Gregg Feistman – The War Merchants

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

The War Merchants is a corporate thriller about a secret cartel of multinational corporations that have become so rich and powerful they influence governments and global events to cause regional wars, since war is good for business. In the midst of starting a heated romance, beautiful public relations executive Cassidy Jevon and ace business reporter Michael Kranz stumble upon the Machiavellian scheme. Not knowing whom to trust, they race against time to expose the global conspiracy before the next targeted initiative begins: the manipulation and takeover of Russia.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’m a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, teaching public relations and writing. I have extensive professional experience in public relations. I’ve been a writer for many years; I was a freelance journalist, and a NYC-produced playwright. The War Merchants in my first novel.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always been interested in business machinations. I became interested in the subject for my book when the government and media started publicly calculating the cost of recent wars, such as Gulf War I in the early 1990s. At one point, the cost of the Iraq War to the U.S. was said to be $10 billion a month. That kind of number is too big for the average person to conceive of, so I got to thinking why is it costing that much? I started doing some research to see what the real breakdowns were and from there, and asked who’s making money from this? That began the germ of the idea for the story.

What’s your creative process like?

For some reason, I always start at the end and then have to work backwards. I usually visualize my characters in a dramatic situation or scenario, or I hear a particular piece of dialogue, and then say, “okay, what happened before that to put these characters in this situation?” I usually know how the story will end before I know the beginning. The beginning usually comes to me fairly easily. It’s what happens in the middle that’s the hard part – and the fun part! I don’t always know where the story is going until I start writing it (and not always then, either), and sometimes the characters kind of dictate the twists and turns in the story. I sometimes let them take off on their own, but I always want to make sure that what they do and say is plausible.

How did you choose the title?

It was actually the second title I came up with. My publisher suggested that the original title, Fortunes of War, was too similar to other books and my book with that name would be harder to find in an Amazon search, so I changed it.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

After finishing the book, I spent 18 months looking for an agent. Through serendipity, I was referred to the publisher (without having attained representation). They read the manuscript, liked it and offered to publish it. It was a little bit of luck, I guess.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I’ve been a writer since I was a kid (because I’m terrible at math!). I credit that to my parents who read to me from a young age and encouraged me to always be reading – something I do to this day. I think my first creative writing project came at about age 12 or 13. I was fortunate enough to have high school and college teachers recognize my ability with words and they encouraged me to stick with it. That’s how I became a playwright first (winning a collegiate play writing competition two years in a row), which lead to full-length plays (two of which were produced off-off-Broadway), and later journalism.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Not really. Sometimes I write in the mornings, sometimes during the day, sometimes at night. But I always recognize when I have the urge to write, even if an idea comes to me in the wee hours of the morning. I have to get up and start writing immediately, for fear I’ll lose the good idea. I know myself well enough to know that when I’m in the middle of a writing project, my subconscious is working on it first and when it’s ready, that’s when I have to write.

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

Sometimes, the name just fits the character and they go together naturally. Other times when I’m stuck for a name, I use a little book I bought many, many years ago that’s a guide for naming babies!

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

It ain’t easy! Seriously, there are days when the creativity is really flowing and I can’t type fast enough, and other days when the well comes up dry. But you have to be persistent and stick with it. If you have a story to tell, then tell it. Don’t worry about writing crap at first – that’s what re-writing is for – but get the ideas down on the page. Believe in yourself and your ability. I’ve also learned that writing a book and getting it published doesn’t mean that’s it. Writers have to be their own marketing & PR people too these days. It’s a lot of work.

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

Try to get an agent (I’m currently actively looking for one). Also, try to make/find time to write on a more consistent basis. Life sometimes gets in the way!

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

I like to read both fiction and non-fiction. Some of my favorite authors are Robert Ludlum, Nelson DeMille, and David McCullough. They are brilliant writers.

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

Yes, I’m working on a sequel to The War Merchants. My main characters are back and this time they’re uncovering a historical scandal involving the Catholic Church. More than that I don’t want to say yet, but so far it’s interesting!

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

About writing: just write. Don’t let anything stop you from finishing your project. It may take a while, but keep at it. About publishing: you’re going to get rejected a lot, but that’s the nature of the business. Keep pushing. And there are more alternatives now, such as self-publishing. To do that right means an investment of time and money, but it is an alternative for many writers. And don’t forget about the promotion of your book through traditional and non-traditional media.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

People who like romance mixed in with a thriller. I think fans of international intrigue, current events and readers interested in a fast-paced good story with a touch of realism would enjoy this book too.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

My website: www.thewarmerchants.com, my Facebook Fan page under Author, Gregg Feistman, and on Amazon.com. It’s also available through BarnesandNoble.com