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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blog Tour, Book Review & Author Interview: Gauntlet by Richard Aaron

About Richard Aaron

RICHARD AARON lives in a cold, northwestern city with his wife, four children, and various dogs and cats. He has a university degree in mathematics and a masters in law. Neither have anything to do with his burgeoning career as a writer. He worked in the real world for two decades before realizing that he was actually meant to be a writer. Gauntlet was produced soon thereafter. 

About Gauntlet

A terrorist threat is looming; an attack that would dwarf any other. This time, the government knows it's coming, but doesn't know where or how. From a stunning new voice in international intrigue comes a dramatic story of a shadowy underworld, high-stakes missions, treachery, honor, unlikely heroes, and the ultimate attack: Six hundred sixty tons of Semtex is detonated in a massive explosion in Libya รข€“ the last of a deadly stockpile. The operation seems to have gone smoothly, but within minutes of the explosion, CIA agent Richard Lawrence discovers that one shipment of the explosive was hijacked en route to the destruction point. Days later, a glory-seeking Emir broadcasts to the world that he is planning a massive terrorist strike against a major U.S. landmark. And he gives a timeline of one month. Now a desperate chase covers four continents, as the men bent on attacking the United States use every weapon at their disposal to evade the American authorities. Time and again they prove willing to destroy anything and anyone standing in their way. But Hamilton Turbee, an autistic computer mastermind at the secretive and newly created TTIC agency, discovers a way to follow their tracks. His flawed genius gives the nation its only chance at stopping the attack: if the American leadership will listen. As the enemies near their destination, and an attack becomes imminent, it is up to the TTIC team, still without a true leader, to stop the massive explosion that could destroy the lives of millions. As the world watches in horror, the President asks TTIC two questions"Where will the attack be? And can it be stopped?

My Review of Gauntlet

In Richard Aaron's Gauntlet, about 4.5 tons of a highly explosive plastic material known as semtex has gone missing and is in the hands of Afghanistan terrorists plotting against America. Authorities don't know where the attack will take place and have only a month to find out and stop it from killing a lot of innocent people. The terrorists, skilled at what they do, evade detection and catch at every turn. A major hub of the action is a group known as the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, or TTIC. One of their most vital employees turns out to be an autistic math genius named Hamilton Turbee who is good at cracking codes and doing quick calculations in his head. The plot will take you everywhere from the caves of Afghanistan where terrorists hide and plot, the deserts of the Middle East, the Canadian border where a cop is investigating drugs, and to Washington and back.

While reading, you will jump around the world, and this constant movement gives a sense of scope to the plot such that you realize how widespread and serious an issue like the one in the book really is, and of all the work that goes into cracking the plots of and stopping terrorists. Everything is fast paced, jumping from one character to the next, and there are A LOT of characters. Each character is distinct, though, even the terrorists that you come to understand the motives of. Gauntlet is a book to read when you don't have anything else to do because you will not want to put it down. With each page, the suspense builds until you feel like it is going to crack. What makes the book even more immediate and hard to put down is that everything within it feels real, as if it is happening or has happened. After all, we are living in a world aware and fearful of terrorist attacks. The thought that something like this could happen, or could be happening behind the scenes, is quite frankly very terrifying. This is really the first time that I have read a book like this and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love a complex plot that twists and connects all over the place, and this book certainly delivered a well thought out and wonderfully written series of events. I don't want to give too much away, but suffice to say that you will be on the edge of your seat.

Interview With Richard Aaron

Q: What do you do to prepare to write? What is the process that gets you ready to sit down a lay out a story?
A: I try to get to my office very early, as I did this morning, at 5:30 AM. The rest of the crew doesn't start to filter in until 8 or 8:30. In the quiet of the morning, I have research from books and the internet prepared. I have a detailed outline prepared. If a new character is introduced, I put his traits or description into my data base. If I am using established characters I go to that database to make sure that the character remains internally consistent. Working on a plot this complicated takes a certain mind frame, and getting into the characters is the easiest way for me to enter the "Gauntlet/Counterplay world."  Then I can get huge amounts of work done. I do the same on weekends, and in the evenings.

Q: How much of yourself do you put in your characters? Are they extensions of you, or are they independent creations that take on a life of their own after coming from your imagination?
A: My nature is to like structure. On the book I am now working on I have literally, on very large sheets of roll paper, diagrammed out the story from beginning to end. From that I create a more detailed, written outline, and from that, outlines of the scenes in each chapter. When I'm finally ready to write, I have all the major bones in place, and I can motor along at 10 pages a day.

Q: As we are all aware, the issues of terrorist attacks, weapon stockpiles, and international instability are very prominent today. How influenced are you by modern events?
A: A smidgen here and a little bit there. I'm actually a boring person, when you consider the spectrum of personalities that exist out there. If I put too much of me into it, the book would flop. The characters come from the vast number of people I have met as a lawyer. I take a bit from one person, a chunk from another, and I put them together. They become vital and interesting.
Influence by present events?
Totally. I am a news junky. I read I don't know how many newspapers and magazines in a day. I look at each issue from different angles, everything from the stodgy CNN view to the crazy anarchist one-worlders out there. We live in fascinating and dangerous times. Counterplay, the sequel to Gauntlet, is set largely in Iran for this reason. Current events point to the fact that it's a fertile background for terrorism and nuclear hooliganism, which played perfectly along with my plot.

Q: I imagine there are many complexities in the plot with international relations, domestic politics, weaponry, culture, and computer technology. What sort of research did you have to do to write this book?
A: I can say that for every page of the book, there are a good two or three pages of research. I researched endlessly-- everything from the flight characteristics of an F22 to the nature of vegetation in the great Garagum Desert. My novels have that type of detail to keep them realistic.

Q: Do you feel that your book addresses some of the issues that we face today? When you wrote it, did you have any hope that readers would learn something from the events in your book?
A: Yes. But it does not provide answers. The book has issues of drug addiction, illicit border crossing, and the interplay between terrorist and heroin dealers, leading to what today could fairly be called narco-terrorists. It shows that the USA is exposed to terrorist attacks that we cannot even begin to imagine. But then again, it's a novel. It's fiction. I shine a spotlight on these potential problems, but I don't offer any answers or suggestions about how to handle the real world. Thanks goodness.

Q: Because I have to know: who is your favorite US President and why?
A: Kennedy, because he had balls. I know a lot of people blame him for a lot of things (including dying before he could take responsibility), but I mean really... becoming President at such a young age, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and dating Marilyn Monroe? You have to respect the guy for that.

Q: What is the most valuable piece of knowledge that you've picked up after becoming a published author that you wish you knew from the start?
A: It's like graduation from high school. It's a step, but only that. A long, long journey follows, involving publicists, expensive trips, signings, time away from home, and endless and expensive PR. When you get published, you soon find out that you are at the start of yet another difficult and challenging journey. I certainly didn't realize this, and I think most authors are probably as shocked as I was to find that writing the book is just the start of it.

Q: What is one thing you've never done but would love to do?
A: Spend a week inside and outside the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Q: What would your "theme" song be on the soundtrack of your life?
A: Bob Seeger, "Against the Wind."

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