Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest today best-selling author of cyber thrillers, Thomas Waite. His debut novel, TERMINAL VALUE, was critically praised (one critic wrote “I believe with time he will become the John Grisham of the murderous technology novels.”) and reached #1 at Amazon.
His latest novel, LETHAL CODE, tells the shocking and frighteningly possible story of a massive, anonymous cyber-attack on the United States by an unknown enemy—and the unforgettable men, women, and children who fight back against the invisible invasion.
Tom was born in the seaside town of Ipswich, Massachusetts, once home to the authors John Updike (who was a patient of his Dad, which enabled Tom to build a nice collection of signed first edition novels), Adele Robertson, John Norton, and the poet Anne Bradstreet.
Perhaps it was the history of the town, but from an early age Tom developed a love of writing and left Ipswich to earn his degree in English Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There he focused on creative writing and was selected by the English Department to participate in an international study program at the University of Oxford.
After college Tom lived in New York City and Boston and published non-fiction in such publications as THE NEW YORK TIMES and the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW. He embarked on a career in technology culminating in his starting, building, and selling a technology strategy consulting firm. Tom then turned his attention to combining his work experience and his life-long dream and began writing cyber thrillers.
In addition to writing fiction, Tom is the board director of, and an adviser to, technology companies in the cyber security, media, data analytics, cloud computing, mobile, social intelligence, and information technology businesses. He now lives in Boston.
Norm: Good day Thomas and
thanks for participating in our interview. When
did you first consider yourself a writer and why have you been
drawn to writing cyber thrillers?
Thomas: I suppose that as a child I fancied myself a writer because I loved to read and write. Of course, reality set in when I started taking creative writing classes—that’s when I knew I still had a long way to go.
As far as cyber thrillers go, I have spent much of my life
working in the field of technology. I love cutting-edge stuff, and
when I started learning about cyber attacks and cyber warfare, I was
hooked. I decided to write a series of cyber thrillers because I
thought it presented a great opportunity to both entertain and
educate readers about this fascinating, and frightful, area.
Norm: What's the worst advice you hear authors give writers?
Thomas: I think some authors give really terrible advice. The worst? I guess I’d have to say anything that relates to the writing process. I think it’s a mistake to impose one’s own way of doing things on anyone else. When aspiring writers approach me, I’m happy to share with them my views on characters, setting, plot and so forth. But I’d never tell a writer that there is one process to follow. Instead I usually tell them to simply write the book. Too many aspiring writers get caught up in the notion of doing it the “right” way. I think it is far more productive to get them to just give it a try and see it through to the end.
Norm: Did you read any special books on how to write?
Thomas: To be honest, I didn’t. I’ve been writing since I was young and by the time I was in high school I started writing fiction in the form of short stories. I went to college, majored in EnglishLiterature and took a number of creative writing classes. It was wonderful. In addition to my classes, I learned a lot by reading great works and the feedback of other writers.
I also had one
professor who took me under his arm and really helped build my
confidence. Later in life I did read some books on writing, most
notably Stephen King’s terrific work, On Writing: A Memoir of the
Craft. I’d strongly\recommend King’s book to any aspiring
Norm: Do you work from an outline?
Thomas: No. I tried it when I wrote my first novel and decided it wasn’t for me. My process is much more organic. I do create a synopsis, which is helpful—and keeps my publisher happy. However the truth is while I have a general idea of what I’m going to write, a lot emerges during the process.
In the end, my novels are different from the synopsis—in some
aspects a good deal. Whether to outline or not is a question that is
constantly debated among authors. Of course, there is no right
answer. Authors like Harlan Coben will tell you that they don’t
outline, but they know the ending before they start. John Grisham,
on the other hand, says he can’t write a novel without doing an
extensive outline first. Robert Ludlum was the same way.
Norm: What helps you focus when you write and do you find it easy reading back your own work?
Thomas: I’m horrified when I read back my own work! But seriously, it can be difficult but I certainly value it. It’s like good criticism—if you really listen, you can learn a lot. In terms of focusing, for me I tend to inhabit my characters so to speak and in essence they guide me. It’s not easy to explain, but I let them be in control. If you are asking about my environment, I prefer to concentrate in a very quiet room without any distractions. That’s not to say I don’t jot down ideas in any environment. I do. However, when I am in serious writing mode I want to be in a place conducive to writing.
Norm: In fiction as well as in non-fiction, writers very often take liberties with their material to tell a good story or make a point. But how much is too much?
Thomas: That’s a tough question and obviously it depends on the genre. If you are writing genre fiction, like science fiction, that’s different from literary fiction. And of course non-fiction is even more different. In my case, I strive to both entertain and educate my readers. I’ve always enjoyed novels that do that. Whether it was Clancy and submarines, or Crichton and medicine, or Ian Fleming and British intelligence, I loved it. But you have to tell a great story as well. My novels are based largely on facts, but given I write thrillers, there is a lot packed into each novel and it’s fair to say they are essentially worst-case scenarios. Still, I think they are informative.
Norm: What served as the primary inspiration for Lethal Code and what would you say is the best reason to recommend someone to read the book?
Thomas: As I mentioned, I’ve always been interested in the latest advances in technology. I find the possibilities fascinating. A number of years ago I had a number of conversations with experts in the field of cyber security and I did a lot of reading on the topic of cyber attacks and cyber warfare. It was captivating—and a bit scary. At the same time I’d finished my debut novel and was thinking about writing a series of thrillers. I decided that a series of cyber thrillers was exactly the thing that I was looking for.
best reason to recommend it? Well, Lethal Code is not meant to just
be a fast-paced thriller; it is a cautionary tale
for a public largely unaware of a potential
cyber war of cataclysmic proportions from an unseen enemy.
And with cyber attacks on the front page every week, I think it is
very timely as well.
Norm: Can you share a little of Lethal Code with us?
Thomas: I’d be happy to. Lethal Code is about a massive, anonymous cyber-attack on the US. Unknown terrorists have crippled the nation’s power grid and brought our country to its knees. Widespread panic and violence ravage the country and the terrorists issue their ultimatums and vow an apocalyptic reckoning.
Lana Elkins, the heroine of the novel, is the head of a major cyber security company and a former NSA operative. She returns to her roots to spearhead the Agency’s frantic efforts to combat the enemy’s onslaught. She and her superiors take action to infiltrate a terrorist hotbed overseas, while closer to home ruthless jihadists with a backpack nuclear bomb hijack a busload of children—including her daughter—and race toward a rendezvous with Armageddon in our largest
I’d say more, but I don’t want to spoil it.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
Thomas: At all the usual places. I’m on Facebook (/ThomasWaiteAuthor), Twitter (@thomasjwaite), Goodreads, Amazon, and MY WEBSITE
Norm: After your phenomenal success as an author, what, if anything, remains "undone" for you? What is the one thing you haven't done, that you are still "itching" to accomplish?"
Thomas: You know, I’ve been very blessed in my life, so I don’t give a lot of thought to what remains “undone.” I was asked this same question recently and after a pause I answered, “I’d like Stephen King to call me and tell me I really scared him.”
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Thomas: Oh, that’s easy— what is my next novel about and when will it be published? In my next novel, Trident Code, ruthless hackers takeover one of America’s most powerful weapons and threaten to unleash it on a target so unusual, yet so vulnerable, that a successful strike could kill upwards of a billion people and change the very face of earth for millions of years. It will be published in May. Interested?
Norm: Thanks again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
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