Interviews

Interview with John Trudel – Author of God’s House

on
May 12, 2019
Interview with John Trudel Book Cover Interview with John Trudel
Author Interviews
Peter Donnelly
The Reading Desk
May 12, 2019


Author Bio

In the tradition of fiction writers, my life has been a rich drama, always interesting and often rewarding, but sometimes balanced on the edge of tragedy. I graduated with honors from Georgia Tech and was awarded a full Fellowship to get my PhD in Electronic Engineering, well on my way to a career in research until life got in the way.

Getting a doctorate is all consuming, so one day I came home from class to find that my neglected wife had taken our son and left. Divorce, bleakness, and an unfinished dissertation followed. I needed a change and, as fate had it, the Vietnam War was raging and good technologists were in high demand. Not for research: for application.

I soon found myself riding in the back of military aircraft, trying to make prototype electronic intelligence (ELINT) and weapons systems work. I was also the kid in the back of the room at classified briefings attended by high officers, and, sometimes, the SECDEF himself. They called it “Special Ops.” That’s what my friends did, and some were true heroes. But Vietnam convinced me I needed a career change.

With friends investing their combat pay, I started my first company and produced the first useful automobile radar detector. We called it “The Snooper,” and it made Playboy and the legendary Cannonball Baker Race that has been the subject of several movies. You can see one in the old movie, Gumball Rally. When Nixon passed the 55 MPH speed limits, sales went ballistic.

After selling that business, I worked for large firms, most notably Tektronix. They paid me to learn new things. My last “real job” was as the (first, last, and only) business development manager for Tek’s corporate research labs. The Presidents of Sony Tektronix, Tada-san and later Kumakura-san, helped mentor me in Japanese culture and Asian ways.

I left Tek in the late 80s to form a consulting business, The Trudel Group. Clients have included Intel, Hewlett Packard, the Naval Postgraduate School, and others, including some in the Mid East. I taught classes, held seminars, and wrote two high tech books and many columns on innovation. One in ‘95 for the old Upside about “The Patent Wars” got major international attention. I soon found myself part of a band of inventors, including a quorum of Nobel Laureates and Inventor’s Hall of Fame members, petitioning Congress to preserve our Patent System. I spent five years on that, pro bono, and then gave my files to Professor Larry Lessig of Stanford who had access to more resources and legal expertise. It was time for another change.

So I started writing novels, science-based suspense. God’s House, my first, was published in 2011, Privacy Wars in 2012, Soft Target in 2013, and Raven’s Run in 2014. So far my novels are winning National Awards and getting 5-star reviews. I am thankful that my fans like them.


Interview

Peter: John, it was a pleasure to get the opportunity of reading your book, God’s House, I love techno-thrillers being an engineer myself. I am delighted that we have the opportunity to conduct this interview, and many thanks for making the time available.

John: Peter, thank you for your interest. I do a lot of interviews but must confess that your questions are unusually profound. I will attempt to give you honest and concise answers.

Peter: It seems there are 2 main themes in the plot of God’s House – the sustainable energy solution and the financial improprieties and money-laundering under the pretence of religion.   Where did the inspiration come from in writing and combining these 2 themes?

John: I never really thought of it quite that way. Words matter. Despite all the fuss over energy – global warming, farting cows and all – I think the key decisions for an advanced civilization get down to choosing between cheap, reliable energy and expensive unreliable energy.

That assumes “safety first,” of course. I don’t see “sustainable” as a big issue, except politically. It is a buzz word.

Question two: I met my wife at her late husband’s funeral, at a Mega Church with a well-known, charismatic leader. We later were married by the same minister. Said church later self-destructed due to massive corruption, which led to people losing their homes, criminal charges, etc.

I do see Church corruption as a despicable crime. It did provide inspiration for my novel. But with that said, there are worse forms of corruption, from human trafficking, forced migration, financial fraud (especially by charities), and on and on. The problem with large-scale crimes is that the elites who commit such crimes are often given special treatment, sheltered from punishment.

Peter: We are constantly hearing about the misappropriation of funds from charities and churches around the world. Did you intend to make a statement on this through your book?

John: No.  My view is that the best fiction is an image of reality. That’s what I seek to write.

Peter: Rather than throw all the attributes at a character to make them almost super-human, Jack Donner seemed well balanced. What characteristics impressed you most about Jack and what where the greatest challenges in developing his character?

John: What you mention – that heroes in novels are becoming like cartoon characters – is one you won’t see in my novels. This is getting worse — at least in the U.S. — as Hollywood continues to implode and its talent moves over to books and social media. That is discussed these days – and advocated – at writer’s conferences.

Jack was a great character. I just tried to make him real, honest, caring, and competent. He was also, of course, flawed. Personally, I tire of thrillers with invincible characters and blood on every third page.

Peter: While you have a background in technology, there must still have been a considerable amount of background research undertaken behind the quantum physics possibilities for sustainable energy. How extensive was this and what was the most interesting aspect of your research?

John: To be honest, most of what I did in my career was electronics – hardware, software and systems. If I have a focus, it was on weapons systems, electronic intelligence (ELINT), trusted managed networks, semiconductors, and the instrumentation to test and validate such things.

With that said, my favourite subject in undergraduate school was atomic physics. It was so beautifully weird. And there were times where I did touch the energy sector.

I had a summer job at a university where we had cyclotrons and even a project for controlled fusion. Imagine if you had controlled fusion. A cup of seawater could, in theory, power the entire Eastern Seaboard of the United States. The only waste products would be hydrogen, oxygen, and heat.

The latter is an engineering challenge – how do you safely contain plasma at a million degrees?  There is a greater problem. What if you solved that? What if you had such a powerplant?

Do you trust your government with a hydrogen bomb in your neighbourhood? I do not.

Some interesting things to ponder:

  • Who was the most significant person of the last Century? Most say Einstein. I say Churchill.
  • Why did Chernobyl melt down? Write down your answer, and then go find a little-known book,The Logic of Failure. It won German’s highest science award, the Leibnitz prize. It turns out that plant was being run by the best crew in Russia, who were fully alert, but interfered with by requests from bureaucrats in Moscow.

For a time, I was the Business Development Manager for the Research Lab of a Fortune 500 company, the old Tektronix, a great company. My group got all the weird stuff.

The company fell on bad times. I resigned to start my own consulting business, but there was a problem. We were in litigation with some major Japanese firms over patent rights involving some of my products. They insisted I stay until that was over. We prevailed and I was on my way out, but some of the researchers insisted that I come and view one of their experiments.

This was the Pons and Fleischmann Cold Fusion experiment, the one that was eventually declared a hoax by our government. It was set up on a test bench, just some wires and beakers of chemicals.

Laboratories all over the world had rushed to see if they could duplicate it. Most failed. You had to put energy into it to make it work. Success was if you got more energy out than what you put in.

About 20-30 percent of labs did succeed. We were one of that small percentage. There is a factoid at the back of my novel which mentions this.

Peter: Where there other areas of research which surprised or intrigued you such as UN, Secret Service, Church and Financial Markets activities or locations such as Nigeria?

John: Not really. I was a bit surprised about the UN. Its justification was to prevent war. The track record is that it has never resolved a conflict. You mentioned Churches: I would put more faith in the Ten Commandments than the UN.

Peter: Do you feel that the leading global powers have deliberately held back the development of sustainable or renewable energy sources, in favour of massive profit centres in gas and oil?

John: No.

Peter: A very difficult question to ask but what is your favourite novel from those you’ve written, or what was the most exciting to write?

John: I get asked that a lot. It’s like asking a mother which of her children she loves most.

The hardest one to write was Raven’s Run. It was challenging. A lot of research and some (unknown to me at the time) family history went into that one.

Peter: Do you use story boarding or mapping processes to develop your plots and interactions, or do you go with the flow and follow your instinct and gut feeling? Would you therefore describe yourself as a plotter, pantser or plantser? – New terms for me J

John: I’d written two non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine columns, so I thought it would be easy to write a novel. It’s not. My first took me ten years.

I tried using all the techniques they teach at writer’s conferences. I found story arcs and scene cards useful at first, but I no longer use them. They tend to get in my way.

Peter: Do you use particular software applications or utilities to support your writing activity? For example, Scrivener or Grammarly.

John: No.

Peter: What are the greatest benefits and restrictions to being a published Author? Do you get involved in finalising other aspects of the book, for example the cover design, narration and the promotion of the book? 

John: The greatest benefits are fans and readers. I love talking with my readers. I learn a lot.

I’m still doing my novels as an Indy. I didn’t start that way, but it worked best for me. I have total creative control and an excellent team of critical readers to keep me honest.

With that said, I have a good agent, and he is in constant discussion with the big publishers. Given the right deal, we could sell rights. I hate the details of self-publishing. I’d rather be talking with fans and writing my books.

I have my own cover artist. He is wonderful. My audio books are just coming out now. My narrator, Victoria Taft, launched a production company with Raven’s Run. She is getting high praise as a narrator.

Peter: How much time do you spend on writing compared to promoting your books?

John: Not enough. It makes me crazy.

Peter: What authors have you most admired and have had an influence on you?

John: Without Tony Hillerman and Jerry Pournelle, both now deceased, I might have given up.  Tony’s daughter Anne was also helpful.

Brad Thor sets the bar in Thrillers. Bob Dugoni deserves special mention, he’s an A-List author who takes time to help us little guys. There are many others.

Peter: What is your favourite book you’ve read over the last 12 months?

John: Silent No More, by my friend Jerome Corsi. I have never seen such courage. To keep his rights to speak truth, Jerry stood up the full wrath of our Federal Government.

Peter: What advice would you give to aspiring or debut authors?

John: The best answer I’ve heard to the question, “Why do you write?”  is, “Because I must.”

Peter: If you had a dinner party and could invite 3 personalities from any period in history who would they be and why?

John: My wife, Pat. I would not be writing novels without her. I might be living in a cave. She is a bright spirit.

The uncle I never met, George Noville, who changed history for the better and is featured in Raven’s Run.

My two ancestors from the American Revolutionary War. I’ve heard the legends. I want to know what was true.

Peter: Can you give us any insights into any future books or projects that you’re working on?

John: I’m working on the 4th book in the Raven’s Series. We hope to have it out this year.


Peter: How can readers learn more about you and your work?

John: The best way is to read my novels and discuss them with friends. <grin>

I’m all over social media and you can get my books anywhere (but you may have to ask your bookstore or library to stock them).

My website (for novels) is www.johntrudel.com

For non-fiction, my blog is https://blog.johntrudel.com

From either of those, you can sign up for my newsletters. They are free, you can OPT-OUT at any time, and my lists are never shared or sold.

Peter: John, I appreciate you taking the time for this interview. If there are other snippets of information you wish to provide, please feel free. I would like to congratulate you on your wonderful books and I wish you massive success for the future.

Book Review for God’s House by John Trudel
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Peter Donnelly
Ireland

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley peter@thereadingdesk.com

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