1. Mr. Mayland, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. Your new thriller, SPY FOR HIRE, came out on February 18. Tell us a bit more about this book.
Thanks for the invite, Ethan.
Okay, SPY FOR HIRE…here’s the setup: Former CIA station chief Mark Sava is holed up in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, working as a spy for hire and living with his ex-CIA girlfriend. The girlfriend is making up for past misdeeds by helping out local orphanages. When Sava stops a couple of Saudis from kidnapping a particularly important orphan, all hell breaks loose, and soon he’s embroiled in an intelligence war in the Middle East.
2. Where did the inspiration for this story come from, and how much of it is true and how much is fiction?
I’ve long followed, and written about, the politics of Iran. Iran led me to set the first Mark Sava spy thriller in Azerbaijan (they share a majority religion), and Azerbaijan led me to Kyrgyzstan (the connection is Turkic languages). Makes perfect sense, no?
As for the line between fact and fiction: The Central Asian and Middle Eastern settings are accurately portrayed, as are the geopolitical issues that underpin the book. Ditto for the parts that touch on the structure of the CIA and the State Department. Where I depart from reality is the pace of the novel. Intelligence operations typically involve a lot of waiting around—I cut all the waiting-around parts out.
3. Why do you write? Why thrillers?
I don’t see spy thrillers as just stories about a spies, I see them as a stories that focus on elemental issues all people deal with—when do you tell the truth, when do you lie, when do you decide the ends justify the means, when do you decide they don’t, how much of your true self do you show to the people around you, how much do you hide… These are issues that interest me.
4. What are your writing habits? Outline or not?
I outline, not extensively, but I always know how the story ends before I begin writing it.
5. What kind of research did you do for SPY FOR HIRE?
I traveled to Kyrgyzstan and Bahrain, interviewed lots of people while over there, and read quite a bit of non-fiction. I’ve posted an annotated bibliography that covers the whole Sava series on my website—danmayland.com.
6. What is the single most important thing you have learned during the writing process of crafting a novel?
Cut out the crappy parts. If you’re unsure whether it’s crappy or not, it’s crappy.
7. A word of advice for new writers?
Yeah—stop writing! Really, this is a tough business to succeed in. Job security is pretty much non-existent. There are far easier roads to travel in life. I mean, if you like to write but also could see yourself as, say, a civil engineer—then go be an engineer. Maybe write on the side for fun, see how it goes. Just don’t burn all your bridges.
If you’re a fellow bridge-burning nut, however, and you love to write so much that you just can’t stop, and you scoff at the patronizing advice given above, then read everything you can about how to write well, and learn how best to navigate the rapidly changing publishing industry. While you’re doing all that, write a ton, and revise even more. Don’t attempt to self-publish or get published until you’re sure you’re ready. That’s pretty self-evident weak-tea advice, but that’s all I got. There’s no magic bullet.
8. What are your thoughts on the latest publishing industry developments, mainly the rise of the self-publishing? Did you ever consider it or might you consider it in the future?
I applaud the rise of self-publishing. This is an exciting time to be an author. And while it’s not easy to break through as a self-published author, it’s not easy to break through going the traditional route either. The good thing is that now authors have two options, and can decide which is best for them. Or they can try both.
Would I consider self-publishing at some point in the future? I suppose I would. I’m thrilled to be with my current publisher, but the industry, and the cost-benefit equation for authors, is changing so rapidly that I think it would be wise for any author to give self-publishing serious thought on a project-by-project basis. Sometimes it might make sense, other times it might not; either way, more options for authors is a good thing.
If one does choose the self-publishing route, I would strongly advise hiring a professional editor, copy editor, and proof reader. Same goes for the cover—hire someone who knows what they’re doing.
9. What are your favorite pastimes?
Reading, mountaineering, building stuff, telling bad jokes to my family.
10. What is your next book going to be about?
It’s another Mark Sava thriller. Sign up at danmayland.com to be among the first to know when the title, book description, and cover art is released.