1. Mr. Sanghoee, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. Your thriller, KILLING WALL STREET, came out on May 7, 2013. Tell us a bit more about this book.
I wrote KILLING WALL STREET in response to the financial crisis of 2008. I had never seen so much angst, not just on Wall Street but on Main Street with average Americans in a state of extreme distress and panic. The economic stability that is the bedrock of our nation had been badly shaken up and I sympathized with the people who had suddenly lost their jobs and had no way to make ends meet. I wanted to explore what could happen if a working class citizen decided that they had had enough of corporate greed and turned vigilante against the system.
2. Who are Catherine and Michael, and how did you go about creating them?
Catherine is a working class single mom who is going through a severe midlife crisis and whose world comes apart when she loses her life savings. She is also a smart woman who is determined not to be a victim. In all other ways though, she is every woman, and that’s the idea. Michael is an FBI agent whose career is rising fast and he wants to win. His latest investigation, however, pushes him to the limit and he has to make some tough choices along the way. In terms of creating them, Catherine was difficult since she is a complex character and talks to the reader directly, but eventually, I was able to put myself in her shoes and it came naturally. Michael was easier since his motivations are not as complicated, but the key thing was to give him a personal backstory that would tie in with his investigation.
3. What kind of research did you do for KILLING WALL STREET?
For Catherine, I relied on input from female friends who are in her age group to understand better what issues women face and how they cope with them. For Michael, I talked to sources who know about how police investigations work to make his process authentic. Outside of that, I am a banker by trade so I was able to bring my experiences to bear in terms of the financial plot and the rest of the characters like the CEOs and bankers who populate the book.
4. How much did your experience as an investment banker help you in crafting this work?
This book is not really about finance, it is about an individual’s fury against corruption and exploitation, but there is still a financial conspiracy involved. My experience as a banker helped a lot since the key to financial plots is detail, but the real challenge was to make those details easy to grasp and never boring for readers who are not bankers themselves. The audience for this book is not just Wall Street!
5. What are your writing habits? How long does it take you to research and write a novel?
Unlike some writers, I don’t have a routine. I write when I have an idea and usually just immerse myself for a period of several months to create a work. At other times, I tend to write more political and business commentary rather than fiction. Fiction is like a ‘zone’ – when I’m in that zone, nothing else matters, but when I’m not, I don’t think about it. The process of research itself can take up to 3 months and then the writing another 6-9 months, provided I’m doing it full-time. However, I wrote my first novel, MERGER, while I was still in investment banking so that book I would write from 11 pm till 2 am every day and then over the weekends. It was grueling.
6. A word of advice for new writers?
First of all, any writer should only write if they love it. It’s a difficult road and success is elusive. If you do it out of passion, then you’re fine. Also, the digital publishing world has created a lot of opportunity for new writers, but it’s also fraught with dangers since there is so much content out there and hard to distinguish yourself. Marketing and creating a profile for yourself outside of your writing is key. People will buy your books only if they respect you and if you provide them with something other than just a ‘product’. Be authentic!
7. Why do your write?
Because there is no option. I love it and feel compelled to do it. I have felt that way since I was a kid. Maybe it’s my purpose in life. I certainly enjoy it tremendously, whether I am writing commentary or fiction. I also find fiction to be incredibly satisfying since it allows me to create alternate worlds that may not exist in real life. Writers live through their characters to some degree.
8. What are your favorite pastimes?
I enjoy reading fiction (non-fiction is tough although I have to read it in order to write my commentary), socializing, and swimming. Just learnt how to swim at the ripe age of 40 so am pretty excited!
9. What do you like to read and what are you reading at the moment?
I like thrillers and drama. To be honest, I find a lot of modern works to be poorly written and plot lines unnecessarily complex. Words are not just tools to convey ideas, they are also the message in themselves, but unfortunately a lot of authors today don’t see it that way. They don’t take pleasure in ‘turning phrases’ the way earlier authors did.
Authors such as Frederick Forsyth, Jeffrey Archer, and Michael Crichton defined their genres very well. James Michener is another favorite of mine, although I doubt a lot of young readers even know who he is. Stephen King deserves special mention because his earlier work is pure literature. His staggering imagination and his command of the English language are exceptional, and I feel that he is actually underrated (perhaps because he writes horror).
10. What other book(s) are you working on?
I could tell you but then I would have to kill you… Seriously though, I am exploring a couple of different ideas right now. I am fascinated by what is going on in American politics, how dysfunctional and polarized our nation has become, and might want to do something slightly futuristic – imagining what America and the world might be like a couple of decades from now. Definitely not science fiction but more of an exploration of the direction that humanity is going.