Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions as we get closer to your launch.
For readers who aren’t aware, retired USAF Colonel Gregory S. Lamb is officially releasing his latest book, “A Dangerous Element” in March. It’s a military thriller that brings together not only a great fiction story but a unique insight into some of the most complex challenges our country is facing today. I dare you to watch the news for about five minutes after reading this book and not take a tentative step backward.
That said, I’m excited to have the chance to interview him!
So, first things first. Have you always wanted to be a writer? I can imagine you out in the field, dreaming up stories to follow you as you move around the world, writing it all down in a leather-bound journal full of fantastic ideas.
Great question Ray. When I was in middle school, we had a project in our English class to investigate future careers and write about them. I’d say that the seeds were planted then, but remained dormant until my three sons were old enough to listen to campfire stories. Since we traveled around a lot while I was on active duty in the US Air Force, we spent a lot of time on road trips. My wife and I soon discovered our boys enjoyed the entertainment that came from the telling of a good yarn.
In my professional travels, did I carry around a leather bound notebook? No, but I did record a lot of notes and included many of my ideas in correspondence back home to my wife and my sisters. I remember writing about what I saw from the air while flying over the oil fields of Kuwait that were still ablaze in the wake of DESERT STORM. Later, while supporting humanitarian operations in the Balkans and Somalia, I recorded my thoughts about the innocent victims of human conflict.
These days I feel very lucky to have experienced the people and places that my work gave me access to. I had the good fortune of coming through those experiences unscathed while others didn’t.
What about your fast-growing pile of reviews – what made you decide to get so seriously into being an online reviewer?
After I self-published my first novel, The People In Between I followed all the formulae contained in many of the “how -to” books for marketing a self-published novel. I dedicated six months to a campaign to get that story in front of the eyes of potential readers. There were some good sales in the initial months, but after that it slowed to a trickle. During those six months, I decided I could do more for my reputation and gain some exposure by writing reviews for other Indie Authors. As a result, I’ve found a personal niche for marketing my work and the work of others. I see writing reviews as a kind of a pay it forward concept, only I still reap the benefit of gaining exposure. All said, I’m a very slow reader. I process while I read, so when it comes time to write, I can comfortably crank out material. I also found that my writing has improved significantly as a result of expanding my taste and not confining myself to a particular genre.
How close to reality does “A Dangerous Element” really come? Are you sharing things you shouldn’t be, or what?
Hah yes, I suppose that given my background, readers might speculate as to whether I’ve been telling tales out of school. However, I always found myself most intrigued by fiction loosely based on fact. I’ve since adopted this approach while crafting my stories.
I conceived of A Dangerous Element in late Fall 2010 when I first heard of the destruction of the nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, Iran. The idea for the story didn’t come to me right away, it took a few days before I saw a news clip about Iran claiming to have taken out an American Stealth Drone (RQ-170) over the central region of Iran (over Natanz). Several months later, the story of the STUXNET computer virus broke and I had the kernel for a good story. I just needed to create some characters to act it out.
When I was an undergraduate student back in the days of the Cold War, I read a lot of Robert Ludlum. The first novel of Ludlum’s that drew my attention was Bourne Identity. I enjoyed the mystery of Jason Bourne trying to figure out his past since he’d lost his memory. I decided I needed some sort of mental issue working on the main character, Mark “Coolhand” Reynolds. I did a bit of research and determined it wouldn’t be too far fetched to resurrect something that resembled the urban military myth of MK-ULTRA, which was a mind control experiment.
Here are a couple of links about the three main ideas that launched me into this story:
I’ll be honest, I haven’t read your other book, “The People In Between: A Cyprus Odyssey,” but it looks like a pretty different novel altogether. How would you compare the two novels? Also, did you enjoy writing one more than the other?
You ask some pretty insightful questions Ray and I’m happy to share the story behind the stories. Even before I retired from my military career in 2009, I had the idea for the story I wrote for my debut novel, The People In Between: A Cyprus Odyssey. You are correct, A Dangerous Element is a different kind of story. The People In Between was a story inspired by the years I spent coming to grips with the irrationality of human conflict. Having lived in Cyprus, I came to know a beautiful place with a very compact and complicated history. I often found myself in situations where people would ask me about Cyprus and I soon learned that to explain it over a cup of coffee or glass of wine was too much for most people, so I wrote a version of Cyprus History that could be learned the easy way, through a family saga. At least that is what I thought I was doing when I started the project. What I learned through the process was another experience. Melding a story into a historical context is extremely difficult and requires lots of character and event mapping. I now have tremendous respect for writers of historical fiction. Was it fun to write? I’ll just say that when I was finished, I had a very satisfying sense of accomplishment.
Moving on to A Dangerous Element. Once I had a grasp of the idea for the story, I had a blast writing it. I knew it would be an adventure, but nothing like the thrill ride my characters took me on once they developed. Aside from exploring imaginative ways to present the current state of play for the technical art of the possible, I latched on to the idea that people are people no matter where they come from and their nature, good or evil, will emerge with circumstance. I really enjoyed discovering that the bad guy can really be a good guy and the guy that is supposed to be playing on the good guy’s team can really be bad…sorry, that whole deal reminds me of some weird thing a former Secretary of Defense said in a public forum back in February of 2002…a bunch of double speak about “known and knowns.” Anyway, even the winning team can have a bad apple and in the story, our own CIA ended up with a guy who lost sight of the larger picture.
Bottom Line: I enjoyed writing this story so much that I’m eager to get the sequel moving – truth be told, it is already underway.
When you meet someone in an elevator and tell them about your book, what do you say?
Yes it is true, I really did write a military techno-thriller. You’re paying attention to the international news as it relates to Iran and the issue of nuclear enrichment for the purposes of developing a weapon right? Ok, so the story I wrote kinda goes like this:
Former combat pilot, Mark “Coolhand” Reynolds is cloistered in a psych ward piecing together the events that landed him there. He suspects his nemesis and former squadron mate, Randy “Snake” Wormwood has something to do with using a top secret mind control weapon against him in order to cover up an intelligence operation gone bad. When Iran announces to the world they are targeting a high profile location to detonate a nuclear device in retaliation for the destruction of one of their nuclear enrichment facilities, Mark realizes he’s the only one who can stop them.
Don’t you want to find out what happens? I sure as heck would. Read it, you won’t be disappointed, and you might even learn some really cool things about the state of nuclear proliferation
Lastly, would you rather ride in a train, dance in the rain or feel no pain?
Two of the above – My wife would love nothing more than for me to dance in the rain, but I get cold and my knees and ankles just aren’t what they used to be. I’m into feeling no pain and never mind riding that train. These days, I don’t even care where it goes because there is more than likely a story I can collect and re-package from that kind of experience.
Thank you so much for your time and thoughtful responses!
For those still reading along, Mr. Lamb is offering free eBook versions of his book in exchange for thoughtful reviews. If you’re interested in being considered, I encourage you to complete this very short form and select “A Dangerous Element.”
Or, grab a pre-release copy here!