I've always said that life is stranger than fiction and my recent interview with Daniel Wetta is no exception although Daniel has successfully channelled the 'strangeness' into his books...
Interview with Daniel Wetta
Author of “The Z Redemption”
|Daniel in Mexico|
"I retired too young from a career as hospital CEO in a for profit hospital chain at the age of 54. Feeling like I no longer had an identity, I hop-scotched through several temporary jobs. Finally, I went to live in Monterrey, Mexico, for over a year in 2009 so I could immerse myself in the culture and improve my Spanish. Monterrey is a city of four million people, and it is Mexico’s most affluent and educated city. I had no idea when I went there what a dynamic and beautiful city it is.
I rented a condominium and made several close friends, most of them young. One was Israel, a great guy, a law student who also sold Volvos at a neighborhood dealership. He was 26. We worked out in the gym together, discussed investments, and enjoyed an occasional dinner out with his roommates. He met a beautiful young girl at a party and fell in love. She didn’t tell him that she was the estranged wife of a drug cartel leader in Monterrey. A couple weeks after they were together, the cartel kidnapped him from his work. They tortured him, shot him, and left his body in a vacant field. The young wife disappeared and is presumably murdered as well.
There was no justice after this for Israel. I decided that when I wrote my novel, I would let people hear his screams. However, I did it through voices of the living, in particular through the voice of his roommate in the novel, Enrique Santos. When people are murdered, the living victims are the people left behind who loved them."
What is the title of your book and could you tell readers what it’s about?
“The Z Redemption” tells the story of ordinary people and world leaders who deal with a crisis in Mexico, a military coup that occurs because of the ineffectiveness of the corrupt federal government and police forces. Public safety breaks down. Ana Valdez, a Mexican housewife who through blogs and social media had become a national leader of victims’ rights and peace movements, finds herself in a passionate affair with a much older man, David James, a gringo who is a retired CIA operative. He had a history with Mexico and loves the Mexican people. Together, Ana and David form the “Zs,” a public safety guardian force that trains in martial arts, free running, and urban gymnastics. They try to protect citizens by confronting the warring factions, but without the use of weapons."
Does your work fall into a genre or a crossover of two or more?
"I might call it an international narco-thriller. It is a complex novel full of passionate people, and it is full of plot twists, double identities, politics, and the steamy erotica of true lovers."
Are you working on a new book at the moment and do you have a target date for completion?
"Although “The Z Redemption” stands alone as an emotionally satisfying novel, I spent time with character development so that I could write a prequel and a sequel to the novel. Currently, I am writing a sequel called “Corvette Nightfire,” which I hope to have published by Christmas. Whereas “The Z Redemption” took place largely in Monterrey, Mexico City, and Houston, “Corvette Nightfire” sets its scenes in Las Vegas, Monterrey, and Barbados. Ana Valdez, David James, and Enrique Santos return in the second novel along with one of the bad guys from the first.
After that, I am co-authoring the prequel with Bob Selfe, the extraordinary editor of my books. We will start that the first of next year. That novel will trace the adventures of David James in Latin America when he was younger, in the times of Pablo Escobar."
Would you say that you are still experimenting with different styles of writing, or have you settled into one that feels uniquely suited to you?
"I want to know what is in the hearts of people and why they do what they do. My writing style reflects that. I spend time letting the inner voices of characters speak out loud, so the reader can hear them. As a person, I am fast paced. I love literary fiction and language. So I believe I have developed a writing style that derives from my personality and interests."
Which comes first to you, story or characters?
"What comes first is the message. I think about who the readers might be and then try to think of ways in which the story will grab them so that they will pay attention to the message. My characters tend to be exaggerations of real life people. How do I form them so that they will be believable in the story line? This is what I consider: The characters have to have some faults, and they need to have a degree of unpredictability. For example, for a character who is set in her ways, I might introduce a circumstance that forces her to change. I try to do it in a way to surprise the reader, while making this have credibility."
How do you approach character development?
"One way I do this is to let the reader know something about the characters’ childhoods or life events that made them be the kind of persons that they are. In real life, I dig deep into the backgrounds of anyone I find interesting by asking them a million questions about their past. I am a thief of lives. A woman I met in Mexico told me, “What Mexico needs is heroes, Daniel.” I stole her life, elaborated it with fictitious happenings, and made her into a genuine heroine. Then I took what she told me and made it a motto that is on all my business cards for The Z Redemption: “We need more than heroes. We need heroes who lead!”
For Ana Valdez, who is a heroine in the novel and its sequel, I also wrote a supplementary short story about her childhood in Mazatlan, Mexico. The story is not in the novel. It is called, “Awakening from the Golden Sleep.”
At what age did you decide writing would become your method of creative expression?
"I was an imaginative kid, and I used to write short stories even when I was about 12 years old. I started several novels when I was young. However, I ended up in a business world and career and did marketing and business writing as part of my jobs. My experience in Mexico transformed me. When Israel was murdered, I decided to write fiction again."
Outside of your family, who has been your greatest supporter in this endeavour?
"Without hesitation, I can answer Bob Selfe. He is an incredible editor. I am so fortunate, because we have been best friends since Kindergarten. He taught English and grammar for thirty years. As an editor, he is grueling. As a friend who offered encouragement…well, I needed him. It is going to be so much fun and hard work to write the third book in the series with him."
In terms of writing, what do you see yourself doing in five years? Is there a specific goal in mind?
"I would like to write one book a year for the next 20 years. My objective is to entertain people and give them adrenalin rushes."
What has been the biggest surprise about your success?
"That I could write the kind of novel that I have enjoyed all my life."
If you had one piece of advice to share with someone starting his or her first novel, what would that be?