Welcome to our weekly feature,
Our guest this week is T. C. Isbell, author of “Southern Cross” and its sequel “Icarus Plot” — both exciting, historical novels of double agents, espionage, and revenge — who has a fondness for “all things old” and whose work experiences helped provide insight into details that helped shape his writing. So, grab a cup of coffee or pour yourself a cold brew — beverages are always on the house — pull up a chair, and enjoy! (PS: We just learned that a Kindle download of “Southern Cross” will be free during Father’s Day weekend!)
Tom, at what age did you first realize you wanted to write books and how/when did you first share this ambition with “the world”? I started writing short stories and poems in the tenth grade, which is interesting because at the time I was more into sports than schoolwork. In fact, I spent most of my time in English class staring out the window waiting for the bell to ring so I could go to football practice, basketball practice, or work on my shot put skills. It wasn’t until I retired in 2005 that I began to work on my first historical novel, “Southern Cross.” It just kind of evolved from a deep interest in 1930’s and 1940’s history. Before I knew it, I had a timeline filled with facts, a plot, and ten-thousand words. I’d like to say, “The rest is history.” But it wasn’t that easy. I needed to learn all those pesky little rules I had ignored in English class. Secondly, I had to learn how to not write like an engineer.
Who in your life and what authors you read had the most influence over your decision to write? Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Bloch, Mike Lawson, Kevin O’Brien, Isaac Asimov, Eric Ambler, and Truman Capote.
What influence did your career choice have on your choice of writing subjects? My career in naval nuclear engineering gave me first-hand knowledge of submarines, both nuclear and diesel powered. For a period of time, while I was in the US Navy, I stood four hour watches on a decommissioned WW2 submarine. The watches were from midnight to four in the morning. I was the only living soul on board. My job was to inform the Watch Office if the submarine started to sink. Being alone on the sub gave me the opportunity to fully explore the submarine. I served six years in the US Navy and worked for twenty-four years as an engineer in a naval shipyard. During my career I was exposed to a many types of naval vessels. My work experiences provided me with an understanding of ships and the military I was able to use when writing “Southern Cross.”
You’ve published short stories, including “Mattie’s Shoes,” that placed in the 79th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Story Competition, and “Surf’s Up.” This year saw the publication of your novel “Southern Cross.” Please tell us about “Southern Cross.” “Southern Cross” is a unique tale of double agents, espionage, and revenge that begins in Hamburg, Germany and ends on a dock in Havana, Cuba less than a year later. German agents Elsa Gable and Chris Schulte grew up together in a Germany ravaged by the Great War. They became inseparable as they matured into more than friends, more than family. They had a bond no one could destroy, at least that’s what Chris believed until the night of December 2, 1938 when a telegram arrived from New York City. Elsa is dead.
What other books do you have underway and what can you tell us about them? Can you share some hints? “Icarus Plot,” the sequel to my first book, takes place in Panama during 1940. Panama is alive with espionage. The Germans are tying to build an airfield in Brazil and the Japanese want to turn the Panama Canal into a muddy ditch before the end of the year . . . and worst of all, the bureaucrats couldn’t give a damn because there’s money to be made.
The third book in the series is still in the timeline and synopsis stage. It takes place in San Francisco and Hawaii in 1941.
My fourth book, “Last Man,” isn’t part of a series. It takes place in Seattle, Washington in 1956 and 1972. I like starting books with telegrams or newspaper clippings as a hook. Here’s the newspaper clipping –
Thursday, July 5, 1956
WELL KNOWN SEATTLE PLAYBOY AND ENTREPRENEUR, EDDIE GREEN, MURDERED BY RETIRED POLICEMAN
Eddie Green was gunned down last night at ten-thirty in front of his exclusive nightclub, Eddie’s Place. Green was shot six times in the head at close range by retired policeman Mike Bennett. During an ensuing gun battle, Bennett was shot and died at the scene without regaining consciousness.
You have an affinity for old cars and trucks. Have they ever played a part in your writing or do you have plans for them to do so? I like all things old. I collect antiques. I have had an interest in cars since I was a little kid. Mostly I’m what is known as a “hot rodder.” The engineer in me likes to modify just about anything or make something out of nothing. I called on some of my automotive knowledge in “Icarus Plot,” but only to provide period correct detail. Unlike King’s “Christine,” my cars will always be props in the background.
Is there another genre you’d like to try and what attracts you about that genre? Yes, I have an outline for a Sci-fi thriller titled “The Last Alien.” As much as I like history, I like science and projecting what the future and other worlds might be like. In the future anything is possible. Consider Dick Tracy’s wrist radio of the 1940’s or Star Trek’s communicator. Now almost everyone has some form of “communicator.” The future is only limited by our imagination.
If you could pick another author’s character and use him or her as a character in a novel, who would that be and in what type of setting would you write about him or her? That’s easy, Bloch’s Norman Bates. I would make Norman the quiet neighbor in a New York City apartment building. You know, the guy that everyone has glimpsed, but no one really knows much about. There’s all kinds of things that come to mind in that situation.
You poll your readers and ask them to list five words that best describe your writing. What top five words do they list? Enticing, compelling, exciting, captivating, and suspenseful
Are you a dog person or cat person and what kind of canine or feline assistance with your writing do you receive, if any? We have a blind, deaf dog and an aging cat. The dog just lays on the floor and enjoys the heat from the sun. The cat is quite mischievous, but understands when I am working. Both the cat and the dog listen quite well when I read passages from my book out loud.
You’re admitted to heaven and you decide to throw a dinner party to celebrate your arrival. What five people, living or dead, are on your guest list? Alfred Hitchcock, John F. Kennedy, Mark Twain, Erwin Rommel, and W. C. Fields
Where can you and your books be found – please share your links. Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Southern-Cross-T-C-Isbell/dp/098466100X/
“Southern Cross,” as well as two of my short stories, may be found internationally on the various Amazon websites. In addition, “Southern Cross” may be ordered from Barnes & Noble, Alibris, Books-A-Million, Powel’s Books in Portland, or from any independent bookstore (through Indiebound).
My website, Mystery Alley – http://www.MysteryAlley.com
Author Biography, T. C. Isbell: My family moved around when I was young. I’d like to say we were one step ahead of the law, but that wouldn’t be true. Life wasn’t that exciting. I was a service brat. In the sixties we settled in San Diego. I served six years in the US Navy with most of that time spent on the USS Enterprise as a nuclear plant operator. After my discharge, I attended college and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. In the early eighties I moved to Bremerton, Washington and worked at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard until I retired in 2005.
Like many authors, I started writing in high school. In the sixties and seventies I wrote short stories and poems influenced by those turbulent times. During the eighties, I wrote articles for The Rodder’s Bulletin, a monthly newspaper for car enthusiasts. Retirement has given me time to pursue my passion for writing. Southern Cross is the first in a series of historical thrillers set in the period just before the United States officially enters World War II. It is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Icarus Plot, the second book in the series, is a work in progress.
I enjoy painting pictures with words, bringing characters to life, and watching what happens. Sometimes they surprise even me. Authors of fiction are entertainers and I hope readers will be entertained by Southern Cross and my other books.
I am a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and International Thriller Writers (ITW). For information on my works in progress go to my website, MysteryAlley.com.
The E-Pub PUB thanks author T. C. Isbell for taking time out of his schedule to share information about his books and his writing and we wish him success with his upcoming releases!