Monday, June 2, 2014

A Taste of Honey – Interview

I met Gamal Hennessy around the beginning of last year. He was looking for beta readers for his book, Smooth Operator, which is the first in the series, A Taste of Honey the second. He is an interesting and intelligent guy, a talented author.

Gamal, thank you for coming to The Gal today. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I started an independent publishing company called Nightlife Publishing to get my work out into the world. Since Nightlife isn't a world famous company yet, I work during the day as a lawyer doing the most boring job you can imagine. I'm also an advocate and an expert on New York nightlife, which is not the most boring job you can imagine.

What are 5 things about you that most people don't know?

  1. When I got out of law school, I applied for the CIA, but they never called me back.
  2. After 9/11, I applied for the FBI and got pretty far in the process, but I probably flunked the psych evaluation.
  3. I trained in martial arts for eight years before I realized everything I learned is probably illegal to use in an actual fight.
  4. I consider whiskey and French fries a perfectly acceptable dinner, or lunch.
  5. I am an expert in naps, day drinking and avoiding popular culture.

What is the first book you remember reading?

It was probably a Batman comic when I was four or five. I remember images of the Joker using his laughing gas on cops and Batman finding the victims with those crazy death grins on their faces. I'm sure I had nightmares after that, but I went right back to reading comics when I woke up. I eventually wound up working in Japanese animation and comics for about six years after I got out of law school.

What made you decide to begin writing?

I wanted to draw comics when I was a kid. When I became a teenager, I realized I couldn't draw, so I switched to writing instead and found I had a talent for it. When I was in high school, college and law school, I wrote stories mostly for my friends. I didn't really try to publish anything until several years later.

Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

My only quirk when I write is that I need to have instrumental music on. It can be jazz, house or ambient music, but I think I need that to shut out the world and access the creative side of my brain. That's why the music can't have anyone singing. If I hear lyrics I concentrate on the words and I can't concentrate.
    My writing process is pretty involved. I start off with a conceptual framework of what the book is about, who the characters are and the overall message I'm trying to convey. Since most of my books exist in a connected universe, I use this period to integrate the specific novel into the large canon. Then I create a step outline that is similar to a screenplay outline that maps out every action and reaction in every chapter. Then I sit down and write the manuscript, following the outline as a guide but giving myself the freedom to deviate from it. The next step is to let it sit for a few weeks while I work on something else. Then I come back to I and clean it up before it goes to the beta readers.

Do you have a special place you like to write?

Writing for me is similar to guerilla warfare, I write anytime and anywhere I get a few private moments. I try to write every day, but I don't have the luxury of sitting at home for hours at a time. I wrote my last two novels on my cell phone during lunch and my commute so I don't have a problem writing on the run.

Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Writing is easy. Getting attention for your writing is hard. It's hard to get beta readers to respond. It's harder to get advanced reviewers to write a review. Getting your friends to read and support your work might be the hardest thing and getting discovered by the general public is a monumental task. If writing was just about writing, it would be the easiest job ever.

What do you think makes a good story?

Conflict defines a story. The best stories have the best conflicts. And it's not just a battle between a hero and a villain. The best stories have conflicts on many levels at once. When the hero has to struggle against their environment, their society, their circumstances, their enemies, their friends and their own inner nature all at the same time (in a way that makes sense) you have a chance to create a classic.

What book(s) have most influenced you?

My most influential books for life are:
    The Art of War by Sun Tzu
    The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene
    The Hedonism Handbook by Michael Flocker
    The Way of Zen by Alan Watts

My most influential books for my writing are:
    The Spy in the House of Love by Anais Nin
    Rain Fall by Barry Eisler
    The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
    Burning Chrome by William Gibson
    Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre
    Story by Robert McKee

What inspires you most?

The strongest part of my inspiration comes from defining myself as a writer. When I see myself as a creative person, my outlook on life is better. All the effort and research and time spent creating something that I'm proud of is a reward that doesn't require outside recognition or money. Those things are nice and I wouldn't turn them down, but pushing myself to be a writer is a lot more inspirational than pushing myself to be a lawyer.

Where do the ideas for your books come from?

The idea for my novels come from a Frankenstein kind of process. A Taste of Honey is built on the seductive process of Robert Greene, the rise of corporate spy agencies, news stories I've read about international gun smuggling, the erotic consciousness of Anais Nin and a desire to tell a spy story that avoided the cliché of the genre.

Which of your characters do you think is the most like you?

All of my characters have some aspect of me in them. I don't think any writer can create a viable character that doesn't share some of their nature. If I had to pick one character, I would have to say Nikki because her greatest strength is also her greatest weakness.

What have you learned creating this book?

As a writer, A Taste of Honey taught me how to open up and let a story breathe. Most of my previous work focused on short stories and novellas. Nikki's story opened up not just a full and complex world for one novel, but an entire series that I foresee as lasting for at least eight more novels.

What do you think your readers will take away from this book?

Readers will see Nikki evolve from a naïve and dependent girl to an experienced and independent spy. She'll lose a lot in the process, but she'll be stronger when it is over. Hopefully, readers will see parallels between Nikki's growth and their own personal evolution.

What makes your book different than others that fall under this genre?

Spy thrillers often focus on agents who are male, experienced, single-minded and violent. James Bond, Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne are the most well-known examples of this trope. A Taste of Honey is about a spy who is female, untested, uncertain and seductive. The sexual tension in the book isn't just a standard subplot. It is at the core of Nikki and her mission. This gives a new flavor to the genre by creating new scenarios and new problems that can't be solved with another car chase or gun fight. I love reading a good combat scene, but the genre is ready for something different.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I'm going to release an urban gothic anthology entitled The Dark End of the Street in time for Halloween this year.
    In February 2015, I'm going to release A Touch of Honey, which is the sequel to A Taste of Honey, and in September 2015, I'm planning on releasing a follow up to my first book, Smooth Operator, with a new novel called Smoke and Shadow.

Thanks for being here today, Gamal.  One last thing: Where can we find you?

I'm trying to be all over the internet. You can find me at:

No comments: