Welcome to an Interview with : Eric J Gates
Author of. Outsourced
Eric J. Gates has had a curious life filled with the stuff of thriller novels. Writing Operating Systems for Supercomputers, cracking cryptographic codes under extreme pressure using only paper and pen and teaching cyber warfare to spies are just a few of the moments he’s willing to recall. He is an ex-International Consultant who has travelled extensively worldwide, speaks several languages, and has had articles and papers published in technical magazines in six different countries, as well as radio and TV spots. His specialty, Information Technology Security, has brought him into contact with the Military and Intelligence communities on numerous occasions.
He is also an expert martial artist, holding 14 black belt degrees in distinct disciplines. He has taught his skills to Police and Military personnel, as well as to the public.
He now writes thriller novels, drawing on his experiences with the confidential and secret worlds that surround us.
A brief synopsis.
‘Outsourced’ features a New York-based writer of thriller novels who receives a mysterious package from a fan. That fan turns out to be a professional killer. That’s just the start of the writer’s problems; problems that escalate way beyond anything he could have imagined on the pages of his novels, as death and destruction follow rapidly.
Just when matter cannot get any worse for the novelist, he learns a high-tech Intelligence agency has been tasked with obtaining the contents of the package too, and they will stop at nothing to achieve that goal. They have their own global agenda. The agent assigned to the task is out of her depth working on US soil and her methods are unsuited to a civilian environment. As pressure mounts for her to achieve results, she becomes more and more radical in her approach.
And, if that’s not enough… the sender wants it back, and his methods are even more direct and violent! He believes the contents of the package were used to try to kill him and his aim is to recover them and exact his revenge on the writer.
What made you decide to write this book?
This has been a ‘backburner’ project for over three years. I have a curious mind and I have been fascinated by Quantum Mechanics ever since I stumbled across this branch of Physics way back as a teenager. I’ve also always had the goal of becoming a writer, particularly of thrillers, and add to that I love a challenge, the idea of incorporating Quantum Theory in some way into a non Sci-fi suspense thriller has been bouncing around in my mind for some time. It’s was a daunting prospect; combining the ‘dry’ theoretical physics with a fast-paced action storyline is a little like mixing oil and water.
How many other books have you published to date?
‘Outsourced’ is my eighth book, seven thrillers and a non-fiction book aimed at new writers called ‘How NOT to be an ASPIRING Writer’. There are so many How-To books out there, I decided to be different and do the opposite. Although it’s written with humour, British humour at that, it is packed with hundreds of practical tips and tricks to help aspirers realise their dream of writing a book and getting it published.
Are your other books all in the same genre?
Of the novels, three form a series (book four is imminent) and the others are standalone tales. All follow a style, described by a reader as ‘suspense thrillers with a touch of strange’, a description I couldn’t better, so I’ve now made it mine. In the books I draw heavily on my own experiences in the confidential and secret world we inhabit. I worked for many years as an Information Technology security consultant and this allowed me to come into contact with both the military and intelligence communities on numerous occasions, and provide much grist for the thriller-novel mill.
Where did you find the characters?
Inevitably, many are based upon real people I’ve met over the years, although suitably disguised. I might add that a few are people who I have clashed with for one reason or another, and this brings to mind a quote from one of the protagonists of ‘Outsourced’: “never piss off a writer! They’ll get their revenge in their next novel!” So true, so true!
Is your personality a character in the book? If so, which one?
I think that most writers cannot help some of their personal traits appearing through their characters’ words and actions in their novels, even if this is a subconscious process, and I’m no exception. I did not base either of the two writer protagonists specifically on myself, although I do poke fun at some of my foibles in such a way that only those who know me closely will recognise. But that’s half the fun, right? And it’s cheaper than a psychiatrist!
This is quite an unusual plot. What gave you the idea?
I was still searching for a way to use Quantum Mechanics in a thriller, when I came across an article about Nicholas Roerich. He was a curious character; an archaeologist, painter, ballet costume designer and a host of other unlikely roles during a lifetime when he was even nominated for a Nobel Prize. He was a kind of crazy Leonardo Da Vinci in many ways, a Renaissance figure born out of time. Exploring this personage a little more, everything clicked into place. A further ingredient to the mix was an ancient Tibetan myth and certain matters that derived from this (no spoilers here, folks). I reached out for help and found it in the bountiful support of one of the Dalai Lama’s collaborators, Dr. Chok Tenzin Monlam Peltsok, Head of the Research and Translation Department of the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives in Dharamsala, India. Then came the hard bit. Now all I had to do was write the novel.
Are you writing at the moment? If so, can you share anything yet?
I’m always writing, even in my sleep, so it seems. I am in the final throes of the fourth book in my ‘the CULL’ series. For those unfamiliar with the novels, they take the myth about vampires and drop it firmly into the twenty-first century. I have taken the essence of those fantastic tales that predate Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, and the visual impact of one of the scariest films (that’s movies to any reader from across the Pond) I have ever watched, the 1922 black and white ‘Nosferatu’, and attempted to recreate their sense of menace in the series. It’s vampires, yes, but not like you have ever seen them before! No fangs or morphing into bats here! Just a fast-paced, complex, globe-trotting tale involving genetic mutation, ancient Irish myth, Vatican conspiracies, serial killers, covert Intelligence units, and artificial intelligence surveillance systems, liberally peppered with dark humour and laden with moral ambiguity throughout. I’ve decided the series will end with book five, so in this one (book 4 ‘the CULL – Blood Demon’ – out soon) I have created several ‘I didn’t see THAT coming’ moments for the readers and set up a finale which will be jaw-dropping. That’s not to say each of the books must be read in order, which is obviously the recommended way to go, as each contains a complete tale a reader can follow without the need of pages of exposition of the ‘Previously in…’ variety.
Share with the readers one little known fact about yourself.
Once upon a time… this has to be a fairy tale because of the very real nature of the incident… I was charged with validating an encryption algorithm, developed over three years, at great cost (millions) to my client, by a third party, and officially signing-off on it for a particular country’s authorities. There was a lot at stake here, the nature of which I cannot go into, but after being threatened, having microphones installed in the rooms where I worked, and a colleague’s papers stolen, I decided an Agatha Christie moment was called for! I had all parties, the client, the algorithm’s developers, etc, meet me in a room with a paragraph of text already encrypted. They picked a random chunk from a, to me, unknown source, ran it through their software and printed out the result. I took a high-tech approach to solving this: a notepad and a pencil! Resisting the temptation to talk endlessly about stimulating ‘ze little grey cells’ I worked on the code for ten minutes and cracked it – it was a paragraph from ‘Alice in Wonderland’. It was also an object lesson in how to tee-off a roomful of people in a very short time. No, I’m not Stephen Hawkin; I just recognised a basic flaw in what they had done that made the whole exercise useless. My colleagues and I made a strategic withdrawal before the fireworks started.
Have you been traditionally published or only an Indie author? Are you Indie by choice?
When I finished ‘2012’ back in 2006, after three years of researching and innumerable drafts, I sent it out to literary agents and publishers both in the UK and the States. I have a small stack of rejection slips as a result. In most cases they didn’t even bother to read it; I was a new author and that was all they needed to know – they preferred to stick to their cash cows and do little to discover new writers. Those that did invest some effort, farmed out the reading to first-year ‘Lit’ students in Universities, trying to make a buck by ‘evaluating’ as many manuscripts as they could while studying. The deck was stacked and this was a time before self-publishing existed. At that point I was working on a second thriller, ‘Full Disclosure’, as I licked my wounds. Then Big A came out with a self-publishing platform. I decided to give it a try and the rest is history.
Who were your favourite Authors as you were growing up?
I used to read a lot of science fiction and thrillers back then, about a week after the dinosaurs died out. My literary heroes were authors such as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ian Fleming, and John Gardner. The latter was particularly important to me. After having spotted a technical mistake in one of his novels, and having had the temerity to write to him about it, we corresponded for a while and finally met at a book signing. During this time I had the good fortune to receive writing advice from this master of the British thriller, sadly no longer with us. Writing has always been in my blood (not another reference to the vampire novels) and he gave me considerable encouragement to do something about that. Life intervened of course, and it’s only now I’m ‘livin’ the dream!’
There’s a vacancy as President of the U.S. will you apply, why?
That’s got to be one of the most frustrating jobs on the planet, worse than trying to get Traditional Publishing to take note, so I guess I’ll have to say no. If things were different though, I’d push for raising educational standards wherever I could as I’m a firm believer that lack of knowledge is one of the greatest underlying threats in the modern world, one which is ceaselessly exploited for selfish ends by many with their own agendas.
Will this book be part of a series or will your next book be another stand alone?
Now a strange thing is happening with ‘Outsourced’. Like ‘the CULL’, the original title for my standalone vampire book, which came about more as a jokey suggestion to my cousin than a real project in its inception then grew into a series, I have been inundated by emails from readers asking for more of the trio of protagonists (yes I am including that nasty female Intelligence Agent). The interplay between these characters was the real backbone of the tale and it made them real and entertaining in the reader’s minds. Now I can’t promise this will end in another five-book series, but Nic Styles, Phil Beasley and Bridget Mason will return in an as-yet untitled sequel. I won’t let the cat out of the box (a reference that will produce a chuckle from anyone who’s read ‘Outsourced’) by telling you the storyline I’ve come up with, but Quantum Mechanics won’t be a part of it. I’ve found something even weirder!
Please share your other books with us.
Okay, here goes:
‘the CULL’ series starts with a disgraced ex-FBI backroom geek being partnered with an ex-NSA superspy and tasked to hunt down a serial killer. They quickly discover they are unwittingly part of conspiracy that stretches back centuries and soon, the hunters become the hunted! Think Dan Brown meets Bram Stoker at Tom Clancy’s house, with Patterson serving the drinks. Oh, and don’t read it with the light out! Or if you’ve got something important to do, like pick up the kids from school. My novels are very fast-paced and addictive reading.
‘2012’ – a drunk, suicidal ex-Special Forces operator with nothing to lose teams up with the daughter of an MIT robotics professor to combat a group of individuals who are trying to bring about the End of the World. Guess when it’s set?
‘Full Disclosure’ – a small, dying, southern Texas town is isolated from the rest of the World; the US President makes a startling announcement revealing a secret held for over sixty years. The novel questions whether the Public should be told everything. If it ever happens, I’ll be hailed as a genius; if it doesn’t, it’s just a great fast-paced thriller! History will decide!!!
“Leaving Shadows” – the head of British Intelligence is taken and his colleagues discover plans are already in place for a seedy kidnap and recover agency to intervene. But nothing is as it seems as deadly forces race to control the most insidious weapon of mass destruction ever invented.
Do you have a website to share?
I have an author website at http://www.ericjgates.com where extracts from all my books can be read, purchase links can be found, and where I reveal the Inside Secrets of my novels. And there’s an easy competition where any reader could become a character in a future novel (over a dozen people already have). If you are also a writer, there’s a section dedicated to writing tips and tricks too.
Any Link to the Book (s)
These are direct global links to Amazon’s pages for each of my books. They will take you to the correct Amazon site’s book page for wherever you live:
‘the CULL’ series:
the CULL book 4 – Blood Demon check my website soon
Please feel free to share an excerpt.
Summer is on the way; the cold weather has been left behind; it’s a good moment to be generous, right? These are the opening chapters from ‘Outsourced’:
The gavel impacted with imperative finality. The buzz in the courtroom continued; only those in the seating closest to the judge heeding her warning. Two more detonations of wood against wood followed in quick succession. This time a reluctant silence enveloped the room.
“I know this has been a tiring trial; it’s been a long trial for all of us.” She paused, glancing at the defence counsel to her right, then at the jury on the opposite side of the room. “I WILL have order in my court. Leave your outbursts, comments and protestations for the appropriate channels.”
Now she was looking squarely at the Prosecutor’s table. Its occupants stared back defiantly. Neither was happy at the verdict; both, however, realized the fault was their own. The case, at best, had been circumstantial, but, they were talking premeditated mass murder here. The man and woman looked at each other; they felt cheated.
The judge banged her gavel once more, unnecessarily, in the quiet that saturated the stuffy air in the packed room.
She twisted in her chair, facing the accused again.
“As I was saying…” another furtive peek at the District Attorney’s people, “Robert Polanski, you have been acquitted of multiple charges of murder by a jury of your peers and I hereby instruct…”
* * * * *
Polanski walked alongside his legal representative, his head on a swivel. They had exited the courthouse by the rear doors, hoping to avoid the expectant questions of the media. Polanski had been through two trials in the last few months; the legal one, fought in the halls of the large building behind them and bound by laws and procedures, and the popular one, disputed in the Press, on TV and on the Internet where no such constraints applied. Legally he had been found not guilty; in the Public Eye, he was a guilty as Hell! And he was; in the dark corners of his mind he was well aware of how he had escaped from what should have been a stay on Death Row prior to a well-deserved execution as retribution for the acts he had committed.
He turned to the chubby figure at his side.
“Did you bring that package I had delivered to you last week?” His tone was neutral; there was nothing between the lawyer and his defendant other than a strictly professional relationship upheld by force of cash.
The lawyer nodded, then raised a large, floral handkerchief to mop his brow.
“Let’s grab a coffee and…”
“No. We are going back to my office. You have some papers to sign and I’ll give you the package there. After that, I don’t want to see or hear from you ever again. Am I clear on that, Polanski?”
The shorter man looked over at the speaker. It was more than evident curtailing their connection as quickly as possible was uppermost in the lawyer’s mind.
“If you hate me so much, why didn’t you recuse yourself?”
“You know damned well why. But I’ve done my job now and don’t have to spend another day in your company.”
“Three million dollars doesn’t buy much loyalty these days, eh?”
“You’re free, although you shouldn’t be, as we both know, so it bought you that.”
The lawyer paused.
“I know I’m going to regret this, but, just how did you kill all those people?”
“Still Client-Attorney privilege?”
“One of the most abused concepts in American law, but yes; nothing you tell me goes any further.”
“I just manipulated their futures. It was all about the planning…”
“You manipulated the futures of 217 people?”
“Yes; over the last twenty-three years.” Polanski halted his steps, turning to face the lawyer. “And just remember, I got away with that, so don’t get any ideas about talking out of turn.”
“I have no wish to become your victim number 218…”
“Oh, the real number’s a little higher. Those were just the cases the DA thought they could prove. The total’s nearer to four hundred.”
The lawyer elected not to answer, glancing at his wristwatch and mentally counting the minutes he still needed to share with this client.
The man with the deep sunburnt face in the third row of seats stood and ambled out of the courtroom along with the rest of the packed crowd. As he crossed the vast steel and glass atrium, he scanned ahead and spotted the huge knot of TV and Press people expectantly watching the main doors, undoubtedly seeking a juicy comment or two from Polanski or his lawyer.
He made a rapid decision and turned toward one of the armed security guards near the x-ray machine on his right. Held low so as not to be seen by unwanted eyes, he flashed his badge and spoke quietly. The man nodded and pointed to a doorway behind him, nestling under a red-lettered ‘Authorized Personnel Only’ sign. The agent thanked the security guard and stepped past, pushing open the heavy steel door. Ahead, an empty, cool passageway stretched toward the back of the building. His footfalls echoed off the hardwood floor as his brisk steps carried him by several darkened office spaces and finally to another heavy metal door adorned with a panic-bar. He assumed the exit was alarmed and looked up to see the camera’s eye tracking his progress. He raised his ID badge again, holding it for an instant so the watchers could clearly see its authority, then he put his weight against the bar and pushed.
Glaring daylight assaulted his eyes as he stepped through. Squinting, he scanned the area, gaining his bearings, as he waited for the return spring to close the door at his back. To his right was the court employee parking area, with a section reserved for the ‘school’ bus, except here it was a slightly more modern affair; more a Greyhound long-distance coach than the typical salvaged children carrier now fitted with less child-friendly armour. Just below the tinted windows that ran its length the words ‘Arizona Department of Corrections’ was stencilled in white against a blue background. To their left was a solid outline of the state, also in white, sited just behind where the driver would sit. Currently that seat was empty. Nearby he spotted a couple of uniformed DOC officials, cowering from the midday heat in the deep shadow afforded by a short cement overhang above another door. Both were smoking and looking nervously at their watches. He knew Polanski would not be using that transport again, not after the verdict he had just heard.
He looked over to his right, toward the front corner of the building, pondering what Polanski would do when he departed the courthouse. The agent had little time to come to a decision as the door behind him opened; his person of interest, and his mouthpiece, exited quickly. They had been talking, but both rapidly silenced their words on seeing him standing there in the bright sunlight. As they walked quickly past, the agent reached into his jacket and withdrew a pair of shades, his eyes gratefully acknowledging their protection as he walked toward his hire car.
He squirmed on the burning faux-leather seat as he fired up the engine and flipped the air-conditioning into overdrive. All the time his eyes never left the two men boarding the lawyer’s luxury sedan some fifty feet away. He reached into his inside pocket, extracting his cellphone. It took a few seconds to boot up, time spent watching as the lawyer cracked the window of his vehicle to let out some of the heat trapped within. They were too far away for him to hear but he assumed the attorney’s first actions had mirrored his own. Polanski just sat in the front passenger seat, waiting, smiling.
The call was answered on the first ring.
“Verdict as expected. They’ve left the courthouse together in the lawyer’s car. Any change in orders?”
He listened to the brief reply then rung off without speaking again.
The high-gloss, black hood of the luxury sedan nosed by his car as it sped toward the exit.
‘Who the hell chooses a black paint job in this heat?’ he thought as he selected drive and followed.
Polanski pulled out the chair and flopped into its hard contours. At least it was cool in the coffee shop; the air con was winning the battle against the relentless rays. He had ordered as he entered; a double slice of apple pie with all the trimmings and a large black coffee, Tanzanian Peaberry, the most expensive on the menu. On his first day of freedom after two years, those simple pleasures were all he needed.
While he waited for his food to arrive, Polanski extracted from his jacket pockets the items he had brought from his lawyer’s office. He placed the padded envelope to one side, glancing at the address handwritten in thick, black ink. A thought crept into his mind and he flipped the envelope to ensure no return address sticker had been added. Good; when sent, this would be a one-way trip for the contents.
Next, a single sheet of white paper taken from the feed drawer of his lawyer’s inkjet printer. This he had carefully folded into quarters and run his fingernail along the creases to further define the shape. Then he extracted a single sheet of three-ply toilet paper, also purloined from his lawyer’s office. He glanced up, seeing the waitress approaching with his coffee and pie. He slipped the paper-pulp sheet under the envelope; it was an odd object to be seen on a cafeteria table, so it would be remembered. Attention to detail had been his watchword during his professional life, and now, on the verge of a long and tranquil retirement, was not the time to get sloppy.
He waited until his hot apple pie, topped with vanilla ice cream and a shading of powdered cinnamon, was placed before him. He smiled at the waitress, then leaned forward to inhale deeply, savouring the smell of the thick slice and the equally enticing aroma of the fresh brew in the large mug nearby. He watched, mesmerised, taking sensuous pleasure as the ice cream turned to rivulets and dripped down to the dish to pool in inviting chaos.
Food first, then business, he thought.
As the pie portion steadily diminished, his thoughts went to the two documents he had to write. The first was easy; he had drafted the text mentally hundreds of times since he had made his decision three weeks ago. It was essential to strike the right balance; to appeal to the recipient’s curiosity as a means to overcome initial rejection. Then the decision would be out of his hands and back where it truly belonged. He smiled at this thought, pleased with its deeper meanings.
The second document was another matter. He had much experience in writing similar missives, yet he felt this needed to be given special consideration; it was, after all, to be his last. He mused on the mechanics as he sipped the remaining dark liquid in his mug.
The waitress approached, enquiring if he wanted more coffee or anything else. He requested another mug of the blend, then, just as the waitress turned to take his empty pie dish and cup back to the kitchen…
“Do you have a pen I could borrow for a minute?”
“This do?” The waitress proffered a ubiquitous blue-ink disposable.
“That would be perfect.” He took the pen, smiled again, and turned his attention to the folded sheet of white paper.
The agent used the top of the passenger seat to steady the Helios monocular. He was using it on the maximum setting of twenty-five power magnification and even the slightest tremor made the image wobble. He was only half a block from the cafeteria with a clear view of Polanski seated inside, yet the potent zoom offered by the black, rubberized cylinder was necessary to observe the details.
“He’s just ordered another coffee.”
He spoke for the benefit of the people listening on the speaker at the other end of the phone call.
“Just sitting there?” The voice carried agitation, impatience, fear; all mixed into a flat echo by the cellphone’s speaker.
“He’s slightly turned away, both hands on the table…”
“Can you see the device? Is he using it? Describe it!”
“I can’t tell from here.” The agent paused, taking his eye from the single lens and scanning the street. “I could try to get closer but there’s not much cover. It’s so hot, the street is practically empty and I’m sure to be spotted.”
“No, no, we can’t risk that. Stay where you are. Try to see if he’s using it.”
He chose not to reply; monitoring the use of the device was, after all, one of the prime objectives of Phase Two of the mission. Phase One’s goal had been identifying it and they had failed miserably at that. Polanski’s detention, for the two years the trial had taken, had not helped. The guy was smart; he’d not been caught in over twenty years. As soon as he suspected they were going to move in, he had hidden the device, left it with someone, whatever. Covert searches of his hotel suite, his lawyer’s office and any of the other twenty or thirty places he had frequented in the days leading to the arrest had turned up nothing. Did he have it again? Had the attorney collected it for him? They should have executed another search there a couple of days ago as he had suggested.
Polanski looked toward the street.
The agent placed his eye against the monocular again.
It was almost as though his target was staring directly at him.
Polanski raised his right hand; he held something, used it to salute his observer across the intervening distance. The agent twisted the zoom ring on the scope, but it was already wound up to the max. The man held a disposable pen. He had been writing something. He knew the agent was watching; not really a surprise, more something to be expected given the situation. Still, he’d been made. He called it in, not anticipating any change in his orders. Stay put. Watch. Observe. Call if you see the device. SWAT was staged two blocks over; ETA sixty seconds if needed.
The agent saw Polanski’s hand drop back down to the table, watched as his body turned a little more to adopt a more comfortable posture as he continued his writing.
He was completely unaware the circumstances had just changed drastically.
Intrigued? So you should be! This novel will change the way you look at everything!