Heath answers your questions
Your new book, Day of Judgment, has just been released. Is it a sequel to your first book Three Kisses? Please tell us briefly about the plot and how it fits into the sequence of the two books.
When I finished the first novel, Three Kisses, I thought my writing experience was over, even if it was interesting, challenging, and fun. Then some of the characters tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You are not through with us yet.” Like Three Kisses, it is action packed, fast-paced adventure going through several countries, dealing with current events, and also interpersonal interactions, cultural impacts, spirituality, and a host of other human issues.
Whether it is a sequel depends on the definition of the word “sequel”. Yes, it has some of the same delightful characters, but it is written so that readers do not need to have read Three Kisses to enjoy and appreciate the story line. While there are a few common themes, it is a story to be enjoyed and appreciated in its own right.
Can you please tell us a little bit more about the story-line of Day of Judgment without giving away the plot? Is it another page-turner like Three Kisses?
Well, like Three Kisses it has would-be Islamic terrorists infiltrating the US for nefarious purposes. Young Arab-Americans are taken advantage of. This line is the thread that moves the plot along with many interpersonal interactions and adventures. Action focuses on Washington, DC, right where the wheels of power turn. Action moves through the mountains of southwest Virginia, Latin America, the Middle East, and the mountains of New Mexico. Characters are happy, sad, scared, relieved, and more. We can certainly hope it is a page-turner but no book ever appeals to everyone. If the reception so far to Three Kisses is any indication, it will appeal to many.
Your books are written with dates of 2006 for Three Kisses and 2008 for Day of Judgment. Yet they were not released until 2016 and 2017. How can they still be relevant?
The process of writing these books has been so bizarre in so many ways. Events that were written as fiction in these earlier years have actually come true, not always exactly as described fictionally, but close enough. Of course, these subsequent events added credibility, but it is bizarre that the inspirations came to me years before the fact. If the books had been released shortly after finishing writing them, the impact would be much less. Two major international moves and a broken wrist that kept me from writing for some two years slowed the process considerably. Maybe it was providential to give readers even more relevant, exciting experiences.
How do you come up with all of those characters and things they do? Yes, some of the activities are inspired by current events, but not all, especially their personalities and the adventures they find themselves in.
I do not come up with the characters and the events they are involved in. The inspirations just come to me and I didn’t have peace until I write about them. Of course, inspirations were not all completely fleshed out. I did have to do research fill in some details, and search facilities online are great.
When I was writing Three Kisses I was concerned that the structure of the plot was not there and I had no idea of how I could bring it to a reasonable end. In my naïve mind, I thought that all successful authors had to have everything laid out before writing. I soon realized this was not the case. Just trust that the inspirations will come along when needed. Day of Judgment proceeded with much less anxiety.
Your plots pass through so many different geographic locations, including some really hot trouble spots like Syria and Iraq that you describe in such rich detail. Have you actually been to all of these places?
Yes, indeed, I have traveled extensively both within the US and abroad. No doubt many of the places I have been to have influenced the inspirations for locations that have come to me. Still, when I have an inspiration, information on many locations is readily available online making it easy to provide background.
One reviewer said Three Kisses is a gay novel, appealing to gay readers, and that you must be gay. How do you react? Would you characterize Day of Judgment the same way?
First and foremost, Three Kisses is not a gay novel. It is true that some of the main characters are gay but the activities that are depicted in the story line are not explicitly gay. While I would hope that gay readers find the story appealing, I hope ALL readers find it appealing.
As the inspirations came to me, I realized that this is the 21st Century and that gay men and women are as much of a part of society as any and that any novel written in the 21st Century should reflect society as diverse it is. The population of the US is much more diverse than white, Anglo-Saxon, Christian. In particular, key figures involved in international adventure and intrigue need not be limited to the James Bond type macho, heterosexual, male Anglo-Saxon males. The appearance of gay characters does not make the book a gay book nor tell anything about the author.
Along the same lines, many can say you must be an Arab Muslim because you present them as innocents and you are an apologist for terrorists.
Sorry to disappoint. My ancestry is Anglo-Celtic with some Native American thrown in. My ancestors have lived in what is now the United States for at least 150 years and many during colonial days and before. Also, I am very much Christian, but following a Christian tradition that honors all paths to the Divine, including Islam.
As presented in Day of Judgment, being Arab or Arab American and being Muslim must not be confused. Many Arabs, including the majority of Arab-Americans in the US are Christian, especially descendents of Lebanese and Syrian immigrants over the last Century. Also as mentioned in Day of Judgment, a large number of Muslims in the US are not Arabs and some mosques in the US have few if any Arabs as regulars. Being consistent with depicting the diverse 21st Century society as it is, it is worth noting that Muslims make up a substantial portion of society; there are mosques in cities and towns of all sizes all over the countries. Muslims on average are much better educated than the US population as a whole, and on average have incomes of 150 percent the population as a whole. In addition, as one of the characters in Day of Judgment points out, the original religious terrorists during the crusades claimed to be Christian. I don’t apologize for anyone or any situation.
How much autobiography is in your stories, then? And close friends you have modeled characters after?
There is nothing specifically autobiographical and I have attempted to do avoid any autobiography. Likewise, I have deliberately avoided using the personas of anyone else I know. Nonetheless, I must add that every author I know about writes autobiographically to some extent; hard to avoid. And friends, family, and acquaintances are so much a part of him or her, that they can’t be avoided being used as character development. Please enjoy and appreciate my characters for who they are, not depictions of any specific person.
Now that Day of Judgment is released, what are you doing? Time off to relax? Writing more?
What? Me Relax!! Presently, I have just completed and am now in the proofreading/editing stages of the third book in the series (Justice!). It has some of the same characters, but more twists in the plot. The “bad guys” are not Arabs, but Muslims, including American Muslims who play a role. The characters are some eight years older, more advanced in their lives and careers, and get involved in different adventures and intrigues. Please watch the website for its release.
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