Thanks to the lovely Samantha at ‘Roger Charlie‘ I have been included as the final stop on this blog tour, so I consider myself very lucky not to have missed out and been denied the opportunity to share this great guest post with you all.
Robin Fox, professor of religion and peace, wants nothing more than to leave his dark past as a military interrogator behind him. But when a rare and deadly virus – the same one used in an attack on American forces in Iraq that Fox once foiled – is released in downtown Washington, the FBI and CIA ask him to join their elite interrogation team. They automatically suspect Muslim terrorists, but Fox digs deeper to discover a far more frightening truth: a conspiracy to eradicate all religion from the face of the earth. His discovery catapults him into a globe-spanning race to stop a mastermind with a devastating plot from which no one from Washington to Mecca will be safe.
Check out those all important ‘First Lines‘
Hi! I’m CHARLES KOWALSKI
I am almost as much a citizen of the world as my fictional character, Robin Fox, having lived abroad for over 15 years, visited over 30 countries, and studied over 10 languages. My unpublished debut novel, Mind Virus, won the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Award and was a finalist for the Adventure Writers’ Competition, the Killer Nashville Claymore Award, and the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association literary award.
I currently divide my time between Japan, where I teach English at a university, and my family home in Maine.
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The writers I most enjoy reading, even in gritty, down-to-earth genres, have a touch of the poet in them; they can create original, evocative images and make words do things they hadn’t known they could. Writing my first novel left me feeling that the most important quality for a writer is empathy, the ability to see the world through the eyes of someone from a vastly different background. Especially, to create engaging villains, you have to see how the world makes sense from their point of view, even if it’s the polar opposite of yours. For me, a good villain is one who makes the reader ask, “If I had the same experience as this person, can I be absolutely sure I wouldn’t have done the same things?” Apart from that, I’ll let W. Somerset Maugham have the last word on this one: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
“History never repeats itself, but it rhymes.” (attributed to Mark Twain)
Robin Fox, the hero of Mind Virus, was conceived in the aftermath of 9/11, during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the time, the fiction bestseller lists were dominated by thrillers of the “USA vs. Islamic terrorist” type, and the nonfiction lists were full of names like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, with their manifestos laying the blame for all the world’s ills not only on Islam, but on religion in general. On television, the defining hero of the age was Jack Bauer, with his uncanny knack for averting an imminent catastrophe by torturing some generic Muslim into submission in 60 seconds or less.
The kind of hero the age needed, I thought, was a reluctant warrior – one who loved peace and abhorred violence, whose weapons of choice were knowledge and understanding. I set about trying to create the anti-Jack Bauer.
But the road from concept to manuscript was long. By the time I had a viable novel featuring Robin Fox, the United States was already well into a new administration, and the fires that had forged my hero were dwindling to embers. And the road from manuscript to printed page was equally long. The book’s tagline, “No one who believes is safe,” also seemed to be the prevailing attitude among the agents and editors who read it. For all its awards and nominations, it took years before the manuscript found its way into the hands of an editor who dared to believe.
And those years saw some dramatic, yet familiar, events unfold on the world stage. The rise of ISIS. The rekindled debate on torture after the declassification of Bush-era intelligence documents. The election of Donald “I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” Trump. The terror incidents that appeared in the headlines with lamentable regularity, and the rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes. And the new faces putting forth the old argument that the only path to world peace was the eradication of all religion.
History was rhyming.
On reflection, I felt that Mind Virus came into the world not at a time of my choosing, but on “story time.” It could be that the reason why the universe strung me along for so many years, always offering just the right amount of encouragement at just the right time but keeping the final goal tantalizingly out of reach, was that the story knew better than I when it needed to be told. The fictional Robin Fox was waiting in the wings to make his entrance at a time when, more than ever, the world needed real ones.
So, I hope readers will agree that this story is timely. And I hope any aspiring writers still slogging along the rocky road to publication will take heart, and have confidence that their story will make its way to those who need to hear it…not necessarily in the writer’s preferred time, but in story time.
Forget what they say about “write what you know.” Write what excites your imagination, and the knowledge you need can be acquired. And if a story grabs hold of you and won’t let go . . . tell it! Pay no attention to the inner voices that say “this is no good” or “no one else will be interested in it.” Believe in yourself, even when it feels like no one else does. To paraphrase Florence Foster Jenkins, people may say you can’t write, but never let it be said that you didn’t write.