Today we're talking with Henry Mosquera, author of Sleeper's Run
FQ: Your book, Sleeper's Run, is fantastic. It's a mystery to me, speaking as the parent of an author, why good writers, like yourself, have to self-publish. In this economy, the Big Six don't seem to want to take on new authors. How was your experience in the world of self-publishing?
Thank you so much. Iím always elated when people enjoy my work. To be honest, how and why the industry chooses the works they publish is a mystery to me as well. The obvious answer seems to be current trends. Iím sure if I were writing about vampires or zombies, with the tween demographic in mind, Iíd have a better chance of getting published. A few years back, it was cryptic, conspiracy mysteries that had their day in the sun. As we stand today, political thrillers have been largely relegated to established authors. Apparently, the industry thinks thereís no room for new blood in this genre. It seems to me that publishers have taken a passive position towards their business. They wait to see what hits and then they flood the market with it. When people get tired of it, they move on to the next thing. The days of publishing houses investing in a writerís potential are long gone. Itís all about large, quick returns now.
My experience in self-publishing has been interesting, if not eye opening. I received 183 rejection letters from literary agents. After over three years of work researching, writing and polishing my work with editors, I found myself with two choices: either quit or do it myself. I love the creative control and the freedom of self-publishing. The downside is that you essentially have to run your own company and that takes away a lot of time and resources from writing. The book is only 10% of the work; the rest is all about selling it. When Iím asked, ďWhat are you working on now?Ē the answer is ďselling my novel.Ē Then again, if I had gone through a publishing house, Iíd have to do all the promotion work anyway for less than 10% of my bookís returns.
FQ: The genre of Mystery/Thriller is a personal favorite of mine. You did a great job describing everything this poor man went through. Are you planning any others in this genre?
Thank you, thatís very kind of you. Iím partial to thrillers as well, but I do want to dwell in other genres. Maybe something that requires less research. I have a couple of novels in the pipeline, but right now, everything is taking a backseat to selling Sleeperís Run. I probably wonít be going back to thrillers for a while.
FQ: You must have had to do ample research on PTSD and brain washing techniques. Did you visit any of the places talked about in your book?
I researched the novel extensively. The knowledge of post-traumatic stress disorder came primarily from talking to people who have dealt with it. Since Iím an unknown author, I thought it disrespectful to directly interview people regarding this issue. Weíre talking about something very serious and to make someone open up about this for a novel didnít sit well with me. So, I learned about it from the periphery. Talking to the friends of those affected, reading about it and watching documentaries on PTSD. The problem with post-traumatic stress disorder in the military is that itís the veritable elephant in the room. Itís there, but nobody wants to talk about it. We have a generation of soldiers returning home with this malady and little has been done to solve it. There is a great documentary called Wartorn 1861-2010 that talks about the very real and ignored issue of PTSD in soldiers.
For the brainwashing techniques, I started my research when I watched a documentary about the CIA secret experiments using LSD, psychic drive, hypnosis, etc. to program people. Some of these experiments involved using unwitting Americans. This blew me away, so I started digging deeper and found some fascinating items regarding mind control. Some of the modern elements like the hypothetical use the drug Propofol to induce selective amnesia, and the rudimentary possibility of mind reading technology through the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), really fired up my imagination.
To me, the plausibility of brainwashing isnít as important as the issues it represents in the book: black budgets, operations lacking congressional oversight or accountability (black ops), interventionist policies, an ends-justify-the-means mentality, corruption, greed, and the denial of human or citizen rights; I can go on. Thatís whatís really important and extremely relevant about the novel. Sleeperís Run is one of those stories that can be fun and entertaining, but it can also stimulate very interesting conversations. It all depends on the reader.
FQ: I am a huge fan of Inglourious Basterds too and also a fan of books written about World War II and during that time frame. Have you thought about heading into this area? If you do, I'd surely be interested.
Not as novel. Although, itís quite an interesting time. I loved The Eagle Has Landed. That mixture of history and fantasy is right up my alley. I had an idea for a comic book dealing with WWII and also an unrelated screenplay, but no books. You never know, though. I might bump into something that captivates my imagination and a book might ensue.
FQ: So many novels have been written about the War on Terror. How did you come about writing this stellar novel, using this theme and still making it new and so readable?
Thatís a good question. Maybe because it doesnít really deal with the War on Terror per se and more with elements that relate to it directly: the mentality behind it, certain stands on how geopolitics are conducted, questions on patriotism and ethics, collateral damage (which is not limited to the battlefield) and the impact of the war in our society and the world at large. After all, Sleeperís Run is a work of fiction based on non-fiction sources. Itís sort of genre fiction with literary fiction aspirations.
Also, I come from a different country and Iíve been influenced by different cultures. That sets me apart right from the get go. I tend to see things in broader terms. A lot of political thrillers read like a mainstream comic book. They have a one-sided point of view and are ethnically homogenous; nothing is questioned and everything seems to be justified. The characters are divided into good guys and bad guys, and they only exist to serve the plot. Sleeperís Run is a departure from all of that.
FQ: I usually ask about pets but, you already answered that question in your bio. Anyone who has animals is OK in my book. However, I'm glad you put your wife first. Did your wife have any input in the writing of this novel?
The bookís dedication says it all. She has been my greatest supporter from day one, but she was also my harshest critic. My wife wanted me to do the best I could and would not settle for less. She knew my aim was to be as accurate and as realistic as fiction will allow me to be, so she was very critical of what ended up on the page. You can easily say she was the first editor I worked with on the book. Sheís an amazing writer, but has no interest in pursuing it despite my repeated efforts to change her mind. Itís really a shame. I donít think watching me going through my trials and tribulations in self-publishing has helped much either.
It may sound clichť, but writing is a very lonely process, and if you self-publish itís literally you vs. the world; having someone by your side who loves and believes in you makes a huge difference.