Interview with Christian Burton

What is your writing process?
I had a number of key scenes in my head. After writing those, I worked to connect those key scenes together. I had a professional critique my initial draft. He told me to focus on my most compelling story line and create more tension between the hero and the villain. We cut a lot out of the book which in turn led to more writing. Cut. Write. Refine. Edit. Write. Refine. Edit. Edit. Edit.
How have your life experiences influenced this work?
I'm old enough to remember when gas was less than $1 per gallon. When I was ten, yellow ribbons were tied around the elm trees outside my elementary school during the Iran hostage crisis, and scary pictures of the Ayatollah Khomeini were constantly on display during the evening news. Gas prices rose dramatically. It seemed clear who was at fault.

Although my parents are very conservative, conservation wasn't a dirty word in our household. When gasoline prices spiked during the hostage crisis, my family made the switch to more fuel efficient cars. I don't recall this being some kind of political statement on my parents part. It was just a change that needed to me made. We scoured the car lots looking at the MPG ratings of all the vehicles.

Perhaps, this is because they grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. They remembered victory gardens and scrap metal drives. Although my father was an attorney, we had a big garden, we went berry picking, we canned, and we raised chickens. We saved, reused, and conserved. My mother knows how to darn a sock.

My older brother and sister attended college at the Air Force Academy, and I eventually followed. I was at the Academy during Operation Desert Storm. It's an odd feeling watching a war and wondering if you'll soon be joining it. As it happened, the fighting was over well before I joined active duty. However, the Middle East was our primary Area of Responsibility at my first assignment.

I spent 90 days in Saudi Arabia in support of operation Provide Comfort II. I was stationed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia prior to the Khobar Towers bombing, so I actually got to see a fair amount of the country. My time there was insignificant when compared to the number of deployments that our military forces have had to endure since in Afghanistan and due to the 2nd Iraq War.

In hindsight, I never really appreciated the danger that I may have been in. The fact that we'd often have to wake up the Saudi guard when entering the USMTM compound seemed more like an annoyance than something of vital importance. There were two abandoned vehicles located in the compound parking lot the entire time I worked there. Our living quarters were a forty-five minute drive away at Eskan Village. It was common to see civilian vehicles parked just outside the perimeter fence of the village. Notionally, they were just trying to intercept the television signals that were transmitted across the compound. American movies, some R-rated, were often played.

I don't want to give away too many of my observations about the country because they're in the novel. Nonetheless, the gap between the haves and the have-not was very stark. In general, I was much more leery of the religious police than I was of the average Saudi Arabian citizen. I even bought Christmas ornaments from a local vendor while I was there. Almost twenty years later, I still hang the ornaments on our tree every year.

After serving in the Air Force for six years, I transitioned to civilian world and worked as a project manager for a major cell phone company. I caught the tail end of the dot-com bubble. It was a good time to be working for a technology driven company. However, I was downsized a few years later when the bubble burst.

Initially, I wasn't too concerned. My wife had a good job, and I was preparing to become a stay-at-home dad anyway. Unfortunately, my wife lost her job as well soon after returning from FMLA leave. We were both out of work when the September 11th attacks occurred. Unemployed, with a six month old baby, I remember feeling numb as I walked out to check mail during the anthrax scare. Needless to say, it wasn't the best time to be looking for employment. Luckily, my wife found a full-time job in October of that year, and I found part-time work as a swim instructor.

It's strange to think that our nation has been at war practically throughout my eldest daughter's entire life. Although, if you asked her about it, she probably wouldn't even know it. While I may be romanticizing the past, the United States fought World War II as a nation. It was a team effort relying on substantial contributions from both the military and civilian sectors. Whereas today, our government tries to insulate the public from war. While politicians often cry for the public to rally behind our troops, true civilian sacrifices are not required, and subsequently, the national debt stands at over $17 trillion dollars.

During my lifetime, the United States has supported the Shah of Iran, Afghan rebels, and Saddam Hussein, all to disastrous effect. Over and over again, we make dubious foreign policy decisions in the name of Middle East stability instead of preparing our nation for the inevitable instability. When Iran's monarchy fell, the United Sates was caught unawares. Will we be any better prepared when the Saudi monarchy crumbles.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
In elementary school, I wrote a short story about a monster that swallows a space ship. I remember the picture that I drew along with it better than the story itself. The monster eats rocks to destroy the space ship. I ended the story with a reference to the Alka-Seltzer commercial that I'd been watching on TV. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is. Possible copyright violation, but I was quite young.
How do you approach cover design?
I had a number of rough ideas which I put together in a YouTube video - http://youtu.be/2RppqUkNGpg. I shared these with Ana Grigoriu of Kingwood Creations. Per her request, I also provided her with short synopsis of the book which was more in depth compared to the back page blurb. While the final design didn't stray too far from my initial ideas, it was a lot more professional than anything that I could have created on my own.
When did you first start writing?
As a new father and stay-at-home dad, I started writing 12 years ago. My father-in-law had self-published a series of books. If he could do it, I figured I could as well. However, as my oldest daughter grew and became more active, I became frustrated with the writing process and gave up. This cycle repeated itself 5 years later with my youngest daughter. When she entered preschool, I decided to give writing one more try. I purchased a laptop and began writing again. With the laptop, I worked on my book while sitting in the school carpool lane. I typed away while sitting in the bleachers at my daughters' swim practices. In the fall of 2012, I was finally finished. I sent my manuscript in for a critique by a published author. It was over 200,000 words long. Aside from pointing out that my manuscript was way too long, the critique helped me focus the story on its strongest characters. After chopping, re-writing, chopping, re-writing, editing, re-writing, and editing, I finally have a finished product.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
When I came up with the idea for my novel, I knew that certain aspects of the story would be somewhat controversial. While I made a lot of changes, after getting a professional critique of my initial manuscript, self-publishing enabled me to write the story that I wanted to write.
What led you to write this book?
As a parent, you obviously want your children to have safe and prosperous future. However, as I look at the state of our nation, I don't feel that the members of my generation have been the best stewards. I don't always feel that my daughters' futures are necessarily going to be brighter or safer. Our national debt puts future generations at a disadvantage and limits our ability to effectively respond to crises both at home and abroad. While I'm not necessarily a big JFK fan, we are certainly not a nation that asks what we can do for our country.

Radical Islam is a key factor in fomenting violence throughout the world. However, our nation's inability to reduce energy consumption, diversify our energy mix, and limit dependence on foreign sources, puts a sword in the terrorists hands. Regardless of whether we get our oil from Mexico, Canada, or here at home, unrest in the Middle East still has a huge affect on prices. Yet, instead of doing everything we can to insulate ourselves from Middle East strife, we coddle, cajole, and cozy up to dictators and oppressive monarchs in hopes of maintaining the status quo.
What type of reaction are you hoping to get from your readers?
Good or bad, I'm trying to get a reaction. While there certainly characters I hope you'll root for, it's okay to be angry with my characters or to disagree with my characters. I purposely tried to make the book controversial. Did I go too far, or not far enough? I'd rather have anger than apathy.

When I was a kid, we would often visit my great-uncles. On Sunday mornings, they would watch the political commentary shows. This often resulted in arguments that rivaled what I was seeing on the television. While their arguments were heated, they didn't get personal and at the end of the day they were still brothers.

As I look at political commentary today, I don't see true arguments. Nobody wants to stray too far from their talking points, so all you get is people talking at one another. It's gotten so bad that sometimes the exchanges don't even make sense. The two sides are completely oblivious to each other, everything is black or white, 100% right or 100% wrong, take it or leave it. True solutions are only achieved when you look at an issue from all sides.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I teach swim lessons, and my daughters are both on swim teams. So, I spend a lot of my free time at swimming pools either teaching, attending practices, or watching swim meets. I've been putting some of my best teaching drills on YouTube. If only my book was as successful as my Breaststroke Kick Drills video (http://youtu.be/v61nEYUb5_0), I'd be quite happy.
Published 2015-06-07.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Energy Dependence Day
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 117,470. Language: English. Published: January 22, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Spies & espionage, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense
Two countries, different in almost every way, yet bound by the common thread of oil. What would happen if that thread broke? When the turbulent waters of the Arab Spring reach Saudi Arabia-the birthplace of Islam and home to fifteen of the 9/11 terrorists-the United States will need to balance conflicting ideological goals, and learn how to determine when old friends turn into new enemies.