Q: How did you come up with the idea for Warning Light, and for your character Zac Miller?
A: Advanced technology is great, but as individuals and as a society, we've become very dependent on it.
I decided to yank the hero out of his comfortable life and put him in a dangerous, remote location to see how he survives. Zac is a desk jockey. A fit, smart, and determined desk jockey, but still a desk jockey. I hoped he was someone readers could identify with and say, "Wow. What would I do if that ever happened to me?"
Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I knew exactly how it would end before I started writing, but a funny thing happened on the way to the ending... It changed. A lot. E.g., what seemed like a great idea on page 50 turned out to be a nightmare on page 300, if you catch my drift.
I'm very pleased with the finished product but the process, much like the hero's journey, was far from a straight line.
Q: You've noted that you incorporated some personal experiences into the book. What did you see as the right combination of the personal and the fictional, and did you need to do any research to write the novel?
A: I've spent a lot of time in the outdoors: in deserts, mountains, on and under the sea, in and out of planes and helicopters, etc. But I'm no spec-ops superstar, just a guy with a bunch of hobbies.
I tried to put myself in Zac's shoes when I created the endless hurdles he's faced with. If it seemed too outlandish, I cut it out. I wanted him to get by on his experience, determination, and common sense.
From personal experience, I knew enough to know what I had to research, but it still took a tremendous amount of time. I'd say a full third of the process was devoted to research.
Q: Who are some of your favorite thriller writers?
A: Tom Clancy, Nelson DeMille, and Ken Follett set the early standards for me, but the genre has evolved since then and writers like Lee Child and Michael Connelly are my current favorites.
There are so many great authors out there that it's easy to find something I like. I literally have a rolling stack of about a dozen hardcover books that I am dying to tear into and I find I'm enjoying the ones from authors I've never heard of as much as the big names.
Publishing is a rapidly changing industry, but it's a great time for the genre.
Q: What are you working on now? Will Zac Miller appear in future books?
A: Assuming my editor knows what's good for him, I just finished the sequel with Zac Miller front and center. Despite everything he learns in Warning Light, things are actually quite a bit more difficult for him in the next book. Poor guy.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: One thing I've found absolutely amazing is how supportive the network of readers, authors, publishers, and everyone else associated with the process has been. I've had people reach out to me to talk about my project, telling me about theirs, offering to help, etc.
It's really been gratifying to see people come together when so much of society is content to be fractured and polarized. Thanks Deborah!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb