Returning to an old format, Word Nerd's dishing up a Q&A today with Gordon Zuckerman who'se first novel recently hit shelves.
WN: What is the "Sentinels, Fortunes of War" all about?
ZUCKERMAN: The story line of the book deals with how six, advantaged and talented young people, having learned about the intent of the same German industrialist, who helped bring Hitler to power, to smuggle their Fortunes of War in 1943 out of Germany while there is still time oppose their effort. Concerned that the wealth could be used to fund a future Reich, the Six Sentinels develop and plsan to steal part of the money and use the appropriated funds to insure that the 2 billion dollars can never be used ireesponsibly to create another facist military dictatorship. Told through the evolving lives of each of the six principal characters, the story unfolds over two continents. Their counter-plot discovered, they are forced to evade the threat of the ever present and ruthless private security company, code named Samson.
WN: Where did the idea for the book come from?
ZUCKERMAN: Although, my education and business background have been in unrelated fields, I have remained a lifelong student of history. Having been exposed, by friends of mine in government, to the influence that cantcentrated wealth and power can exercise over our government, I wanted to write about what might have been the stories behind the stories of some of contemporary history's more significant events.
WN: What was the transition from business writing to fictional writing like?
ZUCKERMAN: As a graduate of the Harvard Business School and the founder and chief executive officer of a resort hotel company, I worked hard to develop what I considered to be good business written communication skills. When the time arrived for me to attempt the writing of th early drafts of the Sentinels, Fortunes of War, I was total unprepared for the rigors of what I quickly learned was an entirely new discipline. with the passage of time (7 years), many drafts, writing research, the assistance of several editors, I finally managed to writel my story in a form that passed the minimum threshold standards of publishers' editorial staffs. Having reached that point, I became fascinated in working with the Greenleaf staff to make my story a better book. What was the best advice I received? Early on, I was advised by an experienced editors to describe what I see as if I were telling the story out loud. since that time, I think of myself like a court room stenographer, who is recording what she sees. That's the easy part. Transitioning the early drafts into something that hopefully reads like an entertaining story is the real art form. The discipline and tenacity required to complete the process can really test the dedication and tenacity of a writer.
WN: What is the research process like?
ZUCKERMAN: This part of the writing process may be my favorite. Given my general knowledge of contemporary history, I try to outline at an early stage what I want to write about and develop a general story line.Once that is complete, I begin to search for some of the best historical works that have been written on the same subject. Fortunately, we are blessed with plethora of great historians that have gone to considerable length to brilliantly chronicle what ever subject about which I am interested in writing. Having identified three separate author's works that deal with the same subject, as seen through separate lens, I read each of the books concurrently. In so doing, I am attempting to develop a feel for what may be really happening. Using the power of logical surmise, I am always trying to develop the story by the story, hence the use of the fictional licence. I find the bibliographies of these books a treasure box of other pertinent works and with the aid of Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I feel I have access to the world's great library. Newspaper archives, Google, and recommendations of critical acclaimed reports are and will always remain a treasure source of information.
WN: What has been the most influential book you've read and why?
ZUCKERMAN: There is no single author that has impressed me over all others. The works of William Manchester, Herman Wouk, Fredrick Forsythe, Flecther Knebel, Nevil Shute, Leon Uris, Tom Clancy, Ron Chernow, standout in my mind. but it is the obscure, less well distributed book that continues to gush the fresh idea, that important piece of information that can make such an important contribution to the telling of a story.
WN: What are you working on next?
ZUCKERMAN: I have just finished a second book that identifies the desire of seven major oil companies, following the completion of World War II, to control 90% of the world's future oil production. Concerned that their efforts could result in a dangerous concentration of economic and political power, the Sentinels return to oppose this manifestation of unbridled greed in its early stages.