Mark Greaney talks about GUNMETAL GREY
Elise Cooper: How would you describe this story?
Mark Greaney: It is a cat and mouse adventure story as people go after this particular guy. Everyone is after Fan, the Chinese government hacker, because if he defects he becomes like a virus to the Chinese. Because Gentry is a contractor the CIA can use him as a deniable asset, remaining on the periphery. He utilizes the CIA and vice versa for them.
EC: Does the Gray Man describe his personality and more?
MG: He never stands out as an individual. I did not develop the term “Gray Man.” It is someone in the military or intelligence that moves around in a low profile. He physically moves around without drawing a lot of attention to himself. Regarding his personality, his moral compass does not always point North. Not a black hat versus a white hat; there is a lot of gray. Even though he sometimes does bad things he is still seen as a good guy.
EC: Since you wrote some Tom Clancy novels how would you compare these to them?
MG: It still has geo-politics, but not like a Tom Clancy novel where readers get a fifty-foot view of the whole story. I’ve always been interested in both current events and history, and I think it gives a lot of realism to a story to stay as close to the ‘real world’ in my fiction. I do depart from fact when the fiction requires it, but often my fiction is just dramatizations of things I’ve read about and sewn together to make a fun story. I hope people will come along with me when the plot pushes the envelope as the action retches up. I think there is a lot more action than in a Clancy book, and does not necessarily translate to a gunfight. I think it is grittier and edgier than a Clancy novel.
EC: You never hammer people over the head with the geo-politics but there is enough to gain some insight. Do you agree?
MG: Yes, for example the quote I put in about China, ‘Chinese intelligence is an organization that imposes its will with an iron fist. An organization that puts its own citizens in front of a firing squad for saying the wrong things in public.’ I wanted to show the high stakes and the dangers those working for the Chinese government are put in.
EC: You also give a shout out to Vietnam veterans?
MG: Gentry’s father was a Marine Scout sniper and fought combat missions around Da Nang. I wrote Gentry traveling to this area because it is a connection between him and his father. When someone mentions Vietnam you don’t think of a nation, but of a war. I also wanted to show that currently Vietnam is a place where many westerners travel.
EC: Why the Asia setting: Hong Kong, Vietnam, Beijing…?
MG: I wanted to travel to Vietnam, but needed ankle surgery so I could not go. While writing a Clancy novel I did a lot of research on Hong Kong and Beijing. These are all interesting places to me and I knew I wanted them as a setting for a Gray Man book. The people, buildings, architecture, and crowds would be fun to place in an action-packed novel.
EC: You place Gentry into many hair-raising circumstances. How do you write those scenes?
MG: When I wrote the dive-bar scene I knew that Gentry would need his wits and some luck to get out of the mortal peril he was placed in. I researched different kinds of fighting styles, especially Korean and Chinese action films that creatively choreograph fights. I also watched martial art scenarios. I write these scenes to be clear and understanding so people can visualize what is happening. I see it in my head section by section and hope to convey the noise, his moves, the dangers, and the chaos. In the book it is called ‘applied aggression.’ This involves using everything at the character’s disposal to put those opposing him on their back foot.
EC: What about Suzanne Brewer, who seems to give handlers a bad name?
MG: She is a snake, who is in it for herself. She uses Gentry to help her, but would sell him out in a heartbeat. She is essentially a bad person who works for the good guys. She makes it easy to put tension on the pages. In the previous book she was a straight up shady character and that has not changed. She has no moral code except to better herself.
EC: What do you want readers to get out of this book?
MG: I hope they will question the objectives of all the characters, including understanding the motivations of the bad guys.
EC: Can you give a head up about your next book?
MG: The working title is Weaponized. It will take place a few weeks after the ending of Gunmetal Gray. Some shady people that are not associated with the CIA hire Gentry. He must go to Syria to help get someone out. While in there he recognizes he can have a positive affect on the Civil War.