Saturday, February 11, 2012

James Bruno - TRIBE

It is a great privilege to have James Bruno with us today, promoting his book TRIBE.
Where do you currently live?
Upstate New York

Tell us a little bit about your life.
I worked for the federal government for over two decades, first in military intelligence, then as diplomat with the Dept. of State. I served in S.E. Asia, Pakistan, Cuba, Guantanamo Naval Base, Australia and, of course, Washington DC. I speak seven foreign languages. I’ve spent lots of time at the White House and even served in a presidential protection detail abroad. I am currently a member of the Diplomatic Readiness Reserve.

When did you first start writing?
During and just after college as a news reporter. As a fiction writer, 16 years ago.

What was your very first story about?
My first novel, PERMANENT INTERESTS, is about a corrupt alliance between White House political operators and the Russian and American mobs. It’s been a steady Kindle bestseller.

Have you written anything that you were too afraid to let anyone read?
Funny you should ask. I must submit all of my writings to the U.S. State Dept. for security screening and approval before I can give it to anyone else, including my agent. It’s part of the faustian pact I made when I took the official oath. I’d risk serious legal issues if I violated that rule. The screening usually takes around six months.

Did you experience anything you’ve written yourself?
My stories rely heavily on actual experiences in my professional life, from being harassed by Russian and Cuban agents to working in a presidential protection detail. My books’ success owe much to authenticity.

Who are several of your greatest literary inspirations?
Joseph Conrad – my overall favorite. As far as studying the craft of writing the spy thriller, Daniel Silva, David Ignatius, John LeCarre, Alan Furst.

What kind of education have you received, and how has that affected your writing?
Master’s degrees from the U.S. Naval War College and Columbia University; BA from George Washington Univ. I studied journalism at the Columbia School of Journalism, international relations at GWU and war fighting and strategy at the Naval War College. The skills and knowledge I obtained from all of these heavily influence my writing of political/espionage thrillers.

How much research time customarily goes into your projects?
I’m a meticulous researcher and a stickler for authenticity. For my latest thriller, HAVANA QUEEN, I spent nine months doing intensive research even though I had worked and traveled in Cuba as a diplomat.

Who is your favorite literary character?
Captain Ahab.

Who is your favorite character of your own creation?
Camilla Loomis, the high-powered Washington socialite in my latest thriller, TRIBE. Camilla claws her way from Appalachian trailer trash to Beltway powerbroker through pluck, brains and cunning.

If you were ever to write an autobiography, what would its title be?

Tell us about your featured book.
TRIBE is about how power, love, and fathers and daughters come into play in conflict-riven Afghanistan, and how the government gets it all wrong.

What separates TRIBE from its competition is its authenticity - so authentic that the U.S. government censored it. I draw heavily from my service on Afghanistan, including in the field.

Why did you write that?
I spent nearly five years working on Afghanistan with the U.S. government. My duties ranged from spearheading our diplomatic effort to closing our embassy in Kabul to locating 12,000 mules for the Afghan mujahidin.

It was a deeply taxing and all-consuming job. It got under my skin and stayed there for years. I just had to write a story about it. It was a cathartic exercise.

Is there anything special you would like your potential readers to know?
If you want to read political and spy thrillers that hew closely to the way things are really done as opposed to fantastical artifice, you’ll enjoy my books.

My agent also represents Stieg Larsson. All three of my novels have been Kindle paid bestsellers. I’ve been featured on NBC’s Today Show as well as in the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor and other media.

What’s a negative trait about other people that you most notice, or that bothers you the most?
Egotism. It’s rampant inside the Beltway right down to the lowliest functionary and I find it repellent.

Do you ever notice it in yourself?
Returning from a successful overseas assignment, one’s sense of one’s abilities can be a bit inflated – only to be deflated once returning as a small fish in the big D.C. pond. I was subject to that, but resumed being human real fast.

If you were forced to give something you adore up for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Watching the evening news.

Do you own any kind of art collection?
Yes. My wife and I collected some lovely original artwork from Asia and Africa, which now graces our home.

What is the hardest thing about growing up?
Figuring it all out.

Was it worth it?
Figure it out or perish.

What is the biggest lie you’ve ever heard?
“Serve in [Afghanistan – Vietnam – Cambodia – Laos – Secret Project] and you will be able to name your next assignment and get promoted fast.”

What is something you absolutely must have in your kitchen?

What is pain to you?
Not being able to nourish my brain.

What is your dream house?
A cozy place overlooking the ocean.

Where would you want this house located in our wide world?
Pacific Northwest.

You’ve been forced under various circumstances to choose a personal motto. What is it?

Have you ever received a present you really hated? If so, what was it?
Tight-fitting underpants.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten? Would you have it again?
Raw turtle eggs – in Thailand. Definitely would NOT try it again.

What’s the first thing you would do if you could become invisible?
Hang around the West Wing of the White House.

Do you ever have recurring dreams? What is your most common one about?

What is the kindest thing that anyone has ever done for you?
Getting me sprung from captivity by Khmer Rouge guerillas (really!).

Our very special thanks to James for taking the time to answer our questions. Please give his many acclaimed works a look, starting with this one:

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