Today, I’m pleased to present Craig O. Thompson, award-winning author of Omar: A Novel. In addition to being an author, Mr. Thompson is also a consultant on counter-terrorism and business disaster recovery and planning. He is an authority on the subject of terrorism and “CBNRE” (Chemical, Biological, Nuclear, Radiological & Explosive warfare), is a board member of and communications director for the International Association of Counterterrorism and Security Professionals (IACSP); the Institute for Business and Home Safety, and the Association of Contingency Planners International. He has researched global terrorism for nearly twenty-nine years.
Mr. Thompson divides his time between research, writing, reading (the 3 R’s as he calls them) and time with his family. His knees informed him recently that he could no longer enjoy the sport of skiing. An ultimate goal includes the upcoming establishment of the St. Jude Foundation of Hope…financially grounded through his books and keynote speeches. Mr. Thompson holds a B.S. and M.A. in Education from Northern Arizona University.
Overview of Omar: A Novel:
In 1995, CIA and FBI jointly discovered secret plans to recover a trove of priceless treasure from deep below the North Atlantic Ice Barrier, aboard the RMS Titanic. An ultra-zealous terrorist organization competed against a group of divers, hired by a billionaire oilman.
Dr. Cary Parker, Woods Hole oceanographer, archaeologist, and maritime law specialist at the Smithsonian Institute, was recruited by CIA’s Colonel Bramson to beat both diving teams to the ship’s grave site. And a wave of worldwide terrorism was set into motion at 2077 fathoms, as a rare, priceless book became the primary focus of a triadic search. Parker, challenged the terrorists on his own turf, and what followed was an adventure of legendary proportions.
1. What is a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write and do you set a daily writing goal?
My day usually begins between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m. Depends on whether or not a) I delivered a keynote or workshop the day before (takes a lot of energy) or b) Acquired a “second wind” that allowed me to work later into the evening.
I consistently write or work on any particular project, in the morning. However, due to my responsibilities as a consultant, it may not necessarily be the same one, each day. Typically, with several book and screenplay treatments/outlines and narratives going, I tend to spread them out evenly. Or, I might work on a project for a client (individual, corporate or government).
As I am a counter-terror consultant, I typically have a goal of 10,000 word a day – and write and research until around 10:00 a.m. – first, catching up on any critical overnight news (as communications director for the International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals, I’m on 24-hour call). However, much of that writing or researching can be for consulting projects, when on a client deadline. So, I’m torn between two worlds. And it can be very frustrating on the personal writing side.
Beyond on-air media interviews, regarding the subject of terrorism, any time of the day I may be interrupted by local, national and/or international media producers wanting information, and/or on-air interviews regarding an incident that has occurred somewhere around the globe. Two recent examples are the 9/11 Anniversary and the killing of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya. Often, these events put me behind with my personal writing goals.
When bin Laden was killed, in 2011, my phone began to ring just before midnight – and continued all through the night and into the next day – with requests for on-air interviews and, locally, for live TV station broadcasts that could be syndicated. Another example: Just after bombings occurred on the Underground and on a double-decker bus, in London on 7/7 (July 7th 2005), NBC dispatched a satellite truck to my home for nearly two hours of recorded interview segments that were broadcast, globally.
These are extreme examples of how my time is utilized when a terrorist event occurs. But I can tell you these events pretty much scuttle my ability to get much else done, the rest of the day.
Due to limited space, I won’t attempt to fully explain nearly ten months of constant interruptions, little-sleep, and hundreds of hours on a telephone headset, with worldwide media… following the events of 9/11. Suffice it to say that surreal cannot begin to describe a period of my life that began on September 10th, 2001, with a 3-hour interview on a 50,000-Watt, sixteen-state KFI Radio late night broadcast (out of Los Angeles).
During that particular call-in show, with host Lee Kline, I reported that America was on a ticking clock – established by the Rand Corporation (“a non-profit global think tank”) – that presented a 10-year window before a major attack would occur on our own homeland. On September 10th, America was at the seven-year mark.
Based on similar statements I had made on an August 11, 2001 C-SPAN broadcast of one of my keynotes, on terrorism in America, I told KFI listeners that it was my belief—based on solid research—that Osama bin Laden, suicide bombers, poor airport security, Afghanistan and other aspects would combine to kill thousands of people on our homeland. I just happened to say—as I had back in August, “It could happen tomorrow, or ten years from now… either way we won’t be prepared.” From that point on, I got little rest, and very little writing would be accomplished… beyond that needed for my keynotes and workshops about counter-terror, homeland security and biological warfare.
2. What kind of research did you do for this book?
There are probably former professors who would turn over in their graves if they knew I had researched or written anything of substance. However, I truly thrive on doing thorough research about subjects that interest me, where I previously detested doing research for college projects “assigned” by a professor (I had little if any interest in an “assigned” subject). Of course, I matured, over the years, in that regard.
For OMAR: A Novel, I spent over five years researching terrorism and associated subjects, along with unrelated fields including oceanography, deep-sea diving, treasure hunts, mini-subs, the Titanic, and so forth. I wanted to be “spot-on” with readers who can detect when an author is faking it, or not. That’s a very important factor from a reader’s perspective, especially within the “techno-thriller” genre. Locations and special sites in my book had to be real or, at the very least, realistic.
Those aspects were more enjoyable. It presented opportunities to travel in order to perform specific research, and meet with people who were a part of the true story. During our travels (sponsored by an angel whose financial advisor felt it important to support authors), two wonderful opportunities arose.
In a “gloves on” experience, at the British Museum, my wife and I were invited to view and hold the only existing copy of the world-famous “illuminated” book, “The Great Omar”—that went down with the Titanic. At another site, we were allowed to handle Charles Dickens’ personal snuffbox and flask—kept under lock and key, in a special vault.
A very important part of writing is to have experiences that can help you bring out “true-to-life” events, plot lines, and subtext within the narrative. My global travels, over the years, helped considerably. But I also found that one can interview experts in other areas and still come away with great material. My “Thanks” page pays tribute to the numerous interviews I conducted.
The key is to know when to stop researching, and when to stop writing! That was my challenge with OMAR: A Novel. I had so much fun; I finally forced myself to stop at well over nine hundred pages. Two of my personal editors (one of whom edited many best-selling books, including James Clavell’s extremely well-crafted “Shogun”) helped me cut over 300 pages—a process likened to “killing your own children.”
Finally, there are many subjects I may not necessarily express as well, in conversation. Yet, in writing, I feel quite free to more clearly convey my thoughts to others (and hope they enjoy reading them). Through thorough research, I feel more comfortable with any subject. One might say that it builds confidence. It took me some time to get over certain insecurities about my ability, or lack thereof, to write a novel. But when pre-publication letters and reviews started to come in, from well-known “personages” who enjoyed the book, I began to overcome those insecurities.
3. If you could meet one of your characters from the novel, who would it be and why?
Clearly, it would be the highly respected archeologist and oceanographer, Dr. Cary Parker—OMAR: A Novel’s chief protagonist. Based on a compilation of several famous deep-sea divers, this character has character. Parker has integrity, moral fiber and a resolve to accomplish whatever he sets out to do. Cary has accomplished much in his lifetime and is looked to, by global experts, for advice and guidance. Though cautious and careful in his work—and in his deep-sea dive preparations—years of experience have given Parker a confidence that others might lack.
I would certainly take advantage of any developed friendship, with the esteemed Dr. Parker, to request that I accompany him on a dive to the RMS Titanic. I would climb aboard at the drop of a coin. Unlike some relatives, I have no propensity toward seasickness. In my younger days, I actually travelled aboard a French freighter, through a three-day typhoon that hit between Singapore and Japan. When my third-class “stateroom” mates lost their cookies, I was able to get through it all. Therefore, I’m ready, willing and able to make that dive, Captain.
4. Is there a message in your novel that you’d like readers to grasp?
My first draft of OMAR:A Novel started off, typically, as my rendition of “the great American novel.” However, by the time I had spent over five years researching global terrorism, biological warfare and attendant subjects, I felt my book was more of a glimpse into the future—and it needed to serve as a warning of what was—and still is—to come. After Senator Richard Lugar, then a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote a dust-jacket comment that said, “…OMAR forecasts tomorrow’s headlines…. This well-researched fiction is a timely window into potential disasters for unprepared nations,” the message took on a much more serious tone.
5. Can you give the readers a peak into your next project?
Currently, I’m working on a non-fiction book about business continuity / disaster planning (for clients). It is a project with a specific niche market directed at small to medium-size businesses, worldwide. Regarding sequels, I have a propensity to be more like the late Michael Crichton, a prolific author I admired greatly. Jurassic Park and its sequels aside, as Crichton did, I prefer to move on to entirely different subjects in which I have an interest. However, I have researched a number of scenarios in which OMAR: A Novel’s Dr. Cary Parker could be involved. So, anything is possible.
Beyond that, I am revisiting a science fiction novel that I had written long before OMAR: A Novel popped into my head. Though I am still in love with the premise, the sci-fi story needs a tremendous amount of rework, and a lot of changes in technology since I first began the project. I have also discovered that my writing style has matured, greatly, since first beginning the sci-fi piece. Finally, I have three screenplays—in draft script or treatment form—which I pull out whenever I have new information or ideas to carry each story forward. Thank heavens for Screenwriter 2000… to keep me on track.
You can get a copies of Omar: A Novel at the following:
***Blog Author’s Note: I highly suggest that you pick up a copy of Omar: A Novel! It is a page-turner and will keep you on pins and needles. To be honest, I normally don’t read these types of books, usually sticking with a light, but often times tragic, love story; however, after reading Mr. Thompson’s thrilling novel, I have cause to change my mind. Not only was it well written, I found it highly detailed and not only quite scary (in the non-Stephen King sense) but also nerve-wracking and spine-tingling because this concerns the lives we live today in the face of terrorism. Amazingly enough, this book was published in 2001 — well before 9/11 — giving you a clear picture of the pure evil that resides in the minds of terrorists.
Mr. Thompson, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to read your novel and I am thrilled that I was given the chance to interview you. I welcome you back anytime!