Questions & Answers
1. Why did you decide to write Second Sunrise?
I guess I’ve always enjoyed writing, but for most of my career it was technical writing related to my work. Surprisingly, I didn’t read fiction; when I’d travel, my briefcase would be full of reading related to my engineering career. Then Clancy came out with The Hunt for Red October which became popular at the navy research lab where I worked. After reading it, I got hooked on these new “techno-thrillers.” Not only were they exciting, but they were educational...the good ones were almost like reading papers to support my job. They were exciting enough to keep my mind off the fact that I didn’t like to fly. Always the engineer, the more I read, the more I’d pick the books apart technically. My wife and I’d take walks in the evening and I’d complain about the inaccuracies in the novels. “If I ever wrote a novel, I wouldn’t make a mistake like that,” I’d say. Her reply: “So show them. Write your own novel.” And I did.
2. How and why did you develop the plot?
They say to write about what you know. As an internationally recognized expert in underwater technology, which I am enthusiastic about, there was little choice; it had to be an underwater techno-thriller. During a conference I chaired in Bergen, Norway, there were exhibits that marketed an underwater submarine for oil exploration—essentially a work platform that, because it was underwater, escaped the rough waters in the North Sea. That always intrigued me. Add the fact that the Cold War had ended and Russia was purportedly selling off their technology, and I had a reasonable background for obtaining the “high concept” platform that I needed. Mix in Japan’s excellence in advanced technology and planning and my curiosity about man-made earthquakes (after all, I do live in California) and the recipe starts to come together.
3. Why did you pick Japan as the antagonist?
That was a perplexing choice for me. Everyone is writing about the usual terrorist countries and I needed an antagonist that I could understand. I have dealt with Japan for some time now via conferences and U.S./Japan committees that I am on and have fallen in love with the country and the people. Besides...I love sushi. By picking a Japanese antagonist, I now had the opportunity to describe the beauty of Japan and its culture. That may sound contradictory, but I think I succeeded. My antagonists represent an extremist faction in Japan and not the thoughts of the general population; however, there are those who have not gotten over their loss in World War II. By creating a character with the drive to seek revenge for his WW II losses, and the money to do something about it, I had the necessary characters and technology to complete my plot. I think the prejudices of characters such as Sam Brashly, who is one of my favorites, evens the playing field.
4. Is your plot feasible?
Yes! I put a lot of time into research regarding the plot, which I won’t describe too much here; I don’t want to give away the ending. I was able to glean enough supporting material out of books and papers that I found, many of which are referenced in my novel, to support my own thoughts about how to initiate a focused assault on the U.S. And the fact that many of my friends, who are also engineers and underwater experts, will be doing their best to find any error in my book, forced me to perform a lot of engineering calculations to make things come together. Many authors bend the laws of physics for plot convenience; everything in Second Sunrise is engineered to work within those laws.
5. Does the exotic technology described in the story really exist?
That is the exciting part. The undersea robots, manned vehicles, 3-D displays, acoustic communications and all the other bells and whistles in my novel exist. They might not have been built for the depths that I engineered my systems for, but they are out there working in the world’s oceans today. It is an exciting area. At one time, work in the ocean was only performed by divers. Today, work in the deep oil fields is done by robotic vehicles controlled from the surface; surveys are being performed by autonomous vehicles; and exotic manned vehicles are exploring our coastlines. The future for engineers in this fascinating area of technology is exciting. I’ve given hundreds of presentations to both students and professionals about the technology and the potential for careers in this area. The assault on inner-space will be more exciting and yield more benefits to mankind than the more publicized explorations of outer space.
6. Are you Chad Donegan?
Actually, parts of me are in a lot of the characters. Parts of me that are real and parts of me that are my dreams. Those who know me have pointed out where they see me; some are right, some are wrong. That’s the fun of creating the characters you love. Each character has bits and pieces of my life experiences with people from around the world. I’m a former Olympic style wrestler, a Vietnam veteran, a designer of undersea robots and former navy-qualified diver, and a very competitive individual...I really hate to lose. I’ll leave it to the reader to speculate on where in the novel my personality pops up.
7. You mentioned that Sam Brashly, the reporter, became a special character to you. Why?
Sam is great! The character you love to hate and hate to love. I needed a catalyst to bring all the players together, and what better way than a reporter. Reporters uncovered the CIA’s secret Project Jennifer, where they were going to lift a sunken Russian submarine from the depths off the coast of Hawaii. They would have done it, too, if not for the press breaking the story. So much for secrecy. So...a character like Sam, an overbearing, self-centered, computer-hacking snoop was just what I needed. I also felt his prejudices provided a good balance for those of the antagonists. You want to take your characters on a roller coaster ride; build them up, tear them down, built them back up, and on and on. I had a ball with Sam, who I feel got his just desserts in the end.
8. What’s on the horizon?
The sequel to Second Sunrise, Sunrise Cartel, has recently been released. I’m planning a trilogy of the Sunrise series. It the third book I’ll have the U.S. and Japan team to confront a unique underwater threat from two other countries that have their eye on bringing down Japan. Should be fun.
But before I write that book I’m putting the finishing touches on a Sam Brashly novel, Pop-Up. He uses his investigative talents to uncover a devious plot by the new president of the U.S. and a small team of agency directors to finally close the border with Mexico. Unfortunately for all involved, the result is a potential border war being fought by civilians, military and criminals. And, Sam and his friends are caught in the middle.