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Three Kisses: When Terrorism Hits Close To Home

What happens when a member of Al Qaeda secretly enters our midst?
In Heath Daniels new book, Three Kisses, readers are taken on a wild pursuit of a traitor, across borders and through some of the government's top secret operations.

From the first chapters, a dozen or so characters are presented in colorful ways in situations and events that are so complex and so appealing I bet I was not the only reader who wondered if the writer would be able to keep up so much suspense and so many different stories tangled together for the remaining of the book more...

Author Interviews

Interview with Bookpleasures

Today, Norm Goldman Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest, Heath Daniels author of Three Kisses.

Heath is a semi-retired consultant on various international topics in some form or another. He was born and grew up in the U.S. where he worked for many years, moving often to different locations within the country. Presently, his work permits him to travel extensively. In the process, he has developed a large network of colleagues and friends who have contributed directly and indirectly to the knowledge he has brought into Three Kisses.

Norm:

Good day Heath and thanks for participating in our interview

Heath:

Thanks, Norm. Thank you for inviting me and giving me an opportunity to talk about Three Kisses.

Norm:

How did you decide you were ready to write Three Kisses?

Heath:

It wasn’t a matter of deciding that I was ready to write Three Kisses, but instead when Three Kisses was ready for me to write it. While this may sound a bit flippant, it is the truth. I speak to this a little more in the Afterword. There I mentioned that the idea first came to me in the ‘80s when a television show plot was based in the old Soviet Union creating an exact duplicate of an U.S. military officer. I thought to myself that ‘oh I could write a book about that’ but I was busy with my family and career and very quickly the Soviet Union ceased to exist taking away the underlying basis for my plot.

Then in very late 2005, right around the Christmas-New Year period leading into 2006, I had the sudden inspiration that I could write the same story but with al Qaeda as the perpetrator. At that time I was in a country near the Middle East, not an Arab country and a country that did not have any al Qaeda involvement, but maybe the closeness to the Middle East had some subtle impact. Over the holiday, I found myself somewhat involuntarily developing ideas for a plot in my mind. The idea was in my mind kicking and screaming to come out and I knew I would have no peace until I started writing. With a new laptop computer with a few ‘bells and whistles’ I sat down and started writing. The story line just flowed and ideas kept popping into my mind at the time they needed to go into the plot.

There was also a set of “coincidences” quote unquote that happened that convinced me that things were happening just for my benefit in writing this book and convinced me that the time was right. One such “coincidence” was reading an article in the International Herald Tribune about the Yemini immigrant community in Lackawanna, New York. This came right at the very beginning and exactly at the time I had to commitment myself to writing a story or giving it up. Again in the Afterword, I talk about quite a few more of these bizarre coincidences so I won’t repeat them here.  As they kept coming, though, I knew the time was right to write and keep writing.

Norm:

Can you share a little of Three Kisses with us? Where did the title come from? Where did you get your information or ideas for your book? Did you write from your own experiences?

Heath:

I struggled with the title, or rather lack of a title, because somehow I started with the notion that I needed to have a tile before I could write. When I found that this misguided notion was getting in the way, I just gave up and told myself that the title would just come to me when the time was right just as all of the other bizarre coincidences just came to me when the time was right. Sure enough, as I was writing the first draft of the last chapter, it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Three Kisses. Of course.

Three kisses refers to the Arab custom of persons greeting each other with three kisses on the cheek, left, right, left. This custom most definitely is not romantic or erotic, but social. It is the standard greeting between men who are more than just casual acquaintances and also among family members. It is used between two women. It is also used between a man and a woman with some cultural limitations about circumstances under which a man can touch a woman. It is an Arab cultural tradition and not related to any religion. It would be used between two Christians, between two Muslims, and between a Christian and a Muslim. Because of religious taboos, a man likely would not kiss a Muslim woman in this way, but otherwise there are no major limitations.  As I was developing the story line, there were a few occasions when Arab men would greet each other in this very customary fashion. There was one instance when an Arab-American introduced the custom to a non-Arab upon saying goodbye. Then in the last chapter, two non-Arabs, but with strong Arab affinity, exchanged the three kisses. At that point, I knew I had the title of the book.

I would suppose that almost all authors write at least some from their own experience; it’s a bit difficult to avoid. This book is not autobiographical or biographical in any way. I pointedly avoided depicting any actual persons, not even thin disguises or composites, and that includes me.

My experiences of extensive work involvement in the Middle East certainly opened my mind up to many possibilities, including the impetus to have al Qaeda as the perpetrators. My extensive travels throughout the U.S. also contributed a lot to the story. Just as one example, as I mentioned in the Afterword, many years ago I traveled through Lovington, New Mexico, in the days before interstates. There I had an exquisite Mexican pastry for breakfast called fritura de manzana in Spanish, apple fritter in English, that never left the deep recesses of my memory. When my story line involved a Mexican bakery in Ohio, the forgotten event from New Mexico some 40 years back came to the surface and found its way into the book.

Most of the ideas were already in me or came to me as I was writing. A lot of the supporting information, though, required extensive research, albeit easy research in an information era with the ability to make Google searches at my fingertips. I knew I had to inform myself considerably about Islam and found good books on the subject. I also read every thing that came into my hands in the media. For example The Economist had two features in two different issues on “Islam in America” and “Islam in Europe”. In addition to such research on Islam, I used my Rand-McNally road atlas extensively and did extensive searches using Google Map and Microsoft’s trip planning software. I did online searches of English-language newspapers in some countries.

Norm:

In fiction as well as in non-fiction, writers very often take liberties with their material to tell a good story or make a point. However, how much is too much?

Heath:

It’s difficult to say how much is too much for taking liberties because each author has his or her own style and his or her own purposes. Also, each author has different ways of disclosing how many liberties are taken (or lack of disclosures).

For me and the relationship I am seeking with my readers, I want to keep liberties to an absolute minimum and explain the liberties I did take because I want to create a relationship with readers that my writings are realistic and reliable. I do not consciously want to make points, but allow readers to draw their own conclusions.

The only significant place I know I took a liberty was with the date of the arrests of terrorists in Canada when they were about to blow up several buildings and landmarks in greater Toronto.  In one of the many bizarre coincidences, the actual arrests occurred when I was writing the part of the story where they fit the story perfectly. If I had maintained the actual date of the arrests, though, I would have had to go back and make changes, albeit minor changes, to a few previous chapters. I decided it was not worth the effort and gave a date for the arrests that was two days after the actual arrests. I explained my reasons in the Afterword.

I also took some liberties in placing specific businesses in specific locations. For example, I placed a Shoney’s restaurant in Summersville, West Virginia, without knowing whether there is actually a Shoney’s in Summersville. In one of the “coincidences”, I put a Day’s Inn at a specific highway intersection in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. When I later obtained Microsoft travel software, I discovered that there actually is a Day’s Inn at this location. Again, I explained the fact that I was taking liberties with placement of businesses at actual locations in the Afterword, but I did not identify each and every instance.

I may have inadvertently taken some liberties because I an not expert in medicine and law, nor in the inner workings of the various intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Again, I used my knowledge from reading publicly available sources and then filled in with plausible fiction. Again, the idea was to make the story as realistic as possible.

Norm:

Do you have a specific writing style? Whom would you compare it to?

Heath:

The writing style just came to be in the same way as contents—out of the clear blue. It just seemed natural to tell the story through dialogue of the characters, not narrative. Those who read early drafts commented that I was brilliant at writing dialogue, so I made no effort to change.  There are some similarities to Dan Brown, Tom Clancy, and to some extent Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomasson who wrote The Sign of  Four.

Norm:

What was the most difficult part of writing your book? As a follow up, did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Heath:

At first I had difficulty describing the characters. When I got into the process, though, it came naturally. The main thing I learned is to stand back and let the inspirations come naturally when they are ready to come out. No matter how I tried, I could not force myself to write when the words and ideas were not there.

Norm:

What do you think makes a good story?

Heath:

A good story is one that holds a reader’s interest. That is a bit trite and self-evident. A good story means different things to different readers. A person who thinks a Danielle Steele romance is a good story likely would not find mine a good story and vice versa. That is not a criticism of Daniele Steele by any means! A good story is one that comes naturally out of the author: a story like mine that is inside oneself and kicking and screaming to come out. Readers can detect that and develop appreciation for the book.

For many people, a good story is one that informs, either through external knowledge or internal self-development. I have learned as many valuable life lessons and useful facts from reading fiction as I have from deliberate attempts to acquire the knowledge directly. While I did not set out to do this in my book, there should be plenty of useful information that seems out.

Norm:

Do you agree that to have good drama there must be an emotional charge that usually comes from the individual squaring off against antagonists either out in the world or within himself or herself? If so, please elaborate and how does it fit into you novel?

Heath:

No, I do not agree. While squaring off against antagonists either outside or within oneself is certainly a valid way to write a story, there are many other valid approaches. One would be hard pressed to find antagonists in my story, although there is a certainly a strong element of personal growth through difficult experiences. Perhaps my story is more subtle in that the characters seek to avoid confrontation but find themselves caught up in circumstances.

Norm:

Do you have a local writing community or fellow writers that you look to for support and advice?

Heath:

No, not at all. I do have a few very good friends to whom I look for feedback and guidance.

Norm:

Can you tell us how you found representation for your book? Did you pitch it to an agent, or query publishers who would most likely publish this type of book? Any rejections? Did you self-publish?

Heath:

When I was finished writing, I took the first preliminary steps of the daunting task of finding representation. Then in one of those coincidences that really was not a coincidence I discovered publish-on-demand. While this has some elements of self-publishing, it is most definitely is not vanity publishing. The publisher has rigorous quality control and doesn’t publish junk. I am discovering that this is the way of the future in publishing; traditional publishing is about like daily newspapers: not dead but not what it used to me. Since I have decided to use a publish-on-demand publisher, I have heard horror stories of persons who use traditional publishers who are more interested in locking in a title than actually selling it.

Norm:

What is next for Heath Daniels and is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?

Heath:

Just as I was putting the finishing touches on Three Kisses and shipping it off to the publisher, some more inspirations started kicking and screaming. As a result, I am now about two-thirds through a sequel that as yet does not have a title. Just like with Three Kisses, I am confident the title will come to me. Some of your favourite characters in Three Kisses, along with some new ones, find themselves caught up in very unpleasant circumstances from which they learn and grow. Unlike Three Kisses, this one is set mostly in the U.S.

Norm:

Thanks once again and good luck with Three Kisses

Heath:

Thank you! It was my pleasure. I look forward to more interaction with you.