Where are you from
In a land far, far away, there’s a small village populated by diminutive folk. Well just as you come to the crossroads before that, take a left. It’s a place where cats have been known to vanish, leaving just an enigmatic smile and, just over the river, there’s a city where a race called Beatles have been rumoured to originate.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I led a nomadic life from an early age, due to constant moves with my Father’s job. In fact I thought my best friend was a camel, until someone explained that was my younger brother. The constant uprooting also meant changing schools and friends every couple of years – you know that old joke about having your lunch wrapped in a road map? Well that really happened, twice! I developed outstanding orienteering skills at an early age as a result.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’m taking a break from writing my WIP, the sequel to the critically acclaimed ‘Outsourced’, to respond to your questions. The sequel came about in the same way my original stand-alone ‘the CULL’ grew into a series – a large bunch of readers wrote me emails pleading for more of the characters. I had fun writing them, so I thought, why not.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Well the when is easier to answer than the why. I wrote my first full-length novel (a spy thriller) while in my teens. I had also written about 200 short stories; some comedic, some espionage, some sci-fi as those were the genres I read back then. Why? Perhaps it had something to do with the constant moving house and the lack of a stable base of friends. Either I amused myself with something (my parents stopped me building a Hadron Collider in my bedroom so a typewriter took up less space) or talked to the camel.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I writ, therefor I am – didn’t some old French bloke say something like that? To be honest, I’ve always felt that hunting for a precise definition between author and writer is a little like calling Pluto a planet. As the mound of paper covered with my indecipherable handwriting and typed tripe rose, I suddenly realized I must either be a civil servant or a writer. I took the lesser of the two evils. (Apologies to all writers out there.)
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Fleming, Ian Fleming. And Charlie Dickens. And the late John Gardner. I didn’t meet the first two but did correspond with, then meet, British author Gardner whose altruistic tips set me on the road to the first book. It was a spy thriller, 50,000 words, called ‘Small Bullet’ (a terrible title) featuring a French spy in a tale reminiscent of the Bond novels.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Apparently I’m known for three things: fast-paced thrillers; complex storylines anchored firmly in the tech-laden present but with some element of ‘strange’ introduced, usually as the McGuffin that ties things together, and the use of short sentences when I want to ramp the rhythm to a heart-thumping crescendo.
Fiona: How did you come up with the titles?
Strangely, I almost always have the titles before I even fully develop the idea. ‘Full Disclosure’ came about when I wondered how the US President might tackle revealing a sixty-year old secret to the world. The ‘Shadows’ series (‘Leaving Shadows’ and next year’s ‘Chasing Shadows’) deal with the overlap between the worlds of intelligence services and kidnap recovery agencies, both operations that are prone to working out of the spotlight. ‘Facets’ is a sort of spy novel, told from six different Points of View and diamonds figure prominently. ‘the CULL’ (now a 5 book series – last book out next year too) is about the eradication of vampires by the Vatican since the time of the Inquisition and features two female Homeland Security agents as its protagonists. As the series grew, the base title came to reference different ‘cullings’. ‘Outsourced’ was about leaving the control of Destiny in the hands of a single individual, a writer at that, and its sequel, ‘Primed’, shows how the protagonist grows to be more ‘comfortable’ with this responsibility, albeit reluctantly. Finally, ‘2012’, that was the hardest one. The book looks at a possible end-of-the-world scenario brought about by a fanatical group, and is set mostly in 2012.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That’s where Mr Dickens’ influence comes in. He was an expert in using his novels at vehicles for social commentary and that is something I’ve done in all my books. In the case of ‘the CULL’ series, the overall theme is how we as individuals and as a society handle change and it’s a condemnation of racism amongst other issues. It also deals with government surveillance, aggressive intelligence agencies, the role of religion in the 21st Century, the Mafia, money laundering etc. No, you won’t fall asleep reading those books! ‘Outsourced’, perhaps curiously because I didn’t set out to make this the main theme, has be repeatedly cited for making people think about how they would react to the strange power one of the protagonists controls. There have been many references to this amongst the reviews left on Amazon.
Fiona: How much of the books are realistic ?
If you look at my bio you’ll see that I worked in high-tech computer security consulting for many a moon. That brought me into contact with several players in the Intelligence community worldwide and I found myself living some of the episodes hidden away in the pages of my novels. My involvement with the martial arts also led me into the same world as well as the military and elite special force and police units. Another source of adventures. Almost all the tech I cite in the books is real (the exception being ‘2012’) but often it’s not very well-known by the public at large. The MAV’s (miniaturized surveillance drones) in ‘Outsourced’, for example, are real and their widespread use is only limited by current battery technology. Even the weather warfare device featured in ‘Leaving Shadows’ is heavily based upon official US Air Force position papers. There are a lot more ‘strange’ things going on out there than Joe Public generally knows about.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Yes. Next question.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I’ve already mentioned John Gardner. I also had the pleasure of chatting with Noah Gordon (author of ‘The Physician’ amongst many others) who guided me through the maze of how to research complex historical scenarios. Plus there are a number of good friends out there, all fellow authors, with whom I correspond regularly and we share our discoveries on this exciting literary journey.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’ve just started the second volume of Brandt Legg’s new trilogy (‘The Lost TreeRunner’ – The Justar Journey book 2). Brandt has been one of my ‘discoveries’ this year and I am devouring his novels almost as quickly as he writes them.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
The aforementioned Brandt Legg, of course, and Judith Lucci (superb medical thrillers based in ‘Nawlins), Fiona Quinn (her ‘Lynx’ series blew me away), John Dolan (his offbeat private detective working in Thailand is a gem), Seumas Gallacher (hard-boiled special ops thrillers galore), Ronel Van Tonder (a sci-fi series that rivals the classics) and… so many more. I could be here all day…
Fiona: What are your current projects?
First up, finish ‘Primed’. I’m running late on this because of a house move (it’s that darned camel following me everywhere; can’t get away from him). Then ‘Chasing Shadows’ (where the CACS kidnap recovery agency get another referral from MI6 – which goes just as badly as the previous one); ‘the CULL – Blood Kill’ (the fifth and last volume in ‘the CULL’ series which takes off immediately after the startling revelations at the end of book 4 and I can promise fans of the series an explosive finale); then a sequel to ‘Full Disclosure’ whose title I’m keeping under wraps for the moment. Do you know where I can get an extra five hours for each day?
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Feedback is an important asset for any new writer, and I’m talking about the comments received from strangers rather than family members and the camel. I was very active on the UK Arts Council sponsored ‘You Write On’ network website for a number of years and the experience proved invaluable.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
After spending a number of years jumping between skyscraper roofs, racing in fast cars through exotic cities, dodging bullets, breaking cryptographic codes with just paper and pencil and other unmentionables, the time has come now just to write about that stuff. My wife says it’s safer. What I do know is that it’s cheaper than a psychiatrist. Writing is my career now.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Writers are a weird bunch; we are never 100% satisfied with anything we write. After penning ten novels I’m pretty sure that the feeling you could have done something different with a novel is just residual creativity bouncing around the brain. It usually subsides once you dive in on the next book. Please note, and I do feel strongly about this, that adage about ‘good being the enemy of excellent’ is one I don’t subscribe to. I will never take second best as the standard I demand from myself when writing a novel; in fact, if I can surpass the 100% mark, even better!
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
The invention of the frog-eyed torch (that’s flashlight to those in the colonies). Had it not been for that marvel, I would probably not be ensconced beneath the bedclothes long after my bedtime demolishing book after book of the ‘Adventures of Biggles’, Hawkeye, Ivanhoe, Robinson Crusoe, and a long etcetera. This in turn led me to two things: Myopia and the awakening in my DNA of a desire to write.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
In rigorous exclusivity for you Fiona, how about the opening chapter from ‘Primed’? (please note, not final draft yet so don’t shoot the pianist – only the camel).
Chuck Taylor leaned against the ledge and looked down. Twenty-two storeys to the sidewalk. No way would he survive that! But then again, wasn’t this the idea?
It would take seconds…
His mind responded to the challenged and automatically started to calculate just how many. He shook his head harshly, the tremor carried to his whole upper body. What a waste of a life! He had planned so much, for himself, for his wife and two young kids. Now he was going to throw it all away, in a heartbeat, maybe three or four… He recalled reading somewhere that many jumpers were already dead when they hit the ground; something about their hearts giving out as they fell. Would there be time? Was it even true?
Taylor closed his eyes letting his overactive imagination play the movie internally in a loop he wanted never to end. He would climb onto the ledge, slide his feet forward to the edge of the stone wall, then just fall forward and let gravity do the rest. Maybe he should pause first and utter one final prayer… for himself… for his family.
This would make it all right! That’s what they had told him.
Could they be trusted? After all, he wasn’t going to be around to check up on anything, to see if they held up their end of this ‘agreement’.
Another strong shake of the head.
This was crazy! They couldn’t seriously expect him to go through with it, surely? His life for three others. They had made it clear; it could be the other way about, if he chose it.
He glanced behind at the two figures observing his ruminations from just inside the roof exit doorway. Shorty, as he called him, was the talker, the one who explained everything; the one who had changed his plans that afternoon from a beer at home while he waited for his wife to return with the kids, then everyone was going out for pizza and a movie. Now, forty minutes later, he was standing on the roof of his apartment block, contemplating the unthinkable. Shorty was bundled up in a thick overcoat with a brightly coloured scarf tied at his neck. He wore skin-tight black gloves. The combination gave him a rather effeminate air; a stark contrast to the other half of this deadly duo. Thicky, another nickname, needed in the absence of their true identities, was the almost silent partner. He’d spoken once, no twice, when they had collected him from the subway station. The guy had a heavy accent, a partner to his size. Slavic, maybe Russian, or somewhere from over that way. He too had on a heavy coat, a windbreaker that looked two sizes too small for his massive chest. He too wore those tight-fitting gloves. Neither man had said anything when he had started for the door. They had in fact stopped talking when he printed out the note he had been told to write; hadn’t said a word when he scrawled his name at the bottom, adding a hasty ‘forgive me’ for his family. Leaden steps had taken him out to the hallway. Hope sprung in his mind, the forlorn hope of meeting his neighbour, the cop. He would know something wasn’t right here. It was not to be. The cop worked two jobs and was only ever seen on the occasional Sunday at this time. Today was Friday. His salvation was two days late.
Up the stairwell they had gone; the quiet jumper and his escort. Through the roof access door, picked by Thicky. Then Shorty and Thicky had stopped, taken a couple of steps back out of view. There was no one else up there; it was just a precaution against someone spotting them from another building. That would be hard to explain. It took the two of them to ensure the guy went through with this? Maybe they’d say they tried to stop him, but how would they explain they were not residents in this building and, therefore, what were they doing up on the roof? They had watched him for all of four or five minutes now, never saying a word.
Now Shorty spoke.
“Mr Taylor…” Polite, he was always polite. “You’re only prolonging the inevitable. You’ve made your choice. Our agreement is set. Don’t delay now. If someone, your family, sees the note and comes up here before you go, things would take a different turn; one you would not like.”
What? He was supposed to ‘like’ this version better?
Protesting was a waste of time. He had done enough of that downstairs and it had got him nowhere. He had finally accepted the inevitable. Someone was going to die that afternoon. Him, or his wife and kids.
Who would do it? The thought intruded into his mind, a last-minute procrastination. Thicky probably. Looked like he could snap his wife’s neck with those huge hands as easily as snapping a chicken bone.
As though tuned into his thoughts, Thicky moved.
Taylor started, pushing out his hand to steady himself against the waist-high parapet. Would it look the same if they threw him off? Forensics, trace evidence, bruises on his body at the autopsy.
He glanced again at his two escorts. Thicky had twisted his whole body but only to remove a pack of cigarettes from his inside jacket pocket. Chuck watched, mesmerized, as Thicky went through the actions of lighting the thin white stick as though he had never seen someone smoke before. He sighed. Shorty looked at his wristwatch, a bulky affair that looked cheap even from where he was standing.
“It’s time, Mr Taylor.”
To emphasize his statement he drew an automatic pistol fitted with a suppressor from his overcoat pocket. It looked huge in his small hands.
“You, now, or…” Shorty inclined his head back toward the stairwell behind.
Chuck Taylor took a deep breath and climbed onto the stone rampart. He steadied himself then looked down. Yeah, the sidewalk was still there. He noted no one was beneath, no innocent caught up in this madness, then took one last look at his executioners.
“May you both rot in Hell!”
Taylor took a step into space, felt his stomach tighten, the warm trickle of urine in his pants, the rush of the air…
* * * * *
“Об этом сообщил вам, что он будет делать это. Ты меня пиво должны.” [“Told you he would do it. You owe me a beer.”] said Thicky, turning back toward the stairwell after flicking his half-smoked cigarette at the wall.
Shorty just shrugged as he unscrewed the suppressor from the gun and returned both to his overcoat pocket.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I’d love to be able to type faster. Sounds like a silly request, but it’s so frustrating having all these tales racing around the noggin and the speed of my digits is the bottleneck to getting them in front of the reader. Maybe the camel can help… now that’s an idea.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
That’s an almost impossible question to answer. Over the half-millennium I’ve been reading (it just feels like that sometimes) there have been so many authors whose books I have single-mindedly homed in upon, reading everything they’ve written including shopping lists. As the years march on, so my tastes evolve and today I can say that the authors I mentioned in an earlier question (Judith, Fiona, John, Brandt, Seumas, Ronel etc) are definite favorites. Although their work is different in style and genre, all have that magical touch that transports me with their words to other places to live adventures alongside their protagonists. Yes, I get to escape from the camel for a few hours, and you can’t get better than that!
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
This may come as a surprise to many – you can’t really research a novel over the Internet. There are so many subtleties, intangibles, shades and nuances that can only be experienced and gathered by being there. Traveling, indeed, research, is one of the fun bits about writing.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I’ve had many different designers, and even more critics. The latest changes to all my novels are the brainchildren of myself and a talented unknown local artist who is trying to make a career as an industrial designer. They wish to remain anonymous, for now, but I can assure you it’s not the camel. Being talked into helping materialize the mental meanderings of yours truly, in exchange for a donation to a beer fund, has produced these wonderful designs that really do capture the essence of the novels.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your books?
My method is always to figure out the end first. Then I move onto the beginning, leaving the bit about filling in the middle to last. Sometimes I have a great ending but take a while figuring out the start. After that it’s all about discipline, and keeping the camel away from my tea and biscuits.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your books and what was it?
I have three basic tenets that rule my life. One is “never go to bed without having learnt something new”. Thanks to my novels, that’s now much easier than ever before. That’s why I love research; you have the perfect excuse to do some really crazy stuff.
Generally though, having written ten books, with plenty more to come, I have learnt that if you have a dream and, even if it’s just in idle moments while Life intervenes and sets you on a different course, your perseverance will win through. There is nothing like that feeling you experience when something you’ve desired all your life has finally become a reality.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Patience, Perseverance, Practice, Learn from whomever you can, and avoid camels.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
In all my novels I publish a two-page Pact where I promise to keep delivering ‘suspense thrillers with a touch of strange’ that will excite and entertain them, as long as they let me know what they feel about my books through writing reviews. Please, please; writers get so little direct feedback from their readers. We are a vain, insecure lot and need to know what you like / dislike about our work in order to improve. A novel can take months or even years in creation; a review is but 5 minutes of your time.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Enid Blyton’s Noddy! The first real ‘novel’ I recall was ‘The Wind in the Willows’, followed shortly after by ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’. Yes, Sherlock Holmes made a premature appearance in my eclectic early reading. Still a fan today.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
A writer stuck for an idea /a writer stuck for an idea.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Albert Einstein. A personal hero.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
“He’s not here! Off on a research trip.” (self-explanatory).
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Cooking, martial arts (I practice on those who don’t like my cooking), camel-racing.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Love a good action thriller (the Bourne movies for example), Homeland, Quantico, the Blacklist.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Love trying new foods from all around the world. Colors: camel brown. Music: Clapton, Beatles, Mark Knofler.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Astronaut. The consequences of the frog-eyed torch put paid to that, though.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I have an author web at http://www.ericjgates.com with info, extracts and hidden secrets from my books plus a competition to appear in a future novel (over a dozen winners so far). I also run a blog http://my-thrillers.blogspot.com/ where I host a new writer Guest every couple of weeks. They in turn talk about their work, give writing advice and tips and often reveal some of their own secrets. I’m also active on Twitter (https://twitter.com/eThrillerWriter) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Eric.J.Gates/), Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4078563.Eric_J_Gates) and an Amazon author page at http://www.amazon.com/Eric-J.-Gates/e/B0030H3Y3A/.
My thriller novels can be found on Amazon (six are on offer at 99 cents / pence at the moment as an extended Cyber Monday promotion) here:
(All Amazon Global Links)
the CULL book 1 – Bloodline http://authl.it/B00AGZ27FA?d
the CULL book 4 – Blood Demon http://authl.it/B00XNRTX5K?d
the CULL books 1-3 Blood Box http://authl.it/B00KFN3HK2?d
Leaving Shadows http://authl.it/B00DJANLQS?d
Full Disclosure http://authl.it/B007XIR5Z0?d
How NOT to be an ASPIRING Writer http://authl.it/B00HUYT7IK?d
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.