Sunday, June 20, 2010


Author Mike Lawson might not be the first engineer to switch careers, but when it comes to writing thrillers he might be one of the best.  He was kind enough to spend a few minutes with me while in the middle of a current book tour for his latest novel, "House Justice."

1- Your plot lines are very realistic, do you ever swipe actual scenes from your years as a nuclear engineer for the Navy?

Only one of my books, The Second Perimeter, contains material from my old job as a nuc engineer for the navy. The actual idea for the book, however, came from a real life incident at the Los Alamos National Laboratory where some computer discs containing classified data were supposedly stolen by the Chinese. Scenes in The Second Perimeter that discuss the naval shipyard in the book were based on my experience at that shipyard - but nothing in the book is classified, of course. I do draw heavily in my books from my experience working for the government and time spent in D.C. All my books pretty much begin with something I read in the paper. My fifth book, House Justice, was inspired by the real life Valerie Plame case. My third book, House Rules, started with an article I read about the no-fly zone around D.C. The reason my books are set in D.C. is that it's a "target rich" environment - there's always some god-awful thing happening back there in real life that's fodder for political thriller writers.

2. Your protagonist, DeMarco, was so developed right from the first novel, The Inside Ring, is he a more daring version of yourself?

DeMarco is - sorta - me. That is DeMarco's thought process about a lot of things and the way he reacts to situations is a lot like I would probably react - and, like me, DeMarco's not exactly the hero type. And we both enjoy a vodka martini. Also, and this is a different story, DeMarco's father had mob connections. Believe it or not, my grandfather, an old fedora-wearing Scilian also had few connections to some shady mob people.

3- DeMarco's sidekick, Emma, is such an insider--did you mold her after anyone in particular?

I didn't mold Emma after anyone person. Emma in a sense is a "device". I wanted the books to have a strong female character - but I didn't want the character to be a love interest for DeMarco. I didn't want to deal with the boyfriend-girlfriend thing which, I think, can get rather tiresome after several novels. But the main thing about Emma - and this is the device part - I wanted a character that would be a true D.C. insider in terms of having access to places like the CIA, the Pentagon, and the FBI - and with Emma's past as an operative for the DIA, she provides that access. Lastly, I wanted Emma as a counter-balance to DeMarco - she's more moral, more straight-laced, more inclined to make DeMarco play by at least a few rules

4- Is writing work for you, or would you do it even if there were no readers out there?

Particularly after my old job - working on reactor plants for navy nuc ships - writing definitely doesn't seem like work. I love to write - I feel like I'm getting paid to have the best hobby in the world. And to answer you question, if my current publisher dropped me - although I don't think that's going to happen - I'd keep writing. I'd be trying to find another publisher, of course, but I think I'm so used to getting up every morning and writing that I'd keep doing that whether I had a publisher or not. It's fun making up stories.

5- How are you adapting to the digital age of publishing--are you going fighting and clinging, or are you more accepting of the changes?

I have no control over a lot of the things that impact the writing business - the demise of newspapers, good independent bookstores disappearing, the advent of e-books, etc. That's the world we live in. I just keep writing and hope my publisher and others on the business-side of the books will keep me in the game whether the reader is reading my books on paper, his I-pod, his I-pad, or his Kindle. The only thing I really regret is seeing the small, neighborhood indepdent stores disappearing because they can't compete with the big box stores and folks like Amazon. But that's the way things are - we all just have to keep adapting - like you're doing with your blog.

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