Bestselling author Tom Avitabile joins us in this episode of CrimeFiction.FM to discuss his new book, the first in his Brooke Burrell thriller series, GIVE US THIS DAY.
Today, December 9th is a special day for Tom and GIVE US THIS DAY. The book is a Nook Daily Find at Barnes & Noble and is being offered at a steep discount throughout the day. The rest of Tom’s books are discounted at B&N today as well.
Tom shares the history of Brooke Burrell, the protagonist in his latest book. She’s made supporting appearances in previous books of his, but this is her first time in a primary role. GIVE US THIS DAY is the first in the Brooke Burrell Thriller series.
We discuss the storyline for the book, which includes terrorists, Wall Street hedge funds, and a highly plausible plot.
Tom discusses the scary process of writing from the perspective of a female in GIVE US THIS DAY.
Tom has relationships with experts in a number of different fields that help him to tell the most accurate story possible.
The Interview transcript: Give us This Day, by Tom Avitabile
Stephen: Welcome back to CrimeFiction.fm where we bring the authors of today’s best books directly to you. I’m your host Stephen Campbell and I’m here with Tom Avitabile, the author of the seriously high-octane new thriller Give Us This Day, which was released in late October. Tom, welcome.
Stephen: It is the perfect day for you and I to be having this conversation because you’ve got something special going on today so let’s lead things off by talking about that and then we’ll get into the character and the book and everything about this.
Tom: Well, it is a special day. Today, by coincidence we are the NOOK Daily Find on Barnesandnoble.com. And what that means is today, only for today (December 9th), a limited time only as they say, the book Give Us This Day, my fifth novel, will be available for the unheard of low, low price of $1.99. That’s today only during the NOOK Daily Find. It’s actually been selected by Barnes and Noble as a book to feature today and I’d like to just reach out to everyone and say, the last time this happened I became a number one best-seller. So, if anybody’s listening out there and at any point during they’re listening or after they listen to the show, they can go click on it and download my book. And who knows, I could come back on your show in a couple of months and say, “We hit number one!”
Stephen: Yeah, absolutely. And I will link to the Barnes and Noble page in the show notes so if people are listening in their car they could just go to the show notes and find the link there as well.
Tom: Thanks a lot, it’s the greatest thing you could do for a kid from the Bronx. By the way my other books, The Eight Day, The Hammer of God, The God Particle, and The Devil’s Quota will also be there at $2.99. They’re doing a kind of across the board special on my entire library.
Stephen: It’s a great day to get the Tom Avitabile library. Yes it is. Let’s get started. We’re going to talk about the book, which I absolutely love by the way. I love a good thriller and this one just blew me away. But let’s get started by talking about your protagonist Brooke Burrell. She’s a fascinating character and I’m curious about how you developed her.
Tom: Well, Brooke actually started out in my first book, The Eighth Day as a kind of a supporting character in a minimal role. She teamed up with a retired New York City detective and they thwarted a plot to poison New York, and that was a subplot. And I got a lot of mail about her. She perforated some guys’ leg in the classic ticking bomb scenario of you treat someone nice and if the bomb is about to go off that you do something to convince them to talk. She actually perforates his leg, in the soft fleshy part, but she gets written up and a notation is made in her file and everyone nods and says yeah, she did save New York, so maybe we shouldn’t get on her.
She came back in the second book, in Hammer of God, and she did an incredible mind psych on a mastermind terrorist and out psychologied him and got him scared to his wits where he confessed everything so she did strong in the Hammer of God. But in The God Particle, it’s almost her book, it just kind of happened that way. You’re writing and all of a sudden these people take over, and when I was writing The God Particle, which is my third book, it turned out she was almost like the co-leading character. The co-protagonist if you can coin that phrase. She became a major part of the book, I know this sounds schizophrenic mostly on her own. And that book was so well received and I get a lot of email about Brooke, a lot of people like her. So when it came time to do my fifth book everybody said, look you’ve got to go with Brooke. I mean she’s getting the most emails. She’s getting more emails than you main character did. So it’s like okay, all right, I can listen to the voice of the people.
So we crafted, “we”, me and all the monkeys in my head that write. We crafted a fifth novel which is the first of the Brooke Burrell series. I got to tell you it’s been incredible widely accepted. I’ve gotten a lot of five out of five reviews and people are just writing emails about it and agents are calling and publishers are calling, it’s really hit a mark. So, go out there, Brooke and do what you do so well.
Stephen: Well, I absolutely loved her as a character and I see that Jon Land did as well. Who is very well known, listeners will know who Jon is. He refers to her as a postmodern though equally jaded Clarice Starling, which I thought was pretty clever of him.
Tom: Jon is clever. Yeah. And to stretch it out a little longer, he’s actually talking about Silence of the Lambs there.
Stephen: Right, right.
Tom: Look, to be anywhere in the neighborhood, around the block and across the street from Silence of the Lambs in anybody’s mind…
Stephen: It’s a good place to be.
Tom: Boy, I got to tell you I dabbed a tear from my eye when I read that one. That was great.
Stephen: Jon has written a fantastic female protagonist himself. Is her name Caitlin Strong?
Tom: Yes, it is.
Stephen: I love that series and it’s terrific. And to get that kind of praise from Jon is high praise indeed. Well, let’s roll into the book, Give Us This Day. Give us a sense of what the story’s about and how you take the reader through this breakneck pace all the way to a very satisfying ending.
Tom: Yeah. One of the great quotes I got was, I don’t write with ink. I write with adrenaline somebody wrote in one of the reviews. It starts out innocently enough. Brooke, in the last book The God Particle, met the love of her life truly because she had no love life before that because she was all work and very little play, and that’s brought out in the first book, The God Particle.
For a standalone book, the beginning of a series, I didn’t want to depend on that. So, I establish her, and refresh everybody’s memory or introduce her – depending on whether you come to the book first or not – as someone who just wants to teach high school girls’ soccer, a coach high school girls’ soccer in Hawaii, while her husband in the Navy is on deployment out at sea.
All of a sudden the government comes and asks her to do a job, and she’s already retired and she doesn’t do that anymore but they keep hounding her so she makes them an offer she can refuse. She ratchets it up to an unbelievable amount of money and something called a director GS 15 or 16 level and finally she has to take the job. But it’s just a stupid, little, white-collar crime thing, a little forensics on the accounting side and she’s out of it and she should be back in Hawaii tonight right after they do the takedown. In that last eleventh hour, right before it’s just a simple walk in the park everything goes to hell.
Starts off with a death in the subway. Is that a murder? It moves on to a series of terrorist movements and attacks around the world. And suddenly this small, little thing she was involved with has major repercussions but she and no one in the book knows what’s happening. They don’t know the final plan. They don’t know what the ultimate goal is. But along the way, it’s ISIS on Wall Street making major moves in the market.
And I talked to some people who are on the financial side of security and SWIFT and all of these things that are designed to stop this from happening saying, I can’t tell you right now that it isn’t happening. They’ve got millions and millions of dollars, almost billions of dollars from their oil reserves and they could be making market plays all day long and funding terrorism from the stock market.
Stephen: You come up with a lot of very plausible ways that that could be done and for someone like me who really loves a good financial thriller, I enjoy that kind of background in a book.
Tom: Well, thank you. I believe that the key to plausible fiction is to have a base in reality. So, I tend to like to think of it as a foundation that’s based in the reality of the world, the non-fiction stuff and then the next layer, just one more layer up that little featherbed kind of layer above it where I take the truth and I put it together in ways that are fictitious.
But I try and do everything that’s true. So everything in the book is true, is the way I put it together that creates the fiction, and that leads to the mantle that I’ve always used from the beginning which is, it’s only fiction until it happens. That’s my US Patent Office, registered trademark line.
It’s only fiction until it happens.
So in the book it’s the same thing. So, this ability to axe or put in contracts or hedge or however you want to say it, if you go back to 9/11 there was conspiracy theories about how people shorted the airline stocks and made millions on 9/12. And the question is, if you knew when the next terror attack was going to be, and if it was devastating enough and if you had enough money and clout in the market could you make a trillion dollars on the next attack? Well, if you knew when and where it was going to happen and you make the right moves on the market you could. So who better to invest than the people who are attacking? Of course, that’s only a part of the book.
Stephen: Right. As you’ve mentioned, you’ve written several books but this one is a little bit of a departure for you because while in the past, in three of the books, Brooke has been a supporting character, here she’s the star of the show. She is the primary protagonist as you said. What was that like to you to transition with a character from a supporting character to really, you’re sort of inside her head writing the book?
Tom: I got to tell you. I haven’t been an operator in Special Forces and I’ve never gone into a dark cave, but it was like that. It’s scary in there. It is scary in there. We share the planet a whole another species almost of human beings. Although we look almost the same, we do the same things, we do it for much different reasons. It doesn’t mean that an action hero does anything different as a male or a female. But my only point, my only way to sanity was to go inside. Going inside the motivation, the reason why someone does something may be wholly different although the action externally may be the same. You get the bad guys. You do the shoot-out. You do everything. It’s what’s inside the motivation, the stimulus response that I believe was an opportunity too, for character development.
So, in building, and I use the term building Brooke, when she was a supporting character I had the pleasure and the ease of defining her by the other characters. What the other characters say about her. What they say when she leaves the room. How they treat her and how they have dialogue with her. But she’s a supporting character. When she’s the lead character, the main character of the book, that’s not enough. You’ve got to go inside. You’ve got to go into the way she sees the world, the way she handles situations and problems. How cognizant she is of what’s around her, and you’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t make her a slam dunk hero so it’s boring. You’ve got to create and you’ve got to show blind spots. You’ve got to have areas where she could fail. Otherwise, there’s no tension.
And in developing that character, in trying to flesh out a character that wasn’t just, “She does everything a guy does. It’s really cool!” And it’s like, “No, she’s a guy then.” And that happens a lot. A lot of times you’ll write a great story and then you just turn it to a female and it’s like you’ve added the female gender to something you wrote as a male and you think that’s enough and that’s cool because she does everything a guy does. Well then, just write a guy.
Working from the ground up, I just didn’t want to write an action hero or someone who’s thinking and moving and kinetic, that’s just a guy who’s a female. I wanted to write an endemic female from the ground up and that was scary. In my research, and it sounds strange to say I researched females, but you know…
Stephen: That’s our life’s work as men. (Laughs)
Tom: Isn’t it true brother? But in researching it from not a point of view of, yeah, we all know women, but asking them about thought processes. Asking them about would you save the baby or would you save the mother? Typical ethical dilemmas and all kinds of things, there’s not a consensus. What one woman told me another woman bristled at. When another woman said was fine, another woman said, “No, I wouldn’t do that at all.” It’s kind of like, oh boy, what do I do now?
One great line, and it’s kind of in the book. I wrote this character that I thought was just the milk of human kindness just the greatest guy on the planet and I based him on my brother-in-law who I dearly love who is that guy. He’s just one of the best guys on the planet. And I wrote him to be just a real soft point in the book, just a real nice guy.
I get this note from a women who’s big in New York and big in politics and knows and works in insurance companies and works in courts and she writes back this line that says, “He’s a chauvinist pig and so disrespectful.” And I’m like, “Woah, what did I do?” And she explained to me that in the book, my character refers to her by her first name only. That’s it he says Brooke. He says “Well Brooke, you know, blah, blah, blah.” And she says that he may as well have asked her to get him a cup of coffee. I’m like “Woah. Okay. that’s a ding, right. I got to remember that one right?”
So, of course I adjust the book, but the very next day, the very next day, no less than the President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, gets grilled by the feminist crowd because he refers to Elizabeth Warren, the senator, as Elizabeth. So I was like, “Woah. I should have said this to the president. I could have saved him some this trouble.”
So, it’s like, I don’t know. It’s like okay, you really got to readjust your thinking because you are responsible for a female and you want other women to read it and not say, “Ohm, this was written by a guy.” You want them to say, “Wow, I like her. I may not agree with everything she does but I don’t disagree with her modus operandi if you will.”
Stephen: I think that as readers we can glom on to inaccuracies in thinking like that and I certainly didn’t catch any. Did you have any women that read a draft or something to give you some feedback or did you just write based on the feedback that they’d already given you?
Tom: No, I’m very lucky. And if you look at the back of my books I always credit my mastermind group and I would say about half are women. And again, that comment that I just discussed that came after reading a second draft. I depend on people a lot for specialties. In other words, I have people that are experts in nuclear physics. I have people that are experts in human behavior. I have people who have lived in The White House, practically. I have people that know the defense system, the state department. I have experts in the Secret Service. I’ve been lucky enough to amass a tremendous amount of good people who want to help me make a more accurate and better book. As I always say, any errors are mine and or anything I sacrificed to tell a story, like the old bromide, never let facts get in the way of telling a good story. If they really nail me on chemicals or something like that they nail me on. You never want to screw up guns.
You put a safety on a Glock that doesn’t have a safety and you get a thousand emails. You can do anything else and you get a couple you emails but if you screw up guns man, they’re all over you. So, I have experts in that regard that just go through it and give me notes and then I include as much as I can as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the story.
Stephen: And how have you developed these relationships? Has it been over time? Are you adding a few with each new book?
Tom: Yeah, it’s like I go through the park gathering nuggets in May. I go to dinner and I meet someone who’s an ex-FBI agent. There’s an incredible gentleman named Anthony who’s a retired detective first-grade New York City. I met him on the beach in Puerto Rico and he became my go-to guy. This guy knows everything about not only police procedure with his many, many years of service to the city, but he is a gun encyclopedia. I called him once while I was writing The Devil’s Quota and I said, “You know I need a gun prior to 1899 so it doesn’t need a permit that can be a relic but it can still fire.” And in rapid , he came back to me with the Colt SA Army 1890, I don’t remember, but it was a gun that could take today’s standard 45 ammunition and it would be a gun that police officer would not have to surrender because a police officer surrenders his weapon in that scene where, “Your badge, your gun.” You have to surrender all your guns. You cannot have any gun. So, all the guns, even the ones you own personally have to be surrendered. So, this would have to be a gun that wasn’t permitted.
So, in the story I have my character in the Devil’s Quota, the gun his grandfather had, which he’s counting on for his retirement. It’s worth $200,000 and it’s one of these Colt Army Action 18 whatever guns and he’s got it in a case. And when he’s got no more guns and he still got to go fight the bad guys, the case is broken and the gun is not there. He actually takes a six shooter in one of the shoot outs and fans it like in the old west. And again, he was right on spot on with that in an instant, like an encyclopedia of weaponry. He’s just amazing.
I have similar stories of people in financial transactions, the stock market, the airlines, everything that touches the book. I’ve been lucky enough to find someone who has some understanding and is been willing to read the book and give me notes.
Stephen: Yeah, that is terrific. We’re running short of time, Tom. So, let’s wrap up with, I think I know where readers could find the book. I know they can find the book everywhere but they could find it today at Barnes and Noble as the special deal of the day.
Tom: Yes, once again Give Us This Day is now specially priced at $1.99 for today only, and if you go there and you buy it, it ticks up on this run to number one that I’m doing. If enough people buy it, I’ll be your number one best-seller. So everybody out there if you’ve got two bucks in your pocket and you want to help a kid from the Bronx become another number one best-selling author. Also my entire library, The Eighth Day, The Hammer of God, The God Particle, and Devils Quota are all at $2.99, on today only again. So, get to Barnes and Noble then do it. If you want you can go to my blog which is www.tomavitabile.com, oh boy, that’s a tough name to spell.
Stephen: It’s even tough for you, isn’t it?
Tom: Yeah, A-V-I-T-A-B-I-L-E, A-V-I-T-A-B-I-L-E.com, that’s my blog. You can sign up there and get on my email list. Lots of fun things come out that way and go out and tell all your friends about it, too.
Stephen: Hey Tom, this has been terrific. Thanks so much for being here today.
Tom: And thank you very much. Keep up the good work.
From the Publisher:
It always starts out as routine, even when you are only doing it while your husband is deployed at sea. Even if it began as a safe, easy way to make enough cash to start a family. Even if there was no way you would ever get stuck doing it full time . . . after all, that’s why you retired from the FBI.
But then they killed off your prime witnesses all over the globe, erased all of their digital fingerprints from a Wall Street hedge fund, blew up your office, tried to blow up St. Pats and, with unlimited funding from financial plays in the stock market, launched the biggest, most devastating attack ever directed against a city. One that no one saw coming. An unthinkable event that would have ramifications for the next one hundred years or more.
And all you wanted to do was go home to Hawaii and coach high school soccer…
Welcome to former FBI agent Brooke Burrell’s life. Her cushy assignment turns into a countdown to mega-death and destruction, keeping her and her hand-picked group of experts guessing what, where, and when the attack will be – right up until zero hour.
GIVE US THIS DAY is a book with enough plausibility that it will keep readers guessing what will happen next, whether they are in their living rooms or in government offices.
Purchase GIVE US THIS DAY at Barnes & Noble
Author’s Website www.TomAvitabile.wordpress.com/