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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

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Interview with an Author: Marcos Gabriel

A while ago we reviewed the non-stop thriller The Last Scenario by Marcos Gabriel. I was a little apprehensive to read it, as I don't normally enjoy the action/conspiracy genre. But, this was a wild ride that I did not want to get off of.

Now, just in time for The Last Scenario to get the much deserved spot light of being the Kindle Deal of the Month, we were able to sit down and talk to Gabriel himself to discuss the behind the scenes of a complicated and surprising novel.

Here's a little excerpt from our review of the book to give you a little background.

"For years, the government has enlisted the help of regular civilians to brainstorm terrorist scenarios to find the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of our country so they can be patched before an actual terrorist group can exploit them. And that's just what they've come to ask Samantha Waters to do. Samantha is an average American single mom, who has no claim to fame, no expertise. But that, the suit-wearing, sun glass sporting agent in her driveway says, is why they need her. She agrees to join the scenario team, goes to the meetings, engineers a deadly scenario, gets paid, and goes back to her regular life. That is until ten months later when she gets a phone call from John Ryder.

John Ryder, a former Navy SEAL and member of the scenario team, tells her everyone else on their team has been killed, and if Samantha doesn't go with him, she will be next. Bullets fly and we are immediately plunged into non-stop action as Ryder must save Samantha and himself, all the while trying to figure out who's after them and why. With the help of Ryder's old gang, they must somehow survive and stop the very scenario they concocted."

It's a great book. So we were very excited to get to talk to the man behind it. And it was a great time. Gabriel is as fun and down to earth as his Amazon author bio

Be sure to check out the link at the bottom to get The Last Scenario  for only $1.99 on Kindle.

LBCI guess I'll start with the most obvious question. Where did you get the inspiration for the book? Did the characters come first, or the story? Was it a combination of both?

MGDefinitely story came first.  I had read an article about a real-life scenario planning exercise in the wake of 9/11.  It was about a writer who was invited to participate in a panel to discuss new and unexpected terrorism targets.  My first thought was "What if this information got into the wrong hands?"  And then it all started to gel - the chase, the action, the countdown to something terrible happening.  But it didn't fully take shape until I started to look at it from the character's point of view.  What if you were invited to do the right thing, and then found your entire life turned upside-down because you were caught in the middle of something you couldn't control?

LBCThat's really interesting. I think that having the main premise based in reality gives the whole book a grounded and realistic feel. This could really happen. The setting of Los Angeles and how you used the city in a very detailed way helped that as well. Living there myself, I knew where the characters were, I knew what those places looked like, and it really helped me visualize everything. Did you decide to set it in LA so you could use your knowledge of the setting and really "write what you know"?

MGAbsolutely.  Look, living in Los Angeles means I might as well take advantage of the locations.  Plus, it played well with all of the elements I was trying to combine - there's an underworld, there are gangs, there are a bunch of characters who are shades of good and bad at the same time.  You can find it all in LA.  And I really liked playing with contrasts - you have Samantha Waters who's a school teacher in Santa Clarita, which is as safe and suburbia as you can get.  She's thrown into the chase with Ryder, who comes from Big Bear, which is a little more rugged and remote.  They're both out of their element as they try to survive and stay hidden in a city of 4 million people.  In a lot of ways, the settings dictated the kinds of struggles and obstacles they would have to overcome together.

LBCWhat about the things you didn't know so well? How much research did you have to do for the book?

MGFor the guns, I had to rely on friends and colleagues who are way more knowledgeable than me about firepower.  I'd ask, "What kind of gun would a special ops guy use?  A mercenary?  Okay - what about future tech?  What's the stuff the next, next, next generation mercenary would use?" 

For the more current events-type of material, a funny thing happens when you start writing a novel.  Everything you read and see on the news starts to play into it in different ways.  So, early on in the planning stage I was seeing and reading a lot about Blackwater, and digging into privatized military.  And then there was a lot of discussion on the news about inter-agency communication, about the CIA trying to work better with Homeland Security and the FBI.  So I started to incorporate those elements.  

A lot of the story depends on having a plausible and terrifying scenario - so I ended up completely researching that, finding information online about plausible attack targets.  I'm sure I ended up on a few watch-lists because of my research, but at the end of the day, I found something that really fit the tone of the story quite well, and was something I could imagine the characters dreaming up.

LBC: Let's talk a little bit about your writing process. You work in the entertainment industry and have written several screenplays. Do you think because of that you approach writing a novel a bit differently than other authors who are used to just one medium? Do you think the screenplay format impacts your writing style?

MG: It does play in, but in unexpected ways.  I do have a tendency to be very efficient and sparse in my descriptions, and I let my characters step up to the mic often - but that's not necessarily because that's how I'd write a screenplay, it's mostly because my favorite books are written that way.  I'm a big fan of Elmore Leonard, and he definitely influenced my writing style.  There's a great book by George V. Higgins named "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" that really helped me make the jump into attempting a novel.  I read that book in one sitting, all the time thinking, "Hey, I think this is how I'd write something like this!"  That book is filled with pages and pages of characters revealing themselves in their dialogue, with these huge monologues that go on forever.  It was a real eye-opener for me.

When I decided to write The Last Scenario as a novel, I wanted to approach it from a totally different way than I would a screenplay.  I decided to start with a little set-up then immediately fast forward nine months into the future, where our characters are already in the middle of this intense chase.  Shoot outs have already happened, our characters are bloodied and beaten, and we're not even ten pages in.  That sort of non-linear storytelling is a little tougher to pull of in a screenplay, so I was really excited to tackle it in the novel.

LBC: I like how phrased letting your characters "step up to the mic often." That's a really interesting way of putting it. Did you find that they actually did that? Would they step up to the mic and say "This is me, and this is where I'm taking the story!" Did their voices influence the story and turn it in any directions that you hadn't originally planned?

MG: Absolutely.  I created a pretty thorough outline at the start - scene by scene, beat by beat, chapter by chapter.  But I allowed myself to be flexible once I started pounding out the pages.  The first half of the book follows the outline pretty well, but by the second half, the characters started writing their own chapters.  I always had the outline to light up the way, but I'd find myself saying, "Well, what would Ryder really do next?" and let that flow into the next beat.  

As far as influencing the story, there's a pretty big piece of action at the climax, and the outline only skimmed the surface of what it needed to be.  It's the scene where three former mercenaries - BB, Ryder, and Delray - have a showdown with a bunch of guys with guns.  Now, throughout the story, I kept adding things to their past - more violence, more intimidation - so that when I finally got to write the scene, it was fun to let these guys go and do what they do best.  

LBC: I love that scene! Everything I knew about those characters' pasts seemed to lead up to that point when thing went DOWN! I really like that the characters helped you write it.

But characters helping or not, writing a novel must be a huge and daunting task. What do you think were your greatest challenges and your greatest triumphs? Any particular moments you struggled with? Any you are particularly proud of?

MG: The greatest challenge was probably just gearing up to write it.  I had written one other novel prior to Scenario.  That was the tough one to write, and once I was done, I realized I had so much editing to do on it that I decided to just put it in a drawer and let it sit for a while.  Probably forever at this point.  I didn't have an outline for that novel - I just sat down to write every night and saw where the story would lead me.  Unfortunately, that story was a mystery, and you kinda have to know the whole story in advance before you start trying to solve it.

This time around, I took a more methodical approach.  Like the extensive outline.  Once I had that, I would set a goal of 2,000 words a day.  As long as I could get my words in, I'd wrap up for the night and get back on it the next day.  Do it and repeat, every day.  It's the only way I know how to work.  Truthfully, that's the greatest struggle and triumph.  Just sitting down, even after a long day, and getting back to it.  Making it a priority.  

Story-wise, the most difficult task was weaving the non-linear storyline together.  Finding the right places to stop down the action in the present to tell the events of the past, in a way that accelerated what was happening on the page for both timelines.  I'm happy with how that came out.  It didn't mess up the pace, which was paramount.  I knew I wanted Scenario to read fast, to never let up, to keep the reader up at night, wanting to read just one more chapter.

I think he accomplished just that.

Be sure to check out The Last Scenario currently the Kindle Deal of the Month. It's only $1.99! You've got nothing to lose and a great reading experience to gain.

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