Saturday, June 2, 2012

Interview with Thomas Waite and a Giveaway!

Thomas, welcome to Hardcover Feedback! Would you tell us a little about yourself?
Thank you for asking. I was born in the seaside town of Ipswich, Massachusetts – once home to the authors John Updike, Adele Robertson, and John Norton and the poet Anne Bradstreet. I attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where I received my bachelor’s degree in English Literature (and developed my love of writing), and Oxford University.

In addition to my novel Terminal Value, I have been published in places such as the Harvard Business Review and The New York Times and I have been featured in a wide variety of media, including CNN Money and a number of cable news programs. While I was working at a management consulting firm, I conceived the idea of publishing and marketing three business books, all of which went on to become New York Times bestsellers. While I helped with the writing and editing of them, unfortunately they were not mine!

I am also a businessman and entrepreneur. I founded and co-founded two companies, including one that was sold to an Internet firm (which helped me greatly in writing Terminal Value!). I have consulted to dozens of technology corporations and other companies, and I serve on the Board of Directors of both for profit and non-profit organizations.

I currently reside in Boston, Massachusetts – and I have been fortunate, and patient, enough to see our local sports teams do well in recent years (though please don’t ask me about this year’s Red Sox!).

A lot of people are on Twitter these days, so can you describe Terminal Value for us in 140 characters or less (which is the size of a tweet)?
Sure. Terminal Value is an intense thriller with an insider's look into a technology start-up, the riches of an IPO, the murder of a friend, and the dark side of business.

When did you begin writing Terminal Value? What inspired this book and how much research was involved in writing it?
I began writing Terminal Value in 2009. This novel was actually inspired by my experience in business. While the story is completely fictional, I could never have written it had I not personally experienced some of the events that occur in the novel (of course excluding, among other things, murder!). This includes, for example, a company going public through an initial public offering (IPO).

The characters are basically composites of people I have encountered in business, though again it is completely fictional. As a result, I didn't have to do as much research as I normally would for this particular book. The setting is in Boston and New York City, and since I have lived in both cities, I know them well, though I was careful to get all the details right and even traveled some of the routes described in my novel and took notes.

In addition, there is a fair amount of technology described in the book. I did do some research about it, but again much of it was familiar – plus I didn't want to go too deep on the technology side and risk losing my readers. I finished Terminal Value in the fall of 2011.

What or who made the biggest influence on you wanting to become a writer?
I certainly owe a lot of credit to my teachers – so I would like to give a big shout out to Bill Laakso in high school and Larry Edgerton at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. For Terminal Value, given the subject matter, I was influenced by certain novels such as Michael Crichton’s Disclosure and John Grisham’s The Firm. It’s flattering and humbling that so many reviews have compared Terminal Value to these other works.

What was the first book you ever wrote about and was it ever published?
This isn't an easy question for me to answer. As an English Literature major, I wrote many papers about an endless number of books, but of course they weren't published (though I once convinced my creative writing and meteorology professors to agree to my writing a very detailed examination of the use of meteorological imagery in the works of Shakespeare, and I was encouraged to use it as the basis of a thesis. I didn’t, but it sure helped me get through meteorology!).

When I went to work, I wrote articles about a number of business books that were published in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Fortune magazine, but not under my own name (that's what I was paid for)! I did serve as an art critic for a newspaper once, but my beat was films, so I published articles reviewing movies, not books. My first novel, Dot-Con, which was a novel set during the Internet bubble, was fun to write, but I never did publish it.

Do you have any writing habits that people might find unusual?
I don’t think my habits are unique, though I confess that when I wrote this novel, it was very different in that I felt like I had a film playing in my head and my job was to turn it into a novel. It was a very "visual" writing experience.

While writing Terminal Value, my routine was to get up, pour myself a cup of coffee, and start writing virtually every morning. Sometimes it was productive and sometimes it was not, but the discipline was important to me. I had the luxury of having sold my company and I was working from home on a project-basis, so there were some days where I could write for many hours on end if I was being particularly productive. Other times I would take a break and not write for a few days and clear my head by doing something completely different. And, of course, I would do some writing in the evenings as well.

For me to be successful, I really need to be disciplined in my writing habits. When I was a kid, John Updike had an office upstairs from my Dad’s dentist office. He had a routine – literally getting out of the house and going to an office to write every day. It’s not easy, but you need to get into a routine – just like you do if you want to get in shape or accomplish other things. I’m not saying that my routine is what others do – certainly if any author is having trouble, they should try out different things until they find a routine that suits them best.

Do you have a favorite character or one that is especially close to your heart?
I honestly don’t know how to answer this question having read so many books in my career. I am sure many writers would list Jay Gatsby, Holden Caulfield, Humbert Humbert, Leopold Bloom, Rabbit Angstrom, Atticus Finch, and many others. I would agree that they are all great characters. I actually quite enjoyed Ignatius Reilly (from A Confederacy of Dunces) as well. So I’m sorry that I can’t name just one.

As far as Terminal Value is concerned, I think it may surprise many readers that my favorite character is Ivan. I enjoyed creating a character that on the face of it appeared to be a cold, evil, sinister man who had been trained as a security specialist in Prague, which in those days meant working for the Slovak Intelligence Service, or SIS. I don't want to spoil anything for people who have yet to read my novel, but he is not what he appears to be.

What is the best gift you have ever received, do you still have it and who gave it to you?
This will be a very unconventional answer, but it is the ocean and in some ways it was a gift from my father. My Dad had a boat and we’d go out in it all the time. There is also a fantastic beach in my hometown. In fact, the ocean remains one of my most favorite things and I guess I you could say that I still have it in that I own a boat and spend a lot of time on the seashore as well.

What is something that you have always wanted to do, but just haven't gotten around to it yet? With great glee my friends and siblings would all say marriage and children! But seriously, I have been blessed by having an opportunity to do many things in my life. I guess at this point it would either be to see my novel turned into a movie – or set up a terrific non-profit organization. The latter is much more likely!

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you hope to find in your suitcase? 
Not an easy question! So to live, I guess a desalination device just in case there wasn't fresh water. Then an iPad with a solar recharger (so I could read books and do everything else you can do on an iPad – assuming you had an internet connection). And some sort formula that would allow me to generate an endless supply of sunscreen from natural resources!

What is your all-time favorite book? 
Wow, Megan, you ask difficult questions! There are so many to choose from. Since I received a degree in English Literature, I had read a lot of books by the time I graduated from college. So in terms of novels that have influenced my life the most, the list is rather long: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, The Great Gatsby, Brave New World, The Grapes of Wrath, 1984, Slaughterhouse Five, Invisible Man, U.S.A. (trilogy), Lord of the Flies, The Sun Also Rises (to name a few). I think they gave me a good basis of not only understanding good writing, but also the varied styles and genres of modern fiction.

So I’ll throw you a curve here. Milton’s Paradise Lost. My classmates all hated it and couldn’t wait to move on to the next book – but I still think it is a great book and one day I’d love to produce an animated version!

Other than yourself, who is your favorite author?
As Ronald Reagan famously said, “There you go again.” Tough question. Honestly, I have so many – mostly because of what I learned from them. For example, James Joyce’s semi-autobiographical novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, introduced me to his characteristic free indirect speech style and was an early example of his modernist techniques. I read other works by Joyce such as Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake, but this novel was my favorite.

In sharp contrast was Ernest Hemingway, whose economical and understated style made a strong impression on me. A Clean, Well Lighted Place, a short story, fascinated me in how sparse, and yet real, a story could be told. Indeed, James Joyce once remarked that “…he has reduced the veil between literature and life, which is what every writer strives to do. Have you read ‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place’? It is masterly. Indeed, it is one of the best short stories ever written.”

Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises, is a great example of a novel written in spare, tight prose that later undoubtedly influenced countless crime and pulp fiction novels. Carlos Baker, Hemingway’s first biographer, believed that because Hemingway began as a writer of short stories, he learned “to get the most from the least, how to prune language, how to multiply intensities and how to tell nothing but the truth in a way that allowed for telling more than the truth.” My own opinion is that the simplicity of Hemingway’s prose is deceptive and that his writing style is very visual and more complex than most people think. He called his style the “iceberg theory,” and I would agree that in his writing there is a lot going on under that apparently spartan surface.

Over time, I developed a particular appreciation for fast-paced thrillers and mysteries. I read books by authors such as John le Carre, Ian Fleming, Scott Turow, Ken Follett, Tom Clancy, David Baldacci, James Patterson, and Joseph Finder. These writers, and others, are authors who have produced novels in this genre that I really admire. Their styles are different, of course, but they all have written exciting and engaging stories.

As far as Terminal Value is concerned, I’d have to say certain novels such as John Grisham’s The Firm and Michael Crichton’s Disclosure particularly influenced me. It’s flattering and humbling that so many reviewers have compared Terminal Value to these other works.

If you really press me for one author in the context of my own novel, I guess I'd pick Michael Crichton – not only for Disclosure, but also for his other works that taught me to both entertain and educate my reader.

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?
Well, despite being the author of a thriller, I’d have to say a comedy. It would probably be something like “Seinfeld.” For better or worse, I think my friends would say I share similar traits to Jerry’s character. As far as who would play my character, well no offense to Mr. Seinfeld (who I hope will admit that he isn’t the best actor as he couldn’t keep a straight face on his show), I guess I’d have to go with someone like Matt Damon (who many people don’t know has done some very funny stuff – like his famous bit on Jimmy Kimmel, which I think surprised everyone). As for the theme song, I suppose U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” might be appropriate!

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have to confess I used to be a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Not just skiing through the trees in Colorado or attempting to surf in Hawaii, but flying in ultra lights, hang gliding, bungee jumping and something called “river surfing” in New Zealand (think white-water rafting without the raft and only a boogie board). However, I think I have finally started to mellow out and now I read, go the theater or see films, dine at nice restaurants, and travel. I’m still very active and play golf, tennis, hike, ski and run. But nothing as crazy as the old days. 

Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Despite what I said about my writing routine, I'm not really an early bird. I'm not human until I've had my coffee – but then I can be very productive. I used to consider myself a night owl until recently; now I value my sleep too much.

What is your favorite TV show and/or movie?
Again, a tough question. I really loved The West Wing because the writing was so good and the realism, even according to friends who've worked in and around the White House, was very authentic. Right now I'm a die-hard Mad Men fan – again the writing is great and the historical verite is admirable. Favorite film? Again, that's difficult to narrow down to one. Most people will say Citizen Kane or Casablanca because they are well-regarded classics (and deservedly so). Personally, I thought The Godfather was an outstanding film, and I also really enjoyed Apocalypse Now. Then again, I have to confess that I loved The Big Lebowski, so go figure!

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? 
I’ll exclude authors since that is so obvious. So how about Abraham Lincoln, John Lennon, Gandhi, Niccolo Machiavelli, and George Carlin? Now that would undoubtedly lead to an interesting conversation!

If you had the opportunity to go anywhere you wanted, at anytime in history, where would you go and why?
I would go to the airport in Portland, Maine on September 10, 2001 and do everything in my power to alert the authorities to the presence of Mohammed Atta and Abdulazzi al-Omari and to personally prevent them from boarding the Colgan Air flight to Boston on the morning of September 11.

What are you currently working on?
Marketing my novel, of course! But seriously, given the encouragement I have received to write a sequel, I am starting to sketch out another novel. I also continue to work as an entrepreneur – right now I am providing advice to startups.

Where can people connect with you online?
I love to hear from readers, so I invite them to communicate with me anyway they wish. I have a website with an email (sorry that it is set up to counter spam – I welcome emails!), and I am also on most other social media platforms. Here they are:
Thank you so much Thomas for being on Hardcover Feedback! 
Thank you for inviting me, and I hope your readers enjoyed what I had to say and will consider reading Terminal Value!

About Terminal Value:
“Be careful what you wish for.” That’s a warning Dylan Johnson should have listened to. When his mobile tech company is bought out by Mantric Technology, a red-hot firm about to go public, it seems like a dream come true for the young entrepreneur and his partners. But the closer they get to payout, the more uncertain Dylan becomes. Something doesn’t feel right. When his best friend and chief technology officer is found dead on what should have been their night of triumph, Dylan is determined to find out what happened. But asking questions plunges him into a digital web of deceit and betrayal that will shake everything he thought he knew…

Enter to win Terminal Value by Thomas Waite. Giveaway is open to residents of the United States and Canada only! To enter, all you have to do is answer the madatory question, follow this blog in at least one way and then complete whichever extra entries you want in the Rafflecopter form below. If you are not familiar with how to use Rafflecopter HERE is a link to a how-to video. Giveaway ends June 24th at 11:59p.m. (e.s.t.). Good luck!

1 comment:

  1. I love thrillers and Terminal Value sounds like a great thriller. Thanks for the opportunity to enter giveaway.

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