In the latest installment of author interviews, I would like to introduce you to T. Joseph Kelly.
Tom has actually met, and had advice about writing from, John Grisham. Yes really! Read on to find out when – and what the advice was!
What is the title of your latest book? (In a nutshell what is it about?)
The Last Black Hundred. The President of the United States has been infected with smallpox and has 48 hours to live. Only a handful of the President’s closest advisers are aware of her condition. The perpetrator is a Russian dissident who hates democracy, the United States and pro-western values and ideals. He wants a return to the “cold-war” days where Russia was feared around the world. His accomplice is the Vice President’s wife, whose parents were killed during the 1950s by greedy research companies who wanted to be the first to find a cure for smallpox.
Dr. Brody Moses, a young navy physician and Denise Adamchik, an NSA analyst and expert in Russian culture and anti-American activity, are engaged to find a cure and bring the perpetrator to justice. They have 48 hours to do it or the President dies.
What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding?
It’s finding the time. I have a very busy professional career and I find it challenging to balance the career, family and writing. I’m also finding hard just to find time to do the reading I enjoy.
What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?
First–Persevere!!! Be committed to seeing the book finished. Second, develop, if you don’t already have one, a “thick skin.” Rejection, in general, is difficult for most people but as an aspiring writer in comes in droves!! Be tough, have confidence in who you are and take pride in your own writing style.
Forgive the digression but it’s a lesson I learned long ago from John Grisham…yes, thee John Grisham. Back in the mid ’90s I was doing some work for former New Jersey Senator, Bill Bradley. His staff was having a fund-raiser dinner/cocktail reception for him. What I didn’t know was that John Grisham was a big fan of Senator Bradley. Mr. Grisham was the guest speaker that evening and so I actually had dinner with him. He told me and other attendees his story. After he wrote his first book, A Time to Kill, he couldn’t get an agent or a book deal. Finally, a small publisher in Tarrytown, New York offered him a publishing contract. He said he couldn’t give the books away! Nobody knew him and no one wanted to pay $20 for one of his books. He also said that many of these first printing books were kept in the trunk of his car. He was so disgusted as a writer that, occasionally, he would stop by a dumpster and throw a whole box of books away!!! Of course, if you had a first edition of A Tim to Kill now, it’s probably worth $4-7,000 on eBay!!! His advice to me was to “never quit. Even if you don’t sell one book, take satisfaction in knowing that you accomplished something that you’ve always wanted to do.” I found this to be very inspiring.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just started to write a sequel to my first book A Snake in the Dome.
What do you like to read?
I rotate between popular novels from authors like, Grisham, Patterson, Demille, and my favorite, Ian McEwan. Also throw in a classic here and there. Just finished To Kill a Mocking Bird. Amazing book!
Where can readers find you? I’m available at Amazon.com.
Want to find out more about The Last Black Hundred? Below is a synopsis.
From the moment the sound of the phone startled Dr. Brody Moses from a troublesome sleep he knew his life was about to change. His eyes, still clinging with morning dew, began to focus on his digital clock that repeatedly blinked 6:00 AM. His mind tried to get a grip on what the Secret Service Agent just told him. “An armored-plated Suburban will pick you up in 15 minutes. Leave quietly. Oh…Dr. McBride-I don’t need to remind you of your duty to God and country, do I?”
Up until that fateful moment, Dr. Moses lived a relatively uneventful, some might consider, boring life. After high school, he joined the Navy, looking for the cheapest way to become a physician. Given his humble upbringing, he needed the educational benefits the military service provided. Determined not to come out of medical school with a lifetime of debt to pay, focused entirely on making the most of his classroom time. As a result, he received his medical degree from Georgetown and his PhD from John Hopkins. He thought himself an expert in infectious diseases…that is, until now. What he was about to find out about the President’s life-threatening condition would throw his whole academic and scientific world into chaos.
Across town another young, brilliant, civil servant was receiving the same kind of phone call. Denise Adamchik, special agent for the National Security Agency (NSA) was abruptly awoken by the ominous voice of a secret service agent. “Be ready in fifteen minutes…and disappear quietly.”
Agent Adamchik was raised in a very competitive, patriotic family. Her twin brother joined the marines and volunteered for a tour of duty in the Middle East. Unfortunately, he was killed by an IED. His death inspired her to fight terrorism wherever it grew. As the Russian Bear began to raise its ugly head again she decided to focus on them. And this made perfect sense to here. She was of Russian decent and studied Russian History at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Her heritage and her passion were a perfect match. After being highly recruited by many government agencies, including the Department of Defense and Homeland Security, she joined the National Security Agency and quickly became a rising star. She became an expert in Russian culture and anti-American activities. And now, her intellect and her courage were being called upon in ways she could have never envisioned.
Dr. Moses and Agent Adamchik arrive at the White House and are whisked to a room somewhere in the basement. Complete strangers to one another, Brody and Denise join the meeting already in progress. At the table: the President’s Chief of Staff; the Directors of Homeland Security, CIA, FBI and the Surgeon General. This post-traumatic, shell-shocked, group of elder statesmen inform them that the President of the United States lies critically ill in the Bethesda Naval Hospital. She has been inexplicably infected with variola virus…a.k.a. smallpox. If an antidote is not developed, she will most certainly die within forty-eight hours. Needless to say, no one can offer a clue as to how the President could have been infected, especially in the post 911 era, where the value of privacy has been replaced with security.
In 1980, The World Health Organization declared that the smallpox disease had been eradicated from the face of the earth. They also requested that all laboratories either destroy their remaining stocks of variola virus or transfer them to one of two WHO reference laboratories – The Institute of Viral Preparations in Moscow, or the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. It appears that not all laboratories complied with this request.
Dmitri Yablonski, a Russian scientist and loyalist to the former Russian system of Communism is disgruntled with the pro-western approach to government. After a tumultuous decade of painful economic reforms, and elections characterized by pro-democratic images and ideas, he mobilizes his hatred into one last act of vengeance. His alliance with the Russian Mafia help him secure the deadly virus and with the aid of the Vice President’s wife, whose parents were both sacrificed by a ruthless and corrupt American research firm attempting to develop a cure for smallpox during the 1950’s, he is able to smuggle a vial of variola virus into the White House in the form of the flu mist vaccine. The vial is conveniently concealed in the inside pocket of the red blazer worn by of one of members of the Russian Boys Choir, whose last command performance while on tour of the United States is at the White House.
Agent Adamchik’s charge: identify the perpetrator and coordinate the resources necessary to bring him to justice. She is given the nation’s highest security clearance and access to everyone and anyone who she believes to be a suspect.
Dr. Moses’s charge: save the President’s life. Since smallpox had been eradicated back in 1980 there no longer exists a vaccine. And since the antibodies can only be developed within the human body, Dr. Moses realizes that he must become a human guinea pig and provide the culture in which to cultivate the antibodies. There’s really no other choice…without this, the President dies. With the help of his longtime friend and mentor Dr. Miles Rooney, the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Science back in 1955, they develop an aggressive formula that will expedite the effect of the virus and allow Dr. Rooney to develop the vaccine within the next 48 hours.
Professor Rooney develops the antibodies and shrewdly, ironically, they are administered to the President by none other than the man who poisoned her to begin with…Dmitri Yablonski. While Dmitri and his fellow conspirators are planning for his triumphant return to St. Petersburg, where he anticipates becoming the next Czar of Russia, the President is recovering nicely in Washington. Via satellite, the Russian people witness the President waving to the adoring crowd surrounding the hospital. Feeling obviously betrayed, Dmitri is overwhelmed by the once reverent audience and his body is never found.
P.S. My own novels and short stories are available from my Amazon author pages: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO My latest collection of short stories, CAST OFF, based on characters in plays by Shakespeare, is available from Friday 14th July. See my last post for more information.