Interview with Thom Stark, Part 2   1 comment

Thom StarkWe’re returning with Thom Stark, the author of American Sulla. Thom has been gracious enough to lend his wit and intellect to my blog both to promote his book and to talk about some further ranging topics. This is the second part of the author interview, but I plan to run our conservation on Thursdays for a while. I have Writing Wednesdays. These are Thom Thursdays, I suppose. Lela

Part 1 of the Author Interview is here.

Tell us about American Sulla. The series is a political thriller that postulates a nuclear attack on New York City and the action takes place in aftermath, examining the consequences and coping strategies of the country and particularly the US government. How did you come to write on that topic?

In 2011, once I regained the ability to type, I began work on a science fiction novel called The Deluge. It’s set in 2053, so one of the things I had to do as a setting-up exercise was to create a timeline of important historical events between then and now that would give shape and substance to the kind of world my characters would be inhabiting 40 years in the future. That, in turn, led me to the events of William Orwell Steele’s presidency. As I began to explore them, I realized that they deserved a novel of their own. Since, according to my future history, the act of nuclear terrorism that triggered the cascade of changes that followed took place in 2020, I decided that I needed to write that novel first, because I might not get around to it before the real calendar caught up with my fictional one, otherwise.

So part of my reason for writing American Sulla is sheer serendipity. I was just building a future history for one story, and discovered a whole other novel in the process. The other part, however, is what happened to America in the wake of 9/11.

 

American Sulla

 

I love it when a character asserts himself and becomes so interesting that I must tell his story. That’s the best kind of writing. What was going on in 2011 and going forward that encouraged your writing of this trilogy?

I really hated what my country became after Al Queda’s attack. Yes, it was a horrific event, but the way my fellow Americans and our elected representatives reacted to it was what truly appalled me. We were living in Mariposa County in the Sierra Nevada foothills at the time. The eponymous county seat is an unincorporated Gold Rush town with fewer than 2,200 residents as of the 2010 census – and still fewer back then. And yet, the people there were almost literally pissing themselves in fear that Al Queda was going to attack that flyspeck burg with nukes! The utter panic and craven cowardice of those people was just sickening to me. And we’re talking about a very, very rural area, where the population is, at least theoretically, somewhat self-reliant and unpampered.

What happened with our national legislature was even worse. Congress fell all over itself to flush the Constitution down the toilet in pursuit of “security”. And two years later – by which time you’d think they might have regained at least a modicum of sense – they endorsed the invasion of Iraq by an enormous majority. This was a country that had had nothing to do with 9/11, that had abandoned its program of developing weapons of mass destruction, and that, moreover, was the only meaningful bulwark against the expansion of Iran’s influence in the region. And the Cheney government insisted on invading with an army that was easily capable of defeating Saddam’s Republican Guard, but profoundly inadequate for the task of occupying and pacifying Iraq afterward.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard a lot of people say that things would have been different if Al Gore was president, rather than George W. Bush.

I’ve heard that. I don’t believe it! I think neither of them was equal to the task they faced, just as President Obama is inadequate to the task of dealing with ISIS, and particularly ISIL, now. I wish we had some truly great presidents during this era, but it hasn’t happened.

So, part of the thought experiment that led to American Sulla was exploring the notion of how things might, indeed, be different if a classic liberal Democrat were in office when an terrorist event infinitely worse than 9/11 occured. Given the economic crash and the physical and financial damage this country sustained thanks to 9/11, it seemed clear to me that a nuclear terrorist attack would create far greater havoc, and whoever was unfortunate enough to be President at the time would be faced with some really ugly problems, and a critical shortage of clear solutions to them.

Given that reality, the next obvious question – at least, it seemed obvious to me – was “What happens next?”

Where does the title American Sulla come from?

Lucius Cornelius Sulla was a Roman general and member of the patrician class. He’s best known as the first man to be elected Dictator of Rome for an unlimited term. Prior to Sulla, the Dictatorship was never awarded for longer than a single, six-month term, and then only in times of national emergency. The emergency, in Sulla’s case, was the capture of Rome by Gaius Marius. He agreed to save the city from the Marian army on condition that he be made dictator for an indefinite period. Once Sulla defeated the Marian army, he set about eliminating the “enemies of Rome” and undoing the populist reforms that Marius (and the Gracchi brothers before him) had instituted. He also made changes to the Roman political system that he believed would ensure the Republic’s return to its former glory. Once he had accomplished those things, after only slightly more than a year in office, he resigned as Dictator and restored control of Rome to the Senate.

It seemed clear to me that any President would immediately declare martial law – effectively making himself dictator of the USA – in the wake of a nuclear attack, so the parallel between William Orwell Steele and Sulla was inescapable.

 

May DayMay Day is the first in a three-part series.  It came out in 2013. When is War – Book Two of American Sulla scheduled for publication?

Well, since May Day took around 18 months to write and edit, I’m aiming to publish War sometime in summer of 2015, but the only honest answer is, “It’ll be done when it’s done.” I’m not going to let it escape into the wild until I’m certain it’s fully baked, regardless of how long that takes. This novel is going to be my legacy, and I need to make sure I get it as close to perfect as humanly possible.

It’s a really complex tale, requiring three installments to tell. You’ve intimated on Facebook that there will be some surprises in the subsequent books as the character and the events continue forward.

By now, anyone who’s paying attention has probably figured out some of what will happen over the course of the novel … but, believe me when I say that there are plenty of twists in the tale that you will definitely not see coming. I can tell you that some of the characters I introduced in May Day will not make it to the end of the story. Some very unpleasant substances will definitely hit the fan in War – and still more ugly things will splatter in Revolution, the third and final volume of the novel. One thing I can promise my readers is that I will do everything in my power to make sure the time they invest in American Sulla is time extremely well-spent.

Where can we find May Day? Do you have a website?

The American Sulla home page (which includes a downloadable 38,000-word preview edition of May Day in a variety of ebook formats) is:

http://www.starkrealities.com/Sulla.html

There’s also an American Sulla Facebook group:

More importantly, you can buy May Day in Kindle format here:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FT8U6IO

or, for British readers, here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/May-Day-Book-American-Sulla-ebook/dp/B00FT8U6IO

It’s also available in a handsome, durable, 596-page 7”x10” trade paperback here:

http://www.amazon.com/May-Day-American-Sulla-Volume/dp/0615915159/

(Okay. I lied about the “durable” part. It’s a paperback. Don’t read it in the rain.)

You can buy American Sulla swag here:

http://www.zazzle.com/american_sulla

My Amazon.com Author page is:

http://amazon.com/author/thom_stark

My LinkedIn profile is:

https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=886867

I’m on Twitter as:

@Thom_Stark

And, if you’re interested, you can check out the CD I released in 2003 here:

http://www.starkrealities.com/hero.html

and listen to a song I recorded fairly recently here:

 

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