Interview with David Tindell, author of 'The Red Wolf'

Born in Germany and raised in Wisconsin, David Tindell works for the U.S. Government by day, and by night he writes thrillers and trains in the martial arts. He has earned black belts in taekwondo and issin-ryu karate, with extensive studies in Russian Systema and Okinawan weaponry. He lives on a lake in northwest Wisconsin with his wife Sue, a Yorkie and a Siamese.

About the Book:

Author: David Tindell
Publisher: Createspace
Pages: 410
Genre: Thriller/Espionage

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.

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

The Red Wolf is the second book in my White Vixen series, which began with the idea of creating a protagonist that readers don’t often see in thriller novels. Since there have been all kinds of protagonists over the years, this was a challenge, but the first thing I wanted to do was make her a woman, Jo Ann Geary. Then, to add an extra touch of ethnicity, she’s the daughter of an American father and Korean mother. Since I’m a martial artist and study languages, let’s have her do that, too. Profession? Military, but she’ll be able to do civilian espionage work as well. What branch of the military? Navy SEALs and Green Berets have been done a lot, so I chose Air Force Special Operations. Not much is known about these guys and gals but they’re highly trained and do very important work. Finally, do I make her contemporary or in the recent past? I chose to put her in the 1980s, so the first novel takes place in 1981-82 and focuses on Jo’s part in the Falklands War. The new novel takes place in 1987, and now Jo is part of a new unit, Pallas Group, tasked by the president with a mission to go behind the Iron Curtain to communist Hungary and stop a rogue Spetsnaz soldier from assassinating Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

First, you must have a concept, and hopefully one that hasn’t been done, or at least done a lot, in the genre. What can you say about your characters or the setting or the plot that is an interesting twist? Then, do your research. Unless you’re writing in fantasy, where you can create entire universes of your own making, your story is grounded in reality somehow, so you had better know what street names are if you have your characters in a city. If the setting is in the past, know what’s different about the setting then as opposed to now. There are all kinds of things that can be researched and it’s hard not to get carried away with it. Your readers don’t have to know every detail. Plot out your story. Some writers have just a general idea and fly by the seat of their pants, then go back and clean it all up. Others plot very thoroughly in advance. I’m more in the middle but lean toward the latter method. Get into a good critique group so your fellow writers can help you, and you can return the favor. Don’t be afraid to revise, even if it means changing or cutting something you really like. Learn the business end of writing: promotions, platforms, all that goes into being a writer in the age of the internet. Finally, never give up. You only fair if you quit.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I publish through Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace, recommended to me by writer friends, and I’ve found these platforms very easy to use for self-publishing. Would I like to have my work picked up by a major publishing house? Of course, but that’s a long and involved process and I want to get my work out there. These days getting picked up by a house is not a guarantee of success by any means. It never was, but I think now it’s even more of a crapshoot. Ten years from now I’ll bet that most of the writers being published by “legacy” publishers will have track records that began with self-publishing.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

How much work it was, and then how gratifying it was to see my book being read and enjoyed by readers. Going into the process, I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it turned out to be harder than I anticipated. Of course there is a lot of self-published stuff out there that didn’t take much effort at all, if you look at the cover art and the content.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

My work in progress is Quest for Vengeance, the second in a series that began with Quest for Honor. This series follows two middle-aged brothers from Wisconsin, one a career Army officer and the other a civilian martial artist. In the first book they are estranged and brought back together unexpectedly when an al Qaeda terrorist leader tells the CIA he wants to defect, but will turn himself in only to the one man he has ever trusted, his old college friend from his days in Wisconsin many years before.

Q: What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?

The Red Wolf spends about as much time with the villain as it does with the heroine. Sergey Grechko, the Red Wolf, is a soldier in the Army of the Soviet Union who has also worked for the KGB, but he’s not the mindless communist automaton that is the staple of so much Cold War fiction, both in books and movies. In America we have tended to glamorize our own soldiers and demonize those of the enemy nations, when in actual fact the overwhelming majority of soldiers, and civilian intelligence operatives, on both sides were just patriotic men and women who were willing to do their duty for their country. The Red Wolf is the story of two of them. Grechko is tasked with the mission to take out Gorbachev, but he’s initially not comfortable with it. He’s a native of Ukraine, which was then a part of the USSR, and he wonders if his country will ever be free one day, and how his actions, if he succeeds, might actually hinder that. As for Jo, she is going behind enemy lines with little backup, and she has to find and stop the world’s most dangerous man. That’s a tall order indeed, but she doesn’t hesitate to undertake the mission. When push comes to shove, you can have all the training in the world, but you still have to possess the intestinal fortitude to get in there and get the job done.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

Even on a planet with six billion people, the course of history sometimes can be changed by one person. History is written by the winners. We won the Cold War–or at least the first one, as I think we’re in another one now–because we were able to show toughness at the right moments and use our resources intelligently. But it was a close call, and things could easily have gone the other way. We have to hope that person is on our side.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

The great majority of thrillers, and in fact virtually all genre fiction, focuses on a hero. Our movies these days are dominated not just by heroes, soldiers and spies and so forth, but by superheroes. Why is this? The heroic ideal has captivated readers since Homer wrote the Iliad, but the argument can be made that we are now in a resurgence of heroic fiction. I think it’s because the average person out there really does want a hero, someone we can all look up to and cheer for and admire. Someone who we understand is not perfect, who has flaws, but is willing to do what is necessary to get the job done, even in the face of huge challenges. These are critical times for our country, when we face big challenges at home and abroad, and we are looking for heroes, for someone to lead the way. In my opinion, our political system, which is supposed to provide us with these leaders, has been a big disappointment in this regard, and so if we can’t find larger-than-life heroes in the real world, we’ll look for them on the page and on the movie screen. And that’s where we’ll find them. Jo Ann Geary does not wear a cape, isn’t from another planet, doesn’t have powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men and women. She’s a person who chose to undergo rigorous training and volunteers to put her life on the line to protect her country and the people she loves. She’s a warrior, and this is a time when we really need warriors.

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