I recently had the opportunity to interview Crime/Thriller author Khaled Talib. He allowed me a few minutes of his time to pick his brain about both his upcoming Thriller Gun Kiss as well as to ask him about the writing and publishing process in general.
I was pleased to get some insight into his upcoming novel and dig deeper into what makes Khaled tick. We also learned about some launch week giveaways and events that will be happening, so scroll to the end for details on how to participate and enter contest
The launch window leading up to a book release is crunch time for many last minute details. I am grateful for the late night responses it likely took in order to answer my questions!
Slated for release on 12/01/2017
Synopsis of Gun Kiss:
When the Deringer pistol that shot Abraham Lincoln is stolen and ends up in the hands of a Russian military general, covert agent Blake Deco is tasked by the FBI to head to the Balkans to recover the historical weapon. Meanwhile, the United States media is abuzz with news of the mysterious disappearance of Hollywood movie star, Goldie St. Helen.
After Blake’s return from overseas, he receives a tip from a Mexican friend that a drug lord, obsessed with the beautiful actress, is holding her captive in Tijuana. With the help of a reluctant army friend, Blake mounts a daring rescue. What he doesn’t expect is to have feelings for Goldie—or that a killer is hunting them.
Q and A time -
Toast Toasted: Recognizing that you have several books on the market, ranging from Crime Thrillers to short story collections, what was the hardest part of writing your upcoming work Gun Kiss?
Khaled Talib: It was never easy for me to write my first two novels. It took me years to complete them, but surprisingly, it didn't take long to finish Gun Kiss, a novel that's much longer. I amazed myself that it only took me six months. But if there's one thing that I found difficult, it was the romance part.
My first two novels were devoid of romance. I wasn't psychologically prepared to write one. Romance would only have slowed things down, I felt. And then this story idea came, but I wanted it to be different. I realized that I could still write a novel with a hint of romance without slowing the pace.
So, I created a female co-character [Grace] that was feminine and rugged at the same time. An equal partner to the protagonist, give or take. I felt comfortable with that. But while I had managed to create the image of a woman physically, I still had to go inside her head. In writing a female character, I had to bring out her perspective, emotions, and voice. I was careful in making sure that the female character behaved and sounded like a woman to separate her from the male character.
ToastX2: Showing different Male/Female voices genuinely is something that many authors seem to struggle with. Did you have a tactic you followed to ensure you remained genuine in her viewpoints and voice?
Talib: Writing the male part [Blake] was easy since I'm a member of the fraternity. In delving into the woman's character, I had to be inside her mind. I asked myself questions like how would a woman react to situations, taking into account different personalities. What would it be like if they got angry and so on? Moreover, I studied real-life characters, pulling my drawer of experience to see what's available. I also relied on characterization based on movies and other novels I had read to see how other writers envisage women in their stories. And then it came to be.
ToastX2: Anyone stalking you, your website, or social media sees that you have been anticipating the release of Gun Kiss since early 2017, here we are November with an official release of December 1st. Did an angry drug lord steal your manuscript at gunpoint and you had to take out his whole family to get it returned? Or was the process delayed by something more mundane, like “Editing” and “Marketing”?
Talib: The publisher had offered me a contract to publish Gun Kiss very early. But I'm not the only book that was acquired for the year. I had to wait in the queue before release day. In fact, I was even given a calendar of choice when I'd like to see the book come out. The process afterward involved editing, proof-reading, waiting for the cover design, and the final once-look-over before launch day.
It takes a lot of time. Or as they say, publishing is a slow business. In between, I took the time to market the book and pitch interviews and reviews. I'm also planning to host a book launch on Facebook on 3, December with prizes to be won. So, apart from the hard work in releasing a book, there's also some fun.
ToastX2: I absolutely LOVE when authors advise about the soundtrack for a book. Music listened to when they wrote, the music which inspired specific scenes, what just felt good to write to. What drove you to spend this effort for fans, or is this just something that earworms inside you until you eject it forcibly? Beanie Man next to Portugal the Man is a strange combination.
Example – The playlist you put up on Deezer (not Spotify?) and the Goodreads post about it
Talib: Whenever I am writing a scene, there's always music in my head. It's like when you watch a movie; there's always music in the background. Movies play different soundtracks for different scenes. Sometimes, it's slow, other times it's fast. It depends. Similarly, with books, the scenes are never consistent. In the case of Gun Kiss - or as Jon Land, USA Today bestselling author of The Rising puts it - the novel is "hot and cool."
From time to time, I'd upload a song on Facebook to share with readers to give them an idea how I see the scene in my book if there was music. However, it was author Donna Beckley Galanti who suggested that I created a soundtrack and share it. I wasn't sure how to initially, so I started reading about it. Since I already had an account with Deezer, I thought let's do it. I was surprised by the interest, especially on Twitter because people kept sharing it.
I decided to create a soundtrack to emphasize the hot and cool element in Gun Kiss. The music that I chose is not segued because the novel takes place in different parts of the world. The music, I felt, had to go with the tempo of each different scene.
ToastX2: A few years back I read Duane Swierczynski’s The Blonde and Severance Package. I read them out of order and was giddy to learn they were related, but standalone. Does Gun Kiss tie into any of your previous novels? Or are the universes of Gun Kiss / Smokescreen / Incognito all separate?
Talib: Gun Kiss a genre-bender that breaks a host of rules, so it's unlike my first two novels that have been described as political thrillers. The new book hovers around pop-culture tempered with a bit of romance and a lot of world-hopping political confrontations.
There are scenes that take place at Sunset Boulevard and The Beverly Hills Hotel before the reader is pulled out of the glamor and taken to some jungle. We're looking at tuxedos and then a sudden switch to FBI agents and drug-lords and their army of bandits. Also, in my first two novels, the protagonist stands out strongly. However, in Gun Kiss, it's more complex; the female co-character has equal prominence, if not stronger in character. I have my reason for doing this, I could not lessen the character of the blonde Hollywood movie star. Her character had to stand out as well.
ToastX2: Gun Kiss as a title seems to lean heavily toward this new badass lady Lead you have written. It also has some nice secondary (a personal bullet) and tertiary entendre (a gun in the mouth). Is that intentional? the answer "shut up and read it" would be perfectly appropriate.
Talib: I wouldn't describe my co-character, Goldie St. Helen, as badass. She has an emotional, vulnerable and gentle side. These traits can be seen in the various scenes. In the beginning, she leads a normal movie star life, but then it spirals out of control. So the panic level is high.
Gun Kiss is a metaphor for finding love at a dangerous time. I also wanted to hint to readers, mainly women, that this thriller contains romance. I have a reputation for writing spy novels, so I wanted to break away from the stereotype. A gun with a kiss makes it very clear that this novel is pulsating.
ToastX2: Many authors are meticulous in their storyboarding and outlines, others wing it. When writing, do you control your characters, or do they control you? How do you feel about that?
Talib: I can't seem to create a storyboard. Strange. I do have the story in my head, at least a gist of it, and I start from there. When I sit down to write, I would wing it a bit while steering the sail. Believe me, it gets stormy. I sort of know where I want to go, and I do control my characters, but there are times when I let them have total to control. It's fun that way. It's a surprise. If you don't like it, you can always rewrite the story.
ToastX2: I feel like authors who can "write from the hip" are wild cards. When they nail it, the mechanics of writing evaporate and story immersion just becomes natural. Others who storyboard can accomplish the same, but frequently feel forced. Ultimately, did the ending of this book surprise you as the writer?
Talib: I had a vague picture of the aftermath. I could see where I was going eventually. The tough part was tying up the loose ends. There were few things I needed to settle otherwise readers would be asking questions. What's interesting is that I had several scenarios on how to end it, but I chose the most appropriate. This took a bit of time to decide. I had to be sure I wanted it this way. The ending did surprise me because everything fell into place. You know, it's like a crazy traffic, yet somehow manageable with time.
ToastX2: Loaded question- Have you seen the movie True Romance? Did you like the final gun fight? Do you know of one that is better in either fiction or movies?
Talib: I thought the final gunfight scene in True Romance was intended to be a burlesque. In a real-life police situation, it wouldn't have gone down that way. The hallway was left unguarded, making it easy for new players with guns to come in. But then it was intended to be a black comedy.
I know Quentin Tarantino had a hand in the story with director Tony Scott, but take a look how he treated the final scene in Reservoir Dogs. It was intense, unpredictable, and you know what else? Almost Shakespeare-like. Tarantino can be grotesque and classy at the same time.
There are so many books and movies out there that do final gunfights so well. I recalled watching Wind River. The final scene was intense. The treatment was different... but it was intense. For me, the stellar would be the final scene in the classic version of The Magnificent Seven. I remember getting all worked up when some of the heroes started
ToastX2: Since you are writing your characters into bizarre situations and they have to determine how to come out on top; Have you ever been in a bar fight, a brawl, or some other messed up situation that you have had to work a solution out of?
Talib: I've never been in a bar fight for the simple reason I avoid such places. I'm more of a cafe person, but I've had to defend myself from troublemakers and drunks. In one incident, it was three against one. They all ended up on the floor. I could've had them arrested but I chose to let them go.
They came back some days later to apologize. When I was holidaying in Buenos Aires, I asked three men for directions. They obliged and walked away, but suddenly they returned and demanded a peso. They were aggressive. What do I do? Shoot my mouth or choose a diplomatic path? I took out my wallet and handed them a peso. But the leader returned the money to me. He said it's complimentary this time, but if I ever ask for directions again, I should pay. Then they walked away. That was weird.
ToastX2: Barring any Spoilers that might arise, do you have a specific paragraph from Gun Kiss which you are particularly happy with and would like to share?
Talib: There is a paragraph where the protagonist and the actress meet at his taco restaurant in Sunset Boulevard. Scenes like these are common, so I needed something different because everyone has read how "their eyes met." I wanted something where the eyes, as well as the mind and soul, connected. And I found the perfect way to describe it.
Here's a clue: "The night sky of Iceland is beautiful."
Launch day updates and contests:Talib: "I'll be announcing updates/Book Launch party at the [below] FB link. There will be kindle book prizes to be given away during a Quiz session. The event will commence at 4pm Eastern on 3 December."
To participate in launch day contests or stay up to date with the author, follow him on Facebook, Bookbub, Twitter, or any other place you can think of. He has an active social presence and engages with the universe at a micron level...
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As an ex-journalist and current fiction author, Khaled has been published in various newspapers, Lit Journals, magazines, and has published several books in the digital market. Khaled’s debut, Smokescreen, was published in 2013 and has interspersed a second novel as well as additional work such as his collection of aphorism for writers.
Khaled Talib is a member of the Crime Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers org.