Monday, July 4, 2011

Interview With Thriller Writer Gerard de Marigny

Thriller author Gerard de Marigny has dropped by today to talk about debut novel, The Watchman Of Ephriaim. Not only does this book sound like a winner, but Gerard is truly an interesting guy. And the story behind his book is as fascinating as it is heart-breaking. Today especially being Independence Day in America, it seems like the perfect day to talk about this book and why Gerard wrote it...

Your debut novel, The Watchman Of Ephraim, a political thriller, has just been released this year. Can you tell us about your book?

Hi, Julia, it’s great being here and howdy to all of your followers! _TWOE_ centers around a man named Cris De Niro. De Niro’s a self-made billionaire who grew up on the tough streets of Brooklyn, NY who ended up making a fortune managing a hedge fund. He married his soulmate Lisa and they were blessed with two sons and one on the way. His life couldn’t get better until 8:46a.m. on Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. That’s when terrorists flew American Airlines Flight 11 right into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. De Niro’s wife Lisa happened to be on the 104th floor of the tower at the time. She and their unborn son died when the Tower collapsed.

Being and Italian raised in Brooklyn, De Niro’s rage was as powerful as his grief. He prayed for help and his prayers were answered. He found a way to focus his rage in a positive way, by dedicating himself to protecting the citizens of the U.S. from enemies domestic and abroad. To do that, he acquires a lackluster counter-terrorism firm and renames it “The Watchman Agency” after a passage in the Bible that spoke of ‘the watchman of Ephraim.’ The United States is modern Ephraim in prophesy, so De Niro now considers himself ‘The Watchman of Ephraim.’

The story jumps 10 years into the future, where De Niro has moved to a large ranch on the outskirts of Las Vegas, NV. The Watchman Agency is taking shape with a new lineup of staff, starting with De Niro appointing his brother-in-law (Lisa’s brother), Captain Louis ‘Mugsy’ Ricci USN SEALS (Ret.) as President of the Agency – and not a moment too soon!
De Niro & company become aware of a large money transfer from an Iranian businessman to a company in Mexico. They send an agent to investigate the company but he goes missing. Meanwhile strange events start happening at the U.S./Mexican border near Nogales, AZ. The Watchman dispatches their covert paramilitary arm ARCHANGEL to investigate. The meet up with the head of the famed “Shadow Wolves” – the Native American border patrol unit that guards the Tohono O’odham Native American reservation – a reservation that is the size of the State of Connecticut and sits right on the U.S./Mexican border.
From there, the story jumps from The Watchman Agency in Arlington, VA, where they suspect a mole is lurking inside the Agency – to De Niro’s ranch in Las Vegas, ‘Estancia De Niro,’ where we meet the rest of De Niro’s extraordinary personal staff – to places in Mexico and our border with Mexico. Being a billionaire has its advantages and De Niro brings them all to bear for The Watchman, including his plane, a QSST (quiet supersonic transport) and his yacht, the jet-engine powered, Santana.
There’s also a special person that’s entered De Niro’s life … Dr. Moriah Stevens, a widow who also lost her husband on 9/11. Stevens falls heavily for De Niro. De Niro has feelings for her too, but his devotion to his deceased wife Lisa is proving to be too strong, even after 10 years.

The story and intrigue all build toward one day – September 11th, 2011. I won’t say more but it's the 10th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil and unless De Niro and his new team are successful, the day will be known as "The 2nd 9/11."

What made you decided to write about the 9/11 tragedy?

My wife Lisa and I lost a number of friends and acquaintances on 9/11 in the World Trade Center, including one special friend of ours, Danny Afflitto. Danny’s wife Stacey was and still is one of my wife’s closest friends and that terrible day ties Stacey and me together forever. Danny was on the 104th floor of the North Tower when Flight 11 flew into it. I owned a freight transportation company at the time and worked out of a home office. Danny and Stacey lived across the street. I’ll never forget the events of that morning …

I received a phone call from my brother Peter at 8:50a.m. He was on a plane, on the runway of McCarran Airport in Las Vegas flying to LA when the plane was grounded. The Captain announced that “… a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.” My brother asked me to turn on the TV and see what was going on. I turned on the TV and saw the North Tower on fire! My mind immediately jumped to Danny. He and Stacey had just returned from a wedding in San Diego the day before and my wife and I were collecting their mail for them. When I went to give him his mail he told me he wasn’t looking forward to it but that he had to go to work the next day – the next day was 9/11.

My next thought was, “…Does Stacey know??” Without thinking, I ran across the street and rang her doorbell. She answered the door in her nightgown and robe, with tears in her eyes and with Danny ON THE PHONE! … I still can’t deal with my emotions, whenever I think about that moment … it’s a moment that Stacey and I will never forget. Danny had just said his last words to Stacey when I rang the bell. He told her, “I think a bomb just went off in the Tower, or else someone is saying a plane might have crashed into it. There’s smoke and fire everywhere. Kiss the baby, I love you!” Those words will haunt me to my grave. I have never felt so absolutely helpless in my life. Even worse, I thought that since Danny had survived the plane impacting the Tower, that he would be okay … and I told Stacey that. I told her that I would use my FEMA connections from my transportation agency to locate Danny as soon as he exited the building. I called my wife Lisa and sent her to stay with Stacey.

As I was making phone calls trying to locate Danny … with total horror and shock … I watched a plane fly into the South Tower, then I watched the South Tower fall … and then I dropped the phone when the North Tower collapsed. Danny was gone. So many other friends of ours were gone. Even more heartbreaking, three days later, Stacey found out she was pregnant with their second son – a son Danny doesn’t even know he has.

I’ve never fully gotten over my despair from that day. It was the utter feeling of helplessness … seeing Stacey in shock … not being able to do a thing to ease her pain or get Danny back for her. Maybe it’s a Brooklyn thing – I was born and raised on the same streets as Cris De Niro. Maybe it’s a macho thing but I was raised to always help and protect women. Danny and Stacey were not just married, they were best friends. I created Cris De Niro so that he could do the things that I want to do – to try an protect others from another calamity like 9/11. By writing about De Niro dealing with his anger, despair and frustrations, I’m coming to terms with my own.

Your title is interesting. Why did you choose it?

I’m a devout Judeo-Christian and have followed and studied the teachings of the Bible for many years, including prophesy. ‘Ephraim’ is the symbol for the United States in the Bible. De Niro also believes that. So when he turned to the Bible to help him deal with the loss of his wife, he would have come across Hosea, chapter 9, verse 8 "The watchman of Ephraim is with my God: But the prophet is a fowler's snare in all his ways, And hatred in the house of his God."
The entire series is about De Niro dedicating himself to being the modern-day Watchman of Ephraim.

Not only are you a fiction writer, but you’re also a musician. Where has that road taken you, and what are you doing these days with your music?

I’ve been a musician forever it seems. I actually read music before I read English. In 1981, I became the lead guitarist for a band called AMERICADE. By 1983, we had won Best New Video for a new band on MTV for our remake of the Grand Funk Railroad tune, “We’re an American Band,” but the band broke up in 1984 right after recording our second album with (KANSAS) producer Jeff Glixman. Since then there had been a few attempts at resurrecting AMERICADE, once in 1990 and again in 1995, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Two of the original members of AMERICADE went on to successful careers with band like The Scream and Black Sabbath, while my brother Peter (lead vocals) and I moved on to other things. I always kept my toe in music though, mostly writing music and producing other acts. In 1996, that’s what I was going when I was diagnosed with cancer – Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If I didn’t get treatment I would have been dead in 18 months, but the radiation treatment and surgery ended my musical aspirations, at least up to now.

The cool thing is that the President of Retrospect Records, I great guy named Aaron McCaslin contacted me a year ago and asked if I’d sign a deal with Retrospect to allow them to release the entire catalogue of AMERICADE music. Most of the music was never released but our first album, AMERICAN METAL, has become something of a collector’s item – still selling to this day via Ebay and pirated copies – 30 years after we recorded it – so I agreed to the contract. The box set will be available, I think, by the end of this year – along with a digitized copy of the original MTV video – something I haven’t seen in decades … it should be great fun to see and hear the band again.

I’m also considering putting together either another band or maybe just a project – where I can write and produce new music – but I want the music/project to be tied directly to my novels. It takes time, timing and some bucks to get something like that off the ground … but that’s my plan and I’m sticking to it. Haha …
On a sad note, our original drummer, Walt Woodward III passed away from illness last June 08th. We’re gonna dedicate the box set to his memory. I took Walt’s passing badly too … he was more than my bandmate … he was my rock brother. I continue to miss him a lot.

How do you find writing song lyrics compared to fiction writing?

Ya know according to the song, lyrics can either resemble poetry or prose. Most of the lyrics I wrote back in the day were more of the latter category, but I’ve always been inspired by the more poetic lyrics of other artists – too many to mention, but I’m sure there are a bunch that everyone reading this can identify with.
Going forward, whenever I write lyrics from here on out – they will be poetic. I’ve grown up.

Do you notice parallels in the music industry and in the book publishing industry?

Totally! The parallels are uncanny. If you took a snapshot of the music industry around 10 years ago, you’d have a picture that was identical to the literary publishing scene nowadays. The internet, MP3’s, iPods and the rest of the digital technology forever transformed the music business. Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages that go along with all the advantages that the new tech allows … but as opposed to the nature of man, I believe in evolution when it relates to man’s creations. Times change, technology advances and art must inevitably change too.

I also think that, because of all of the technological advances, we will start to see – more and more – the amalgamation of the different media and art forms. For instance, sometime soon, I can see a day when you could purchase one of my novels and with it you could also download my music (that goes along with the book), a video (from an author interview to dramatic interpretations of the book’s storyline), and maybe even a video game based on the book/series – all together in your multi-application device with the ability to join Reading Groups and reading communities of the book and author.
How’s that for g’s version of the near future! Haha …

I also know that you write some poetry. What do you like about writing poetry and what would you say inspires it?

Wow Julia, you made me smile by mentioning my poetry! I’ve been writing bits and pieces of poetry my whole life – just thoughts and observations that I would express in poetic form. Now I have an outlet for them and I’m very excited to share them. I’m not a prolific poet – I find that I must really be inspired by something – be it a song, a movie, or one of my many moods … I’m a bit manic-depressive – in order to muse poetically.
What I like most about poetry is its ability to express emotions in written form. If I asked you to describe a painting, you’d use adjectives … words, but those words are really describing your feelings about the painting, not the painting itself. Poetry is less a description of something or somewhere as it is the written emotion inspired by something, or someone, or somewhere, or sometime.

I also believe the power of poetry is at its most potent when the words are few and simple. There is an art to the art of writing poetry when a poet can express the most powerful emotions using the fewest and simplest words. When done at that level, nothing can express emotion more profoundly than poetry, not a piece of music, nor a painting or sculpture nor another form of the written word. I’ve been publishing my poetry on my website and on Goodreads. I even entered one of my poems in a contest on Goodreads, though I’m not a proponent of competition when it comes to art forms. I really entered it because I wanted the community of readers to enjoy it. I’ve gotten some very positive responses to my poetry from my incumbent followers but I’m interested to see what other poetry-lovers think of it. Once I have enough poems written, I’ll release a collection of them in book form.

What books/authors do you enjoy reading and are you reading anything these days?

My favorite thriller writers are still W.E.B. Griffin and Tom Clancy. I also enjoy reading and re-reading and re-re-reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries. As for new(er) authors – there’s a bunch I intend to read like Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, Kathleen Antrim, William Tyree, to name just a few. I also intend on reading the works of some of my author friends like Jeff Bennington. Both of your novels are on my read list too, Julia – _Scarlet Rose_ and _No One to Hear You Scream_ although I’m going to be billing you back for the therapy I’m gonna need after I read them and can’t sleep at night! Haha … MAN, you write some S-C-A-R-Y stuff! I’m only gonna read them in a well-lit room in the middle of the day, with people around … lots of people I know! You’re a powerful writer, Julia … you drop readers into nightmares of your making – that ability is the essence of the greatest thriller writers. Personally, I would have had Brett and Pamela Jameson contact Cris De Niro and The Watchman Agency and let my crew deal with Rory Madden! Oh … and because of _No One to Hear You Scream_ I will NEVER even consider purchasing a foreclosed home! N-E-V-E-R! Hahaha …

Aside from the Watchman series, is their another book you want to write or do you have anything else currently planned?

Well, the sequel to _TWOE_, Book 2 of The Watchman of Ephraim series called, _Signs of War_ will be released by September (’11). Then I’m immediately going to work on Book 3, which originally was going to be a story outside of the TWOE series, but a great idea came to me to make it part of the series. In it, Cris De Niro will be returning to his old neighborhood in Brooklyn … my old neighborhood. With each novel, I like to introduce a new main character – good or bad. I have one in mind that I can’t wait to create in Book 3. I’d like to get Book 3 out by December, if not by January … we’ll see.
After that, I’m considering writing a new series, one I actually created the basis for a year before TWOE. The series is called The Saga of the Seven Seals. In it, I’m bringing to life a very cool character and dropping him into the end times spoken of in Biblical prophecy. There would be seven books contained in the sage – The First Seal: Year of the White Horse is first and so on. The S7S series will be new territory for my because it will be a Fantasy/Adventure genre series. I specifically would prefer it not be categorized in the so-called “Christian” genre because that didn’t work out too well for me two years ago. Basically, the agents and publishers representing Christian & Christian Spec fiction told me that the only thing selling was romance novels about Puritan women. YIKES! I didn’t even know Puritan women had romances! Silly me … Haha …

Hey, thanks again Julia for the opportunity to sit and skinny with you and your posse! Thanks to everyone who read my yadda yadda.
Peace all,

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