Q: Why did you choose this genre, spy-crime thriller, for your first novel?
A: I wanted to create a good read with a fast-moving, topical story. An espionage caper set in Washington seemed to be perfect material. I set the espionage against the global terror threat of North Korean nuclear blackmail being exploited by a political cabal. This made for a rich story for readers to explore. My target was Amazon spy thriller ebook listing.
Q: Have you attempted other genres before?
A: No. The thriller genre is the closest to filmmaking, which is my background. So I was comfortable with plot, characters and action moving in a sort of filmic sequencing. The genre and style keep the emphasis on edgy characters. The espionage plot, like a fuse, has an inevitable timeline destination--get the secret war plans and get away or get caught and get killed.
Q: Your protagonist, Johnny Vu? He's not heroic. He's not loyal to America. He's a criminal. Johnny Vu is the ultimate anti-hero, isn't he? He's more antagonist than protaganist.
A: Johnny Vu embodies many characteristics of leading figures on the world stage. Self-centered, avaricious, mobile, unconstrained by borders and traditions. By the way, Johnny Vu is not American. He has entered the country illegally, sent by the Triad as an assassin at the age of thirteen. He has no citizenship anywhere. He operates outside traditional constructs of governmental, commercial and national sandboxes.
Q: You call Blue Water_Red Shadows the first in a series?
A: I have completed the second book, and the readers can find two chapters of the second novel at the end of the first. It's titled: Flying Money_Buddha Laughing.
Q: Tell us about the world Johnny Vu inhabits.
A: Vu plays his criminal game where he needs or wants to. Crime and spycraft are closely related. He makes his way out of sight, off the grid, playing his own real life game of GO. As you might know, GO is a strategy board game of space and constraint. Vu lives it. Sometimes Vu interacts with others playing their games. Law enforcement, counterintelligence and other criminals are his opponents. In this story, he elevates to geopolitical espionage. It takes him coast to coast, but the action is centered in Washington, D.C.
Q: He's a killer, a thief, a smuggler and now a spy for the Chinese. Why so immoral?
A: Vu is the 21st century modern man, a new protagonist with new values, though amoral. He is ascetic, a martial arts athlete, a businessman. Ironically, he is trustworthy.
Q: Can readers empathize with Johnny Vu?
A: The real world is not Anglo, it's not White, so why should my lead character be? The genre is wider, more developed than that stereotype of hero. Johnny Vu is handsome, athletic, and deadly. Besides, there is his alter ego, a woman to consider. Bass and treble. Things are deeper and more involved than a few descriptives we might use to define Johnny Vu. I am hoping the readers will discover the intangibles.
Q: Tell us about the woman, the young swallow, his beautiful partner in crime--Briana Larsson.
A: Briana is an adventuress. She is the completion factor for Vu. She goes where he cannot, and she thinks while Vu acts. She gets her high from the risk rather than, like Vu, evening some score. You might say, she is a soul he seeks. Briana is what he cannot be. That is what she represents.
Q: Isn't a swallow merely an object of desire and distraction. Is that your modern woman of the 21st Century? A sex object?
Look closely. Briana is a sharply defined person. Just because she handles males deftly does not limit her. Most of the younger women in the novel are bright, willful, and possess their own powers and thought-out lives. Justine, Jillian, and Briana are loners. Of course, they act sexually. That's the real world. Women of the world are sexual players, many on their own terms.
Working outside, watching Bobby and Sugar.
It's the bones!
Bobby, eighteen and going strong. Bobby's favorite song: Don't Fence Me In.
Q: Who influences your writing?
A: The great genre writers over the last fifty years. Graham Greene did it effortlessly, with the deft, masterful touch. Frederick Forsyth and Richard Condon did it brilliantly. Presently, I really enjoy Lustbader's thriller works. I first read him in '91, Angel Eyes. Quite the right menu and mix of erudite, erotic, exotic, imaginative action and edgy characters. However, I cannot escape the work in film I have absorbed that resonates as a template for storytelling. I think it works for this genre like no other influence.
Q: You stake out your plot within real news situations. Your fiction has a foundation composed of real people, real events. What is the reason for this, and why not create your own fictional environment?
A: The genre requires a reality factor. Otherwise, it is an historic or sci-fi tale, isn't it? I like the here and now. It vibrates. Maybe my years in New York and L.A . programmed that in me. Readers bring their own imagination to a read, also. I merely use these landmarks and events to keep them oriented. It also assures relevance to their memories of happenings in their lives, how they intake the news, the threats, the disasters, all the media content they absorb. Everything we see and hear, and sometimes feel, is useful to a writer; so too, it is useful to the reader.
Q: Beyond style and genre, how do you describe the theme of the Johnny Vu series?
A: Each book has it's own theme. The first book charts a view of the times in terms of pathologies. The psychopathy that is the envelop of our world situation. Ideology's addiction. The elixir of power. Conspiracy and cabals. Hyper sex and hyper drugs.
Q: We see that Blue Water_Red Shadows has the political theme of nuclear confrontation and regime change conspiracy, but you created, also, the undercurrent theme of identity, masked identity.
A: Personas. Disguise. Languages. The chameleon skin changes. And the requisite drama of acting within the lie of it all. Several characters in the novel manifest this. And by contrast, several others don't.
Q: Is this fiction or your world view?
A: Characters in a book changing personas is not really much different than most of the poseurs who abound as our leaders, or the ideal persons the media packages for us, the exhibitionists and egoists our culture produces.
Q: You represent this as a norm. In the world of elites, at least.
A: Of course, the elites. It is worldwide, a global phenomena. It isn't just a spy under cover, or Johnny Vu masquerading as Hayashi or Briana playing Rebecca Sorenson. Few genuine people. We're looking at masks.
Q: Is this the future? The rule of psychopathic types? The century of ultra-powerful lone actors?
A: It is upon us already. Look at the news. Some of them make it in front of a court or rehab facility, but most proceed until they run their course, pull down an empire or expire against a mountain side, burn out, or die somewhat mysteriously. I have reams of material to use for this series. It is the world today.
Q: Is there a third book in the works?
A: I've been working on it for two months. Next year, most likely.
Q: Why self-published and only 99 cents for this first one?
A: These are tough times. People are looking for a good read at a quick price. I hope those converge with Blue Water_Red Shadows.
Q: You never considered traditional publishing?
A: I sent Blue Water_Red Shadows out to a dozen agents. One responded to the query and sample chapters. I don't have time to wait for hardcover publishing, establishment accreditation and then a tiny revenue share. That process of validation is passe. My life is writing, and I will continue to write these books expecting they will generate a wide readership and do well, though they began such a humble beginning.
Q: Not unlike the hero, Johnny Vu's dirt-poor start.
A: I enjoy that analogy. With Amazon's Kindle and iPad, Sony and Nook and all the other means the books can be accessed, there is a pathway for these entertainments to grow an audience. Time will tell. There is a slow movement away from that former paradigm, even for good, established writers like Barry Eisler. He and Amazon are doing something dynamic with his new novel, The Detachment. I hope the breakthrough others have made at a simple pricing strategy for ebooks will sustain and lift others of us. John Locke is every emerging writer's hero. J.A. Konrath, too, is a pathfinder. These fellows and some others have exploded the granite and opened the pass through the mountain. Regardless of the nature of your creative work, the sales and distribution of the future will owe thanks to these writers.
Q: The first novel is published. A second awaits. How much time have you spent writing these two novels?
A: The first took one year to write, six months to edit, then eight months to launch while rewriting, re-editing, polishing. The second novel took eight months to write, two months of editing.
Q: So do you write everyday?
A: Everyday. When it is flowing, long days. The computer is where all the tools are. I sometimes use legal size pads and pen when I am away from the MacBook, but mostly on the computer. Then I read it on the iPad and edit it on the Mac.
Q: Do you have an editor to work with?
A: Can't afford one. You have to trust that iterating will get you what you want and need. It's not optimal, but it is all you can do when you don't have a second person to edit for you. And believe me, you need many iterations, maybe ten or twelve or more to catch the errors and syntax and over-writing. But, it adds a humility you need. Writing well is a humbling profession. You assume it is good, and you discover it is not. And it never ends. You can always make it better. Knowing that going in keeps you sane. And keeps you from blocking up and quitting. Writing is rewriting and editing. It is hard, hard work.
Q: Why do you use a pen name? No first name either.
A: Several reasons I use Serracin. Differentiation from the present genre top hands. A tribute to Trevanian and those who came before. A mask from behind which my writer's mind is not limited. And to separate and honor this career. It is a new journey. It builds on all my life and prior works, but it is a standalone venture. So, an identity that stands alone.
Q: What is the origin of the name? It's Spanish, isn't it?
A: Yes. Spanish. From my great grandmother's family side. Serra.
Q: Disguises--even the real name of great grandmother.
A: It's all fun. The work is serious, the effort is diligent. But life requires bliss. I like to have fun. Play is not just for games. Self-enchantment is a great benefit of being a writer. It is the endorphin we get from the lonely work we do.
Q: How will you market this book?
A: I write for an audience part of whom are beyond the U.S. I always aimed for digital distribution, and the Internet is a global marketplace. I am going to use the tools of the marketplace. I hope word of mouth and social networking gets the job done. It is a steep climb. Nothing comes easy. But some pathways have been cleared by others. I hope Blue Water_Red Shadows benefits.
Q: Can we expect Johnny Vu to make it to the silver screen?
A: That's the early reaction from my readers. They all seem to imagine the film versions. A very nice unintended consequence of genre and style, I suppose. But it doesn't influence me when I write. I simply enjoy this work. What happens--that rests with the readers.
Following are links to writers and works I have mentioned. All these books are digitally pipelined for readers enjoyment and priced for their pocketbook. It is a wonderful revolution that is making more money for authors while creating value for consumers. Truly, a paperless revolution.