Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Conversation with Thriller Writer Roderick Vincent

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Roderick Vincent
with Roderick Vincent

We are delighted to welcome author Roderick Vincent to Omnimystery News today.

Roderick's first book in the Minutemen series about a dystopian America is The Cause (Roundfire Books; November 2014 trade paperback and ebook formats), and we recently had the opportunity to spend some time with him to talk about it.

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Omnimystery News: Tell us a little more about The Cause and its principal characters.

Roderick Vincent
Photo provided courtesy of
Roderick Vincent

Roderick Vincent: Not long after the Greece riots started in 2012, my wife and I traveled to South Africa. We stopped in Cape Town for a few days to see some friends. One night, we went to a birthday party and met Simon, a very charismatic African American guy who simply was the life of the party. We were in the car driving around Muizenberg and a very open conversation sprung to life about Apartheid and race discrimination. Simon said something to the effect of, "Where are all the black superheroes, man?" We came up with Blade and Shaft, but the list was small. Since the NSA was beginning to hit the news (still before Edward Snowden), and I had a nascent character sketch for a hyper-intelligent hacker who would be affiliated with the Anonymous network, the lights went on. In The Cause, I focus on breaking the stereotype of geeky-white-male when we think of hacker. So Isse Corvus, the main protagonist was born, a pseudo-Neo character who is exposed to an ugly truth. His will and ideology are challenged, and he must ultimately make a decision about how his life will move forward. But Isse encounters obstacles, having to prove himself at every turn of the corner. He is an observer to his own change. Originally sent into the black-ops camp as an assassin (as are others), the leader Seee attempts to change his view, and Isse must define in his own mind (as the reader must) if following Seee's path will make him patriot or traitor.

Seee is the charismatic ex-CIA trainer who now runs the off-the-grid, black-ops camp, The Abattoir, where elite agents go to receive real-world survival training. He has abandoned his State name for a Native American one which is essentially a plea for the recruits to look at the world as it really is. Somewhat like the Hunger Games, not everyone comes back. Seee is trying to "turn" these agents to The Cause. He believes the vote no longer matters. Governmental policy has become immutable, and he feels as a patriot he must force change through violent means.

General Montgomery is the NSA director and the counterbalancing voice. He believes law and order must be kept under all circumstances, lest there be anarchy. At the same time, he realizes that instability has been caused by the financial elite and will seek to shift power away from them. In a sense, he is sympathetic to some aspects of The Cause but knows it must be crushed for the safety of the state.

Through the characters in The Cause, I wanted to explore the line where the government is evolving into a totalitarian state (we see plenty of evidence of it today) and pose the traitor/patriot question around a group of revolutionaries in the novel who see violence as the only remaining option for meaningful change.

OMN: Do any of the characters evolve over the course of the story?

RV: Static characters tend to be boring in my view, so most of my characters undergo some sort of change. I think when characters encounter obstacles and resolve conflicts, they are naturally changing through a learning process. But for me as an author, one of the first things I think about is a character's metamorphosis as the story arcs around it regardless whether it a series or not.

OMN: How would you categorize The Cause?

RV: The Cause is a dystopian literary thriller (how about that for a mouthful!). You could call it a "brainy" thriller as well, a cross between le Carré, the Hunger Games, and 1984. I understand why the book world needs to label things (they need to know where to display it on the shelf), but labeling also fossilizes a book into an expectation and perhaps writers try too hard to meet that expectation when really all it's about is telling a damn good story. Both a literary agent and an editor told me The Cause doesn't really fit into a clear category, and that might hurt me. I'm glad Roundfire Books decided to take a chance on me because I didn't want to dumb it down or slice away the action. It is what it is. It's not an airplane read or Jane Austen. I'll let readers decide if they like it or hate it.

OMN: How would you tweet a summary of the book?

RV: The second American Revolution will be a fire lit from an internal spark.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in the book?

RV: "The Conductor" story in The Cause (a side-story of Seee's CIA asset days spent in Geneva, Switzerland) is based on someone real who walks the streets of Geneva gesticulating with his hands, conducting the invisible symphonies going on in his mind.

OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — you've received as an author? And what might you say to an aspiring writer?

RV: In a Master Class, Brett Lot (author of Jewel, an Oprah's Book Club selection) said, "write the best book you can, then worry about everything else." That's my philosophy in a nutshell. I've had all sorts of harsh criticism. You can't let that phase you as a writer. You have to remember it is highly subjective. What to look for is consensus among those critiquing your work. In the end, you have to be your own worst critic, harsher than the rest, and that isn't always so easy.

For new authors who aren't just doing it for their own amusement, I'd tell them not to get in the game unless they are extremely committed. Nowadays, it means more than just being an artist. You have to be able to market yourself if you want to gain an audience, and while that is distasteful to some, it is a fact of life with modern publishing unless you are somehow anointed into the lucky few that have it all done for them. What I see with successful self-publishers is that all of them are great at marketing, even if they are just marginal writers. Likewise, I've seen great writing in the traditionally published realm, but some authors aren't good at marketing and their work is lost out there in the plethora of titles. It's a new landscape out there. Realize that gaining an audience also might not be the most important thing. A true writer doesn't do it out of obligation; they do it to feel like they aren't drowning in the morass of their own lives. For the true writer, it is a compulsion.

OMN: Tell us more about the book's cover design.

RV: The book cover was my own vision although I had to go through a couple of artists to get it right. At one point, I still wasn't convinced and worked with another artist on an alternate cover. Then I did an online poll, and the cover you see today won by a landslide. So I like to think the cover was the product of a democratic process. Thanks to everyone who participated in the voting!

OMN: Suppose The Cause were to be adapted for television or film. Who do you see playing the key roles?

RV: Isse Corvus would be a younger Will Smith bulked up a bit — now — I don't know who the new kid on the block is. Maybe Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) would fit well. Seee would be Colin Ferrell or Marc Wahlberg. General Montgomery — Liam Nieson or Tom Wilkinson. Promise is certainly Paula Patton. I modeled her character and the San Francisco jazz singing scene after seeing a photograph of her playing Billie Holiday.

OMN: What do you watch for entertainment?

RV: I actually prefer TV now more than films. Hollywood has grown too risk averse, preferring the same, recycled stories, whereas you see a lot of originality in TV. The series shows where I say, "I wish I wrote that", would be Breaking Bad, Homeland, Game of Thrones, The Killing, and House of Cards. The last great film I saw was Edge of Tomorrow. Not only was it action-packed with a good plot, but it also didn't take itself too seriously, going for laughs in certain occasions, which I found refreshing. I was laughing out loud with all of Bill Cage's combat mishaps.

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Roderick Vincent has lived in the United States, England, Switzerland, and the Marshall Islands. His reviews and short stories have been published in Ploughshares blog, Straylight (University of Wisconsin, Parkside) and Offshoots (a Geneva publication).

For more information about the author, please visit his website at RoderickVincent.com and his author page on Goodreads, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Cause by Roderick Vincent

The Cause
Roderick Vincent
A Political Thriller

The second American Revolution will be a fire lit from an internal spark.

The year is 2022. America is on the verge of economic and social collapse. The U.S. government has made individual freedom its enemy.

African American hacker Isse Corvus enters a black-ops training camp. Hyper-intelligent, bold, and ambitious, Corvus discovers the leaders are revolutionaries seeking to return the U.S. back to its Constitutional roots. Soon the camp fractures. Who is traitor? Who is patriot?

With no place to hide, Corvus learns that if he doesn't join "The Cause" and help them hack the NSA's servers, it could mean his life. If he joins, he becomes part of a conspiracy to overthrow America's financial elite and uncover NSA secrets.

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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