Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Interview with thriller author J.T. Patten

Today's guest is J.T. Patten. He describes his novel, Safe Havens: Shadow Masters (A Sean Havens Black Ops Novel), as a military thriller that takes on traits of noir or pulp fiction.

J.T. Patten has worked with the intelligence and special operations community in support of national defense and policy. He has a degree in Foreign Language, a Masters in Strategic Intelligence, graduate studies in Counter Terrorism from the University of St. Andrews, and numerous expertise certifications in forensics, fraud, and financial crime investigations. Patten shares these unique experiences with readers to give them a taste of "the black." But he’s also a dad and husband. If you read his books, that part can’t be hidden, nor does he try.

Welcome J.T. Please tell us about your current release.
Safe Havens is a black operations thriller series that blends aspects of crime, terrorism, war, and espionage. While that sounds cross-genre, it’s really how many actual conflicts are fought today. Especially in the shadows. I further twist things by adding in the family aspects of these warriors as they battle enemies foreign or domestic, and demons in their battle weary minds. In the story, the main character Sean Havens has done a pretty decent job keeping his government black ops work separate from his family world in Chicago. Unfortunately, there is a conspiracy unfolding that has Sean caught in the middle. Whereas most books within the same sub-genres would have the guy hunt down enemies guns blazing, Havens is an intelligence operative, but most importantly his is a father and husband. So, as much as he may want to do certain instinctive action hero things that we as readers have come to expect, the truth is he is a regular guy forced to draw upon unknown inner strength and critical thinking to make impossible decisions and find safe havens for those dear to him. That’s not saying that he may not lose his mind from time to time.

What inspired you to write this book?
I am an avid reader of military fiction. I love espionage novels and a gripping assassin thriller. I found that most writers were so focused on researching the type of weapon that a character had and the speed that an ammo round traveled, that the actual character was left as an afterthought. Similarly, the plots were so linear that I could predict the outcome within the first number of pages. Since I have a background in the genre that I write, I took a challenge to write what I know. At first, I wanted to write it for my friends who are in the military and intelligence community to see if they could also appreciate the difference. I just wish that I was a better writer. 

He continued along the route that he had reconnoitered the morning before. And the morning before that. He needed to change his route some to see if he was actually being followed. His instincts said he was clear, but his training ordered him to make sure. Havens took another panoramic view of his surroundings for potential threats. His mind rapidly processed with hyper-vigilance a mentally engrained checklist of feasible sensory alarms.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am juggling between two novels currently. I have written about seven chapters of the next Safe Havens book, which adds new twists and has some familiar faces. I was going to wait, but some early fans are saying they are pretty attached to the story and need to keep it going.

I am also in the process of writing a thriller entitled Mister Mortimer. Mister Mortimer is a ninety year old Nazi hunter who has just about completed his kill list when a young boy enters his life and complicates the master plan. True to my writing style, the story is dark, has a huge underdog component, and plenty of unexpected twists. It also has the family story sewn within the multi-layered plot, which has resonated with many women fans of the Safe Havens book. I’d say that has become a bit of my emerging style: dark hearts with wanting minds, violent conflict, and the protection of family.  

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I used to write a number of articles in intelligence and special operations magazines or journals, and in my day to day, I had to write many detailed plans, overviews and scenarios. Being able to break out and let my imagination fly in Safe Havens was really the first taste of being a writer. Of course the six months of editing and re-writing is when I considered myself an author. Painful. Just painful.  

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
My writing has typically been while I was traveling for work. Hotels, airplanes, airports, and lonely solo-flight dinners away from home. I would try to knock out a few hours when I could. I have about one more month of marketing Safe Havens: Shadow Masters, and then regardless of sales and uptake, it’s time to hammer the keys some more. I can’t wait.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
That’s funny. Some editors, readers and agents may say I have a number of quirks. I have to say that it is probably the inner monologue or the random acts that occur during the story that often have to do with food, which are most noticeable. I also throw in some weird tidbits for friends and family like their street name or favorite coffee. In Shadow Masters, Sean Havens is in full operational mode completely attuned to his environment, yet he can compartmentalize the urge for breakfast. He could be getting the pulp beat out of him, and it is quite possible that he may smell bacon or fresh brewed coffee. Havens may be a tough guy, but he’s also a foodie with a lot going on in his head.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think like most dreamers, that has changed quite a bit. By and large, however, I’d say the interest in unconventional warfare and intelligence has stayed with me. From fifth grade through high-school, I am quite sure that my teachers had enough of the Viet Nam conflict and special forces being the topic of my research papers. I wanted to run a Phoenix program by eighth grade. Kinda’ twisted. I got my wish to a large degree for a number of years. Alas, government budget cuts and a skewed approach to intelligence collection has pretty much taken me out of that game for good now, at my age. I hope I can spend more of my professional time writing, in the near future.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
They say don’t judge a book by the cover, which is perhaps why I shouldn’t have put helicopters on the front of it. I think it scares off some readers as being pure military. There is certainly violence (quite a bit of it), swearing, and some really dark, pulpy aspects of the book. 

HOWEVER, it’s really a book about a regular guy who dearly loves his family, and has a passion for his job. Like most guys, Sean blows it. His heart is in the right place and he spends most of his time fixing a situation gone bad than having the presence of mind domestically that he has in the field. I think readers will see the characters as real people. They are going to beat on the book because they are mad at Sean, they will cry when he is scraping and clawing to hold what is dear to him, and they will cheer him knowing that Sean Havens will get up every time that he is knocked down. The house may be on fire, the reader is shaking their head telling him not to go in, but at the same time, they know he will save someone. They want him to do it. I think that is because Sean Havens has a bit of all of us in him, and yet he is they guy many of us would like to be. It’s attainable and we can touch him, even though he lives in a world that many will never see, and most all will never want to. Follow me into the black.

Thank you, so much for your time, Lisa!

You’re very welcome, J.T.!

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