Friday, March 23, 2012

Why should an omniscient being fear a wolf? An interview with paranormal thriller author Greg Kiser

Today I''m talking with Greg Kiser about his paranormal thriller INSYTE.


1) Tell us about your book.

It’s Tampa Bay, Florida and the year is 2020. Ex-Navy SEAL Mitch “Double” Downing discovers how to tap into the internet with his mind. His new inSyte provides transparent access to the sum of all human knowledge recorded since hieroglyphics.

If knowledge is power, Mitch just became the strongest man in the world.

But inSyte has ideas of its own as the software exposes a politician’s “divine” plan that will unwittingly slaughter millions of people. Is killing the man the only way to prevent Armageddon? The politician’s daughter would probably disagree. And she happens to be the love of Mitch’s life. Losing Kate would be too damn much collateral damage.

At the center of the conflict is a wolf-like killer who will stop at nothing to murder the ex-Navy SEAL. And Mitch must come to grips with inSyte’s dark side – a dominating addiction that soon controls his thoughts and places him on a steep slide to self destruction.

2) What inspired this book?

I was in a business meeting in 1999 and the customer asked me some questions and they weren’t quite important enough for me to fire up my laptop (which took about 5 min in those days) so I said I’d get back to him.

It struck me that it would be nice to have access to the info on that laptop unbeknownst to the customer. That would be sort of cool, make me seem pretty smart.

As time went on, I realized that’s really inevitable with the internet. There are glasses you can buy today - so called visual headgear – that let you watch content on your iPod. Maybe while you’re on a plane.

Obviously you can also view info on your smart phone. Let’s say voice recognition software improves and the glasses get smaller. Say the glasses become contact lenses. You get the picture. It’s just a matter of time before you can get online anytime, all the time, and you’re doing searches based on a question asked of you. Or just by thinking about something. So you would search the net the way you search your memory. That’s the high concept and from there I developed the conflict to make the book (hopefully) interesting.

3) The very organization of our societies, our habits, our social interaction patterns have developed over the ages based on one fundamental limitation: our inherent lack of omniscience. Your story upends that. Was it difficult to develop a story that could across this fundamental metaphysical paradigm shift and still maintain the tension necessary for a good thriller?

Interesting question. My high concept was the ability to tap into the internet with your mind. So you can surf the internet the way you peruse your own memory today.

Try to remember the lyrics to a song. Might take a few seconds, then you remember. You find that information in your brain, obviously. Sort of a local hard drive, to use computer terms.

Now imagine you’re transparently tapped into the Global internet 24x7. Now try to remember the lyrics to a song. They’re there instantly. Feels like you found them in your brain, just like before. But you didn’t. You found the words on a server in Germany. Doesn’t matter, all transparent to you.

OK – so I had the high concept. To your point... now what? I mean, you have to have conflict, right?

Yes, the transition was difficult but finally I created a moral dilemma between the protagonist, the ‘monster’ Cheslov, and a local politician who thinks he has a direct connect with God. Next – ratchet up the tension at every opportunity. I made my protagonist an ex-Navy seal so he could pretty much deal with anything. Made Cheslov part wolf, paranormal. Then went into detail explaining how screwed up the politician is, he’s hooked on drugs due to his wife’s death, etc. Keep ratcheting up.

Then I created an outline – and wrote, wrote, wrote to fill in the outline. Didn’t worry about adjectives or effect or the best dialogue or even grammar/punctuation.This is all a hell of a lot of work and was the hardest part of writing the novel.

But once I had the first draft I set it aside for about 2 months. Then I picked it up and read it. And read and read and read. Every time I picked it up and read a chapter, I thought of better ways to describe things. I watched TV at night or listened to the radio during the day or read the paper in the morning and always, constantly, I gained ideas on how to improve my character’s dialogue, how to enhance a scene, how to polish, enrich, entertain, grow, connect.

The initial draft took 3 months to write. Then finishing the novel took another 3 years.

Oh – and don’t let ANYBODY read that initial draft. It will suck, indeed.

4) How did you technical background influence your plot and setting?

I’m a Director at Cisco. I’ve been in the high tech industry for 25 years. I think technology is wonderful. I made the point in the book and I believe this, that technology drove the production we saw in the 90’s. When PCs hit the mainstream, that was a paradigm shift that drove productivity off the scale.
Imagine trying to do business without spreadsheets or word docs or power points? Barbaric.

I think INSYTE – i.e. the ability to be online ‘invisibly’ - will drive similar boosts in technology. Due to the increased access to information. It will allow decisions to be made more quickly. No more – “I’ll have to get back to you on that”.

I think we need to be careful with technology, the point I also made in my book – that there’s a downside to everything. 
5) Given the politician sub-plot, one can't help but be reminded of Stephen King's THE DEAD ZONE. Did King's work have any influence on you?

You know something, you’re the first person to ask that question and you’re absolutely right! I read THE DEAD ZONE in the early eighties when it came out. I loved the book and I loved the dilemma his main character , Johnny, has re the politician Greg Stillson (I think I have those names right). I remember thinking the moral dilemma for Johnny was so beautifully solved when he was able to derail the politician’s future without actually killing the man. Of course, the outcome was not so good for Johnny himself. But somehow I knew that’s what Johnny preferred.

So when I was trying to develop my conflict for INSTYTE, I definitely remembered some of the conflict from THE DEAD ZONE. Of course, my character Mitch has no qualms about taking out the trash the way Johnny did. ;)

Stephen King is one of my favorite writers. If you look closely, you’ll also see similarities between Randall Flagg (THE STAND) and Cheslov. I read THE STAND in 1979 and never forgot the way King described Flagg as a man who was so evil and yet likeable and charming. Same could be said of Thomas Harris’s great character Hannibal.

6) Do you have a sequel planned?

Yes. I have some great ideas on where to take the technology and he characters. I’ve written an outline. But what I was saying above in question 3 about the hardest part of writing the novel? That’s the part I haven’t started yet.

7) Other than sequels, what works do you have in the pipe for the future?

I’m more of a ‘let come what may’ sort of guy. I don’t think about writing ideas so much as I think about enrichment ideas. I’ll hear a conversation, someone expressing themselves in a certain way and I’ll make a mental note because I think the discussion is real and would make good dialogue in a book. I’ll hear someone describe something and I’ll make a mental note that it’s colorful and would read well. That sort of thing. Shameless ;).

Thanks, Greg.

If you'd like to see more from Greg, you can check out his website  ( and blog (

INSYTE can be purchased in physical form or electronic form at Amazon.


Chrystalla Thoma said...

That's a cool concept for a novel, tapping into the net like your own brain. But why then be afraid of the wolf? :) What's a wolf-like opponent supposed to mean - a shifter? a mutant? The title got me curious...

Nightly Cafe said...

Thank you for hosting Greg today :)

J.A. Beard said...

No problem.

Greg Kiser said...

Chrystalla - there are two characters in my novel vying for the title of the real wolf. Naturally people are afraid of the wolf. The question becomes - who's the real wolf? You have to read my novel to find out ;).

Greg Kiser said...

People are naturally afraid of the wolf. The question in my novel is... who's the real wolf? The antagonist is certainly wolf-like. But how about the protagonist? Is he transforming or was he always like this.