Kyle Bell

Operation Bald Eagle is an exciting spy thriller from young author Kyle Bell. It follows the actions of CIA agent Ethan Clark and his assistant Martin Frost as they fight to prevent a cyber-attack on the United States. It’s gritty, fast-moving, worryingly plausible and brilliantly written. Well worth a read.

Kyle Bell is a very interesting guy so this has turned into quite a long interview, but I know you’ll find it fascinating. So here we go.

What inspired you to write Operation Bald Eagle?

I have always been a big fan of the spy genre – everything from James Bond movies to video games like Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid. More recently I discovered Ian Fleming’s writings out of curiosity for how the movie character differed from the big screen renditions. I’ve drawn inspiration from all of these in order to write Operation Bald Eagle.

 

Which character from the book are you most like – Clark, Frost, Goldberg or Falcon?

I would like to think that I’m closer to Ethan Clark and Martin Frost than the villains! Ethan is level-headed and reasonable. Readers will find his coolness appealing, as well as the fact that he comes across as human. Frost is young and idealistic. He’s less cautious and prone to mistakes. Really, I’m a blend of both characters, although I could never do their job in a million years.

As for the villains, they’re both decidedly evil in their own way. Goldberg’s infatuation with himself would rival that of Narcissus. His delusions of grandeur and power lead him down a dark path. Falcon is a complete sociopath. I don’t identify with either of them, but they’re fun villains to have in the book

 

You describe Operation Bald Eagle as going ‘back to the roots of the spy genre’. What are those roots?

Classic spy films and novels are exciting without being completely ridiculous in plot. They were focused on the conflict between protagonist and villain rather than relying on special effects to thrill the audience. So aside from sticking to the basics, Operation Bald Eagle builds a strong dynamic between Ethan and both of the villains.

 

Operation Bald Eagle has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?

The credit for the cover goes to Angel Cortes. He is a fantastic graphic designer having done most of the covers for my books. His e-mail is [email protected] for those that might need a cover of their own. Highly recommended!

 

You created and own a video gaming website http://gamefreaks365.com. Is it easy to fit your writing around being an entrepreneur?

Several of my books have been compilations of reviews taken from the Game Freaks 365 website, so it is actually quite easy to fit the two together. Operation Bald Eagle is my first full-length work of fiction. It started as part of National Novel Writing Month in November 2011, but I quickly found that it would be exceedingly difficult to reach 50,000 words – especially since I started five days late. Instead it was finished in two months, which is still not bad. I wanted it to be done when it was done rather than stick to an artificial timeline. Surprisingly, I still found enough time to manage Game Freaks 365 at the height of the holiday period – traditionally the busiest in the industry.

 

What’s your current favourite video game?

This is a difficult question. I really don’t have a single favorite game of all time, but in the past year I would say that the game that I enjoyed the most was Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Video games have become a new medium to tell stories. Deus Ex is one of the best to do it so far. The game makes you think about difficult moral dilemmas – bioethics in an age of increased human augmentation, the militarization of police forces that confront civilians, and the increased power of mega-corporations that drown out the masses.

 

Another book you’ve written is The James Bond Movie Guide so I’m guessing you’re a 007 fan. (Me too!) Which is your favourite Bond movie and why?

The first encounter that I had with James Bond was GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64. I’m twenty-three now, but back then I was only about ten. I was obsessed with that game, playing it constantly with friends. My dad rented the movie from Hollywood Video and I fell in love with it immediately. Looking back on it now, it probably wasn’t the best Bond movie (although it would rank high up there). However, it is historically noteworthy since it’s the first Bond movie after the end of the Cold War. It was questionable at the time whether Bond was relevant anymore. Pierce Brosnan proved that he was by introducing the character to a new generation of fans.

 

You describe Ethan Clark as an anti-Bond hero. Is that a good or bad thing?

James Bond is an amazing character with more complexity than he’s often given credit for, especially the literary version. However, for the longest time – especially in the movies – he comes across as a playboy disinterested in world affairs, fumbling around looking for his next lover. This is not how Ethan Clark operates. He’s a professional out to do his job, a no-nonsense type. I don’t view it as either good or bad. Ethan Clark is a distinct character.

 

Deep down, would you like to be a Bond baddie?

Of course! Your own private island, lavish meals, beautiful people all around – who wouldn’t want that? Being the cause of a nuclear disaster is another story, though.

 

Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?

At the moment I’m reading Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. The movie is coming out this summer – I want to enjoy the book first. I recently read Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. I try to mix my book list between novels and non-fiction.

 

You write a political blog at www.kylebell.com, you’re a political science graduate and you’ve written a book about US immigration policy, The Sanctuary Movement. Are we going to see you in government one day?

Unlikely, but never say never. The United States has lost a lot of the respect that we once had in the world due to a number of foreign policy blunders and a lack of moral leadership. I grew up in the 1990s during a time of peace and prosperity only to see that unravel in the past decade. I saw politics as a route to better the world. The past several years of watching the discord in Washington has led me to reconsider how I could most make a difference. There are too many inauthentic politicians beholden to a small group of wealthy interests.

 

When did you first realise you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?

If you told me ten years ago that I would release a book in the future – let alone multiple books – I probably would not have believed you. Amusingly, it all dates back to before I could even write a sentence on paper. When I was four or five years old I would dictate stories to my Aunt Mary. Unfortunately none of them are around anymore, but it was the beginning of my interest in writing.

 

Tell us briefly about Ozzy.

Ozzy started off as a project for college. I was in an English class where we used a number of different techniques to tell stories. One of them was narrative collage where we juxtaposed text with images. The fonts, the alignment of the sentences, and the photographs all have a purpose.

Sadly, I lost a number of family members in recent years. Grandma Rose and Grandpa Wayne passed away within a couple years of each other on my father’s side of the family. Ozzy was written in dedication to both of them. It’s an emotional story that was quite difficult to write.

The two main characters are a black Persian cat by the name of Ozzy and his owner (who he refers to simply as “Master”), an old man trying to overcome the death of his beloved wife. The story is told through the perspective of the cat and the old man. It’s a short and sweet read that I hope more people will get a chance to encounter.

 

You wrote a book about the 2008 election in the USA: An Election to Remember: Obama, Clinton and the Never Ending Primary of 2008. Will there be one on this year’s elections?

The Republican primary has seen a number of interesting twists and turns. Nearly all of the candidates have at one point led in national polling. There’s no telling where things might end up. Even with all of the tantalizing nuggets from the campaign trail – the meteoric rise and fall of Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann’s craziness, and Herman Cain’s sexual harassment problems, just to name a few – I still don’t plan on writing a book at this point.

The 2008 election was historic in a number of ways. The two most obvious ones: a woman or an African-American man would end up as the Democratic Party’s nominee. President Obama went on to get elected in a country that only roughly fifty years prior was still permitting segregation. It was also the first presidential election since 1952 that neither party had an incumbent president or vice president on the ballot. In other words, it was wide open without an heir apparent. 2008 was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event.

 

What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

Pursue your dreams and don’t give up. Undoubtedly it will be frustrating at times, but the end product is what makes it all worth the effort.

 

OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favourite foods?

Chinese, cheesecake, and pizza

 

And finally, what would you not be seen dead wearing?

Golf pants 🙂

 

This week has seen the holiday whirlwind book blog tour by Lauren Clark for her smashing book Stay Tuned. (I reviewed it here.) Here’s a fascinating and inspiring interview with this energetic writer.

Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes. For as long as I can remember. Of course, my parents always remind that I also wanted to be an Indian princess named Tiger Lily, but that dream was more short-lived. On a serious note, I do have fond memories of spending my summer days toting stacks of books back and forth from my house to our town’s library. It always seemed like a magical place, with endless stories to get lost in.

You worked as both an anchor and producer after graduate school. How did that influence the writing of Stay Tuned?
So much! It was an accident, really, getting into broadcast journalism. I always thought of myself as a behind the scenes kind of girl, but after my first day on the job, I loved it and stuck with it for the next 6 years. Working in television is never boring. There’s always a story, always the next show. The camaraderie in the newsroom is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. It’s like living in a big, loud, mostly happy, very dysfunctional family every day.

What gave you the idea for Stay Tuned?
True story:  A few months before I took my first television job as a part-time health reporter, the two main anchors at one of the local television stations (who were romantically involved) got into a fistfight. They were outside the building, in the station parking lot. Shortly thereafter, they were both fired. In the months that followed, the two of them bantered back and forth in newspaper editorials, threatened lawsuits, and fueled all sorts of crazy retaliation stories. I never forgot about that incident and always thought about what might happen if such a fistfight happened on air, during a newscast. What would happen? How would it be handled? Who would fix this kind of mess?

What did you learn from being on air?
It’s very humbling, really. As a producer, especially, you are in charge of what’s being put out there—the news stories people watch and talk about each day. It’s a big responsibility to get it right. Not just sometimes, but all of the time. There were many sobering days—car accidents, house fires, school shootings—and those stories should be told with sensitivity and care. It’s someone’s son or daughter or parent. Everyone matters.

What was your most memorable experience as an anchor or reporter?  
I was on set during 9-11. I remember sitting there with our weatherman and waiting to be cued to go back on air after the commercial. CBS cut in and showed footage from a plane crashing into the Twin Towers. It was surreal and awful. We were all in shock. It didn’t seem possible. All I wanted to do was go home and hug my son.

Was it a difficult decision to leave television?
Yes and no. I loved so many parts of broadcasting. I was able to meet fascinating people – Vice Presidential Candidate Geraldine Ferraro, then-New York Attorney General Eliott Spitzer among many others. I adored the people I worked with, especially the folks behind the scenes. I was also fortunate enough to win several AP awards for anchoring and reporting.

On the flip side, I worked crazy hours (2 am – 10 am) and, as is typical in the industry, I received very little vacation time. I anchored every holiday (Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, you name it) and wasn’t able to spend much time with my young son. After more than six years, I “retired” from TV news. It was then that I really started to get serious about writing fiction.

How long did it take to write Stay Tuned?
About five years, all said and done. I wrote several other novels before that—and those manuscripts will never see the light of day! When I began Stay Tuned, I had just given birth to my second son, so my writing time was very limited. After putting it away for several years, I picked it back up about 12 months ago, brushed it off, and had an editor-friend look it over. We made some changes, tweaked the story, and fine-tuned the plot. A few months back, I was offered a contract with a small publishing company. Another friend introduced me to the talented and fabulous Emlyn Chand at Novel Publicity, who helped guide me through the entire publishing process. It’s been a wonderful journey!

What’s next? A sequel or a stand-alone novel?
Dancing Naked in Dixie is next (stand alone title) and I’m so excited to share that it’s been selected as a finalist for the 2011 Chick Lit Writers “Get Your Stiletto in the Door” Contest (Winner will be announced December 20, 2011).

Dancing Naked follows the story of a talented but scattered travel magazine writer who returns from overseas only to find out she’s on the verge of getting fired. To save her job, she reluctantly accepts an assignment in the Deep South. She’ll be writing an article about Eufaula, Alabama’s annual Pilgrimage event, which is a long-standing spring tour of antebellum mansions (the location is featured in the Reese Witherspoon’s movie, Sweet Home Alabama). Upon arriving in Eufaula, Julia falls in love with the area, its cast of charming characters, and her handsome tour guide. When she discovers that a developer has big plans to buy up many of the historic homes and turn the area into a tourist site, it’s up to Julia to save the day.

What is your writing schedule like?
With two growing, active boys and a busy husband, finding time to write is like looking for a missing Lego piece in a houseful of toys (Moms should appreciate that!) I often get up very early and write while everyone else is asleep or go to the lovely campus of our local university and shut myself in a study room. I love it there because I have to shut off my phone and I don’t have the password for an internet connection! No distractions! Of course, I do frequent two or three local coffee shops and draw inspiration from my daily dose of caffeine and good friends!

Who are your favorite writers? Favorite books?
Gosh, there are so many! My all-time favorites include Emily Giffin, Sophie Kinsella, Jodi Picoult, Alice Hoffman, Jennifer Weiner, Chris Bohjalian, John Grisham, Amanda Eyre Ward, and Lisa See. I also love Lisa Scottoline, Janet Evanovich, and James Patterson. Favorite books include: Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, and Stellaluna by Janell Cannon (this is a children’s book that I’ve read over and over to my two boys).

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Read. A lot. Write. A lot. Revise. A lot. I’m not joking.

Anyone can write. Writing well is different. It takes focus and tenacity and determination. I’ve heard Stephen King quoted as saying, “The first million words are practice. Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers, says, “It takes 10,000 hours of purposeful practice to become expert at anything.” Just to be clear, at 4 hours a day (28 hours a week), that’s 7 years. I’m not quoting the experts to scare anyone or be a harbinger of doom. It’s the truth.

Pick up a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s brilliant and so true and funny in so many sections. If you’re serious about becoming an author, learn as much as you can. Read blogs and books about the craft, network with other writers, or go to a writer’s conference. Above all, write!

 

Don’t Miss Out!

Extension to the photo competition: Are you ready for some more fun? Take a picture of yourself with your copy of Stay Tuned either in paperback or on an eReading device, tag Lauren Clark’s Facebook page, and you can enter to win one of three Amazon gift cards! A $100 prize will go to the most creative photo, $50 to the best BFF photo, and $50 to the photo with the most people in it. An autographed copy of Stay Tuned is also up for grabs. If you need help learning how to tag a photo, you can visit Lauren’s Facebook page for detailed instructions. You now have until Sunday 4 December to upload your photo.