Marty, welcome to Hardcover Feedback! Would you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a classic baby boomer. I grew up knowing everything was possible, including writing the Great American Novel - which, of course, I figured I’d get around to eventually! Naturally, life intervened, including family, career... the usual. When the economy slowed the last few years, my overheated law practice lightened just enough that I found myself with some unexpected time on my hands. And I came to the very frightening realization that it was now or never. So, I sat down and started writing.
A lot of people are on Twitter these days, so can you describe Sea of Crises for us in 140 characters or less (which is the size of a tweet)?
What really happened to the crew of Apollo 18 in the Sea of Crises? 36 years later, the sons of one of the astronauts make a shocking discovery, putting them on the run.
When did you begin writing Sea of Crises? What inspired this book and how much research was involved in writing it?
I started work on it in 2010, while my first (and still unpublished) novel was being shopped by my agent at the time. Sea of Crises was based on an idea I’d developed many years before, when I was casting about for an exotic and harsh environment in which to stage an adventure. The moment I thought of the moon, I knew I’d tapped into something. As a kid, I was fascinated with the space program and all things military. (My father was a career Air Force officer.) Of course, I knew I’d have to do some serious research to make the story authentic and believable. And I gladly immersed myself in it. Along the way, I learned a lot about the Apollo program, and I really drilled down on the nuts and bolts of what it took to get men to the moon and return them home safely. My goal was not only to make the story realistic for an average reader, but to make it credible enough that, if it’s ever read by someone who’s actually been there and done that, he won’t be rolling his eyes!
What or who made the biggest influence on you wanting to become a writer?
Alistair MacLean. I discovered his books as a kid, and I devoured them. I told myself that, if I could ever write a book half as good as one of his, I’d die happy.
What was the first book you ever wrote about and was it ever published?
For the moment, I’m going to pass over Combat’s Greatest War, which I wrote when I was six years old and a devotee of the TV series Combat! It was essentially a graphic novel, written in crayon. (I think my parents may still have it.) The first real book I wrote hasn’t been published. Yet. But it was and still is - in my mind - MY Great American Novel. It’s a book that’s difficult to describe because it doesn’t easily fit into a genre. Part historical fiction (it takes place in the time just before and just after the outbreak of World War II), part coming-of-age (my protagonist is 16 years old when the story opens, though he grows up fast), and part adventure (there’s a lot of action), it is, at its heart, a love story. My hope is to achieve success with Sea of Crises and then revisit my efforts to publish that first novel.
Do you have any writing habits that people might find unusual?
Probably nothing that would stand out. I like to jot down random notes, mostly snippets of dialogue that come to me at odd times, and I put them in my pocket. I’ll then pull them out the next day or so and sometimes say, What the heck? But I’ve had some inspired moments, and those notes have come in very handy.
Do you have a favorite character or one that is especially close to your heart?
Of all the characters in the books I’ve read, probably “Sad” Sam Damon from Anton Myrer’s Once an Eagle stands out. He just really inspires me. When I wrote my first novel, I loosely based my main character, Jon, on him. And, perhaps not surprisingly, Jon would be the favorite character I’ve ever created - though I have to say Bob Cartwright from Sea of Crises gives him a run for his money!
What is the best gift you have ever received, do you still have it and who gave it to you?
Boy, that’s a tough one. I’m tempted to go all existential on you and say something like life or love, both of which (thank God) I still have. But, assuming you’re looking for something more materialistic, then I’ll say this: Several years ago, a client gave me a Tiffany clock after I’d managed to close a difficult transaction and sell a property that he really wanted sold. His note said something like, “Thanks for the time you spent on my project.” It was nice. I still have that clock on my desk, and I look at it many times a day.
What is something that you have always wanted to do, but just haven't gotten around to it yet?
If you’d asked me that question three years ago, I’d have said writing a book. Hands down. Now that I’ve done that, though, it’s probably running a marathon. My wife and I have run several half-marathons, but we’ve never done the big one. And, of course, as each year goes by, that seems more and more remote. But, who knows? I did, after all, finally write a book!
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you hope to find in your suitcase?
A satellite radio, food and water. Is that considered cheating?
What is your all-time favorite book?
Ok, now I’m really going to cheat and say it’s a three-way tie: James Clavell’s Shogun, Anton Myrer’s Once an Eagle, and Alistair MacLean’s Where Eagles Dare. (It gets worse though: Fourth place is about a 100-way tie.)
Other than yourself, who is your favorite author?
Alistair MacLean. But I have very eclectic tastes, and I like a lot of authors, too numerous to mention here.
If a TV show was based on your life, what type of TV show would it be (i.e., comedy, drama, suspense, etc.) who would you choose to play the leading character (you), and what would the theme song be? Why?
Oh, I hope it would be a romantic comedy. My wife would play herself, because, let’s face it, you don’t replace a star! But, for my character? George Clooney. Why? Well, why not? You asked. As for the song, I’m going with Walking on Sunshine, by Katarina and the Waves. It always makes me smile.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Believe it or not, I like to write. But I’m also a big sports fan, professional and college. (I graduated from the University of Virginia, and I live and die - mostly die - on the successes and failures of my beloved Cavaliers.)
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Both, though I generally like to work early and play late.
What is your favorite TV show and/or movie?
I love comedy. (I wish I was funnier.) I can pretty much recite the entire dialogue from My Cousin Vinny.
If you were throwing a dinner party and you could invite five people (fictional or real, dead or alive), other than family or friends, who would you invite and why?
Wow, that would be awesome. And I’m going to assume for this very realistic hypothetical that they all speak English! If so, the first one is easy. Jesus. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not all that religious. But, come on. (He’d probably say grace.) Then I’d have to go with Leonardo DaVinci, the most multi-talented man in history. (Among other things, we’d definitely talk about the The DaVinci Code; he’d probably be appalled at the concept, but, if he’s not...whoa.) Then I think I’d pick a couple of historical Americans. Abraham Lincoln for sure. I just admire what he did. And was. Being a UVa grad, I should then pick Thomas Jefferson, but, instead, I’m going to go with Benjamin Franklin. (Jefferson was a great man, but Franklin was, from what I understand, a pretty wild guy, and I think he’d be the hit of the party.) Finally, I’ll need someone with a quick wit, to pick things up when the conversation starts to lag - as if that would happen. I thought of Will Rogers, but I’m going with Mark Twain - in part, to stick with the literary theme. I think he’ll crack us all up. (By the way, I’ll be taking a lot of pictures; otherwise, no one’s going to believe this!)
If you had the opportunity to go anywhere you wanted, at anytime in history, where would you go and why?
Ok, I’m sorry to belabor the Jesus thing, but, seriously, wouldn’t anybody want to be there for any one of the significant (or even insignificant) events that involved the protaganist of the greatest book ever written? I would.
What are you currently working on?
I’m actually on a hiatus from writing. I have to keep my day job! But I continue to jot down my notes whenever the inspiration hits. (I know I’ve got another thriller dancing around in my head where I can feel it, but not yet see it.) And, when I do have time to devote to my writing career, it’s doing things like this to market Sea of Crises.
Where can people connect with you online?
I have thus far not dipped my toe into social media. I may never do it - you know, old dogs, new tricks - but, then again, I’ve learned never to say never, so, there you go. I also - and this is a little embarrasing - haven’t yet set up my website. That’s coming. But everybody is welcome to contact me at email@example.com. I appreciate any and all advice and feedback as I endeavor to introduce the world to Sea of Crises!
Thank you so much Marty for being on Hardcover Feedback!
About Sea of Crises:
Those are the last words uttered by Commander Bob Cartwright in September 1976, just before all communication with the crew of Apollo 18 is inexplicably lost during the astronauts' first moonwalk. Frantic attempts by mission control to reestablish contact are unsuccessful. Three days later, however, as NASA is scrambling to put together a rescue mission, astronomers detect a burn of the service propulsion system, and, on schedule, but still in eerie silence, the command module begins its return transit, culminating in the welcome sight of the capsule descending majestically beneath a trio of parachutes into the South Pacific.
But when the hatch is opened, the navy divers tasked with assisting the astronauts into the recovery helicopter make a gruesome discovery. The bodies of the three men inside have been burned beyond recognition, victims of a failed heat shield. And with them has died the answer to a great mystery: What was the meaning of Cartwright's enigmatic last statement, and what happened during those three blacked out days in the Mare Crisium, the Sea of Crises?
Unfortunately, unless and until man returns to the moon, that mystery will remain forever unsolved.
Or will it?
Thirty-five years later, Cartwright's sons make a shocking discovery: The capsule that came down in the Pacific Ocean with three charred remains was not their father's capsule. And the body they buried all those years before was not their father. What they've uncovered puts the three brothers on the run, chased by a ruthless group who will stop at nothing to preserve the secret behind the fate of the Apollo 18 astronauts. The brothers will need to set aside past differences and pool their talents if they are to stay alive and learn what really happened in the Sea of Crises.
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