G. Hugh Bodell – Nikita

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.


The President of Iran sits down with a wealthy and powerful Russian appointed by a corrupt United Nations’ Secretary General to oversee attempts by Iran to develop nuclear arms. The topic they discuss is the brokerage by the Russian of 4,000 nuclear warheads, manufactured by the former Soviet Union and a perfect fit for Iran’s Shahab-3 ballistic missiles. These warheads are sitting in Russian warehouses and are being offered for sale by a rogue Russian official.

The same Russian broker orchestrates the actions of the President of the United States in lockstep with the Secretary General of the United Nations to execute a campaign of actions designed to create and maintain chaos in the world of international relations, a campaign to distract the world from the nuclear proliferation, taking place in the Middle East.

The ambitions of the Russian broker and his colleagues are focused on generating tens of billions of dollars in profits and the global consequences are of no interest to them.

The only way to stop the inevitable disaster is to stop the flow of the money.

Anna and Hugh Masterson, the sleuthing couple from the Anna & Hugh Masterson International Mystery Series, find themselves the unintentional gatekeepers in this horrific plot of unbridled nuclear proliferation and both are at risk of losing their lives under violent and very personal circumstances.

It is a saga that could be…but we pray will not!

Tell us something about yourself.

I was born in The Bronx, NY in the early days of WWII and attended Catholic schools through college, all boys from the sixth grade.

On graduating from Cardinal Hayes High School in 1956, I attended Manhattan College where I earned a BBA in accounting. After a tour of duty with the U.S. Army Artillery, I started my career in 1962, as an accountant with Haskins and Sells, one of the international accounting firms that were then referred to as the Big Eight.

By 1979, I had progressed through a career in finance and the use of technology in financial management to the position of Chief Financial Officer of Citibank’s Visa and MasterCard business.

In the first half of the 1980s, I oversaw, as Chief Executive Officer, the growth of a $459 Million regional mortgage company to a $7.5 Billion Federal Mortgage Bank, one of the largest in the country at that time.

In 1985, together with my wife Susan, a computer scientist, I founded a consulting firm specializing in technology-based solutions to processing and security issues in the Financial Services Industry. From 1985 through 2000, the firm serviced the largest financial organizations in the world, including, Barclays Bank, J.P. Morgan & Co., Citicorp, Merrill Lynch & Co., Credit Suisse, Prudential, Standard & Poor’s and ING Barings.

In the year 2000 two events that were to have a major impact occurred:
My wife left the company to pursue (successfully) a complete career reinvention as an actress, model and author and…
I won the bid on a long-term contract (six years) to reengineer the way the United Nations moves money and information globally.

The UN contract and my wife’s new career required us to be in New York City every day for long hours so we rented an apartment on East 46th Street.

During the six years of the contract, a scandal erupted at the UN surrounding the Oil for Food Program. This was a UN administered effort that permitted the embargoed Hussein run Iraq, isolated after the invasion of Kuwait and the first Iraq war, to sell oil to the world. The funds were to be used to buy food and medical supplies to provide the Iraqi people with the necessities of life, thereby reducing the impact on them of the embargo.

October 27, 2005, a committee headed by Paul Volker issued a report of the audit conducted into the corruption in the program. It was almost 700 pages but the real meat for me was in two sentences. “…the Government of Iraq sold $64.2 billion of oil to 248 companies. In turn, 3,614 companies sold $34.5 billion of humanitarian goods to Iraq.”

The difference between the income from oil sales and the outgo to buy humanitarian goods was 29.7 Billion Dollars. I was deeply involved in the movement of money by the UN and I couldn’t stop asking the question, “What happened to that $29,700,000,000?”

Sometime in the late fall of 2005 I was leaving my apartment building for work by way of the rear entrance through a small park on 45th Street. I was stopped by security personnel because a man had jumped out of the twentieth story of one of the buildings that like mine, bordered the park. When I looked out through the door I saw the body splattered in the park (20 stories is a long drop). However, more disturbing was the fact that on his way down a golden silk robe had been torn from his body and was caught in the branches of the forty-foot high trees that were all over the little park. As I walked to the front entrance of the building, I kept thinking to myself “Who the hell puts on a silk robe to jump out a window, I don’t think it was a suicide”.

Over the thirty years that I was in the consulting business, I traveled about 50% of the time and read an untold number of mysteries.

From that day in the fall of 2005, I knew that there was a great mystery in connecting those last two events, 29.7 billion bucks gone missing and a guy dropped out of his twentieth story apartment window.

The contract with the UN ended September 30, 2006 and on November 6, 2006, I decided to reinvent myself as a mystery writer and connect those two events with the workings of my imagination.

I have never looked back.

I was fortunate in that through my wife’s established associations in the media industry I was introduced to an experienced agent who, on reading my mystery had nothing but praise and promise. On meeting with three publishers, I came away with a great many trepidations about signing a contract with guys much bigger than me and with much deeper pockets when I could not pin them down as to what they were going to do to promote my book. Everything I heard and saw led me to believe that they interpreted their responsibility to begin and end with getting my book into about five hundred bookstores across the country and Amazon. They would look to me to provide most of the marketing and promotional horsepower. The line of all three when I questioned this issue was essentially, “Well after all you are an unknown; most of our promotional dollars goes to proven authors.”

I thanked them and decided to seek alternatives. I will add here that I received a great deal of encouragement from my agent. He felt that the publishing industry was on the cusp of its greatest upheaval and that they were about to experience the revolution of disintermediation that music experienced in the preceding ten years. It was late 2009.
It is now 2011 and here are the results of our (my wife joined me in this independent publishing endeavor) efforts:
We have independently published my first mystery Treachery In Turtle Bay, the sequel Treachery In Turtle Bay II and Look For The Hook (My wife, Susan Jane Bodell’s self help book).

All three are available in Trade Paperback on Amazon, on Barnes & Noble internet site, through Barnes & Noble stores, through hundreds of other bookstores (via Ingram\Lightning Source POD) and to Libraries via Baker & Taylor. In Kindle e-book format in the Amazon Kindle Store, e-Pub e-book format at the Barnes & Noble Internet Store, e-Pub e-book format from Google Editions.

We have sales every day from somewhere in the world. We market globally and our distribution partners provide global delivery.
We speak at libraries, book clubs, bookstores, spas and resorts. Susan also runs a program on Look for the Hook in rehabilitation centers.
On November 6, 2011, exactly five years to the day after writing my first paragraph of my first novel we published Nikita, the third novel of the Anna and Hugh Masterson Series.

What began as an attempt to write a simple mystery soon escalated into what has become the most exciting adventure of my career.

What inspired you to write this book?

The plot and original high-level outline was developed in late 2008 at about the same time as book two was being finalized.

I saw turmoil on the horizon given the US political climate in late 2008 and the rather 20th century eastern European rhetoric being a keystone of a campaign.

I also recognized the unfolding of seriously worrisome developments in the Middle East, developments that would dwarf the Iraq wars not only in the length and cost but also in the exploding effect on global security. Where there is smoke there is fire I thought and the makings of fertile ground for the sleuthing couple Anna & Hugh Masterson. Thus, book three of the Anna & Hugh Masterson International Mystery Series was conceived.

Over the three years the book has been in development it evolved; the intrigue and mystery grew more sinister, the political background took on the elements of satire, the commitment of the Mastersons to each other became more intense and the action follows the James Bond formula.

How did you choose the title?

It started out as ‘Treachery In Turtle Bay III – Nukes, Dollars, Diplomacy and the Sinister One’. Wow! That’s a mouthful.

I took an afternoon about six months before publishing and researched successful authors’ title conventions. One word, two maybe three, but that’s it. I then got the idea that since the series was named after the heroine and hero, the books should reflect the challenge more closely.

Nikita is the lead bad guy in this and the two prior books in the series. He has become Anna and Hugh Masterson’s Professor Moriarty. In this book, he takes his evil over the top.

The name was found!

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published?

None! Not because I became so well known or popular, but because we own the publisher.

In reciting my journey to writing and being published, I noted that we (my wife Susan and I) formed a publishing entity (imprint) Sprig Media Group and established relationships with facilitating organizations, Amazon CreateSpace; Kindle; Barnes & Noble Nook, Google e-books, etc. We never sought another publishing channel after we made that decision in 2009.

I did encounter the usual learning curve when seeking a publisher for the first book. Over 100 rejections and 3 ‘interested’.

How did you overcome them?

We learned the business, not the mechanics of making sure the books are available globally, that is now pretty easy with the upheaval in the publishing industry as a result of technology, but the ‘how to drive readers to our books’.

We believe in our books, mine as entertaining and Susan’s as informative and helpful to folk seeking a toolset to think positively in the face of adversity.

Each day we learn new ways to get that belief out to potential readers. Once we learn these new techniques we implement them.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I didn’t until the age of 68 when circumstances gave me both the opportunity and created the need.

How did you get started?

I explained earlier how the idea for the first book developed. I did not think at the time that my days as a technology solutions consultant had come to an end, but I soon found out there just isn’t much demand for grey haired techies.

I realized about a year into the development of book one, if I wanted to continue being on the cutting edge of a business, it better be one in which age didn’t matter.

The evolution from author to publisher created that opportunity…in both phases of authorship/publishing.

The requirement (personal development and financially) to have a business I could stay in until I wanted to end it, not have it ended for me created the need.

I am grateful and happier than I have ever been.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I really never changed my work habits. I am intense and disciplined. This I believe is a backlash of an earlier period where I was …let’s just say neither intense nor disciplined.

Each day begins with a read through and editing for content of what was written the day before. Sometimes this results in completely scrapping what was written the day before.

It works for me, but is not for everyone.

While writing, from idea through publishing I work 8 to 10 hours a day on the project. Using Nikita as an example, I will now work 8 to 10 hours a day for a year on promoting it and our other books.

Sometime at the end of 2012, I shall start on the next book.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

My books take place on an international landscape and have characters from around the world. If the character is Russian, I research Russian names (first and last) and create one that I like. It’s the same for each character.

The principals of the series Anna & Hugh Masterson are modeled loosely on my wife and I and the names came from family names.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

I will have to expand on this question to include the series because the learning process is ongoing and I have learned a great deal. What I have learned relates to fiction and fiction that is seeking a commercially viable audience. I will list the top five in order of importance:

Write about what you know. You can research support, but not the basics of the plot.

Listen to, analyze and react constructively to criticism. My agent pointed out that my first book described in detail the contents of every meal where a scene took place. His words I will never forget. “You are a thin guy who eats very plain food, where the hell is this elaborate description of every meal coming from? Get rid of it.” I did and it has never found its way back into my ‘International Crime Thrillers’.

Outline your story, first broadly then in ever more granular detail. In complex mysteries at least, I find this a must. It will save you from scrapping an entire plot…and you will have a visual of the storyline when you finish.

In Nikita, three plot channels on a course to converge. They are made up of 65 scenes taking place in varied parts of the globe from The Cayman Islands, to Iran, to Russia, to Indonesia, to New York. The scenes are each set by an opening heading denoting place and time. (These replace chapter headings). The scenes are time sequential. It was complex to write, but my feedback says it is easy and fast to read and difficult to put down once you start.

From their mouths to God’s ears!

Understand who your target audience is and adjust your style to capture their interest. I particularly like a paragraph I wrote to describe in pre-release promotions of Nikita.

Over the three years the book has been in development it evolved; the intrigue and mystery grew more sinister, the political background took on the elements of satire, the commitment of the Mastersons to each other became more intense and the action follows the James Bond formula.

It evolved because we listened to my critics, good and bad, and my readers and evolved the style to meet what they would like to see. Each of those characteristics of Nikita is a result of analyzing feedback.

Edit, Edit, Edit, Edit and then edit again.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

This may sound arrogant or ignorant, but nothing.

I believe very strongly that we are the sum total of our experiences. I could not have written earlier in my life, the ‘stars were not aligned correctly’. It had to happen when it happened and the way it happened.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

Anna Katharine Green
Agatha Christie
PD James
Ellery Queen , (Actually Daniel Nathan and Emanuel Lepofsky)
Anne Perry
Tom Clancy

Diverse styles, pace, plots and scene development. I learn from each, elements of successful writing.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

No. That will not start until the end of 2012. Current events will play a role in three alternative plots I am playing with for the Mastersons. All three are very different from each other.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Define the objective of the writing; ego, fun, gain or agenda.

Commit enough time to permit the possibility of success.

Give the process three years minimum (full or part time) to make a decision if it is where you want to take your life.

Focus, order and discipline

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

A thinking adult
A global fan base