Saturday, December 1, 2012

An interview with novelist Lance Charnes

Imagine that the government of a country you have emigrated from has just assassinated a terrorist leader.  Now imagine that they chose you as the scapegoat.  This is the theme explored in Lance Charnes' forthcoming thriller, Doha 12.  Below is an interview with the author.  If you like Lance's work, please see his links at the bottom of this post and in our "find a writer" section.  Stay tuned for the December publication of Doha 12!

What genre do your books fall into?

I write both thrillers and mysteries. All of them so far involve normal people who are tossed into abnormal situations and have to cope using their wits and what they've learned during their lives. I don't write about superheroes or supervillains.

What other author or books would you compare yourself/your books to?

For my current novel, Doha 12, the closest comparisons would be Daniel Silva and Ken Follett (his modern-day intrigue novels, not the historical epics). For South, my work-in-progress, I'd have to point to Futureland, Walter Mosely's very socially-aware speculative fiction (yes, he wrote SF) mixed with every Cold War get-the-secret-agent-across-the-border tale.

Describe your protagonist.

Well, as the back-cover copy says, both Jake Eldar and Miriam Schaffer grew up in Israel -- Miriam's a sabra and kibbutznik, Jake was born on Long Island and went to Israel with his parents as a kid. He became an intelligence analyst in the Israeli Army's Artillery Corps, while Miriam served in the Border Guards. Both were screwed by the system to greater or lesser extents, which led them to start over in  America.

Jake brought his sabra wife Rinnah with him, settled in Brooklyn, had a daughter -- Eve -- and worked at the Court Street Barnes & Noble. He did everything he could to leave Israel and the Army on the other side of the ocean. He harbors an intense distrust of Mossad. His uncle Gene is an NYPD inspector and deputy commander of the Intelligence Division. Jake's the more easygoing of the protagonists.

Miriam married a U.S. Embassy Marine guard -- a gentile, no less -- and moved to New Jersey. The husband was killed in Afghanistan a couple years ago. She dislikes Arabs, whom she blames for her father's and husband's deaths. She never quite left the Border Guards behind; she keeps very fit except for a gimpy knee (an old service injury) and carries herself as if she's still on the parade ground. She's kind of a hardass and certainly more tightly-wound than Jake.

Their two main antagonists are Fadi Alayan, the idealistic leader of a Hezbollah direct-action team that emulates Mossad covert tactics, and Refael Gur, a veteran Mossad agent who's feeling his mortality and realizes the futility of what he's been doing over the past many years. They're both professionals who do what they do to defend their nations. Each of them has lost family members to the other side, and each considers the other to be a terrorist.

Who will play him/her in the movies?

Jake is a decent-looking guy in his mid-thirties with a normal build, not a superhero type. Both Miriam and Rinnah like his eyes. Joseph Gordon-Levitt might work if he's made a little less handsome (a laLooper). I have to admit that while writing this I kept seeing Rob Morrow in the part, except fifteen years younger.

Miriam is a tall, healthy former farm girl, fit and well put-together, brunette, attractive but not beautiful, also in her mid-thirties. It's hard to find a combination like that among working actresses. Lauren Stamile (Agent Pearce on Burn Notice, the perfect persona for Miriam) can do square-jawed tough but also cleans up pretty well. A suitably deglammed Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds) is also a possibility.

Gur is in his mid-to-late forties and has some miles on him. Javier Bardem (without a silly haircut) would be a good fit. A darker-skinned Robson Green (Wire in the Blood) could be interesting. If Mandy Patinkin lost about fifteen years, he'd be great.

Alayan can pass for being from anywhere along the Mediterranean coast. Waleed Zuaiter fits the bill; he's a Kuwaiti-American who's done guest shots on a number of American TV series.

What inspired this book?

Back in 2010, a Mossad hit team assassinated a top Hamas operative, Mahmoud Mabhouh, in Dubai. They were less-than-slick about it and ended up on a number of surveillance videos. The Emiratis posted the footage on YouTube -- it's kind of interesting to watch. Anyway, the team used for their covers the identities of real Israeli dual-nationals living in Israel. These people's other citizenship countries were extremely perturbed by this. Of course, Hamas was hopping mad.

So I got to thinking: what would have happened if Hamas decided to go after these poor schulbs whose identities were stolen? Voila: Doha 12 was born.

Are you working on anything now?  What is the working title and back cover copy?

My work-in-progress, South, is a near-future thriller. Here's the preliminary back-cover copy (still a bit rough; my apologies):

Luis Ojeda once was a coyote for the Pacifico Norte drug cartel. He guided into civil war-wracked Mexico hundreds of Muslim Americans escaping from or avoiding the remote detention camps where many thousands of their relatives and friends have languished since a horrific 2019 terrorist attack in Chicago. He left that world after he was nearly killed crossing the border. Now, two years later in 2032, the Cartel wants Luis back for a special job.

Nora Khaled is a wife, mother, FBI agent, and Moslem. Her lawyer husband is about to be exiled to a camp, destroying her family, career and freedom. She abandons her comfortable life to spirit her husband and children to Southern California so Luis can lead them south, out of the U.S. to safety.

Luis and Nora face more threats than scorching deserts and brutal border guards. The Nortes are locked in a death struggle with the fearsome Zetas, and someone on the inside is selling out the Cartel’s members. A dogged Immigration & Customs Enforcement agent has Luis locked firmly in his sights. When Nora is publicly accused of terrorism, Luis learns she’s carrying secrets that will blow apart the 2032 Presidential election and reveal that the nation’s recent history is based on a lie. In a future America where everything is for sale and innocence is a liability, Luis and Nora have to learn to trust each other to ensure the survival of the truth, their families, and themselves.

What else would you like readers to know?

I travel a fair amount. I'm a PADI Rescue Diver and cold-water wimp, which accounts for some of that travel (the Pacific off Southern California is just too damn cold). I spent eight years in the active-duty Air Force and another fourteen in the Reserves, had an assignment with the National Security Council at the White House (worker bee, not advisor), and retired as a lieutenant colonel. My civilian career has been all over the map, starting in IT, then doing my midlife-crisis tour as a game artist, then moving to emergency management. I have a very tolerant wife who has a grown-up job, and a large, highly opinionated cat. I wrote my first full-length work when I was 17.

Please provide your website, blog, or other contact information you’d like readers to have.

There are all kinds of ways to keep tabs on me:
Official website
Facebook author page

If you see something you like on any of these, please leave a comment or "like" or "friend" or "follow" me. It can get lonely out here in cyberspace.

Jake Eldar's and Miriam Schaffer's names may kill them.

Jake manages a bookstore in Brooklyn. Miriam is a secretary at a Philadelphia law firm. Both grew up in Israel and emigrated to build new lives in America. Neither knows the other exists…until the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad uses their identities in an operation to assassinate a high-ranking Hezbollah commander in Doha, Qatar.

Now Hezbollah plans to kill them both.

Jake, Miriam and ten other innocents in five countries – the Doha 12 – wake up to find their identities stolen and their lives caught between Hezbollah and Mossad in an international game of murder and reprisal. Jake stumbles upon Hezbollah’s plot but can't convince the police it exists. When his wife is murdered in a botched hit meant for him, Jake joins forces with Miriam to outrun and outfight their pursuers while protecting his young daughter.

Hezbollah, however, has a fallback plan: hundreds of people will die if Jake and Miriam survive.

Inspired by Mossad’s 2010 assassination of Mahmoud Mabhouh, Doha 12 will take you on a chase you won't soon forget.

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