My latest thriller, Twin Powers, was officially released by my publisher, Second Wind Publishing, at the annual Book’Em event held at the Robeson Community College in Lumberton, North Carolina on February 28th. I was part of a three-person panel titled,Setting the Scene: Backdrops. I had great colleagues on the panel, a smart moderator, and
a fantastic group of attendees who asked a number of insightful questions about the subject that I’d like to share with you today. Questions and answers are listed below:

1. What is the location for Twin Powers, and why did you select that particular location?

There are three key locations in Twin Powers — Havana, Miami, and Dubai. Since about 60 percent of the book takes place in Dubai, I’d say Dubai is the principal location. I chose Dubai for several reasons: one, the villain is an Arab Sheikh from that city; two, my familiarity with Dubai and its surrounding area; and three, current public interest in Dubai. Years ago, I was an expatriate in the Arabian Gulf advising the Qatar General Petroleum Corporation. I traveled frequently to Dubai for business and pleasure, so I know the smells, sights, and sounds of that city quite well. And I’m sure you’re familiar with the number one rule of writing: write about what you know, and I know Dubai. As an added bonus, Dubai’s growth during the past decade has been nothing short of exceptional, which made it an exciting location for the story I wanted to tell. Nowadays, Dubai has the tallest building in the world, the greatest airport terminal in the world, and the largest indoor ski slope in the world. And with the publication of Twin Powers, Dubai will now have the biggest villain in the world, too.

2. What is your favorite scene in Twin Powers, and why?

Three scenes are my favorites: one is the extended rescue scene, when the two key characters, Raymond and Marcela, fight the bad guys and rescue Stephanie, which takes place on the villain’s yacht; the second takes place on the Gulfstream jet flying the captured Mohamed over Oman in the United Arab Emirates when the tables are turned and the captors become the prisoners; and the third one takes place in Mon’s clinic — the main character’s son, who is also a doctor – when he’s having sex with his girlfriend and the FBI arrests him for Medicare fraud.

3. How does the backdrop of your novel factor into the plot?

The backdrop is essential to the plot. Part of the “thriller” aspect of my book is to throw the two main characters in a life-or-death situation in an exotic setting where they don’t know the language and the culture very well, the only support they have is each other, and they are surrounded by formidable enemies commanded by the arch-villain, Mohamed.

4. Could your book have been written with another backdrop or setting? Why or why not?

No, I don’t think so. The three main settings are part of the story. The Havana setting is where Stephanie is kidnapped; the Miami setting is because several of the key characters live and work there; and the Dubai setting is because the villain lives there. No other settings would have fit the story I wanted to tell.

5. How does the setting add to the mood of your book?

Immensely. Imagine yourself in an Arab country being chased by ruthless thugs intent on killing you while you try desperately to find and rescue your kidnapped 10-yr old daughter before she becomes the sex toy of a psychopathic killer. What’s your mood right now?

6. What are you working on next?

Right now I’m working on a Young Adult novel in collaboration with my 12-year old daughter, Sophia. It’s part of a series we want to write. The first book is about a 13-yr old, non-athletic, nerdy girl who takes up track in order to win a scholarship at the best and most exclusive private school in the county. As usual, as in all my novels,
nothing is what it seems to be, and you will be surprised at what ultimately happens.

There were other interesting questions about culture, using the vernacular in writing,using description effectively and efficiently, how to manage dialogue that I will address in future blogs. So, if you are interested in writing technique, stay tuned.