You have been a successful businessperson your entire life. What prepared you to write, much less write romantic suspense?
I have always been a strong writer – authoring hundreds of business reports, articles and communications spanning decades. Growing up with a learning disability, I didn’t read a novel until I was well into my 20’s, but I am blessed with the almost-autistic ability to capture very complex issues on paper. The Hunger & The Hunted was written without notes or an outline of any substance over the course of three years.
In my decades of executive leadership, I had the good fortune to mentor and coach literally thousands of individuals from around the world. Their “stories” provided a rich tapestry of human condition, emotion, and relationship that pieced together a mosaic of some profoundly similar experiences between them that became the foundation for my novel.
Most writers have a catalyst which prompts them to put pen to paper. What was the catalyst that got you started?
As a person with a disability relating to reading and retaining the written word, and then finding such joy in reading later in life, I have always had a dream of writing my own book one day. I never – ever – expected that I would one day pen a novel. I always thought I would write a non-fiction work relating to my diverse experience as a Fortune 500 CEO, my time and experiences overseas, or my “adventures” creating a fast-food empire in China. But, one day a chance meeting changed all that for me.
I was on a car rally with a close friend from Los Angeles, California to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, when we stopped for the night in Grand Junction, Colorado – a small town of just 55,600. At dinner that night, we struck up a lively conversation with some local strangers as we so often loved to do. But this time, one of the strangers invited us back to her home to have a little post-dinner “fun.”
Cheating on a relationship – let alone my –marriage – is simply not in my DNA. I am so fortunate to be a happily married man with three wonderful kids. And for the sake of argument, if I ever did feel the urge to stray, I am 100% convinced I would get caught! I run into people I know everywhere, in the strangest and most out-of-the-way places (National Parks, mountain summits, obscure hole-in-the-wall restaurants, tiny bed-and-breakfasts, one-horse towns, camping, trekking, whitewater rafting – the list goes on and on).
So, even though we gracefully turned down this proposition, that singular event led to endless whimsical discussions carried on with my traveling companion as to how anyone could not get caught, giving me this great idea for a novel!
You are a businessman with international investments and operations and you are also a consultant. How did you find the time to write? And what did you have to give up to do so?
First of all, I learned a valuable lesson back in high school from my swim team coach. He always said, “The busiest people always seem to accomplish the most at the highest levels.” I believe that to be the truth today. So, yes, I am incredibly busy, and have accomplished many things I am very proud of. I was fortunate that a break in my business world enabled me the time to write. I had just handed off my CEO duties of my overseas entrepreneurial ventures to an in-country executive giving me some free time – as it turns out, to write. So, I headed off down the road to the public library in Manhattan Beach, California and, with my newly purchased laptop, began this literary journey.
As for what I sacrificed for this little life detour, it was probably quite personal. I literally stepped out of my life as I knew it, assumed a pen name, and the book consumed me. Sacrificed were business opportunities and clearly some relationships. I did my best to be there for the people who meant the most to me: my spouse and children, extended family and close friends. But, more than anything, I found it difficult to be present with people on the edges of my life as the “head space” I needed to process this enormous project was all consuming. And, I loved it. As I said, I did my best to be present for those closest to me, but I am sure I fell short with them, too, during that time.
Did you know the essence of the story when you began to write, or did it and the characters evolve as you wrote?
Yes, the story of chance infidelity between two lovers from very different walks of life – and the belief that with enough money, resources and support an affair could be successfully secretive, all coming to a crashing end – was ruminated on endlessly in my head. And, I couldn’t shake free from this compelling story of why people cheat, how much they are willing to risk pursuing a personal connection, and the devastating consequences of doing so.
I can’t exactly recall the first day I put pen to paper. It was always clear in my mind how the novel was going to begin, and how I wanted the story to unfold (in the original concept, there were going to be four exotic tryst locations), and how it was going to end. I wrote with no outline and virtually no notes, and my novel was generally true to those basics – with a lot of variation getting from here to there.
As for the characters, the only character to truly evolve during writing was Bobbie, and I will talk a lot about him in due course.
I felt convinced, from the very beginning, from the moment the idea of this book germinated in my head, that this was a story that needed to be told.
Your bio says you have been happily married for almost 32 years. Like you, your main character, Geoff, is a successful businessman. How much of you is reflected in Geoff, and how much is a creation of your imagination?
I recall an interview, either in print or live, with Fifty Shades author, E.L. James, where she was asked about her sex life. She replied that she knew this would disappoint many of her readers, but that she, in fact, had a very happy, but “normal” sex life, but that she just had always wanted to write a book about erotica.
Most of my readers will undoubtedly be disappointed that I have never had an affair. Novelists, however, while writing pure fiction, draw from their own experiences. Like me, the main character is a family man with three children, active in worthy charitable and community service causes, and works tirelessly to provide for his family. That’s about where the comparisons stop. Geoff’s life, wife, and income are completely different from my own. And, his infidelity. But OK…I do love martini’s and a lot of the bar-banter has come out of my mouth before!
When I set out to write this novel, I was intent on writing a fantasy as compelling to men as it was to women. For a man, having such vast wealth that he could afford helicopters, Gulfstream jets and an impossibly large bank account (yes, that’s NOT me, but I would sure want it to be me!) that he could share with someone who has so little – and was so deeply appreciative – fulfilled the male fantasy. What man wouldn’t want to surprise an unsuspecting love interest with a never-before-experienced helicopter ride to a secret destination? And what woman, wouldn’t want to be secretly swept off her feet – literally – the way Meagan was?
How do you expect your readers to respond to Geoff’s infidelity? How do you justify the relationship between Geoff and Meagan?
I set out to write a purposefully controversial book. I wanted the reader to have no doubt as to why Meagan was cheating, but I did want the reader to question why Geoff was cheating. This moral compass debate is what I intended from the outset.
There are several types of abuse in relationships, and I embarked to paint a picture of long-term emotional abuse in Geoff’s marriage that emerged over time. Also, the entitled, unappreciative, “credit-card wife” that Susie had become, both frustrated Geoff as well as saddened him – making him susceptible to a serendipitous encounter with an attractive alternative to his life back home.
Men (and women for that matter) don’t typically cheat for sex, but rather are drawn to an emotional connection. And while I made sure to make Meagan pretty and sexy, I made sure to make Susie the more physically beautiful between her and the more internally beautiful Meagan.
Geoff obviously adores his children. But he seems to forget them and their interests once he is with Meagan. Did you intend to write him this way, or do you see him having a different perspective?
Yes, it was my intention to have Geoff be distracted from his children when he was with Meagan. In all my interactions with men who cheat, it astounds me what they risk and are willing to give up for the emotional pleasure of a new relationship. A spouse; children; memories; financial deconstruction; reputation; friends; the list goes on and on. That feeling is so powerful. But it also tells me how powerful the feeling of love, and of feeling appreciated, is to an intentional provider when it is missing.
As the book concludes, the big unspoken question surrounds Geoff’s children. That was entirely intentional.
Many male writers have difficulty writing convincing female characters. What gave you the insight to write Meagan, and even Jennifer? What must a male writer consider when writing female characters?
I love women. They fascinate me. Many of my best friends and work associates are women. I have had thousands of female employees that reported to me as well as more than a few female bosses. They say that men who truly enjoy being around women, and have deep and lasting relationships with them, came from a very close bond with their own mothers and sisters. I sure did. And, I have been studying female behavior, up close, for the past 34 years with a very expressive, open, and communicative wife, and two grown daughters. I don’t understand everything, but boy, I am sure trying!
If you don’t have that background, and want to create authentic female characters, good luck!
This is a question that one should never ask an abuse victim, but perhaps asking the writer of an abuse victim can provide insight. Until she met Geoff, Meagan stayed with her abusive husband, even knowing the abuse was escalating. Why?
Many victims of domestic abuse follow in the footsteps of their own family history. In a very troubling way, the memories of a childhood are often translated as comfort that explains why many victims marry the mirror image of their abusive parent. And, they put up with the abuse far longer than those who don’t share that horrible upbringing can fathom.
As for Meagan, I did not write any background on her upbringing leaving those details for the readers’ imagination. But, Meagan was the wife of a very big fish in a very small town. One doesn’t need to look farther than recent disgraces in the sports world where behaviors were overlooked in favor of winning sports programs – particularly football. There can be a host of reasons – actual, psychological, historical – why Meagan put up with escalating abuse. What I do know is that breaking that cycle of abuse and leaving a spouse is incredibly difficult for some, and the very act of not leaving such a nightmarish relationship is stupendously hard to understand by others not in their situation.
The sexual chemistry between Geoff and Meagan is incredibly strong. It drives much of the story. As the writer, do you see them also in love? As the writer, how do you differentiate between the two?
Yes. There is undeniable sexual chemistry between Geoff and Meagan, and it indeed drives much of the story. The book opens with a very powerful quote: “There are few things more powerful, or more intoxicating, than knowing there is someone who desires you utterly. And if it is illicit, secret, forbidden, that makes it all the more exciting.” Most human relationships start with very basic physical attraction, but desiring someone utterly, as written in this book, explores the emotional as well as the physical desire.
Geoff and Meagan fell for each other over a very long night of discussion, sharing, being open and honest – and yes, some intentional flirting. They don’t consummate their relationship immediately that underscores Geoff’s caution (in particular) but also adds to the urgency of their reunion. Neither professes their love for the other until much has unfolded – with Geoff being more careful and the last to say the “L word” as both their personal circumstances dictate.
Yes, this is a story of two very different and unsuspecting people falling in love, and the circumstances “back home” that enabled an improbable relationship to spark.
Bobbie manifests the behavior of a sociopath. For most writers, characters like this are frightening. How did you feel about Bobbie as you wrote him? How difficult or easy was it for you to write his scenes, and why?
Bobbie was by far my most difficult character to develop. I related to Geoff and Nick, and found it far easier to write about them – at least in the beginning. Bobbie and I are as they say in London, chalk and cheese – complete opposites.
As the book was written, I had eight readers, four men and four women, with whom I would share pieces of the novel in real time as I wrote them. If the truth be told, Bobbie was a favorite of theirs, and my readers couldn’t believe the escapades or get enough of his antics. With their encouragement and enthusiasm, Bobbie quickly became a very entertaining character (cult hero?) for me to develop. And shocking to those who know me, he was incredibly easy to write about.
Which is your favorite character in the book, and why?
Geoff, of course. Wouldn’t I LOVE to have his combination of wealth, charisma, kindness, and sex appeal – and shall I say, good looks?! He is admired, loved, and revered, and ultimately appreciated by one very beautiful and captivating woman. However, not sure I would want the troubles that are, no doubt, on their way!
But, I have to stop here and bring forth my “sleeper” character that plays a very big role in this story: Booker. I was absolutely drawn to this character that represents safety in Meagan’s life. I developed him as a trusted, but ultimately very flawed, man. Meagan’s life was anything but safe, and the reader can only imagine the guts it took for Meagan to step into the ultimate unknown. Booker always appeared, and created in Meagan an instant trust and de-escalation of fear. They created an unusual friendship, and Booker, like Nick, understood loyalty for Geoff and acceptance and compassion for Meagan – even though both knew that there was a moral question at play here.
Ironic that because of a seemingly innocent chance to make some more needed personal income, Booker ultimately becomes an unwitting accomplice that jeopardized and compromised, both Meagan’s and Geoff’s safety.
There was a time when Susie and Geoff were in love. What do you think wore away at their relationship, and who would you blame? How common do you think this is?
Yes, they were very much in love in the beginning. Or at least Geoff was. The book opens with a flashback to a wonderful Valentine’s Day overnight that Geoff had arranged – including a beautiful note and necklace. There was no gift or even a card from Susie, but there was intimacy. Was she in love with Geoff? Or was she in love with the idea of being married to Geoff with all the benefits? We really don’t know the true answer to that question.
Susie is an uber-mother and helps to raise three great children. She plays the role of corporate wife exceptionally well. But as is the case in so many marriages time, and everyday mundane drudgery associated with parenthood and keeping a relationship fresh and exciting, erases the façade, and exposes the extremely hard work of a marriage. Susie is a sad character, and is clearly very unhappy and/or depressed. And, as a result, she is not an emotionally or physically connected partner to someone who so desperately craves a far deeper emotional and physical relationship.
Geoff is not only open to Meagan’s sexual experimentation, he also arranges for her to explore further. Do you think the average man would be open to this? Why or why not?
I wrote Geoff to be an extremely self-assured, and self-confidant, man. Perhaps the ultimate test of those character traits would be to not just allow, but also arrange, for someone you care so much about to experiment with a curious sexuality.
As for the average man? I do not believe the average man has the level of trust, or the confidence in himself or in his partner, to take such a daring chance/position. Again, it is part of the dual fantasy of the story that Meagan could be free – and safe – to share, and then explore, a deeply personal revelation, knowing that her partner had the total self-confidence to fully accept, and encourage her to experience a different level of fulfillment.
Geoff takes Meagan into what is for her a fantasy world. What impact do you think his wealth and his ability to protect her plays in her falling for him? Would she have loved him if he was an average person?
Another good book club question!
Meagan didn’t realize the total breadth of Geoff’s wealth until well into the story when she is delivered to the door of a virginal (sorry, couldn’t help myself) and extremely thrilling helicopter ride to the great unknown, and soon to be discovered, Aspen.
She certainly fell for him, at least initially, through his good looks, his demeanor, and the easy banter and connection between the two of them. She knew he was not from around the area, and carried himself with an unusual aura of success. But his vast wealth wasn’t discovered until after she decided to take the risk.
Once, discovered, of course, his wealth and ability to protect her physically and emotionally – and perhaps give her a life unimagined – were huge attractions to her. And, the fact that Geoff could provide such things for a deeply expressive and appreciative woman was a big factor in him falling for her, too.
What drew Geoff to Meagan? Why didn’t he work harder to reignite things with his own wife?
Geoff was drawn to Meagan by several factors that he was obviously processing simultaneously. She was extremely easy to be with. Time went by between them lightly. She found him interesting and funny. She listened to him. They had a very strong sexual chemistry. And, she was appreciative of everything he did for her.
As for why he didn’t work harder at home to reignite things with Susie, this is left for speculation. There is plenty for the reader to determine on their own. One needs only to inspect their own relationship at home to provide their own clues. Couples grow apart for a variety of reasons: living different lives; pressures of work, raising children; boredom; fatigue; input and influence of friends; communication breakdowns; not meeting psychological and physical needs; lack of appreciation.
Couples often get to a place where they believe that no matter what they do for their spouse, it won’t make a difference, and clearly Geoff was in that emotional space – even if he didn’t initially realize it. It took a totally unexpected encounter with a stranger in a small town in rural America to spark an epiphany.
How would you describe Susie’s feelings for Geoff at the end of the book?
Sadness and resignation. Seeing Geoff, in the flesh, with someone else that Susie could have only imagined, hated and feared…?
You will have to read my next novel to find out.
Lindsey Williams is not your real name. Why did you decide to write this novel under a nom de plume?
Have you ever packed a suitcase, loaded your car and headed to the airport or the great outdoors – by yourself – to purposely get “off the grid” – to walk away from all the drama, expectations, pressures, people and routine of your everyday life, and be someone (any one you wanted to be) that no one knew? How did you feel? I am guessing you felt wildly excited and free.
This is exactly why I wrote this book under a pen name. Doing so gave me the unbridled freedom, and the anonymity, to be someone completely different than the persona that I had worked so hard to build for myself in my real life. That freedom gave me such literary and artistic license to uncover the authentic me, and to create a work of art that I am enormously proud of.