Today’s guest is Mark Donovan , author of Waterkill, a book I recently reviewed here on LWI as well as Amazon and Goodreads. He currently resides in New Hampshire where he has spent his career working in various high tech engineering and marketing positions. He holds degrees in electrical engineering and business, and is a private pilot.
How much of Waterkill was influenced by the headlines?
The headlines of 2015/2016 did not influence me to write Waterkill. It was, however, the headlines from 2014 that compelled me to finish the book. I began writing Waterkill in November, 2013 and then after writing around 25K words I shelved it in January 2014. I didn’t go back to it for another 10 months and completed the first draft in April of 2015. It was the Ebola outbreak that hit the United States and Europe in late 2014 that caused me to decide to complete Waterkill. It was during this time that I realized how feckless our federal and state governments were in dealing with a major epidemic. This fact, along with the constant and real threat of radical Islamic terrorism, made me realize that I needed to complete Waterkill. I felt compelled to raise public awareness to the vulnerability of a biological terrorist attack, and that our public water supplies are soft targets.
I was able to read your first version of Waterkill and then some of your professionally edited version. You’ve done your work justice by doing so. What brought about your having the book edited?
I had half a dozen close friends and family review my “final” draft version of Waterkill and their editorial comments and reviews were benign and very positive. So, I decided to release the book. The first “official” reviews that came in on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads were also very positive. However, as time went on, and the reviews continued to come in, I began to see comments about the book needing some professional editing. So rather than continue to see the book take negative hits, I got proactive and began searching for an editor. After about a week I found a person who had been an editor for the past 25 years and had an impressive resume. I commissioned her immediately to do a Line-Edit and she did a great job, albeit I had a bit of a hard time at first accepting her reduction of the word count by 15%. In the end, after reading her completed work, I had to admit the book was much crisper and to the point. She also gave me a great deal of constructive advice for my next book. One important nugget of advice she gave me was to try to keep one point of view throughout the book. “No head hopping” was her constant reminder to me.
What was researching for the book like? You go into quite a bit of detail as far as geography for certain locations as well as some military weapons.
I’ve spent over 30 years in high tech as an electrical design engineer and product marketing manager. Along the way, I’ve designed or defined radar systems, infrared missile guidance seekers, telecom and datacom equipment and semiconductors, advanced computers that went on the space shuttle, and for the past 7 years, magnetic sensor semiconductors that are used in robotics, automotive and industrial markets. So from this background it was easy for me to write about the surveillance and weapon technology in Waterkill.
From the geographical perspective, I have traveled far and wide throughout the world during my career, including North America, Europe and Asia. In addition, I was able to interview my parents who spent nearly 10 years in Saudi Arabia, including 3 years living near the Yemen border to get the perspective on the culture, geography and people from that area.
What authors do you think have influenced your style of writing?
When I decided to begin writing the “Dave Henson” series I wanted to write books that were akin to Clive Cussler, but instead of an ocean/marine background theme, I chose to focus mine on technology and aviation since I have a passion for both. So, Clive Cussler novels certainly influenced me.
Michael Crichton, Ayn Rand and Wilbur Smith have also influenced my writing style. With Michael Crichton and Ayn Rand it’s the technology and willingness to be politically incorrect with the Zeitgeist of the day that inspires me to write. Both told compelling stories that also had messages that went against the grain of the prevailing political winds. With Wilbur Smith, it’s his human rawness of both good and evil, along with his excellent storytelling, that influence my writing style.
Why a water based bioterrorist threat?
Today when we think of terrorism attacks we normally think of airplane hijackings or bombings and mass murder with semi-automatics. I wanted to make people aware that there are other ways that terrorists can attack, and that it can be fairly sophisticated. Many of the radical Islamic terrorists are well educated people, who have engineering degrees, and I might add provided by the United States College and University systems. Water is our most valuable resource and critical for our survival. It is also a commodity that many of us take for granted and that is also easily accessible to those who want to harm it.
What is your experience with Islam? I ask because there are times you do show a good knowledge during the story. I know because I had several Muslims work for me.
I have worked with many Islamic people over the years due to my high-tech background. Some have been, and are, good friends of mine. This is why I tried to be fair in my book to the Islamic religion, but not hesitating to point out that radical Islamic terrorism is a real problem that must be faced and dealt with. As I also mentioned, I had my parents perspective of them living nearly a decade in Saudi Arabia.
How much of the tech in the book is possible?
Much of it is possible. The work in Nanotechnology, and MEMs technology, has just been astounding over the past decade. Case in point, the drone technology that we have today. Some military drones are as small as a housefly today, and there are companies/research institutions that have demonstrated swarm behavior with these micro-drones. The nano-dust that is mentioned in this book is still for the most part theoretical, however, due to nano-material science I believe we are only a decade away from realizing this concept. Michael Creighton discussed this technology in his book PREY that he released in 2002.
You handle Islam very carefully in Waterkill. Some authors could have made it a one-sided affair but you took the time to show the degrees of the faith. Was this a conscious effort or did the book lead you in that direction?
I made a conscious effort to be fair and not to confuse individuals with twisted minds, for whatever reason, and a population of 1.2B people that practices Islam, most of which is comprised of peaceful people.
There is a quote you use at the end of the book, where did you get that from? (Meaning, did a friend lead you to it, did you stumble on it. Something like that. And I’m talking about the Muhammad quote.)
Through my research on Islam I stumbled upon that phrase/quote and felt it had a great deal of relevant meaning to my story.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a new book with the working title “ROBOGOD”. It is a departure from my “Dave Henson” series and delves into the world of robots and how they will impact our lives both professionally and personally in the not-so-distant future. In my current day job I am heavily involved in the robotic industry, and the stuff that I see coming is exciting from a technologist perspective, but also very frightening from a human and ethicist. The book raises questions on how ready the human race is prepared to work and live with robots that look and act very similar to humans. See an article that I recently had published in RoboticTrends.com on the topic of robots: http://www.roboticstrends.com/article/the_role_of_magnetic_position_sensors_in_robots_and_the_iort
I love to fly, read, hike and be with my family. I am fortunate enough to live on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in central New Hampshire where it allows me to do all these things.
What authors do you read?
As previously mentioned my writing has been influenced by reading the works of Clive Cussler, Wilbur Smith, Ayn Rand and Michael Creighton. However, my reading is quite eclectic. For example I love reading Lee Child, Ted Bell, and James Patterson. However, I just finished reading the Great Gatsby from F. Scott Fitzgerald. I remember reading the book in high school, and saw it a couple of weeks ago just before I left for a job trip. So I grabbed it and read it on the plane.
Give us one word to describe your book.
What’s your favorite word and why?
My favorite word is “Do”. I have always been a big proponent of personally doing things rather than just thinking about doing them or watching others do something, e.g. laying on a sofa and watching a sporting event rather than playing the sport yourself. Life is too short to just dream and think, or watch others live life, but never personally do something big yourself.
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