What is your name?
You've asked for an interview with Jack King, and I responded.
There are rumors that you are not who you say you are.
I never said I am, or am not, whoever you think I am.
Who is Jack King?
Jack King is the author of the books you are holding in your hands.
Why did you choose to be a writer?
I didn't. It chose me. As cliche as it sounds, writing is a calling. One hears it, or not. I responded to my calling.
Is there anything you'd like to write about, but can't?
I'll never know what it's like to give birth, but if it's anything like facing a blank page, then I don't want to experience it either.
First book you ever read?
The Communist Manifesto. [Laughs]. My grandfather said, "Before you fight something, you must first try to understand it." So I read Marx. At least it's how I remembered my first book for a long time, until recently, when clearing some old boxes, I discovered a copybook of homework done at age 7. It was a drawing of a scene from The Bullerby Children, by Astrid Lindgren.
Last book you read?
A manuscript from a colleague, former Secret Service agent. A brilliant story, but it hasn't been vetted yet, and I can't tell you about it.
The best book you ever read?
Are you serious? Every life stage has a favorite book.
Why did you decide to write your first book?
A writer is someone who does not have a free will when it comes to writing. One simply must write. Publishing, on the other hand, is a choice. I suspect I published my first book for reasons most writers share, and which stem from false perception of why one ought to publish in the first place -- I though I had something to say. It took me almost six years following the debut, to publish the next novel. This time it came out for what I consider the right reasons why true writers write -- to ask questions.
What does it take to be a writer? Asking questions?
Asking questions with the curiosity of a child. A writer must possess an inner child, must dwell and dwell, restlessly, and write down his journey toward the truth.
Does it mean you write true stories?
Truth in espionage is an oxymoron. There are two types of writers of espionage: Those who cannot write what they know, and those who write about what they do not know. Conversely there are two kinds of espionage books: Vetted, or propaganda, and pure non-sense. It is worth noting, however, that a good writer, who has no access to what you call the truth, may inadvertently stumble upon it, or deduce it. It is then up to the reader to decide what is true. A good reader of espionage, shares certain qualities with good spies, in that he or she, must possess the ability to read between the lines.
The hardest thing about writing thrillers?
Hardest thing about writing thrillers are the Wikileaks, the Ed Snowdens, and Chelsea Mannings. You can't make this stuff up.
Is the Wikijustice protagonist based on Jullian Assange?
Only if the reader recognizes Jullian Assange. From an author's side, no single person is sufficient to create a compellingly complex character. Our protagonists are amalgams of numerous people whose paths crossed with the author's. I've heard Damian Allende compared to Jullian Assange, to Edward Snowden, and to Bradley Manning, sometimes individually, sometimes all together. He is all of them, and neither. I could also say Damian is the author, since every character contains something of his/her creator. Thus, the answer is, that he is all that, and more, in fact, he is whatever the reader sees in him.
Where did the idea for Agents of Change come from?
Long time in the making. Back in the university I shared a dorm with a defrocked Franciscan monk. Agents of Change is the result of many sleepless nights spent on passionate discussions about liberation theology, Vatican espionage, priest-revolutionaries, etc.
Are you a Jesuit, or an Invisible Jesuit?
Are you referring to Agents of Change? A novelist ought to be a chronicler. When a writer jumps out of his pages he'd done a poor job. I hope readers see my characters, and follow their pleas, with the writer forgotten.
Are you a spy, then?
Anybody claiming to be in the services, while on social media, is a fake, or a sock puppet. In any case, what kind of a spy would I be if I blabbed about it? [laughs]
Does writing get any easier over time?
Let's hope not. For those of us aspiring to create something new, we must forget everything we learned, and start every new project as though it is the first. Writing shouldn't be easy. When writing becomes too easy, writers tend to say too much.
What is your next book about?
I don't talk about work in progress, and I caution other writers who discuss their projects. When writers discuss what ought to be their original creation, it inevitably turns into what their interlocutors expect of the writer. We already suffer a very constricted literary scene. When a handful of gate keepers, the commissioning editors and literary agents, dictate what is said, they effectively build a dam on the free flow of thought. Write what you have to say, not what what "they" want you to say.
You are notoriously hard to convince to do book readings and similar appearances.
I pop in unannounced to sign books [laughs]. You can trace it to what I did for a living. Staying in the shadows is embedded in my genes. I can keep a secret. I don't discuss what I write about. My neighbors don't know I'm a writer. I appreciate a degree of obscurity.
Are writers loners?
Writers can't work in a vacuum, where else would we find material if not from life? Solitude is what we need. We need emotional space. We write when we're asleep, and when we're awake, constantly chewing on the plot, the right words, character traits, etc. It may be difficult for our loved ones. It makes us seem aloof, but be sure we are paying attention, collecting material.
What TV shows do you watch?
None. I don't watch TV.
Rather unusual, given the geopolitical nature of your novels.
No contradiction here. What I write about I did not learn from TV. The "FOX News Effect" extends to all TV: The more we watch, the less we know. But there's more. Watching has a devastating effect on creativity. The ready-made TV visuals eliminate our brain's creative processes, in contrast to what happens when we read -- we create images. I don't intend to preach here, because none of the above was a reason for my cutting the cable. One day I realized, while watching something or other, that if I have time to watch, then I should read instead. I ditched my TV that very day. And I highly recommend same to everybody. It's not as hard as it seems, and can be compared to cutting salt from your diet -- your brain will miss it for about six weeks, and then, all of a sudden, poooh!, you won't be able to dine out, you'll be amazed how salty everything is. With TV the revelation is even greater. You will feel liberated, even mad at yourself for having been such a victim of propaganda, and, let's face it -- wasted time.
What books do you like to read?
I read widely. It would be easier to ask: What books do you not read?
What books do you not read?
I knew you'd ask that. [Laughs] And I'd be a fool to answer, since it would guarantee a backlash of angry comments. But, of course, a writer cannot be faint-hearted. Call me a fool, if you wish. I tend to avoid books from writers who attend the so-called creative writing courses. I will skip books by writers who proclaim on their social media platforms that they don't talk about [insert issues]. I look for originality, independent voice, and curious minds. I look for books that challenge my presumptions. I look for books that shatter the glass castles. Books that burrow deep. Books that explore. Books that open wounds. I look for writers who have something to say, and say it come what may. In essence: I read books about issues.
How do you chose books to read?
Interest. Chance. Research. Many books fall into my hands accidentally, more come my way as part of research. Very often one book leads to another. Take, for instance, Latin American writers, who often insert names of their peers into their works. If you like the author, you may be very keen to follow up with his or her peers. Today we are blessed with social media, which is a tremendous source for finding interesting writers, as it helps in weeding out those not to bother with. I prowl facebook and twitter, interest groups and communities, looking for voices, not just chatter.
The greatest challenge as a writer?
More of a goal, than a challenge. When you write thrillers, you must be prepared to spar with preconceptions concerning the genre. This is true in every language. Whatever our background, we, as people, as citizens, are products of the political, religious, or moral environments we grow up and live in. Any state's existence is dependent on propaganda, or ideological upbringing of its citizens. We are bombarded with it from our earliest days to our graves, writers not excluding. My goal is to not be one of those writers who cannot see they are an extension of the state, and to rise above the divisions imposed upon us as people of the world. The challenge, to return to your question, when thrillers tend to be the extension of the state's propaganda, is to reach readers who are willing to embark on the journey beyond the narrow upbringing. Let me tell you, it is a pretty lonely journey.
What would you like to tell your readers?
As a writer I do not follow trends, or the popular topics of the day, as adding my voice would bring unnecessary chatter to what is already busy universe of books created by talented and passionate authors. Instead I pick subjects that interest me, fascinate me, disturb me, and lure me in with their murky history, tormented present, or uncertain future. Often these are stories of remote interest. The more remote the particular topic, the more exciting it is, and its unknown is precisely what drives me to take the journey of discovery. Sometimes I get lost in its intricate maze, sometimes I, as my characters, stumble upon a path that leads me out, or pulls me deeper into the chasm.
I hope you will join me on this journey and, if I do get lost, you will show me the way. Let me know where I went astray, or how I ended up there in the first place. It isn't true that with every book written a writer becomes better at storytelling. Every new book is a new challenge. The cumulative effect of all books written by an author is the courage to take on the next one.
Thank you for choosing my book -- I know how hard it is to pick from so many exciting stories out there, after all I too am a reader, and knowing you picked mine out of so many makes it the more precious.
Any questions about my books? I'll gladly answer.