|H.L. Katz, Author|
H. L. Katz brings us CAPITOL CRIMES, highlighted by a reviewer as “a suspenseful DC thriller.” Katz describes himself as someone who closely follows current events and has created a novel that he fears could happen. Although he has written his novel mostly to entertain, he encourages readers to pay attention to what’s happening in the world so that we can “take back what is rightfully ours-our own government.”
Katz, a husband, father and grandfather, currently lives in the eastern U.S. He is writing a sequel to CAPITOL CRIMES and another novel in a different genre. He works in the private sector and also coaches athletics.
Q: One of your reviewers fears that CAPITOL CRIMES hits “a little too close to home.” How did you conceive of the plot?
H.L. Katz: I am an avid follower of current events and situations in every day life that seem a bit out of place. Additionally, I try to understand politics from different prisms not the least of which are geo-political circumstances that surround even the most simplest of decisions. As someone who attempts to understand the motivations behind each of those events, I like to play the writer's "what if" game as in "what if this happened" instead of what may have actually taken place. I know I am far from unique in that regard, but I do believe the plot and its intrigue are fresh and captivating with a heavy dose of reality that indeed hits a little too close to home.
Q: How relevant is it to us today?
H.L. Katz: I am of the opinion that not only is the plot extremely relevant to us today, but someplace in the deep recesses of my mind, I fear this book may indeed be a case of life imitating art. I have always believed citizens should have a say in how they are governed. Sadly, the American electorate seems to know more about Jay Z and Beyonce, than they do about Iran and a potential nuclear weapon. The only way the governed can be silently imprisoned by those that govern them is because they were busy not paying attention. As our freedoms continue to slowly erode and those in power work daily to make sure they stay in power, the governed are left wondering how that happened and what recourses they have, if any, to change it. CAPITOL CRIMES is eerily relevant and I wonder if that is actually a good thing for our country and the world.
Q: Your reviewers also appreciate your ability to build suspense. How do you create a “page turner?”
H.L. Katz: I actually consider myself an untrained "ham-and-egger" so I am probably the wrong person to ask this question to, but I remember a long time ago a former boss of mine used to say "Never give them too much, but always leave them wanting more." While that applied to my work at the time, I think that sort of advice goes a long way in generating a page turner. I try to stay away from being too spot on in dialogue and look to create a story that not only helps the reader turn the page, but builds a world in which events are far from neat and tidy. On the contrary. Like any great story, the challenges your protagonists face on each page should not only be relatable to your reader, but should take them to a place they have never been and never want to leave.
Q: You chose to feature a woman as your protagonist. Why did you choose a woman?
H.L. Katz: I was intrigued by the challenges that she presented to me as a writer. While I don't think it's easy to write a male character, giving voice to a woman and making her believable throughout close to 400 pages seemed like something I could not pass up. I like to think I was able to meet that challenge head on, however I will leave it to the reader to decide. Additionally, I think in the political thriller genre, female protagonists are few and far between and most definitely underrepresented. I thought Callie Wheeler would be a refreshing change to the landscape. Again, I believe the readers will let me know if indeed that is the case.
Q: What characteristics did you assign her to engage readers?
H.L. Katz: I think Callie is a complex mixture of a multitude of characteristics. She has adaptability and confidence. Toughness and loyalty. She's diligent and kind, while also being resourceful, vindictive and manipulating. Readers will be drawn to her toughness and willingness to be brutally honest while at the same time irritated by where it seemingly leads her. Without giving too much of the book away, Callie sets off on a journey that spins her life out of control and calls on all of these characteristics and them some. It is ultimately her wrestling with these and many other characteristics that hopefully engage the reader, move the story forward and make her a complex multi-dimensional character readers care about.
Q: How relevant is the concept of “villains vs heroes” in CAPITOL CRIMES?
H.L. Katz: I think the concept of villains vs heroes is at play from the first page until the last. Interestingly enough, the concept of hero might be different for each reader. Nevertheless, the hero in this novel may be someone you least expect. There are plenty of villains in Capitol Crimes but only a few drive the plot forward on a consistent basis.
Q: What makes an effective villain?
H.L. Katz: I think an effective villain stretches the readers’ limits and imagination. I believe an effective villain crosses lines that most people would never cross themselves if faced with the exact same choice and on top of that the effective villain makes their choices with no remorse. On the contrary, the effective villain actually enjoys the havoc he/she creates and builds upon that with each subsequent action. Ideally, the boundaries of the villain then expand almost uncontrollably. The truly effective villain however, never lets you see them coming. There are those you see and those you don't. They both drive the story and while they both conjure up emotions, the one you don't see can be far more dangerous than the one you do. I guess I will leave you with this: is the villain you see more effective than the villain you don't?
Q: Are your characters a bit of both? Is your protagonist your hero?
H.L. Katz: Yes, I think some important and complicated characters in CAPITOL CRIMES blur the line between villain and hero leaving the reader engrossed in the moral quandary that makes them question exactly who is what not only during the story, but even after they have finished. Most people, I believe, have tendencies to be both a hero and a villain in their daily lives. But for their own moral compass, they make decisions that lead them to be either. I think the best characters in novels have those same tendencies and characteristics. With that as my guide, the characters in CAPITOL CRIMES are complicated people who wrestle with their own sometimes blurred lines of right and wrong and what they are willing to do or not do to insure their own survival. I like to think it is that very thin line that keeps the reader turning the page again and again.
As for the protagonist, well, therein lies the rub.
Q: How important is credibility to telling your story? What kind of research did you do to assure believability?
H.L. Katz: I think readers give the writer a certain level of suspension of belief in regards to fiction, but in a political thriller or a love story for instance, as opposed to the paranormal, the reader expects the story to be anchored to reality and in that sense I think credibility is important. In order to deliver that, I spent hours upon hours of interviews and research on the lobbying trade, along with the inner workings of Congressional and Presidential daily lives. With the help of a few industry insiders, I was able to lend that aura of credibility to the story. Like any author, there are a few times I may rely on the readers’ suspension for fiction, but for the most part, if the story is far from reality in this genre, it tends to fall flat. For a writer's audience to buy into the story, it has to be believable in the readers imagination not just the writers.
Q: Does accuracy add to suspense? Do back-story details help?
H.L. Katz: I think historical accuracy, which I rely on quite a few times in the book, not only adds to the believability of the characters, but it can add to suspense if used correctly. Because of that, back-story helps the reader imagine the character in a more defined way and can see them living inside the book and ultimately, in the readers mind. In the case of CAPITOL CRIMES, I think accuracy within the back-story actually helps the story move forward and gives the reader a deeper insight into each character. I did struggle at times with how much back-story is enough or too much, but my editor's advice regarding "if it doesn't move the story forward, it doesn't belong" helped me limit how much depth I needed to add. I like to think I got it right, but again, I will leave that for the reader to decide.
Q: How helpful was your own background to writing CAPITOL CRIMES?
H.L. Katz: More than my own background, I think my relationships with some very influential people in Washington, helped craft the book. My own background as a political observer for many years, drew me to the project, but in truth it was my relationships with people who work in both the Lobbying industry and Government, that were most helpful in bringing a credible novel to fruition.
Q: Did you write CAPITOL CRIMES strictly to entertain, or did you also want to deliver a message? Educate?
H.L. Katz: I wrote CAPITOL CRIMES first and foremost to entertain. That being said, I would be lying if I said I didn't want to deliver a message. As I mentioned before, I think the American people are asleep and while they are not paying attention, a lot of nasty things are happening right under their noses. I believe it is time to wake up and take back what is rightfully ours-our own government. As Thomas Jefferson said, and I will paraphrase due to my lack of eloquence, a citizenry that fears their government, lives under tyranny, but a government that lives in fear of its citizens, that is freedom. I hope the reader will walk away knowing that while they've gotten lost in "The Walking Dead" or "Mad Men" there were some real bad people doing and still trying to do bad things to America and her citizenry.
Q: How helpful is humor to telling your story or developing your characters?
H.L. Katz: I think humor can be a wonderful tool in getting to core issues and character development without the story becoming stagnant or maybe even blasé. I think all relationships are buoyed in some way with humor and the use of it in fiction lends a certain believability to your characters and invites the reader into a very real give and take they can relate to from within their own lives. Most of all, a writer needs their readers to connect to their story and their characters. Humor offers a tangible attraction for the reader to hold on to and when used intelligently, will leave them wanting more.
Q: What’s next? Will you be writing more novels?
H.L. Katz: I am working on a sequel to CAPITOL CRIMES, which I hope to finish by the end of the summer. I am also working on another story although not in the same genre. I never thought I'd end up writing a novel and getting it published on top of that, but now that I have, it seems I have tripped into the start of something new. While that is exciting, it also has to be revenue-generating for it to become a career. It is my hope that your blog and this terrific opportunity you have given me and many others, will go a step towards doing just that. On that note, I wanted to thank you for your platform and how generous you are with your time. I, for one, am very appreciative of the opportunity. Thank you so much.
Q: Tell us about H.L. Katz. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
H.L. Katz: Truth be told, I am a pretty boring person. I am the father of eight children: five of my own, a son-in-law and two daughters-in-law-and a grandfather to four. I have tried my best to raise responsible adults who live a life infused with integrity and character. I believe I have done that based on the actions of my offspring and the lives they have carved out for themselves. Of that I am very proud. Other than that, I have worked in athletics for more than three decades and have developed cherished relationships with my players that mean more to me than money can put a price on. When I am not writing, I like spending time with my wife who is the love of my life and the best decision I ever made, and helping others through acts of kindness that hopefully go unnoticed. I do like to study and do things to enhance my knowledge of all things important and hope each day I have improved the world we live in. I do enjoy watching and teaching basketball on all levels, but after that, I am pretty much an empty page. Lastly, I try and live every day hoping My Creator is proud of me-I suppose on that, only time will tell.
About H.L. Katz
H.L. Katz has been a keen observer of the political landscape both in America and abroad for more than three decades. He works in the private sector and has also coached athletics on every level. He has tried to instill in his players a love for life and all that is good. He is a happily married father and grandfather who currently resides on the east coast of the United States. CAPITOL CRIMES is his first book and is currently working on his next Callie Wheeler novel.
About CAPITOL CRIMES
Ripped from today’s headlines, CAPITOL CRIMES is a gripping tale of political intrigue, espionage and personal destruction. Callie Wheeler always seemed destined for great things. She landed the job of her dreams straight out of Law School and rose to prominence as the top lobbyist in Washington, D.C. Mike Ferguson is Callie’s fiancé and a CIA operative. He is in pursuit of terrorists who threaten to destroy America and in the process, discovers information that hits a little too close to home. Kacey Mercer is Callie’s best friend and a reporter at the Washington Post. She uncovers a story of political corruption that has Callie’s fingerprints all over it. As Callie’s charmed life begins to unravel, her enemies in Congress who have plenty of their own secrets to hide, pounce on her misfortune. It is only after Callie discovers how deep the corruption actually goes, that she is forced to choose between America’s demise or her own.
“Oh, Mike. Remember, tomorrow night we are at the Kennedy Center for the President's birthday party.”
Callie reached across the table for her daily planner. She pulled it towards her, opened it up and removed the raised lettered invitation.
“What time does that start?”
“Private dinner at six, program at eight, reception afterwards,” Callie said. She closed her planner and ran her fingers across the raised black lettering.
Mike picked his head up from the Post, looked at his beautiful wife-to-be and took a drink from his coffee mug. “Remind me again why we have to go to this thing?”
“Umm...Because he's your boss?”
The ring from the house phone interrupted their conversation. Callie stood up from her chair to answer it. Mike couldn't help but stare at Callie's creamy long legs. He smiled as he admired her perfect structure and took a long sip of his coffee without losing sight of her finely trimmed physique. Callie picked up the phone with her right hand, shifting the invitation still in her left one.
No response from the other line.
Callie was about to hang up the phone when she dropped the invitation on the floor. At the exact moment she bent down to pick it up, a bullet pierced through the bay window in the front of the house. The bullet impaled itself into the wooden support next to the sliding doors, directly behind where Callie stood just a moment before.
“Callie! Stay down!”
Mike, his gun already drawn from the holster on the back of his belt, rushed over to Callie and moved her behind him and against the kitchen wall. He used his body to shield her as he crouched over and quickly rushed her to the corner of the den away from the sight-lines of the bay window and the sliding glass doors that lead to the deck. He looked around, still protecting her and motioned her behind the couch. “Callie, go over there and don’t move. I’m serious. Stay.”
Within seconds another bullet, this time coming from the back of the house, shattered the sliding doors. It was followed by a rally of five more shots that exploded inside the house, but missed their intended targets each time. Mike surveyed the situation and checked on Callie’s safety once more, while he contemplated his next move.
“Stay behind there, Callie. Don’t do anything stupid. Stay there.”
Mike, now looking to go on the offensive, remained out of the line of fire as another round of bullets came flying through what was left of the glass doors. Pressing his back against the wall, he caught the shooter’s reflection in a picture frame across from what used to be the sliding doors. Callie had insisted on hanging the picture of Mike and Akiva in the living room instead of Mike’s study where he wanted it to be. He checked the glass protecting the photo and caught a glimpse of the shooter, who had made his way onto the deck, only steps away from entering the house. He stepped in front of the shattered glass and lodged two bullets dead center in the shooters forehead from less than ten yards away.
Not knowing if there were any more snipers around, Mike turned over the kitchen table and took cover behind it. From a distance, the sound of police sirens rang out and he knew that within moments they would be at his front door.
“What the hell?” Law enforcement was already in transit. That didn't make sense. He turned around and saw Callie curled up behind the couch, the kitchen phone still in her hand.
Mike looked out at the shattered bay window and saw the police approaching the house with their guns drawn. He told Callie to stay where she was before greeting the officers at the door.
Twitter address @coachk09