Q: There has been a lot of buzz and speculation about your new thriller. Can you tell us what it is about?
A: The Last Patriot is set in the present day but is based upon the premise that the Prophet Mohammed had a final revelation, he shared it with his disciples, and they killed him to keep it hidden and out of the Qur’an. If this missing revelation can be found, its impact on the world will be incredible. Q: Thomas Jefferson also plays a key role in the novel. Why did you choose to use him?
A: Most Americans are unaware that Thomas Jefferson was the first American president to go to war against radical Islam. Jefferson was very concerned with Islam’s war-like doctrine and its inability to separate mosque and state. Many foreign policy decisions we see today mirror those attempted by the United States in Jefferson’s time. Q: Are you concerned that your novel might ruffle some feathers?
A: At the end of the day, The Last Patriot is fiction – plain and simple. Islam is no more above examination and criticism than Judaism, Christianity or any other religion. I have taken intriguing bits and pieces from Islamic history and Islamic tradition and have woven them into what I feel is an engaging, suspenseful novel. My freedom of expression is matched by the freedom of every Muslim person not to read this novel if they feel they may be offended by it. My desire isn’t to inflame, it is to entertain and I feel Islam, its founder Mohammed, as well as its history are legitimate grist for a novelist’s mill. Q: Let’s talk about another aspect of your book for a moment. You have referred to it as "judicial jihad" or the quiet, even peaceful overthrow of America from within. How does that play into your new thriller?
A: My #1 job as a thriller author is to give readers the best, white-knuckle thrill ride I am capable of. I am first and foremost in the entertainment business. If that suspenseful ride is also terrifying because it hits really close to home, then I am once again doing what I am supposed to do as a thriller author. All of my novels involve real-life scenarios that many people have no idea are actually taking place within the United States. Once they realize these things are in fact happening, the novel takes on an even greater weight. Q: You were part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Analytic Red Cell Program. Do any of the terrorist scenarios you developed for the government appear in your novels?
A: No, what I developed there stays there – that was the deal. That said, the ideas I come up with for my novels are created in the same way that the scenarios for the Red Cell Program are. Q: The main character of your novels is Navy SEAL turned covert counterterrorism operative Scot Harvath. Is he fashioned after any one person in particular?
A: I have a lot of friends in the Intelligence and Special Operations communities and I draw on many of them for this character. The challenge in bringing back the same main character for each adventure is in keeping him real, keeping him fresh, and keeping him growing. Conflict builds character in my opinion, so my goal is to pit Harvath against real world problems and issues beyond the jeopardy inherent in the novel. Forcing him to struggle with personal issues, just like the rest of us, makes him more human and someone we can all relate to. Q: You were the producer, writer, and host of the Public Television travel series, Traveling Lite. What made you decide to leave it and become an author?
A: I did a total of two seasons of Traveling Lite that ran on Public Television for several years. I got married just after wrapping Season II and took a three-month, around-the-world honeymoon with my wife. I think we were in Italy when she asked me what I would regret on my deathbed never having done. The answer was easy – writing a novel and getting it published. My wife said to me that when we returned home I needed to spend at least two hours of "protected" time each day (no phone, fax, email…) making that dream become a reality. Well, two hours quickly grew to three, which grew to four and so on. My first novel, The Lions of Lucerne just poured out of me. It was an amazing feeling of accomplishment. My biggest fear and therefore my biggest obstacle to becoming an author had been, what if I spend all that time and the book is no good? Somewhere during that protected time process I realized that what we fear most is often what we are most meant to do. Q: Given your worldwide travels, you have a real knack for making the exotic settings in your novel come to life. Is this your favorite part of writing your novels?
A: The greatest part for me in writing my novels is seeing the story unfold in front of me. If I’m doing it right my heart pounds in the action scenes, I laugh out loud at the humor, and I honestly feel the emotions running through every character. It is as if I am living it along with them. Each day when I go to my computer it’s an adventure. I might think I know what will happen next, but I never know how it will happen. When you couple that with reliving the exotic locations I have traveled to in researching the novel’s settings, you come up with a mix that makes writing a dream come true. Q. What have been your greatest travel adventures?
A: Traveling has provided me with incredible adventures like running with the bulls "French Style" in the Camargue, paragliding over Geneva, Switzerland, caving in Austria, diving for clams as big as hubcaps in the Aegean Sea, wrestling a thief on an overnight train in Italy, sharing the First Class cabin on a flight from Ireland to New York with U2, learning to battle Highlander style in Scotland with a traditional claymore sword, drinking real Bushmills whiskey at the distillery in Northern Ireland, bobsledding with members of the US Team, fishing on a trawler in the Baltic Sea, visiting the megalithic temples of Malta, and swimming
in Australian seawater in the middle of winter to join the Bondi Iceberg Club - just to name a few.
My favorite travel experience, though, was my recent trip to Afghanistan to do research for my 2009 thriller. Q: Who are some of your favorite authors who inspired your writing career?
A: As an international thriller writer, the authors who have inspired my writing career are all masters at setting their stories against glamorous international locations – Trevanian (Shibumi, The Eiger Sanction), Robert Ludlum (The Jason Bourne Series), Alan Folsom (The Day After Tomorrow, The Day of Confession), David Morrell (Extreme Denial, Burnt Sienna), and Sidney Sheldon (The Doomsday Conspiracy). Q: You’ve got a pretty impressive following of people who enjoy your novels. Why do you think folks like Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich, Bert Lance, Greg Gumbel, and even Cleveland Indians pitcher Aaron Fultz enjoy your writing so much?
A: I think it’s because I write the kind of books I would want to read – fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thrillers with razor-sharp plots that are meticulously researched and terrifyingly real.