I have with me here today on the blogs to interview Grettir Jacobs, author of Strike Zone.
STRIKE ZONE - INTRIGUE, CAPTIVE AND DETAILED.
Welcome on the blogs, Grettir.
“Thank you Darmie.”
The audience would be pleased to meet you. Quickly tell us a little about yourself as an author, your life outside writing, and when you found you could write.
“I grew up in a small community in the Tehachapi Mountains of southern California. I was lucky to have contact with some interesting people. Cesar Chavez was a neighbor, for example. Among other things, my parents were both playwrights. They were not very successful, but they made many friends through their activities, especially in San Francisco. They both had plays produced by the Magic Theater about the time that Sam Shepard became the playwright in residence for that company.
I played high school football, which I loved, but I wanted to ‘get on with life,’ so I left high school after two years, and started college. I will be the first to admit that I had too much fun in college. I did manage to eventually get a degree, after spending some time as an exchange student in both Poland and Italy.
There were a few interludes before my degree, though. I worked as a carpenter, a firefighter, and as a soldier for extended periods of time before I received my BA in History. In 1989, I attended graduate school at the Catholic University of Lublin in Poland. What was most remarkable about seeing the events in Eastern Europe as the Berlin Wall came down was not the excitement of being a part of watershed events, but rather how quickly it simply became a prosaic part of life. That is, in the Poland I knew before 1989, normal people were simply afraid to speak openly in groups of three or more. (Why? Because, if there are three or more people in a group it is impossible to tell who the informer is.) Then, by the end of 1989, people said anything they wanted to, to anyone, anywhere. The fear was gone. The sense of impending doom was gone. But, Poles still spent most of their day standing in lines; the only difference was that they were waiting for Japanese color TVs rather than bread. In other words, everything and nothing had changed, almost over-night.
When I came back from Poland to the United States, I was completely broke. The hyperinflation there had destroyed my finances. Consequently, I had to drop out of a PhD program, and get a ‘real’ job again. First, I sold books door to door. That was the best job I could find. Eventually, became a stockbroker.
I worked in the financial industry for six years. It was only then that I caught the writer’s bug. I took some time off to write a first draft. The draft was good enough to land me a literary agent, who began pitching it to major publishing houses. But, it did not sell. In the late 1990s, I sat without inspiration, in the LAX President's Club with my father, then bang: It hit me. I knew at once I had something much better than the first draft, and spent the next two hours feverishly jotting down notes on napkins. One moment, I had nothing to look forward to but an in-flight movie, the next I had a complete outline for a new novel, so different from its previous incarnation that I re-named it. As I wrote the book, my father’s health deteriorated. Three days after my agent told me that he had been able to place the manuscript with two major houses, Doubleday and St. Martins, my father died of cancer. I attended my father’s funeral service (which, for various reasons, took place two weeks after he died), I received the news from my agent that Doubleday, which had recently been sold from one large holding company to another, and St. Martins were considering a merger, and that neither house would be adding any new authors to their lists for the foreseeable future. Worse yet, there was a pivotal plot point which the editors considered to be derivative of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. It wasn’t; I had written the book before anyone had ever heard of Lewinsky. So, as I read Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” before a gathering of my father’s friends and acquaintances, I had already concluded that my novel would not be sold, due to its ostensible timeliness. That was the end of my first writing career.
I then returned to real-life. For various reasons, I earned another graduate degree. Meanwhile, my wife’s career took off. As I was Mr. Mom for our four kids and trailing spouse to her, she was hired in progressively more responsible public health and disease surveillance positions in Japan, Egypt, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. I taught in high schools in Japan and Egypt. The whole family was evacuated from Egypt during the revolution, and it was at this point that I returned to the Tehachapi Mountains. We had designated our house near Tehachapi as our home of record, so the US government sent us there, rather than to Washington DC (like most of the other evacuees). We decided not to move the family to Kazakhstan (where my wife was building a US government sponsored BSL-3 biocontainment laboratory). Our kids were thriving in Tehachapi (my oldest daughter is a track, volleyball, and soccer star), but I could not find a job. It was at that point that my second career as a writer commenced. The product was STRIKE ZONE, a thriller/romance. STRIKE ZONE is informed by the above, but it more just the product two fertile imaginations: Mine and the coauthor’s.”
How do you feel about Strike Zone as the writer and author?
“STRIKE ZONE is actually a collaboration between myself and another author. The other author does not want her name mentioned publicly, except in the author’s notes at the end of the book. I liked the book idea, of course. I added quite a bit to the story, but the story’s spine is the other author’s. Frankly, I did not know whether a collaborative effort like this could lead to the desired results. It did. I am pleased with the final product.”
The material on Margaret's computer which had her engrossed, absorbed, and enthralled - would that be some kind of top secret? Please, hint us. I'm sure your potential readers are dying to know.
“Oh, yes, that material is quite important to the story. STRIKE ZONE’s action takes place during the height of the Cuban Missile Crises in 1962. The material Margaret was handling was very secret and very important. If it fell into the wrong hands, the transcript she was typing could cause a nuclear war. A mistake is made, and complications ensue. I won’t tell more. One will just have to read the book to find out.”
"For example if anyone had guessed how interested she was in power, that inside she was crying out with excitement as she felt the words making history through her ears, into her fingers..." May we hear from your mouth of the outer and inner motivation of Margaret, as her creator?
“She is typing a transcript of an important secret meeting. She is thus privy to the biggest secret in the world at the time. She doesn’t want to let anybody know how interested she is in that secret, since secretaries aren’t supposed be interested in the secrets they learn about as part of their jobs.”
In the book Strike Zone, Margaret was a secretary to a presidential aide by the name of Jason Pickering, and at her office, at the beginning of this book there was a crisis about congressional election; is this political novel?
“STRIKE ZONE is more of a spy thriller/romance than a political novel. The political and diplomatic situation is important to the story, of course. But, the characters are interacting with each other one-on-one. There are very high political stakes, but the conflict between the characters is personal.”
Clifton Addison is widely known as The Man behind the Throne. He was an important man far more important that his title would indicate. What made Addison important?
“Addison plays a role in the inciting incident which causes Margaret so much trouble and danger; he is also quite important to the conclusion. Addison can be a very dangerous man. It is best not to toy with him.”
The design of this book cover has snake in it. That got me curious about the book title. What's the inspiration? Why the snake? How does it tally with our title?
“The action in STRIKE ZONE takes place in Washington DC and the Tehachapi Mountains in California. For various reasons, snakes play important roles in pivotal passages in both locations. The snake is also a metaphor both for the situation as a whole and for the sort of man with whom Margaret become romantically involved. That is, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the entire world sat within the STRIKE ZONE of thermonuclear war; Margaret finds herself in the STRIKE ZONE of cold and lethal men.
By complete coincidence, just about the time that I was preparing STRIKE ZONE for publication, I heard my dogs barking at something outside my office. It turned out to be a rattlesnake. I caught it, and then put it into an old garbage can, so that I could transport it out to the middle of nowhere for release. As an afterthought, a photo was taken of it. I loved the photo. The colors of the trashcan blended nicely with the snake's scales. The purplish-blue of the snake's forked tongue was striking. It was only then that I realized, 'Hey, the title of the book is STRIKE ZONE." Hmmm... I thought. 'Hey, wait a second, a rattlesnake plays a role in important plot points.' You can already probably guess where my mind was going. I decided then and there that I wanted this photo for the cover.”
Would Margaret be our protagonist?
“Yes. She is a protagonist; her character arc is the spine of the novel.”
What is the central issue of the novel, Strike Zone?
“A mistake is made in the White House, and only Margaret can make it right before it is too late.”
What are the fascinated end scenarios of this novel?
“Margaret falls in love with a spy. He also happens to be the only man in the world who can help her to save the day. Can she trust him? Read STRIKE ZONE to find out.”
What moral message should your potential readers highlight in the book?
“Seemingly unimportant and amoral actions can lead to extreme consequences. Margaret would never have found herself in mortal danger if she had been an urgent moralist.”
Is this your first book?
“No, but it is the first that has been published.”
Is there any other work coming up after this?
“Yes, I have a collection of short stories ready to be published.”
Provide book blurb:
It is after midnight on October 19th, 1962, and the Cuban Missile Crisis has reached its most dangerous point. The world sits in the STRIKE ZONE of thermonuclear annihilation. The clock is ticking down as the White House considers using a top secret super-weapon to strike first. It is at that moment that, Margaret Potter, a beautiful young staffer, inadvertently loses a transcript of a high level meeting which contains details so explosive that they could start World War III if they fall into the wrong hands. Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, she knows that only she can find the transcript before it is too late. She is thus thrust into a terrifying spy-versus-spy world which she has hitherto only seen in the movies. In the midst of this life or death struggle, Margaret, a formerly nice little girl from rural Wyoming, finds herself falling in love with a darkly mysterious and cosmopolitan man. Is that man her rescuer or is he her real pursuer? She has no way to know the truth until the very end. All she knows for certain is that he is the one man in the world who can help her to save the situation, and that he is also the one man she has the least reason to trust. There is one more thing that she knows: He is the man she has been looking for her whole life.
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Hey beautiful people, I'm sure it's been a pleasure to meet Grettir Jacobs. Please, hurry to get your copy of Strike Zone. Thanks for coming on the blogs.
“Thank you very much, Darmie.”