Saturday, January 23, 2010

Special Writers' Weekend: An Interview with John Le Beau!

Thanks for joining me today, for a look into John Le Beau's new novel, Collision of Evil. At the end of the interview, look for a chance to win a signed copy!

Hi John ~ thanks for being here today! Can you tell us a little about your background?

Most of my adult life was spent as an intelligence operations officer in the Clandestine Service of the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA. In that capacity, I spent the better part of a quarter century in intelligence work, most of it outside of the United States. I had the distinct privilege to serve with an extraordinary group of people at CIA and to work in some fascinating parts of the world. Having retired from CIA a few years ago, I am currently very engaged in my new position as a professor at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch, Germany.

Once again, I have been fortunate to associate with another highly talented, very dedicated group of professionals dealing with transnational security issues for an international audience. The Marshall Center position allows me to travel to various locations around the world and to pursue the theme of terrorism studies, which is one of the major security issues of the 21st century. At the same time, I am honored to serve as the chairman of the Combating Terrorism Working Group, a component of the Partnership for Peace Consortium.

Wow, very interesting! Now, tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

My first novel, Collision of Evil, has recently been released by Oceanview. Although I have written non-fiction pieces on intelligence activity and terrorism, this is my first venture into the world of fiction. Collision of Evil is a thriller dealing with contemporary terrorism and intelligence operations, but is also meant to link with malevolent forces from the past. The book is set in several locations, but its anchor is in the Bavarian and Austrian Alps, an area that I am well familiar with – and where I currently live – and an area that I hope will appeal to readers as something a bit exotic and exciting.

The book revolves around the investigatory work of a German Kommissar of police, who is a detective, and a CIA case officer. They enjoy an uneasy relationship, coming from two different cultures. The American is sort of in-your-face and optimistic, his German counterpart considerably more reserved, a bit irritable and perhaps pessimistic. I would like to think that this underlying tension to their relationship adds a bit of drama to the story as well!

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

That is not always easy – and I expect that answer likely holds true for many writers. I have daytime and fulltime responsibilities aside from writing, which means that I have to carve out time to put pen to paper. I find that I do most of my writing on weekends, when I have some blocks of time at my disposal. Of course, I do write some evenings, but that can be a bit difficult after a long day, and I do want to spend time with family members and on recreation. So, if I am working on a text in the evening, it is often really some editing, re-reading or polishing language a bit. I find that if I have a couple of hours, I can write productively.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Writer’s block, so-called, can affect non-fiction as well as fictional endeavors. It can and often does stem from two things. Either you have not adequately conceptualized where you want to go with the written word in terms of coherent structure (with non-fiction) or with plot (for fiction), or you just have a feeling that that mystical and expressive, creative dimension is temporarily absent.

Both of these developments do ‘block’ the ability to write. In my own case, I find it valuable to try to discipline myself to write, even if I feel that I am not in the optimal state for that. Sitting in front of the PC, or at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a pad of paper, sort of forces you to attend to the task at hand. I will often start by refining some prose I have previously put together and that seems to transition me often into more active new writing. It is important to know what you are about to convey – to have a fairly detailed sense of where the plot is going, what a chapter is supposed to contribute to the overall storyline. I find that I sometimes outline on paper where everything is going, and how various disparate story threads need to come together to form a satisfyingly entertaining, credible and cohesive whole.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

My position at the George C. Marshall Center keeps me very busy, with lectures, leading seminar discussions, arranging security-theme programs and the like. It also has entailed a notable amount of professional travel to areas such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Turkey. My CIA career also required considerable international travel. So, during my free time, I am generally content to hang around in one location. We live in Garmisch, Germany and also have a residence in Austria, arguably some of the most naturally beautiful places in the world, and I am quite happy to spend time in those venues.

I love to walk and hike around and find that very rewarding. I cross-country ski in the winter as well,. We have a circle of friends, including Americans, Germans and Austrians, and I enjoy spending time in that social setting. I still like to learn, and, to be honest, I very much enjoy writing fiction; it is a real pleasure for me and rewarding in many ways. I am currently about half-way through the manuscript of a second novel and am anxious to bring it to closure. The Kommissar Waldbaer and case officer Hirter characters return, along with some new additions, some benign and some malevolent, and involve themselves in another international thriller plot. Some of this has a nautical setting, some of it takes place in Azerbaijan and Jordan, but the center of gravity is the Alps, giving Bavaria and the Austrian Tyrol their due.

John, thanks for a wonderful interview! Now, for readers, if you'd like a chance to win a signed copy of Collision Evil, simply go to John's book tour page HERE and enter your name, email, and PIN# 6772.

Entries from Allie's Musings will be accepted until 12:00 Noon (PT) tomorrow. No purchase is required to enter or to win. The winner (first name only) will be announced on his book tour page next week.

Have a great weekend!


Charity Tahmaseb said...

How very interesting! Back in another life, I attended a cadet program at the George C. Marshall center, back when it was the US Army Russian Institute.

Sadly, while I was stationed in Germany, I never made it back to the institute or Garmisch.

Great interview!

John J. Le Beau said...

Allie - Thanks for the fine interview opportunity and your thoughtful queries.
Chairty - The US Army Russian Institute may be gone but is not forgotten in Garmisch. I suspect you enjoyed your time here and I do hope you find the opportunity to return and look around. I am good for a cup of coffee on me. Regards, John Jay Le Beau

misterreereeder said...

These were some more interesting questions and answers. I know it must take some work writing as well as balancing the rest of life. Interesting way to handle writer's block. Glad it works for you!!!