Friday, October 7, 2016

Authors To Watch: David Tindell, author of 'The Red Wolf'

Born in Germany and raised in Wisconsin, David Tindell works for the U.S. Government by day, and by night he writes thrillers and trains in the martial arts. He has earned black belts in taekwondo and issin-ryu karate, with extensive studies in Russian Systema and Okinawan weaponry. He lives on a lake in northwest Wisconsin with his wife Sue, a Yorkie and a Siamese.

Author: David Tindell
Publisher: Createspace
Pages: 410
Genre: Thriller/Espionage

January 1987: In a secret meeting at Camp David, the president instructs the CIA to send a team of operatives behind the Iron Curtain to track down a legendary Spetsnaz soldier known only as the Red Wolf. Their mission is to prevent the Wolf from assassinating Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and touching off a military takeover that might turn the Cold War hot overnight.

The newly-formed Pallas Group selects Air Force special operator Jo Ann Geary, the White Vixen, to lead a team into communist Hungary and stop the Wolf. But powerful men in Washington don't want the mission to succeed and will risk everything to stop it. They place a mole inside Pallas, and now Geary doesn't know who she can trust. Deep inside Hungary, she must stay one step ahead of the KGB and find the Wolf before he takes the shot that will alter the course of history.

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Welcome, David! Tell us a little about yourself.

I was orphaned at a young age when a mugger murdered my parents. I swore an oath on their graves to make war on all criminals, so I trained myself to be…Wait, that’s another guy. My upbringing wasn’t as tragic as Bruce Wayne’s, thankfully. I was born in Germany, where my father was serving in the US Army. I grew up in my parents’ native Wisconsin, attended college at UW-Platteville, and embarked on a career in radio broadcasting. 20 years later I decided to try something different, and with the encouragement of my wife, who operates a travel agency (ideal for a writer who likes field research), I picked up the pen I hadn’t really utilized since my college days. Today we live in a log home on a lake in the northwestern part of the start with our two pets, a Yorkie who keeps the deer and geese out of the yard, and a Siamese who occasionally shows interest in mice. My wife and I train in the martial arts; I hold black belts in two disciplines, Korean taekwondo and also ryukudo kobojutsu, the study of Okinawan weaponry. I’ve also had extensive studies in Russian Systema, which has no belt ranks. Sue joined me in the weaponry studies in 2010 and achieved her black belt in 2010 at the same test where I got mine. 

When did you begin writing?

I started in middle school. My first story was about a group of neighborhood kids who engage another group in naval battles with model warships on a pond. The protagonist’s group gains the upper hand when he designs a submarine that fires actual torpedoes. I was a big fan of scifi novels and in high school I wrote one of my own, a time travel saga about going back to the time of Christ. In college I won some contests with short stories, but then the twin challenges of starting a career and a family overtook the writing in importance. After the kids got older, I was encouraged by my wife to start writing again. The first new work to see the light of day was Revived, published by AuthorHouse in 2000, but then I put the keyboard aside as I started martial arts training. Things really didn’t get cranked up until The White Vixen in 2012. My current work, The Red Wolf, is the second in that series and is available as of 9/24/16 in ebook and print. 

Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?

I’m sort of in between the pantser and the outliner, leaning toward the latter. I start with a general idea of what I want to have happen, then plot several chapters forward. By the time I get to the end of that segment, the next few have taken shape, and so on. I write in our family room, which contains the PC my wife and I have for business and personal use. The room is on the upper floor of our home and makes great use of one of the dormers were put in with a remodel about ten years ago, extending the length of the room and allowing a big-screen TV at one end and our desk and bookcases at the other. Next to the desk is the bookcase that houses my Theodore Roosevelt collection. I’m a great admirer of our 26th president and have about half of the many books he authored. My oldest version is an edition published in the late 1880s, and I also have some other TR ephemera, including a campaign button from his run for governor of New York in 1898. I generally write in the evenings and on weekends, and if it’s baseball season I’ll have the Brewers game on, as I’m a rather huge fan. If the Wisconsin Badgers are playing football or basketball, though, I have to put the writing aside for a couple hours as the games demand my undivided attention. On summer weekend days I’ll take the Surface laptop out onto the deck, with the ballgame on the radio. I rise early every morning, no later than 5:15, a residual effect from my radio days, but it’s a great time to get in my yoga stretching and pushups (50+ daily) and maybe some karate forms as well. I spend some time on my social media platforms and then head for nearby Rice Lake to the pool or the gym. You might say I work out a lot. 

Can you tell us about your most recent release?

The Red Wolf is the second in the White Vixen series, taking place five years after the events of the first book. My protagonist is Jo Ann Geary, a Korean-American woman who serves in Air Force Special Operations. She’s an expert martial artist and linguist. In 1987, she and the newly-formed Pallas Group are tasked with a mission personally from President Reagan: go behind the Iron Curtain to prevent the assassination of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev by a rogue Spetsnaz soldier known only as the Red Wolf. If the Wolf succeeds, a cabal of Soviet military officers is ready to take over the government and that might turn the Cold War hot overnight. 

How did you get the idea for the book?

The Cold War has been the setting for some great espionage stories, many of which really happened, and as I considered Jo’s next mission, I wondered about the relationship between Reagan and Gorbachev. Without doubt there was a lot of unease among the Soviet political and military leadership about Gorbachev’s initiatives in the mid-80s, and in fact there was a coup attempt in 1991. By then the USSR was all but done in, but what if the coup had happened several years earlier? I set the book in 1987, shortly after the Reagan-Gorbachev relationship had begun. 

Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

Jo has been the biggest challenge to write, since I’m a guy and she’s a gal. Fortunately, I belong to a critique group in which the other three members are all women, so they are very helpful, and so is my wife. In addition to being a woman, my wife is also a martial artist, so that’s doubly helpful when it comes to writing about Jo. Plus, Jo’s adventures take place (so far) in the 1980s, when women were still striving to be fully accepted as officers and leaders in the US military. That journey is far from over, but 30 years ago it was a lot tougher for a female officer to be accepted by her male peers, and Jo encounters some of that in both books. 

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

I want to make the book as realistic as possible, so that makes the research all the more important. Fortunately, I’ve been to many of the places Jo visits in the novels, one of the perks of being married to a travel agency owner, but I also have to remember that Jo’s visits occurred three decades before mine. What changes have happened to that locale since then? More importantly, what changes do I have to take note of? In The Red Wolf, much of the action takes place in Budapest, Hungary, a truly beautiful city which we visited in 2012, but in the 1980s things were different there in some significant respects. Street names, for example; some of them were changed after the Hungarians kicked out the communists. Some towns were renamed as well. Were any significant landmarks different in 1987? Things like that might not be noticed by most readers, but they would be by some. A few years ago I read an interview with the late Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, who described his writing process. After the book was published, he said, the letters would start coming in, and inevitably there would be some that said, “I enjoyed your most recent Bond adventure, Mr. Fleming, but I must take issue with one scene where Bond walks down this certain avenue in Vienna and turns left onto another street. That particular street actually parallels the avenue.” Doing research is a lot easier now than it was in Fleming’s day, thanks to the internet, but you still have to do the research.  

Which authors have inspired your writing?

Besides Fleming, the modern-day thriller classics of the late Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn, along with contemporaries like Stephen Hunter, David Poyer, Brad Thor and Ward Larsen. I also very much enjoy the mystery novels of William Kent Krueger, who lives next door to me in Minnesota and whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet a few times, along with Thor.
What projects are you currently working on?

My work-in-progress is Quest for Vengeance, the sequel to Quest for Honor. These books are unrelated to the Vixen series and follow a pair of middle-aged brothers from Wisconsin, the younger one an Army officer, the older one a civilian who is also a martial artist. Vengeance will come out in the spring of 2018. And just today I started the early plotting for another unrelated novel, which I’ve tentatively entitled The Heights of Valor. This will be about a modern-day US Army officer who’s descended from one of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, and the novel follows the contemporary soldier as he reads his great-great-granddad’s diary and faces his own challenges in fighting against ISIS in northern Iraq

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

Do the work, which is to say, learn your craft and work at it every day. Your daily work might be research, or actual writing, or reading novels by authors you admire so you can see how it’s done. Above all, don’t give up. Don’t be disappointed if your early efforts don’t meet with wild acclaim. I remember one writer, now well-known, who said it took him ten years to become an overnight success. Like a big-league ballplayer, you don’t step onto the diamond for the first time and hit a home run in your first at-bat. You won’t make the big leagues right out of high school. You may never make it, but if you never try, you’ll never forgive yourself.

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