Monday, December 8, 2014

Featured Author: E.J. Simon

About the book:

Some of the most powerful people in the world want to kill Michael Nicholas. Only his brother, Alex can save him - the problem is that Alex is dead.

It's been almost a year since Alex Nicholas, a Queens based underworld Boss, was gunned down. After Alex’s brutal murder, Michael inherited not only his brother’s business – but his enemies. Michael is now a key player in a world he once feared. By day, he is the head of a Fortune 500 company by night, the CEO of Tartarus, one of the worlds largest illegal gambling operations.

Before his death, Alex invested heavily in breakthrough artificial intelligence software so that he could live forever. It worked. In his virtual form, Alex can communicate with Michael and monitor information - and people - in ways the NSA would envy.

It is Alex who discovers Michael’s life is in danger. He detects plots that reach from the darkest corners of Queens, to the highest officials in the Vatican - and they all want Michael dead.

Michael is now in a race to save his life, but he is never alone - Alex is there to help him navigate through this maze of life and death. Also protecting Michael from the forces closing in around him is Sindy Steele, a beautiful - and lethal bodyguard.

How far is Michael willing to go to save his own life – and that of his family? Guided only by a familiar face on a computer screen, will the information Alex discovers allow Michael to go from being the hunted to the hunter?

Interview with E.J. Simon

Tell us about your series. Is this book a standalone, or do readers need to read the series in order?
Death Never Sleeps is the first book in the series. Death Logs In is a sequel and a continuation of the story – but it’s free-standing – you don’t need to read the first book beforehand.

Where’s home for you?
Home is Westport, Connecticut – a lovely community on Long island Sound.

What do you love about where you live?
In some ways it’s a small New England coastal town – yet it’s only an hour from one of the greatest cities in the world, New York.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Queens, New York. It’s one of the five boroughs that make up New York City. It was a great place for me – I met such interesting and diverse characters. It not only helped shape my personality – but my stories as well.

If you had $100 a week to spend on yourself, what would you buy?
Books, or a nice restaurant meal. Ideally, a book, dinner, and a glass of wine.

What’s the dumbest purchase you’ve ever made?
There were so many. Probably a lawn mower.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
Be nice to people, show them all respect and focus on the good  - not only in people but in life.

Good advice. Who would you pick to write your biography?
Ken Burns.

What dumb things did you do during your college years?
These are too numerous to mention in a short interview. Let me just say this – I spent six years at the University of South Carolina. It was during the late sixties and early seventies when the country – and particularly college campuses were in utter turmoil.  Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, students were killed by National Guard troops at Kent State, drugs were everywhere, racial conflict was widespread, and Vietnam, the draft, and the protests against the war loomed over everything. Despite the bleak picture I just painted – it was a terrific time to be in college which is probably why I was there for six years.

Have you been in any natural disasters?
No. Hurricane Sandy did hit our town pretty hard, but my wife and I were in Turks & Caicos at the time. I’ve been very fortunate.

What is the most daring thing you've done?
I don’t do daring things. I have no desire to jump out of airplanes, swim with sharks or climb mountains. I do, however, enjoy the challenges of business, writing books that sell, and changing careers. Maybe some people would define those things as daring. To me, daring means serving in the military or with the press in the Middle East, joining the French Resistance in WW II. Or fighting for unpopular causes on the front lines.

What is the stupidest thing you've ever done?
Putting regular gasoline – instead of diesel - in our rental car in France last year. The car had to be towed, we needed to take a taxi quite a distance back to the hotel in Messanges but instead the driver understood Meursanges, which is an hour in the opposite direction. . . it cost us a thousand dollars before it was over. That’s one of the most recent stupid things I’ve done. There are more.

Ouch! I feel your pain. What’s one thing that you wish you knew as a teenager that you know now?
Who won the Preaknesses, Super Bowls, and World Series for the last few decades. On a more serious level, I think it’s the knowledge of whom you really are – not that I’ve totally solved that. I think as you mature though, you begin to get a better understanding of yourself and you learn to be comfortable in that knowledge and in your skin.

What makes you bored?
Repetition, doing the same thing over and over. It’s why I don’t play golf.

What choices in life would you like to have a redo on?

I let myself lose contact with close friends and relatives. Writing a novel has enabled me to reconnect with many of these lovely people. On my most recent book tour down South, I met many relatives and friends that I simply never took the time to stay in touch with. It’s been a big loss not only for my wife and me, but it denied our daughter the benefit and warmth of those relationships. In some cases, of course, the people I lost contact with have now passed away. There’s no reconnecting with them, just memories. If I had to do it over, I would have not only cherished the memories, which I did – but carefully nurtured and maintained those relationships.

What makes you nervous?
The fragility of our lives.

What makes you happy?
Being with my wife and daughter, eating out with friends, sitting by a pool with a glass of wine, listening to music.

What makes you scared?
Not much, really, but I do have a snake phobia.

What makes you excited?
Getting on a plane to go to Europe, settling in my seat, getting out my iPod, putting on my earphones, waiting for my dinner to be served – and knowing that I’ll be able to dine, listen to music, read, write, and think for several uninterrupted hours. This only works well in the front cabin.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Not at the moment, I’ve been pretty picky lately - but I probably will again soon. I think the interaction with the real world – and being around people as they work to earn a living  - helps my writing. Otherwise, an author can be in an artificial bubble. I also enjoy the business world.

What are your most cherished mementoes?

A piece of Greek marble that my mother gave me when we visited the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York, a glass paper weight of King Arthur’s sword from an old friend, a brass cup with the address engraved from when I lived in Columbia, South Carolina, my father’s gold cufflinks, a tiny red wallet that my daughter made for me when she was a child.

I don’t know if it qualifies as a memento, but I have a scale model under glass of the Titanic. There is something about it that draws me in. It’s a daily reminder that things can go wrong and that life is a gift that can be taken from us without warning - and once that happens it doesn’t matter whether you’re on the upper deck or in steerage.

If you could only save one thing from your house, what would it be?

The insurance policy.

What brings you sheer delight?
A good meal in a nice restaurant with a small number of friends or family. Or, sitting on the beach in Turks & Caicos and gazing at the sea. Actually, I enjoy gazing at a swimming pool just as much. I like to be able to see what’s in the water around me.

Would you rather be a lonely genius, or a sociable idiot?

I’d definitely rather be a lonely genius. I do cherish some time alone. Being a genius is another matter. I fear that comes with a lot of complications. In any case, I wouldn’t know.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
I’d spend a few months each year in France; I’d love to live in Paris in the winter and the South of France in the summer. I suspect I could also be very happy living near the water on a Greek island like Santorini.

What would you like people to say about you after you die?
I’d like them to say, “He’s actually alive and quite well. The obituary was a mistake.”

Great answer! Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
Most of the characters in my books are inspired by – or are – real people. Many of these characters have done bad things, so I can’t say who they really are or they’d be in trouble - and I’d probably get sued.

Is your book based on real events?

No, unless we have successfully duplicated someone on a computer. Some of the scenes, however, are based on actual events.

Are you like any of your characters?
There may be a similarity between myself and one of the protagonists, Michael Nicholas. This is one of the reasons I got a bit upset when my daughter read an early draft of Death Never Sleeps and said that the character needed more of an edge.

One of your characters has just found out you’re about to kill him off. He/she decides to beat you to the punch. How would he kill you?
I would be having dinner with that character in Mario’s restaurant in Westport, Connecticut. I’d be enjoying the spaghetti and meatballs. I’d have a large glass of Chianti too. I’d be halfway through it. The character would have watched The Godfather many times. I forced him to. He’d excuse himself and go to the men’s room where he would have previously hidden a gun. He’d come out, approach my table, and begin firing. I would try and get one last bite of the meatballs but wouldn’t make it. Unlike in The Godfather, however, my character would have the decency to pay the dinner bill before exiting.

With what five real people would you most like to be stuck with in a bookstore?
I’ll define “real” as people who are alive. Sofia Coppola, James Patterson, Steven Spielberg, Stephen Hawking, and Elton John.

That's quite a list. Who are your favorite authors?
As far as fiction goes, I tend to read commercial fiction. My favorite authors are Stuart Woods – I love his Stone Barrington series. Also, Dan Brown, and Daniel Silva.
But I read mostly nonfiction works – American and WW II history, and biographies. I love to read books on my favorite statesmen: Churchill, Jefferson, and John F. Kennedy. I’m also fascinated with understanding some of the leading Nazis like Albert Speer and Reinhard Heydrich. I also love to read and, mostly, look at cookbooks. Occasionally, they inspire me to cook. More often, they inspire me to eat.

Me too. Which writers have influenced your writing style?
Stuart Woods and James Patterson have influenced my writing style.

I consider myself a “blue collar” writer. I’m not trying to write “literature” – just great commercial fiction. Most commercial fiction writers don’t dwell on their manuscript for years. Often, it’s a job. I don’t consider my writing to be “art.” It strikes me to be too elitist. I’m trying to entertain and hope I inspire my readers to think about their life and life’s issues.

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
I’m currently reading The Vatican Diaries by John Thavis in the hardcover edition. It is an insider’s view of the Vatican.

I love books – hardcovers and softcovers. I collect them and keep most books after I’ve read them. I have an entire library of books that‘s in storage from the first thirty-five years of my life. I ran out of room and bookshelves, so I took my entire library at that time and packed it away. It’s with the Santini Brothers or something like that now. It’s my time capsule. One day when I expand my current library space, I’ll get it back so I have all my books together. It will be an exhilarating – but strange - experience, I’m sure.

What’s one pet peeve you have when you read?
Long books - when the subject matter doesn’t call for it. I also tend to dislike long chapters. It could, of course, be a short attention span issue.

Do you have a routine for writing?
I try and write very early in the morning. I get up between 5:30 and 6:30, have my coffee, read the New York Times, feed my dog, and then go into my library and begin writing on my Apple desktop.

Where do you prefer to do your writing?
I prefer to write in my library at home. It’s a beautiful room, and I have a jukebox with thousands of tunes and colored lights. I’m surrounded by books and many cherished objects, family photographs, and art. From my desk I also have a great view of a scale, detailed model of the Titanic. It’s a constant reminder that nothing is perfect and life is short.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
One reader said that she was reading Death Never Sleeps on a plane when the aircraft hit major turbulence and suddenly began shaking and losing altitude. She never put the book down and, finally, her husband looked over, astonished that she appeared to be oblivious to what was happening – while he was scared out of his wits.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
An obituary for a good friend.

Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?
My favorite library is the one in my hometown, The Westport Library (Westport, Connecticut). It is one of the best in the country. It’s modern and open – and it actually has two robots from France – Vincent and Nancy. I believe they’re now teaching kids how to write code. It’s another example of the increasing role of artificial intelligence in our lives.

You can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?

James Bond. I hope by “one day” you also mean an evening or I might choose someone else.

What’s the worst thing someone has said about your writing? How did you deal with it?
A few reviewers have complained about the many scenes in my books over dinners or in restaurants. I feel strongly about those scenes – our dinners are where a lot of things happen in our lives. For many of us, too, restaurants are an important part of our culture. We live in a privileged society. Also, I’ve found that most people enjoy the restaurant scenes, especially since they are real. We all love eating out in great restaurants around the world, even if we experience them inside a novel. This also has the added effect of “lightening” the story. My novels aren’t dark, but added light does help alleviate the tension I’m, hopefully, causing the reader. Moving the action around the world in places people tend to enjoy – or want to visit – allows me to deal with serious issues without burdening the reader. I like my fiction to be an exciting, maybe nerve-wracking – but enjoyable – escape from life’s problems.

What would your dream office look like?
It would have tall, ceiling to floor windows and look out over the Place Vendome in Paris. I’d have a large semi-circular desk made of a fine wood. It would have a huge white board that would come down from the ceiling with the flip of a switch. Hanging on the walls would be photographs by Helmut Newton, Harry Benson, and Annie Leibovitz. I’d have a jukebox in the corner and music would be playing, maybe the Rolling Stones or movie themes. The room would be soundproof. The temperature would be a constant sixty-five degrees whether the fireplace was burning wood or not. The carpeting would be a soft, thick deep wool. There’d be a ten-line phone with lights constantly blinking, because I’d never answer it. I’d have a special comfortable chair and matching ottoman where I could relax when I wasn’t at my desk. My dog, Tazmania, would occupy it most of the time.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on the third novel in my series. The first two are titled Death Never Sleeps and Death Logs In. The third one – due next year – will be titled Death Logs Out.

I’m also coauthoring a true-crime book, Rogue Town 2 with private detective and former undercover cop Vito Collucci, Jr. about the Martha Moxley murder.

About the author:

E.J. Simon is the author of Death Logs In, (October 15, 2014) and Death Never Sleeps. Prior to his writing career, Simon was the CEO of GMAC Global Relocation Services (a division of GM) and the Managing Director of Douglas Elliman, the largest real estate company in New York.

He is a world traveler and food enthusiast. Simon lives in Connecticut with his family.

Connect with the author:

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