Joseph Carter - A Frighteningly Believable Spy Thriller
Joseph Carter: Thriller addict, espionage enthusiast, and author. Having worked in the digital industry for over 20 years and having been addicted to spy thrillers for even longer, Joseph Carter started to follow his passion in 2018 when he began work on Another Man’s Freedom Fighter. His debut takes the reader on an exciting journey from Berlin to Warsaw, and Moscow. Most reviewers characterized Carter’s first novel as "a little bit of everything for those who love spy thrillers .... war, espionage, spies, covert freedom fighters, and of course, politics" and the plot as "not only possible but frighteningly believable". As our Author of the day Carter tells us all about this book.
Please give us a short introduction to what Another Man's Freedom Fighter is about.
The backdrop to Another Man's Freedom Fighter are the current tensions between Russia and the West, most notably the frozen conflict in East Ukraine. In my book, it unfreezes rapidly and turns into a shooting war that puts the security architecture of Europe to a test. It's no spoiler that this test fails and NATO leaves Ukraine and Poland to fight for themselves. Being overrun within a few days Poland's last line of defense is a covert army, a so-called stay-behind network, independent cells of saboteurs, assassins, search-and-rescue specialists. Mark Sanders has nothing to do with the military, he is a somewhat failed entrepreneur and currently stay-at-home dad. With the start of the war, a secret from his past comes back to haunt him and he needs to make an impossibly hard decision: look away and forget about it or get involved and risk the security of his family?
Tell us about Mark Sanders. What makes him so special?
What is so special about him is exactly that absolutely nothing is very special about him. Yes, he is smart, speaks four languages, is somewhat technologically savvy but at best he is slightly above average in everything he does. He is the normal person hurled into incredibly dangerous situations. I found it very interesting to watch Sanders deal with those situations, and I hope my readers will enjoy it, too. See, I do like the off-the-shelf spy and military thriller where an ex-special forces guy or an ex-CIA guy fights for this or for that. Those are very entertaining, but if you look at it from a distance, the heroes in those simply do what they were trained for. They had prepared for those situations for years in Ranger-school, the Farm, or wherever. It is hardly a surprise that they are able to deal with assassins and spies. The closest thing to my experiment is maybe Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan who is a nerdy CIA-analyst being hurled into the field. But even he had undergone Marine basic training before an accident made him quit the military. I think, Clancy wanted to do something similar but had to find a somewhat credible way to get his normal person on a Russian nuclear submarine...
This is your debut work - what has the experience been like so far?
Writing is hard work. That is what I learned and it has greatly increased my appreciation of books. The idea for a book is easy, getting it down on paper in an interesting and entertaining way is far more challenging. Writing also forces you to make hard decisions. I had a few great ideas for additional characters and side plots, about forty or fifty pages worth, that I had to take out of the book again after I had written them. That was a long struggle to make these decisions. I saved these pages in a separate file hoping to turn them into a short story or a spin-off maybe.
Another Man's Freedom Fighter takes the reader from Berlin to Warsaw and Moscow. How did you manage to describe the locations with so much detail?
I have lived in Berlin for a few years and in Warsaw also for a few months, also traveled a lot all across eastern Europe. I weaved some of my favorite places from the three cities into the story and I tried very much to capture the feel of these places.
Your book takes place somewhere in the near future. How likely do you think the future you described could be?
Well, I took a good look at the world, especially Europe. I am somewhat concerned that the achievements after the catastrophes of the 20th century are being neglected and run into the ground, partly by sheer incompetence but also by actors with a political agenda. I am talking about the European Union, the deep relationship of the European countries with the United States, and NATO here. At the same time, the Europeans have a very aggressive and expansionist neighbor in the east. All of the ingredients for the events in my book are there on the kitchen table. So, unfortunately, I believe this scenario to be absolutely possible. Maybe not in the exact sequence of events but in some variation thereof.
You were born and raised in West Germany during the Cold War. How has this influenced your writing?
West Germany in the 1980s was at the frontier between east and west, between democracy and communism. The fear of war was always there with monthly siren tests and every day the sonic booms of the U.S. Air Force's fighter jets from Ramstein and Spangdahlem patrolling along the inner-German border. But at the same time, there was a feeling that it would be alright, that Americans, Germans, British, French would stand together and fight together for our shared values and for freedom of oppression. The sense that these once strong alliances are getting weaker is part of my motivation to write. I want to warn against the risks of this development.
Another Man's Freedom Fighter keeps readers at the edge of their seats throughout. How did you pull this off?
Wow, thank you for this compliment. I tried my best to keep a fast pace while still giving the reader a chance to get to know the characters and their pasts. The past experiences of my characters are quite important for their actions in the plot and for some time I struggled to keep a good balance between telling those backstories and moving the plot forward.
Is there an underlying message you wish to relay about basic human nature through your characters?
My conviction is that essentially all men and women know what is right and what is wrong. My hope is that every man and woman can find the courage to also stand up for what is right and fight for it if necessary.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I aim to be a disciplined writer, getting at least five pages or about a thousand words written every day. But that is tough with a day job and a family, so I get up early and the first thing after a shower and shave is sitting down and getting those words on paper before anything else happens that could distract me from writing. Over time I realized that this is also a good start into the day for me. The sense of achievement gives me a great feeling about myself and this helps me in my job as a consultant where I need to convince other people of my ideas every day.
What are you working on now? Are you planning on writing a sequel for this book?
Currently, I am working on the German language release which I must confess is already past due. After that, I will begin writing on the sequel. The second book will play some five or six years after the events of Another Man's Freedom Fighter and besides an action-packed plot, it will feature an interesting societal experiment: a city-state run by a corporation where the citizens are customers and shareholders of the corporation.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
A great way for readers to let me know about their thoughts is on Bookbub, Goodreads or via Facebook. I am always happy to get a review or a message via these platforms. I usually answer within a day or two.
Please link to my profiles in the text of the last answer: