After reading and reviewing Ryan Quinn’s novel, The Good Traitor, we were delighted to chat with him on his virtual book tour. He’s established himself as a solid thriller writer, one we will look forward to following. The second in a potential series featuring Kera Mersal, it can surely be read as a stand alone. If you want to start at the beginning you might choose to get End of Secrets first. It’s in my cart now. You can find my review here at Mystery Suspense Reviews.
I want to thank Ryan for sharing his time and thoughts with us. I so enjoyed this book!
Enjoy hearing from this rising author….
How close do you think we are to the level of technology of Gnos.is? Already there? Do we already have a computer system that can form its own conclusions?
We’re more or less there, technology wise. For example, scores of mainstream news outlets are already using algorithm-generated news stories for reporting on straightforward matters like financial markets, weather, and sports stats.
But there isn’t a fully comprehensive news site like Gnos.is just yet. And that’s largely because there isn’t much financial incentive to create one. All the brilliant coders working on AI and big data are employed by tech giants like Google and Facebook or tech startups developing “free” apps designed to collect our private information. The point is, everyone is trying to make money off these technologies; they’re not putting their resources toward a site dedicated to unbiased journalism and whistleblowing.
Maybe that will change someday, like it did in End of Secrets and The Good Traitor.
Your book exposes the dilemma our nation faces. The wobbly line between freedom of information and the right to privacy. Have your books and research influenced your own opinion on the subject?
Yes, greatly. For one, on a practical level, I’m much more careful about my own online security. I used to have pretty bad habits when it came to passwords, for example. Now I have a password manager and use encryption on all my devices.
My research has also informed my opinions regarding the broader policy and social debate. Right now the institutions in power, whether they be the NSA or Google, are very secretive about their own intentions and behavior, but they know essentially everything about us. That’s the opposite of how it should work. Individuals ought to have control over their privacy, and the institutions that govern them ought to be more transparent.
There are vast gray areas, though. I don’t want to oversimplify it. The balance between privacy and freedom of information is dynamic. For example: Do I think a terrorist has a right to use encrypted communications to plan an attack? No. But that’s because I don’t think he has a right to plan a terrorist attack, not because of encryption, which people should be free to use without drumming up suspicion.
Data mining is far more widespread that most of us realize. What do you see in the future with all the data mining already at this level?
Data mining is not only here to stay, but it’s only just getting going. For starters, the more all of us move our lives online, the more data there will be to mine, and that will only increase the incentive for corporations and governments to wrangle all that data to their benefit (usually financial gain).
It’s hard to do anything, from going to the gas station or grocery store to a night out with friends, without creating a data point that is owned by some company or broadcast over the Internet. And that data is only going to become more and more invasive as “the Internet of things” keeps expanding and we start having refrigerators and watches and televisions all linked together over the web collecting our behavioral patterns.
But don’t forget, there is massive upside to advanced data mining. We stand to benefit from improvements to health care, travel, research, traffic congestion, and many other areas that affect our quality of life. We’re just going to have to work really hard to make sure that the positive advances outstrip the cost we give up to our privacy.
Kera is a wonderful character. She resonates with the reader who will contemplate their own stand on the events in your novel. Will Kera be back in future books? In a series perhaps?
Thanks for saying that! I really have a good time writing Kera. She’s certainly been fun to spend time with over two books, and I do hope there will be more in the series. Right now I’m working on a standalone thriller, but I could definitely come back and look at the next chapter in Kera’s world after that.
You must grow very attached to your characters. Do you want to spend more time with Kera too?
Absolutely. Writing a novel takes about a year, sometimes more, so I think you have to like the characters you’re spending so much time with. And Kera’s definitely at the top of that list. I’ve learned a lot in the course of developing her and putting her through the challenges she’s encountered.
Outline or character driven? That is, do you know most of the story before you start actually writing?
My original ideas for a book almost always come from the character, or a group of characters and the conflict between them. Sometimes a scene will keep popping up in my head, and that’s usually a good sign that there’s something interesting there. But once the initial idea lodges and I get serious about it, I turn to the outline. I’ve found that the more books I write, the more I rely on outlines as I become better acquainted with the overall strategy that works best for me to pull together a well-paced thriller.
Did you spend a long time developing your characters before you started or do you get to know them as you write?
It goes back and forth. There’s always something fascinating that draws me to a character when he or she is first invented. But I don’t really get to know them until they start interacting with each other and reacting to events in the story. I have a file for each of the characters in the book, and I’m always going into those files and adding notes and revising parts of their backgrounds. And that happens right up until the final draft.
Since you write every day, can you tell us how you set goals for each day? Pages? Chapters? Scene or incident?
My general standing goal is to write a scene or incident each day. To quantify that more precisely, we’re talking maybe about a thousand words. But I’m not too rigid about the quantity. There are plenty of scenes that take me several days to write, either because they are longer or because they are really pivotal and tie together many story threads in a complex way. And then of course there’s the month or two before I really do the line-by-line writing where I’m just outlining. And after the first draft is complete, there’s still a lot of work to do editing and revising.
So I’ve stopped thinking of it in terms of word count. It’s more important to me to keep chipping away each day and not have more than a day off every week, to prevent the momentum from flagging.
While editing have you had to take your character in a totally different direction than you first wrote?
This used to happen a lot more in my first two books, when I wasn’t outlining so thoroughly. In fact, I eventually ended up killing off a character in End of Secrets that survived the early drafts. (He never saw it coming.)
But for The Good Traitor, Kera’s character was already established, as were many of her cohorts’. I was more structured about the outline, so there were fewer surprises that resulted in major character changes. But it did happen. For example, there’s a hacker who is pretty central to the plot, and his storyline probably changed the most throughout the editing process.
What is the most difficult part of writing for you?
The most difficult part, from a practical standpoint, is finding the time every day to get in quality writing time. That’s a daily struggle, even though I prioritize it and have built my daily routine around that goal.
From a creative standpoint, it’s often tough when I’m in the early stages of outlining or writing a new book while also splitting my focus with the previous book as it is launching. Compared to the finished book that’s getting all the attention, the new, barely existent story feels so far from being a finished product that it’s kind of depressing. And that can make it hard to focus on the daily grind of writing.
How do you celebrate or reward yourself when the book is finished and off to the publisher?
I have some writer friends, most of whom write for TV but understand the ups and downs of the writer life, and so I like to go out for dinner and a few drinks. But we actually do that on a pretty regular basis anyway, not just once a year when I finish a book. So I guess we’re always looking for an excuse to swap battle stories and mark milestones over cocktails, rather than the other way around.
Honestly, the biggest reward is just the feeling of accomplishment and relief that comes from completing such a big, passionate project.
Will you share what you are working on now that The Good Traitor has been published?
Of course! I’m deep into the process of writing a thriller about the colliding worlds of neuroscience and artificial intelligence. Both of these fields are on the verge of major breakthroughs that might completely alter the human experience, potentially even in our lifetimes. Consciousness, immortality, superintelligence—the stakes are quite high here, and I couldn’t resist exploring them in the form of a thriller.
This has required a massive amount of research for me, but I’ve been fascinated at every step of the way and it’s now all finally coming together. So look for that next!
What are you reading/listening to now?
My reading is always varied, and I’m always reading and listening to multiple things at once. Right now is a pretty typical lineup:
For pleasure, I’m reading an advance copy of Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley. It’s not a thriller, but it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. I recommend checking it out when it comes out in June.
For research related to the current thriller I’m writing, I’ve been reading The Mystery of Consciousness by John Searle, which is a really fascinating philosophical examination of consciousness. And I’m listening to cognitive neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga’s Tales from Both Sides of the Brain, which is part memoir about his life in science and part tutorial on neuroscience and our understanding of the brain.
What is the most important message you would like your readers to get from The Good Traitor?
It’s always most important to me that readers enjoy the book and are entertained. But hopefully a part of that enjoyment is derived from engaging with some of the real-world issues that the story wades into: privacy, surveillance, corporate influence, the role of the media. If The Good Traitor makes readers more aware of their digital footprint and the give-and-take way our technology enhances our lives and hinders our privacy, then I’ll be satisfied.
Thank you again Ryan. It’s been a sincere pleasure.
The Good Traitor
by Ryan Quinn
on Tour April 5 – May 13, 2016
The US ambassador to China is killed in a suspicious plane crash just days after a news article links Chinese spies to US business interests. The American intelligence community is left scrambling to investigate possible connections between the crash and a series of other high-profile deaths.
On the other side of the world, ex-CIA operative Kera Mersal returns to the United States determined to clear her name after being branded a traitor for exposing illegal government surveillance. There, former colleague and fellow fugitive J. D. Jones contacts her with a new assignment: find out who is staging accidents to murder news sources. As the news site continues to publish stories about top-secret CIA programs and Chinese government corruption, Mersal reunites with old allies to uncover the truth and prove her loyalty to her country once and for all. But Mersal’s investigations put her on the trail of a sinister hacker whose own motives may influence a vaster—and more deadly—geopolitical conspiracy than either of the world’s two largest superpowers is prepared to handle.
A native of Alaska, Ryan Quinn was an NCAA champion and an all-American athlete in skiing while at the University of Utah. He worked for five years in New York’s book-publishing industry before moving to Los Angeles, where he writes and trains for marathons. Quinn’s first novel, The Fall, was an award-winning finalist for the 2013 International Book Awards.
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You can find Mr. Quinn’s full tour schedule here. Do check it out to see more reviews, articles written by the author, and additional interviews.
Click here to view the ‘The Good Traitor by Ryan Quinn’ Tour
This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Ryan Quinn. There will be 1 winners of 1 $10 Amazon.com US Gift card. The giveaway begins on April 5th and runs through May 13th, 2016.
Read Ryan Quinn’s first book featuring Kera…End of Secrets