inSyte by Greg Kiser
It’s Tampa Bay and the year is 2020. Ex-Navy SEAL Mitch “Double” Downing discovers how to tap into the internet with his mind. His new inSyte provides transparent access to the sum of all human knowledge recorded since hieroglyphics. More than mere information – Mitch can see into men’s hearts and be all places at all times (easy in an ‘always on’ surveillance society with fourth generation tweets). Sort of like God. But inSyte has ideas of its own as the software exposes a politician’s “divine” plan that will unwittingly slaughter millions of people. Is killing the man the only way to prevent Armageddon? The politician’s daughter would probably disagree. And she happens to be the love of Mitch’s life. Losing Kate would be too damn much collateral damage. At the center of the conflict is a wolf-like killer who will stop at nothing to murder the ex-Navy SEAL. And Mitch must come to grips with inSyte’s dark side – a dominating addiction that soon controls his thoughts and places him on a steep slide to self destruction.
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Greg Kiser catapults the reader into the action and mystery right out of the gate in this thoroughly entertaining and surprising tale. He combines far-fetched monster lore with a new-fangled technology that seems eminently plausible in a near-future societal structure that I found myself easily buying into.
The story is fast-moving and is propelled along almost entirely through conversations. Mr. Kiser leaves it up to the reader to flush out the details based on the character’s interactions. At first, I found this technique rather uncomfortable, but soon I began to appreciate the unique rhythm and flow as the story moved along. For me, it felt rather like getting pushed into the deep end of a pool – there is the shock of the unexpected, the relief with the rise back to the surface, then the contentment of acceptance as the cool caress of the water buoys you into weightless surrender. After my initial discomfort, I acclimated to the unusual tempo and found the story refreshingly different; compelling, with an elusive something that is difficult to pin down or quantify.
I got caught up and wholly invested in the lives and stories of the characters. All of the characters were multi-faceted and complex individuals. This thriller pulsated with action, taking place in a possibly prophetic future I hope will never arrive. There is a depth to the narrative that is seldom encountered in this genre, and I am very pleased to have been given the opportunity to read this book.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
My favorite character is Cheslov who is an antagonist… but not necessarily THE antagonist. I struggled at times with dialogue and scene creation for other characters. But for some reason, it just flowed with Cheslov.
My book takes place in 2020. Cheslov is Russian, born around the turn of the century. Around 1900, that is. Somehow he ends up in Tampa in 2020 as hired muscle for the Mayor. How did he survive to 2020 if he was born in 1900?
Something happened in the woods of Rostov.
It’s like that with Cheslov, he’s just naturally creepy. I think Kirkus reviews put it pretty well when they wrote the following in their review of inSyte:
“Woven throughout a story with many finely crafted twists, turns and revelations is the charismatic, mysterious, murderous Cheslov Kirill. As a classic merciless political operator, Kirill is unforgettable and chillingly, complexly rendered, especially for a man who uses a school of sharks off the Florida coast for corpse disposal.”
But he’s also charming, likeable on some level. He is the character everyone who reads my novel seems to talk about. Some are darkly drawn to him. Most found him fascinating in his evilness. But he’s the one people remember. Me too.
When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?
I’m totally a morning guy. I wrote the entire novel between 4:00am and 7:00am. All of it. It was a release from my day job. A way to use my creative side to balance out the technical work I had to do during the day.
I was actually working very hard on a business proposal – a $300m business proposal. I was stressed like you wouldn’t believe. Waking up very early in the am, not able to get back to sleep. Finally I started writing. It was a release, an ability to use my creative side to balance out all of the technical work I was doing for my job. And it just flowed. I developed a pattern of waking up every morning around 4:00am and writing until 7:00. Then starting my day job.
What is the hardest part of writing your books?
Figuring out what to write about. Once you figure it out then the next hardest part is putting together the first draft. After that it’s a piece of cake. Enjoyable to watch your baby grow.
Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?
I can only tell you what worked for me. Think of a high concept. For me, that’s the ability to tap into the internet with your mind. So you can surf the internet the way you peruse your own memory today.
Try to remember the lyrics to a song. Might take a few seconds, then you remember. You find that information in your brain, obviously. Sort of a local hard drive, to use computer terms.
Now imagine you’re transparently tapped into the Global internet 24×7. Now try to remember the lyrics to a song. They’re there instantly. Feels like you found them in your brain, just like before. But you didn’t. You found the words on a server in Germany. Doesn’t matter, all transparent to you.
OK – so you have the high concept. Now what? Well, you have to have conflict. For me, I created a moral dilemma between the protagonist, the ‘monster’ Cheslov, and a local politician who thinks he has a direct connect with God.
Next – ratchet up the tension at every opportunity. I made my protagonist an ex-Navy seal so he could pretty much deal with anything. Made Cheslov part wolf, paranormal. Then went into detail explaining how screwed up the politician is, he’s hooked on drugs due to his wife’s death, etc. Keep ratcheting up.
The create an outline – and write, write, write to fill in the outline. Don’t worry about adjectives or effect or the best dialogue or even grammar/punctuation.
This is all a hell of a lot of work.
But once you have the first draft – read it. And read and read and read. Every time I picked it up and read a chapter, I thought of better ways to describe things. I watched TV at night or listened to the radio during the day or read the paper in the morning and always, constantly, I gained ideas on how to improve my character’s dialogue, how to enhance a scene, how to polish, enrich, entertain, grow, connect.
The initial draft took 3 months to write. Then finishing the novel took another 3 years.
Oh – and don’t let ANYBODY read that initial draft. It will suck, indeed.
Beatles or Monkees? Why?
Well, they’re both very entertaining. But the Beatles, definitely. Because they wrote and played their own stuff. And they changed the world. As adorable as the Monkees were, you can hardly say that about them.
And we watched the Beatles grow up in real life, evolving and expanding their music. Listen to their early stuff – hits like ‘She Love You’ and ‘Love Me Do’. It was good, yeah. But they really hit their stride with ‘Yesterday’ – that’s when they brought the parents and grandparents into the tent, change the world from crooners (Sinatra, Andy Williams) to rockers. Spawned it all.
Any serious person over the age of fifteen would have to say The Beatles.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?
How bad the first draft is. I finished that puppy and put it down and thought – hey, this has got to be one of the best books EVER. The agents will be beating down my door when they get so much as a whiff of this manuscript! So I set it aside and took a little break. Felt like I was on top of the world.
A month later I opened the manuscript and started printing and reading (you must print and read to get the full effect. Not good enough to read a word doc directly from the computer. Better yet, print and read out loud to understand how the dialogue really sounds – helps avoid unrealistic speech. Example: “What is up with that” quickly becomes “What’s up with that” when you’re reading aloud).
Anyway, I started reading and was horrified at how bad it was. Thus started the 3 year polishing cycle.
What do you think makes a good story?
That’s easy. Characters make a great story.
For me, anyway, it’s all about the characters. I’ll give a book 50 to 100 pages. By then if I haven’t connected with at least some of the characters then I generally won’t finish the book. Unless, maybe, the plot is just a killer, like The Da vinci Code, or something like that. Preferably, I’m looking for the protagonist to blow me away because most of the time you are reading from his/her point of view.
But occasionally it’s enough if the antagonist is blowing me away, such as the Hannibal series by Thomas Harris.
Now, you put together a novel that has two or three characters that I can identify with, or more? That’s a novel I’m not going to put down.
Character driven plot – rare gems these days.
They make the best TV and movies too. Think about Breaking Bad – hell yes the story is outstanding. But the cast, the cast! Walter, Jessie – sure. But also Hank, Skylar, the various villains. So you don’t mind when they switch scenes because the cast is great so all of the subplots are intriguing.
Do you have a Website or Blog?
Home Page: www.gkiser.com
Home Page: www.gkiser.com