Question: Hypnosis and mind control play a large role in A Noble Cause. What sparked that idea? Have you ever tried being hypnotized?
J. Gregory Smith: Hypnosis has always fascinated me, though I've never tried it myself. With my imagination, it would either work too well or I wouldn't give in for fear of losing control. That said, I've always heard the subjects really can't be made to do anything they really wouldn't do normally--but I couldn't let it go at that, so I came up with a sort of superhypnosis combined with a mysterious concoction that allows access to the deepest reaches of a subject's subconscious. Now we're talking power. Our hero is caught in the middle of a struggle for what such power could offer.
Q: Which character in the book was your favorite to develop?
JGS: That's a tough question for the right reasons. One of the things that was so much fun for me about this book is that the characters fell into place right along with the story. Mark, the central character, is the most "normal," and he's at the epicenter of a storm of "What would you do?" situations, so I loved seeing him forced to rise to the occasion.
Lukasz, the Navy SEAL, might be my favorite not just for his tough-guy abilities but because he has his own code of ethics--foremost loyalty--and he's willing to do anything for a friend. On the flip side, he's about the worst enemy anyone could have. What he's willing to do for Mark says a great deal about what he sees in his friend, even if Mark can't see it in himself.
Q: Your last book, Final Price, was more of a straightforward mystery. What made you decide to write a thriller? Will your Detective Paul Chang fans get to see more of him?
JGS: This book just fell into place and worked better as a fast-paced action tale. I wanted to keep the lead character reeling from one blow after another until he is forced to battle back. The characters aren't cops, but I took the craziest situation I could come up with and tossed them into it. Yes, Detective Chang and his very unconventional sidekick, Nelson, will be back in The Legacy of the Dragon [coming in March 2012], and I'm hard at work on a third installment with Chang, tentatively called Send in the Clowns.
Q: You have also published some short fiction. Do you prefer to write short stories or novels?
JGS: I prefer novels but love writing short stories. Short stories are such a different animal, but I love the way they demand an economy of thought while providing an opportunity to play with cool ideas that don't have the legs for a whole book. I have a story coming out early this year in a twisted anthology, Zippered Flesh: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad.
Q: What are you reading right now?
JGS: Dove Season by Johnny Shaw.
Q: Which books have influenced you and your writing the most?
JGS: I'll skip craft books except Stephen King's On Writing, because I get at least as much inspiration as technique from it. If you want to be a writer, read that book. Then read it again. I try--emphasis on "try"--to write the kinds of books I like to read: King, Koontz, Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, Tolkien, Thomas Harris, etc. I appreciate good writing of any stripe, but I personally like stuff to happen in a story. Preferably right away.