Saturday, September 24, 2016

"The Red Wolf" by David Tindell

The Red Wolf
(The White Vixen Book 2)
by David Tindell

The Red Wolf is the second book in The White Vixen series by David Tindell. The author joins me today for an interview and to share an excerpt from the book. Also available: The White Vixen.

For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on Quest for Honor.

January 1987: In a secret meeting at Camp David, the president instructs the CIA to send a team of operatives behind the Iron Curtain to track down a legendary Spetsnaz soldier known only as the Red Wolf. Their mission is to prevent the Wolf from assassinating Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and touching off a military takeover that might turn the Cold War hot overnight.
The newly-formed Pallas Group selects Air Force special operator Jo Ann Geary, the White Vixen, to lead a team into communist Hungary and stop the Wolf. But powerful men in Washington don't want the mission to succeed and will risk everything to stop it. They place a mole inside Pallas, and now Geary doesn't know who she can trust. Deep inside Hungary, she must stay one step ahead of the KGB and find the Wolf before he takes the shot that will alter the course of history. 

Book Video

Hamburg, West Germany
February 1987
Every step she took made the assault on her senses more intense. Three weeks of this place hadn’t made it any easier to deal with, but with any luck at all this would be the last night. She forced herself to stay focused and kept walking. Two blocks to go.
It was called the Reeperbahn, in the St. Pauli district of Hamburg, and even though Jo Ann Geary knew the English translation was “rope street,” and had studied the history of the district and the city, none of that mattered now as she walked through the chilly, damp night. Just like every other night, she heard the techno-rock blaring from the clubs, the laughter and occasional scream coming from doors and alleyways. She smelled the pungent odor of marijuana smoke mixed with stale beer and what might be urine or worse, saw the garish flashing lights of the marquees and the more subtle red bulbs from the windows where the women preened. Her cover was convenient in that respect, as she could ignore the displays and not be afraid to let her irritation show. It was what any self-respecting and somewhat prudish North Korean would do.
Jo pushed the distractions aside and paid no attention to the catcalls from many of the men, and some of the women, who loitered around the club entrances and streetlamp poles. The mission came first, always, and tonight it would end, one way or another.
One more block.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Interview with the Author
David Tindell joins me today to discuss his new book, The Red Wolf.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
Sixteen and up. Although there is minimal sensuality and profanity in the book, it deals with somewhat complex historical and political themes that might prove difficult for younger readers to grasp.
What sparked the idea for this book?
My wife and I visited Hungary in 2012 and I knew immediately that this beautiful country would be a great place for Jo to have her next adventure. I'd also wondered about the nature of the relationship between Reagan and Gorbachev back in the '80s. How far would Reagan be willing to go to help his counterpart?
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
The protagonist, Jo Ann Geary, was established in her debut novel, The White Vixen. After that it was just a question of when and where her next mission would be. I decided to set this one in Europe and behind the Iron Curtain, which meant it had to be in the 1983-89 era, since the first book took place in 1981-82. It made sense to place the action in 1987, especially when I decided to use a significant historical moment - Reagan's famous speech at the Berlin Wall - as a key moment in the book.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
The character of the Red Wolf. I wanted to make him much more complex than the stereotypical Russian bad guy. He would be Spetsnaz, meaning he would be highly trained and skilled. But what about his motivation? His political beliefs, if any? Likewise, his religious beliefs? What about his heritage? I decided to make him a native of Ukraine, which then was still a republic in the USSR. His father would be a decorated WW2 veteran who would also have a significant role to play in post-war Hungary. Once I came up with the concept of the character, I had to develop his motivation. When he's given his mission, what does he actually think about it? Does he consider its implications? Like American soldiers of the era, Soviet soldiers were not automatons. They had many of the same challenges our people did. How would the Wolf deal with his specific challenges, both from his own government and from the forces arrayed against him?
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I want them to be entertained, of course, but I also would like them to consider how personal honor plays a role in both the protagonist and the antagonist. How does it shape their characters, how does it drive their actions? Eventually, the major characters in the book, and one or two significant minor characters, have to take a stand. Most people today are uncomfortable taking a stand on anything. It's easier to just go with the flow. But sooner or later, everybody has to make a decision, take a stand about something important. What do you believe in? What are you willing to risk for that belief?
How long did it take you to write this book?
From first concept notes to finished product, about three years. It took an entire year for my critique group to review the book, but I think it was time very well spent.
What is your writing routine?
I rise around 5:15 every morning (a leftover from my days as a radio broadcaster) and do some writing and social media posting before heading to the pool or the gym. After a full day at the office (yes, I still have one of those day jobs) I usually will have an evening event of some sort: church choir rehearsal, a church council meeting (I'm currently the president), my critique group, or a class at our karate dojo. My wife and I are black belts in isshin-ryu karate, with special training in Okinawan weaponry. So, as far as writing, my real productive times come on evenings when I am home relatively early, and on weekends.
How did you get your book published?
I went through Amazon's ebook and print divisions, as with my first two novels.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Keep writing. Keep learning about your craft, because that's exactly what it is. Keep reading, especially in your genre, but don't be afraid to step outside those boundaries in your reading. And don't give up. You only fail if you quit.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
As mentioned before, I work out a lot. I really enjoy martial arts training. I started 15 years ago, earned a black belt in taekwondo and also trained extensively in the Russian art of Systema with some real-life Spetsnaz guys. (Very nice guys indeed, but you didn't want to mess with them.) Several years ago I transitioned to karate and was joined in the training by my wife. Our son holds black belts in taekwondo and hapkido. We also like to travel, and since my wife owns and operates a travel agency, we have some good opportunities to do that. We were in China for about 10 days earlier this year, including four days at a camp in Tibet. The photo of us on horseback was taken as we were riding near the camp, through the foothills of the Himalayas. We've been to Europe a few times, to the Middle East and South America and the islands of Tahiti in the South Pacific, among other places. When we travel we like to get off the beaten path. Our next two big adventure trips: to Peru to trek through the Andes to Machu Picchu, and to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Fantastic! What does your family think of your writing?
My wife is very supportive and that includes taking me to some exotic places to do very enjoyable field research. We have two grown children: our daughter Kim is married and lives in the Boston area, and our son Jim is in Milwaukee. He's also an aspiring filmmaker and produced my first two book trailers.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I was orphaned at a young age when my parents were brutally murdered in front of me, so I swore an oath to make war on all criminals ... Wait, that's another guy. Actually, I was born in Germany, where my father was stationed, and grew up in southern Wisconsin, graduating from high school in Potosi, a bucolic little town on the banks of the Mississippi. I was very fortunate to live only a few miles from both sets of grandparents and also had plenty of cousins around. I played a lot of sports but focused on basketball in high school. Although I didn't play it particularly well, I developed a lifelong love affair with baseball. Once or twice a year I'll make a point of going to Milwaukee and taking in a Brewers game with my son, or my wife and I will go over to the Twin Cities to see the Twins play.
My father was a teacher and then a school administrator, and my mother went to college while I was in high school and became an accountant. I have two younger brothers; one is an attorney in Washington state, the other a teacher of US history at a high school in Phoenix.
Wisconsin was a great place in which to grow up, and it's still a great place to live. About 25 years ago I moved up to the northwest part of the state, and my wife and I live in a log home on a picturesque lake. It makes for a good setting in which to write, that's for sure.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
All the time. I taught myself to read in kindergarten and always had a book nearby. I was fortunate to have some great English teachers in junior high and high school, Mrs. Millman and Mrs. Leonard, who inspired me to read more widely and taught me how to appreciate it, and also how to write. I also had a great geography teacher, Mr. Peake, who inspired my interest in other countries and cultures, past and present.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
My first story was written when I was in 7th grade. In high school I wrote a novel about a team of time travelers going back to observe Christ. One of these days I might dust that one off, although I'm sure it will require a lot of dusting. I won a couple creative writing contests while in college, but never really picked up the pen - or sat at the keyboard, if you will - till about 15 years ago. By then the kids were old enough so that they didn't need or want their old man hanging around all the time, so I started writing again. And I haven't stopped.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
I remember when I was about 10, there was a local TV station that would have a movie matinee every Saturday called "Colossal Theater". The theme song was the overture from Lawrence of Arabia, and the film was usually an Italian-made B-picture featuring a strongman like Steve Reeves as Hercules. There would be gladiators and swordplay and adventure, not to mention good-looking women, which was starting to become important at that age. But most of all I loved to see films about strong, determined men of honor seeking to right a wrong. I wanted to be one of those guys. Later on I would pass on a military career, largely due to a high school knee injury, but then some years later I took up martial arts training, which opened up a whole new world in which honor and determination play big parts. I think as a society we are losing our way when it comes to honor and integrity - our current presidential candidates come to mind - and we are definitely not better off because of it.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
In my youth it was writers like Arthur Conan Doyle, whose Sherlock Holmes stories entranced me. My teachers had me read Dickens and H. G. Wells and other classics. Two books come to mind from that era: Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank, and Costigan's Needle by Jerry Sohl. Both were examples of what today we would call dystopian fiction. To me they depicted ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations, where some would swim and others would sink. I wanted to know about the ones who swim, and I still do.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I hear from them frequently, out and about in the community and also through email and my social media platforms. They appear to like the books and are always asking when the next one's coming out, so they keep me motivated. They like the characters I create, too, so maybe some of this honor stuff is sinking in.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
Jo Geary will have more adventures. Her next one will be The Bronze Leopard, set in east Africa, two years after the events of The Red Wolf. I'm currently working on Quest for Vengeance, the second in the series that began with Quest for Honor. Plus I have a couple other ideas percolating for novels outside those series.
Anything else you would like to add?
I want to thank you for the opportunity to talk about my work, and I hope your readers enjoy it. You're all invited to check out my social media sites and my website, not to mention my blog, where I get to write about things that aren't often covered in the books themselves. See you there!
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, David. Congratulations on your new release and best of luck with your future projects.

About the Author
Born in Germany and raised in southern Wisconsin, David Tindell embarked on a 20-year career in broadcasting before transitioning to the U.S. government and resuming the writing career he'd started in college at UW-Platteville. Today he lives up in the northwestern corner of the state, in a log home on a lake with his wife Sue, a Yorkie and a Siamese.
Tindell's first novel, Revived, was published in 2000, but after that he put the pen aside for a while and started training in martial arts. He has earned black belts in Taekwondo and Ryukudo Kobujutsu, an art that combines karate with Okinawan weaponry, along with extensive training in the Russian art of Systema. It should be no surprise, then, that his protagonist in The White Vixen series is a highly-trained martial artist.