Sunday, July 29, 2018

Guest interview: Donald J. Bingle | Wet Work Blog Tour

I'm honored to welcome Don Bingle on his blog tour, promoting his new thriller Wet Work. Join us for an interview and $25 raffle!

Don is the author of six books (The Love-Haight Case Files (with Jean Rabe); Wet Work; Net Impact; Greensword; Frame Shop; and Forced Conversion) and about fifty shorter stories in the science fiction, thriller, horror, fantasy, mystery, steampunk, romance, comedy, and memoir genres. 

MSM: Tell us about the inspiration for Dick Thornby and his adventures.

DJB: I wanted to have a spy who wasn't a James Bond type or a Jason Bourne type, but instead a middle-aged guy with a wife and a kid and a mortgage, plus a boss who gives him grief about using too many explosives, but still a hero in that he always does what needs to be done to protect the world, regardless of the personal cost to him. I think this makes Dick relatable, even if he isn't always likeable.

MSM: You write in a lot of genres, and a lot of your stories are thrillers--what attracts you to that type of story?

DJB: I used to write adventures and scenarios for roleplaying games and gamemaster such adventures. In a way, all such adventures are quests with danger and obstacles attached to completion, plus a lot of interpersonal stuff going on at the same time. You have to control clues, red herrings, pace, comic relief, provide fun new things to learn/do, and make sure everyone is entertained throughout the journey. Thrillers are basically the same thing, so my tendency is to write thrillers.

MSM: How do you research for a spy thriller novel?

DJB: There's two different kinds of research involved in my spy thrillers. First, there is the base plot. For that I want to make use of several interesting tidbits of information I've run across in my reading that the average reader wouldn't necessarily already know about, but would find compelling, then find some way to string those bits of compelling information into something that would involve the Subsidiary, my spy agency. Reading offbeat articles and magazines or checking out certain websites can help with that. Of course, some of the stuff is wild and incredible, but I can often get something credible out of even weird conspiracy theories and such. The second kind of research is stuff like vehicles and weapons, geography, the look and feel of specific locations, even what types of non-alcoholic beer might be available at a certain place. You just have to knuckle down and look that stuff up--you don't want getting basic things wrong take the reader out of the story. Of course, my browser history gets pretty bizarre. I spent the better part of a day once trying to figure out the largest yield Russian nuclear weapon I could fit in an old Volkswagen Microbus. Of course, I also spent hours trying to figure out if the Microbus came standard with an FM radio.

MSM: Will we see more stories about Thornby?

DJB: The smart way to answer this question is to say "Of course!" But the true answer is only if Wet Work sells well enough to make it worthwhile. I've already got the base plot and a cover made up for the next adventure (the title is Flash Drive), but I won't put in the time to write up the book if it does not make financial sense. I've got other things I could write instead.

MSM: GenCon is right around the corner (or has just happened, depending on our schedule). What are you most looking forward to \ was your favorite experience there this year?

DJB: This will be my 39th GenCon. I was the world's top-ranked player of classic RPGA tournaments in the last fifteen years of the last century, so GenCon is an annual pilgrimage of sorts. (An older vendor a few years back told a cashier who asked me how to spell my name. "Don't you know who that is? That's Don Bingle. He used to be famous at GenCon." which is a cringeworthy compliment, I guess.) Classic style games have given way to campaign style, but there's several sessions of TimeWatch, a time travel game in the old classic style of things like Timemaster, Chill, and Star Ace, which I'll be checking out.

MSM: We often hear author advice about "write what you know". What are elements of your stories that are based on your own life or interests, like pets, places, people, or hobbies?

DJB: It's always handy to be able to shorten your research burden by using locations or aspects of real life, but I don't really like the "write what you know" advice. I write genre fiction. Fantasy, scifi, time travel, steampunk, supernatural horror--that's not real life stuff. Write what you enjoy writing or finding out more about.

MSM: What’s the most memorable thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

DJB: I went to the mailbox one day and found a box had been posted to me. Inside was a jewelry box with a cloisonné pin from the Time Travel Research Association with an unsigned note that simply said "Thank you for your contributions to time travel." I really need to get around to doing that some day. But I guess it worked. I put the pin on one of my suits and just went about my business at work and parties and such. Every once in awhile, someone would lean in close and ask, what's that lapel pin for. And I would simply say "I got it for my contributions to time travel research." with no additional elaboration. I expect it confused and befuddled my colleagues and clients.

The biggest compliment I ever got was when one guy who I knew to be a Viet Nam veteran asked me what unit I served in after reading a military action sequence. Never served, but I knew that I'd gotten the scene right for him to have asked.

MSM: I wrote a short story about a rainmaker who was struck by lightning every time he "called the rain." I would have asked your insight if I had known about your own experience with lightning! Can you tell us about it?

DJB: Just to be clear, it did not rain the day I got struck by lightning, nor was there any other thunder or lightning in the area. I was eleven. It was a hot, muggy day, and my mom had to go to a doctor's appointment. Since we didn't have air conditioning back then, she said if I got hot I could was my dad's car. So, I went out, soaked myself with water from the hose and was washing the hood of the car with a sponge when lightning apparently hit the car, passing the charge through me to the ground. All I remember was hearing a loud noise and arriving at the front door running very fast just as my thirteen year old sister opened it. I was very hyper and we decided I had gotten scared by the thunder and should lie down and calm myself. I couldn't calm down, so she called the neighbor lady, who called my mom at the doctor's office, and the decision was made to drive me to his office. 

I remember walking in, not stopping at reception, and going back to an exam room where my mom was waiting with the doctor. He checked my heart rate, then reached over and picked up a hypodermic needle and plunged it straight into my chest without waiting to get my shirt out of the way. He turned to my mom, who was horrified by the size of the needle, and simply said. "If I hadn't done that, he'd be dead within a half hour. He has the fastest heart rate I've ever seen." There was a burn on my forearm where the power jumped from the hood to me, but the fact I was soaked with water (allowing most of the charge to pass through the water, rather than my nerves and bones, probably saved my life.

MSM: What do you like to read, and what are you reading now?

DJB: Just finished a not-so-compellingly written history of the Hoover Dam. I read a lot of stuff by Robert J. Sawyer, Jean Rabe, and Niven, Barnes, and Pournelle (in any combination). My favorite time travel book is Replay by Ken Grimwood.

MSM: What else are you working on now?

DJB: About to start up a ghost-writing project that I can't talk about. Also, getting ready to do a short story which deals with quantum entanglement in an odd setting.

MSM: Where will you be – in person and online – this summer?

DJB: You can always find me at my website at, or @donaldjbingle on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks, Don!

As part of Don's blog tour, we have a raffle (through 8/10) for a $25 gift certificate:

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I'll be posting a review of Wet Work here soon. 
You can pick up your own copy here:
Here's the rest of Don's blog tour schedule!