Friday, December 9, 2011

VBT# Agent of Artifice -S.Evan Townsend

Today's belated VBT# is author S.Evan Townsend and his Book "Agent of Artifice".
Synopsis: Agent of Artifice - S.Evan Townsend-November 2011
They live among us. We know they are there. No government can control them; no authority can stop them. Some are evil. Some are good. All are powerful. They inhabit our myths and fairy tales. But what if they were real, the witches, wizards, and fairy godmothers? What if they were called "adepts" and were organized into guilds for mutual protection and benefit? And what if they started mucking around with the affairs of "lessers" (that is, those humans not able to match their powers)?During the height of the Cold War, Michael Vaughan is a rogue without a guild. He survives by working for the CIA as NOC (Non-Official Cover). Shortly after the funeral of President Joe Kennedy, Jr., he is sent to Cuba to assassinate Castro. There he finds himself in a cat-and-mouse game with adepts working for Fidel.
Author Guest Post - S. Evan Townsend
Fun, Travel and Adventure

Years ago when I was just a kid, I was watching television with my mother and she caught some inaccuracy in the program we were watching. I didn't notice it because I was just a kid and didn't know any better. "I hate when writers insult the intelligence of their audience by not doing their research," she said. (My mother is a woman of strong opinions and rarely reticent about sharing them. This is probably where I got that trait.) That phrase has stuck with me throughout my writing career. I always do my best to make what I write accurately as I can without spending a fortune in time or money. Writers can not do too much research, I believe. But what they can do is show off how much research they did by putting something in their writing that isn't germane to the story. (Actually, you can get away with this a little bit but the fact better be fun and interesting.)

Because I demand accuracy of myself, I spend a lot of time doing research. And while the internet is a great tool for this (if only to find the right books to read), there's nothing like hands-on experience. For my novel, Agent of Artifice, I tried to visit every major locale in the novel. I traveled to Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami and Key West. I had some luck in this: two business trips took me to or very close to the places mentioned. The one place I didn't manage to visit, for obvious reasons, was Havana, Cuba.

One trip was to Chicago. I extended my stay during a business trip over a weekend and paid for an inexpensive hotel room. I lucked out; the hotel was very close to the library. I spent an entire day in the Chicago's main library branch (a beautiful building of marble and old polished wood that seemed to house at least a couple of hundred homeless). In the library I read old newspapers. I knew from my outline the dates my character would be in Chicago and I read the same newspaper he would have read. Agent of Artifice is set in the late 1950s and early 1960s which presented more challenges. I not only had to get the settings correct but the history. Reading old newspapers allowed me also to gauge the tenor of the times. There were constant worries the Soviet Union would invade West Berlin or West Germany. The space age was just beginning with a sense of wonder. And Castro was about to depose Batista in Cuba. This greatly interested my character because he'd just been living the good life in pre-revolution Havana. I was also able to get the weather correct that my character had to deal with (the coldest December on record in 1958).

On Sunday I explored the two hotels in Chicago that are settings in the novel (I'd found them on the internet). I check the outsides (which assumed hadn't changed much in 40 years) and the lobbies (which I assumed had). I looked at the streets they were on and the buildings there were near-by. There used to be a website that listed buildings in cities and said when they were built and I used that to determine which buildings would have been around circa 1958. Unfortunately, the website has since gone to a pay for access model.

But the most fun trip was the one to Key West. I had a business trip to Miami. So again, I extended my stay and rented a car and drove to Key West. I'd always wanted to do that just for being able to say I'd done it (and it was the last "corner" of the continental U.S. I hadn't visited, the others being Blaine, Washington, Aroostook, Maine, and San Diego, California). But I was able to make my one scene in Key West accurate in detail. And I was able to confirm something I'd found during my research: that the old road was built on top of the girders of a railroad track bridge. Not on the railroad bed, but the girders. It was still there but not used anymore; I've included a picture of it taken while driving. As my character Michael Vaughan said, "It looked to me as if it would have been safer to swim." Key West is a beautiful spot with lovely beaches and I can see why it's popular with the tourist trade. I wanted to see the southernmost point in the continental US. When I did, I had to do a little re-writing, but that was worth it in order to get the scene correct and, as my mother would say, "not insult the intelligence of my readers."

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