Today’s guest, Abe March, has an interesting and varied background that led to the writing of his first book, To Beirut and Back.
Shelagh: Welcome, Abe, please tell everyone about yourself.
Abe: I’m a retired international business consultant, entrepreneur and author living near Landau, Germany with my wife Gisela. For relaxation, I enjoy hiking in the nearby mountains exploring ancient castle ruins, walking through the local vineyards and singing in regional choirs. My career has taken me from my birthplace in the USA to Canada, Europe and the Middle East.
I grew up in York County, Pennsylvania and served in the USAF from 1957-61. My business career got underway with the computing sciences division of IBM’s service bureau. I later joined an international cosmetic company, which took me throughout the USA and into Canada, Greece and Germany.
With international experience and an entrepreneurial spirit, I started my own importing business headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon, for the distribution of cosmetics and toiletries to the Middle East markets. I also functioned as a locator of goods and services sought by Mid-Eastern clients before the civil war in Lebanon destroyed my successful business enterprise. I returned to the United States to start over, and was soon working on an international level again. My subsequent work involved Swan Technologies, Inc., a personal computer manufacturer. I established a subsidiary for Swan in West Germany serving as Managing Director. I returned to the US to work in procurement with Stork NV, a Dutch company, supporting a fleet of 1200 Fokker Aircraft, until my retirement.
Shelagh: When did you first begin to write, and in what genre(s)?
Abe:It started after I left Beirut in 1976 and began to type up my experiences (yes, we used typewriters back then) from notes into a manuscript, which would become To Beirut and Back about 30 years later. Although an autobiography, I’ve been told it reads like a novel.
Shelagh: Is there a message in your writing?
Abe: Yes, there was a message, especially with my first novel. I wanted to share my personal experience in dealing with various cultures and sensitive political issues. The events that caused my change in attitude toward the participants in the Middle East struggle was not unique; however, intimidation and threats of retaliation cause many to remain quiet. Telling the truth is not always easy or popular, but often necessary to effect change. The same is true with my second novel. As we have learned, for every action there is a reaction. Events that one may justify as necessary will have a reaction. That reaction can be in some form of retaliation — acts of revenge — and when it happens, oddly enough, many are surprised.
Shelagh: Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is this also based on real life?
Abe: My latest book, Journey Into the Past, with contributing author, Lynn Jett, is in part a time-travel romance story with the setting among the ancient castles in the Pfalz (Palatinate) region of Germany.Synopsis: Heather Wilson, a successful architect, needed time off from work and a chance to recover from a relationship gone sour. The poster of a 12th century castle helped her decide to make a trip to Germany and visit this castle. On the drawbridge to the castle, she meets Hans Hess, a retired American businessman who lives nearby. As they discuss the castle, their hands touch an ancient stone and they are briefly catapulted back in time. As Heather explores the castle, she finds a note but can’t translate it and asks Hans for assistance. The translation provides a clue that leads them to other nearby castles in search of additional clues to solve a mystery. Heather is not aware that Hans is married and that his wife is in a comatose state and therefore cannot understand his resistance to falling in love. As they discover more about the characters in the 12th century romance, they learn more about their own feelings and they succumb to its passion. When Hans’s wife recovers from her illness, it creates a heart-rending dilemma. Heather returns to her world without informing Hans that she is pregnant. Years later, an aged Hans learns about his daughter when she leads a group of students to explore the castle and Hans is requested to act as tour guide.
Shelagh: What’s the hook for the book?
Abe: There’s nothing that would constitute a clever hook, but simply: “When the paths of a vacationing American architect and a retired German businessman cross, the soul-mates embark on a journey through time; a journey triggered by a series of mysterious, hidden love notes written centuries before.”
Shelagh: How do you develop characters and setting?
Abe: The setting is always based on places I’ve been. In the case of non-fiction, the characters are real; however, in some instances, names are altered. For fiction, I try to use a facsimile and/or current events with a scenario of probability. With romance, it is a combination of true life and fantasy.
Shelagh: Who’s the most unusual character?
Abe: In the book, They Plotted Revenge Against America, the most unusual character would be David Levy. David is an American-born Jew who emigrates to Israel and becomes a member of the Mossad (secret service). For personal reasons, he turns into a double agent and works against his adopted country in training a team of young men and women who desire revenge against America.
Shelagh: Do you adopt any techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
Abe: The course of the plot is natural progression. Trying to keep the reader wondering what happens next often requires some change in sequence, as with flashbacks.
Shelagh: Do you have your own way of writing or has anyone influenced your style of writing?
Abe: I do not try to copy anyone’s style. I write the way I talk. In dialogue, I use colloquial expressions and the manner of speaking that fits each character. Reading books of various genres has an influence. I don’t think it is something conscious; however, the manner of writing that catches my attention and keeps me reading is something that comes through naturally in my own writing.
Shelagh: How does your environment or upbringing affect your writing?
Abe: My upbringing and environment has an enormous influence on my writing. I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. The perpetual struggle to succeed, dealing with people of varied cultures, provided me with a broad range of experience. Understanding the needs and feeling of the poor, furnished me with useful insights. By contrast, the lifestyle and outlook of the rich, or people of nobility, enables me to understand a mentality that is often in conflict with the poorer class. To win and then lose everything is another experience that affects how one deals with problems. It certainly can alter one’s outlook on life.
Shelagh Please share with us the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.
Abe: The best review was from Malcolm Campbell, author of The Sun Singer and reviewer for PODRAM. The review was unsolicited. He bought my book and wrote the following review:
“Terrorism, by definition, operates outside the traditional rules of war. It’s hard to combat because attacks are no longer limited to people wearing military uniforms at well-formed battle lines: they can happen anywhere, at any time, and they may well target people who don’t have any direct knowledge of the peoples and issues involved.
This is the arena of Abe F. March’s chilling novel They Plotted Revenge Against America. The novel is chilling, not because it’s filled with larger than life James Bond daring-do in faraway trouble spots. Quite the contrary: this novel takes place on American soil as survivors of the American attack on Baghdad blend in to mainstream America to personally extract revenge against everyday citizens.
They Plotted Revenge Against America is a plausible, sobering, intricate and effectively plotted story about a group of well-trained, well-coordinated teams who slip into the U.S. with forged papers and then painstakingly work through a plan that will infect food and water supplies with a deadly virus.
These team members are not the gun-wielding, grenade-throwing stereotypical terrorists we see in most TV shows and movies. They are everyday people who have suffered personal loss and who want to fight back. Once their mission is complete, they plan–if possible–to go back to their normal lives. As the mission unfolds, they alternate between excitement and doubt while trying to avoid detection, and in the process, they discover while blending into community life, that Americans are not the monsters they expected.
Since the overall mission leader is a double agent working for Israel’s Mossad, group members must not only avoid Homeland Security and other U.S. law enforcement agencies, but the highly effective Israel intelligence agency as well. This subplot is a nice touch in a book that suggests we’re more vulnerable than we suspect.”
Shelagh: What are your current projects?
Abe: I have two projects: (1) the first one is to revise and expand my first novel, To Beirut and Back, since there was no editing by the publisher. I also want to add some pictures and maps of the region described in the book. (2) The second project is writing about my childhood. I may decide to fictionalize it so as to avoid potential problems with some of the characters or their relatives. As we age, much of our early life is now history to the younger generation. The advances in technology within the past 50 years are dramatic. Riding in a horse-drawn carriage, walking long distances to a one-room school, writing with a typewriter, strict and often harsh discipline, etc., much that seems antiquated today. Life was simpler but not without problems.
Shelagh: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Abe: The best source to learn about my books are on my website: http://www.abemarch.com and on Amazon.