I am a United States Air Force veteran and retired criminal defense attorney. I live and write in Vermont, USA, primarily about Charlemagne, the premier freelance specialist team used by western governments for black operations conducted without fingerprints. These are Cold War stories, as much about the characters and the people around them as they are about their clandestine activities. The settings of the stories are almost always places I have lived in or visited extensively.
My purpose in every story is to give the reader fast-paced and thought-provoking entertainment. I hope I also convey a sense of the American culture of the last half of the twentieth century. I am fascinated by other cultures, especially as they contrast and contribute to mine. For this reason, I occasionally use words that are not yet in the dictionary, or I spell them in ways that make editors cringe. For example, modern digital spell checking demands that flightline be two words. Not in my day. I know this, because I typed it enough in the seventies.
Friends have asked, why do you write?
I write because it is a compulsion. When I am not at the keyboard, I am thinking about what will happen in the story, or what happened in the words I wrote yesterday, or what the story is turning out to be about. It is always with me, even when I am struggling with the daily toils of life or just having a very good time with friends. I am always writing.
Another question I hear is, why do you write what you write? Why Charlemagne?
I have asked this of myself many times. I have often wished I could write whatever it is that middle class American women are supposed to write. I cannot. Any acceptable contemporary character I try to create becomes Misha or Alex, or winds up interacting with one or all of the team. And because of the nature of the team, the interaction is ultimately exhausting, dirty, violent, and heavily dependent on coffee.
How do you make up your characters?
I made up the character who became Misha when I was ten. I was badly bullied and he was my champion. I had no other. I was bored to tears most of the time in school, but too cowardly to be a proper troublemaker, so I sat at my desk daydreaming. I remember a treasured plastic ruby ring that came out of a gum ball machine. I spent hours of classroom time during the entire fifth grade with this magic decoder ring guiding me through one adventure after another.
The other characters began in the early days as mere place holding archetypes. I needed a character that would be like X because the story required it, so I created him and assigned a name that announced his position, not his character. That was Louis. He eventually demanded to be recognized more fully. I know that is a strange way to put it, but Louis is an illustration of what happens when characters are allowed to display their personalities in a variety of activities over time. I think that is why I like authors like Tolkien and Patrick O’Brien, whose characters spend volumes of time becoming my friends. In the case of Louis, I was in the middle of writing my third book, State of Nature, before I realized he is a cheapskate. I had assigned to him the roles of gadget man and marksman. He took on the job of money man all on his own without my even knowing it. Indications appear in the earlier books and in drafts of chronologically earlier stories that were written before State of Nature but will be published after. It had become a logical part of his make up by the third book.
In short, I do not create my characters, I discover them. If the final question is, why are you bothering to publish all this? The answer is because I like them, for all their flaws, which are considerable, and I want to share them with others. I think it is a good thing to have some mutual friends across a large variety of people. It is one of the vital functions of fiction.