Author: Glenn Ogura
Publisher: IUniverse Inc
Today, Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest Glenn Ogura, author of Startup.
Good day Glenn and thanks for participating in our interview. Please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background.
I was born in Toronto, Ontario and spent most of my childhood in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. I studied Electrical Engineering at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. I have spent the majority of my career in the laser industry, lived in Europe for six years before settling in California where I currently reside with my wife. I am the executive vice-president for a high tech company but do spend time writing, travelling and playing tennis.
How did you get started in writing? Did you take any courses or read any special books on how to write?
In high school, I did not enjoy English class. In fact I loathed English class. I didn’t enjoy composition or studying classic novels from the masters. I suppose at that age, I knew I was going into Engineering and relied upon my strengths in math and science.
But I did not realize that
the Dean of Engineering wanted to broaden the cultural base of
engineering students and we were mandated to take a liberal arts
course. I chose Film Study because I liked to watch movies, there was
no text book and I could hopefully meet girls.
I recall staring at an empty piece of paper in the wee hours of the morning, realizing that my first film essay was due in a few hours. I had not written a word. I was asked to write an essay about why watching an avant-garde (experimental) film would fill me with wonder and awe.
To be frank, I was pretty
appalled by the film and could not think of one kind word to write.
So instead I wrote about how watching an ocean wave crashing into the
shoreline filled me with inspiration and I equated those feelings to
the film. Mind you, the land-locked film had nothing to do with the
ocean but I ended up getting an A+++. I don’t think I earned more
than a C grade in high school English.
From that point onward, I felt different about writing and that same feeling continues today.
Certainly, it would have made pragmatic sense to take writing courses but I did not. My teacher was the painstaking drafts of Startup as I learnt the art of writing through countless hours of editing.
What purpose do you believe Startup serves and what matters to you about the story?
I’d like to think that Startup is a new type of thriller. It is not a legal thriller or a science thriller. Instead Startup is a business thriller that straddles different sub-genres of thrillers. Since we spend one-third of our lives working, then a business setting is a perfect environment for a thriller to percolate.
Take a group of people,
put them in close proximity to each other and give each character an
impossible moral dilemma to sort out. Then to fuel the anxiety
further, add imposing external forces to create a David versus
Goliath confrontation and voilà, the final concoction is a book that
keeps the reader turning the pages at a frantic pace until the
Most important, I hope that the book is entertaining, a roller coaster thrill adventure that captures the reader’s attention from the very first page.
What served as the primary inspiration for your book? As a follow up, did you work from an outline?
Startup is a book
about greed and corruption in California’s Silicon Valley. It is
the story of a young man who envisions starting his dream company but
soon, that dream turns into a nightmare. I worked in Silicon Valley.
I experienced Silicon Valley. In the public’s eye, we see the sexy
cool gadgets and services but we don’t realize that some people’s
lives, their dreams were trampled in the pursuit of realizing the
American dream. You witness how employees are fired without cause,
their ideas stolen and the poor treatment by management.
These stories formed the genesis of Startup. It was pretty obvious that there was a story to be told. And it would be one heck of a roller coaster ride.
But before that process began, I wrote elevator
pitches for the book. When raising money for any business venture,
you have to be able to describe the company in a few sentences. I
used the same technique for Startup. If I can’t tell someone
in a few sentences what the book is really about, then how can I
write the book. I had a very clear idea of how the book began and how
it ended. I just needed to fill in the middle. It’s a lot easier to
steer a ship if you know where you’re headed.
Now I suppose you will ask me what is the elevator pitch for Startup? In my notebook, I wrote, “Startup is a story of a young man who wants to start his dream company but unfortunately his dream turns into a nightmare when his win-at-all-costs mentor and father of his girlfriend sets out to destroy him, his company and everyone he loves.”
Now if you heard that pitch, would that peak your interest?
How did you go about creating the characters of Zack Penny and Allen Henley?
Startup is a
classic story of good versus evil, rich versus poor, powerful versus
weak. I always enjoyed stories about characters facing moral
dilemmas. And no matter what decision the character makes, it is
neither the right decision nor the wrong decision which of course
makes the conundrum so deliciously interesting. Since Startup
addresses the broader issue of morals and ethics in business (and in
life), therefore it was easy to create Zack Penny, the protagonist
who believes that he can create his dream company and follow the
moral high ground, unlike the antagonist, his former mentor, Allen
Henley whose singular ambition drove him to do anything to succeed.
Is there much of you in the book and how much of the book is realistic?
I suppose there is a
little bit of Zack Penny in me—especially when I was younger, just
fresh out of school. Although life has a habit of jading our
perspective on life, I am an eternal optimist.
Although Startup is a blend of fact and fiction, there is more fact than fiction. When I did my research for the book and talked with Silicon Valley lawyers, they told me stories that were far worse than what’s described in the book.
What is your secret in keeping the intensity of the plot throughout the narrative of your book?
Earlier I had described
that I did a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline. I would highlight
an asterisk next to each suspenseful moment in a chapter outline. If
there were too many words between asterisks, then I rewrote chapters
to tighten the plot and to maintain the intensity.
I wanted to capture the attention of the reader very early into the read. I wanted to create a “hook” to engage the reader. A hint of things to come starts with the prologue and before we’ve finished the first chapter, we’re off to the races at a frantic pace.
It is said that writers should write what they know. Were there any elements of the book that forced you to step out of your comfort zone, and if so, how did you approach this part of the writing?
I am not lawyer. I did spend time with Silicon Valley lawyers to understand the nuances of the law as it pertained to the storyline. So although Startup is a blend of fact and fiction, the research validated that the most of the events did happen at one time or another. I suspect that those readers who come from Silicon Valley will smile and nod their heads when reading the book.
Who or what has influenced your writing?
My favorite authors are
John Grisham and Michael Crichton. I suppose that you tend to write
what you like to read. I always enjoyed Grisham’s legal thrillers
with clean plots and crisp dialogue. Crichton wrote fanciful science
thrillers and I enjoyed how he merged technology with our paranoia
One major critic Kirkus Reviews said that Startup was “reminiscent of John Grisham’s The Firm” and recommended readers to also read Crichton’s The Rising Sun. So clearly these two great storytellers influenced my writing.
What helps you focus when you write?
I wrote Startup
between 10:00pm and 1:00am in the morning. I was busy working so this
was the only available time slot. I used to tell myself that I was
stealing sleep to write the book.
The methodical progress of completing one scene, one chapter at a time kept my focus. Since I knew how the book would end, I would just focus on the finish line. And many nights, the finish line was just a warm cozy bed and five hours of sleep.
Where can our readers find out more about you and Startup?
Please visit my WEBSITE. The book is available from Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and many on-line book sites. The book is also available at selected booksellers in Northern California.
What is next for Glenn Ogura?
I am working on a new book. The book will follow the same theme of “David versus Goliath” and the moral and ethical issues in business and in life. However this time, we turn to the healthcare industry which is a very hot topic in the United States these days.
As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Firstly I’d like to
thank you for this opportunity to appear in this interview. Such
events are very important to a new author. Your readers may ask,
“What makes Startup stand out from the rest of the books?”
Certainly there are so many good choices in the fiction thriller
genre. I’d like to say that Startup is a new sub-genre of
the thrillers. It is a business thriller, not a legal thriller or
science thriller but written to capture the imagination of fans to
love a thriller with a fast pace, continued intensity with a big
surprise at the end. It is also about California’s Silicon Valley.
One Amazon reviewer wrote, “It was the best book about Silicon
Valley in the last decade.” Today Hollywood and television have
certainly glamorized its cutthroat culture as well as the
well-publicized debacles on Wall Street.
Thanks again and good luck with all of your future endeavors