But was that me? I had to admit it was not. Why? Because my own life has been anything but predictable. It's been a rollercoaster of highs and lows, of anguish and exhilaration. And "thematic" in that I have faced one challenge after another, against odds that seemed at times impossible. In my case, that includes surviving cancer for over twenty-one years when I was originally given eighteen months to live. It includes being so poor I once had to live on jars of peanut butter given to me by a church. It includes being turned down for a customer service job because I was too ugly—a reference to the facial scars I still carry from that battle against cancer. Life has not been easy.
But it definitely has been triumphant.
So that is what I decided to put Talanov through. I did not want his predicaments to be predictable. I wanted Talanov to tackle overwhelming odds. I wanted him to stand up and fight for those who couldn't stand up for themselves, which in Greco's Game were the victims of a black market human trafficking ring being run by some of his old KGB buddies. Talanov will get it wrong sometimes, just as I've gotten it wrong. But in the end, he will get it right. And that means taking risks. So that is what I did with Greco's Game.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
When I was ten, and that first book was a collection of short stories. My first professional writing assignment, however, was for the Dr Pepper soft drink company in Dallas, Texas. It was a booklet entitled, "Ecology and You." I then self-published The Earth of Your Soul, a book of free-verse poetry about growing up in eastern Kansas. It was overly sentimental in parts, but some of those poems can still be heard on late-night radio in some parts of the state. This was followed by The Spud Book (St Martins Press, New York), where I found myself cooking potatoes for television hosts and their audiences across America, including Regis Philbin and Pat Boone.
But if we're talking fiction, which I found to be far less fattening than potatoes, it would be my archaeological thriller, The Search for the Sword of St Peter, where the good guys, bad guys and terrorists are racing across Europe searching for the sword once carried by the apostle Peter. I'm not surprised no publisher wanted the manuscript, because I made a lot of structural errors in that book. So I published it myself, although it is mercifully out of print now. However, had I not gone through that experience, I would not know what works and doesn't work in publishing and promotion today. As the old saying goes, good decisions come from wisdom, wisdom comes from mistakes, and mistakes come from bad decisions. So bad decisions are not always a bad thing, because ultimately they can lead to good decisions.