Sunday, November 22, 2020

Interview with Lance Charnes Author of ZRADA

 Lance Charnes has been an Air Force intelligence officer, information technology manager, computer-game artist, set designer, and Jeopardy! contestant, and is now an emergency management specialist. He’s had training in architectural rendering, terrorist incident response, and maritime archaeology, though not all at the same time. His Facebook author page features spies, archaeology, and art crime.

Lance is the author of the DeWitt Agency Files series of international art-crime novels (The CollectionStealing Ghosts, and Chasing Clay), the international thriller Doha 12, and the near-future thriller South. All are available in trade paperback and digital editions.



Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

I’m the Emergency Services Coordinator for a medium-sized city in Orange County, California. I’m responsible for the city’s emergency planning. “Emergency” means anything larger than the day-to-day crises that all cities have, such as car accidents, building fires, and medical emergencies.

Before this year, I’d also travel someplace twice a year: once by myself to go scuba diving, and once with my wife to sightsee.

When did you start writing?

In fourth grade, with Adam-12 fan fiction. (You can figure out how old that makes me.) I stopped in college and picked it up again in 2004 when I needed something to fill my time between classes at an Air Force school in San Angelo, Texas. I’ve been at it ever since.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

There are two of them. One was in 2005, when I joined the writer’s critique group I still belong to. The other was in 2012, when I decided to independently publish Doha 12, my seventh full-length book but the first published. The first turned me into a real writer, and the second put my work out in public for the first time.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

The place where that next book is set. I get a lot of mileage out of photos and searching the web, but being there before I write the book would be a huge help. I managed it for my previous book (Chasing Clay) and it was tremendously useful for finding settings I didn’t know I needed until I saw them.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

Read. I have two bookshelves of books I haven’t read yet. I read when I go on trips or when I’m between writing novels, but once I start writing, it’s all about getting that book done.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

In the past. I’d love to do a historical mystery or thriller. However, historicals require a huge amount of research to get them right, and I simply don’t have the time or freedom to do it. I tried in two novels I wrote that switched between the present and a century before, and the “then” parts took many times longer to write than the “now” parts.

Back to your present book, Zrada. How did you publish it?

I publish independently through my Wombat Group Media imprint.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

Not this time. The entire novel is set in the Donbass, the breakaway part of eastern Ukraine that’s an active war zone. I wouldn’t be able to go there even if I had the time and money. I had to do all my research online.

Why was writing Zrada so important to you?

Chasing Clay (released 2019) was my third novel in a row starring Matt Friedrich, the lead character for my DeWitt Agency Files art-crime series. Because they’re written in first-person point-of-view, I was deep inside Matt’s head for over three years. I needed something else to do for a while.

I’d always intended to do brand extensions for the DeWitt Agency Files series. I already had a story outlined from before Chasing Clay. When Carson, Matt’s accomplice in the series, proved to be a popular character, I wanted to see if she’s popular enough to carry her own series. Writing Zrada was an exercise in both maintaining my mental health and exploring a commercial opportunity.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

I get most of my ideas from the news. It’s hard to make up scenarios that are stranger than what’s in the newspaper every day. Also, novelists are great at the “what if?” game. For instance: Zrada is loosely based on a real incident. When I read that story, I automatically thought, “What if Y had happened instead of X?” and had the logline for the novel in a couple of minutes.

Any final words?

I hope readers will like hanging out with Carson and will want to follow her adventures around the world. She’d like the company!

Book Description:

Two priceless paintings. Two million euros. A civil war. What could go wrong?

The DeWitt Agency assigned disgraced ex-cop Carson a simple job: carry two briefcases of cash to swap for two artworks stolen from a German museum. Except nothing’s simple in the Donbass, the breakaway Ukrainian region overrun by militias, warlords, and bandits.

After a brutal zrada – betrayal – Carson finds herself alone and hunted forty miles behind the front lines with half the money, one of the paintings, and a huge target hung on her back. The militia behind the exchange thinks she blew up their deal and wants the money and her hide. Her co-workers were in on the double-cross. And the Agency can’t send help into the hottest war in Europe.

Carson’s never been one to wait to be rescued. She hires Galina – a tough local with a harrowing past and a taste for revenge – to help her cut through every checkpoint, freelance army, crooked cop, and firefight between her and the West. But the road to safety is long and poorly paved. A vengeful militia commander, a Russian special-forces operator with an agenda, and her own ex-colleagues have Carson in their crosshairs.

Carson’s life is now worth less than a suitcase of money or paint on a plank…but if they want to take it from her, she’s going to make them pay.


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