Glenn Starkey: A Man For All Seasons

 

In my opinion, there are a select few writers today that are far from ordinary. Today I am talking with Glenn Starkey; he is one of those writers. Mr. Starkey is a talented author from the state of Texas. He has lived a lifetime giving to others and sharing his stories. Others have read history, Mr. Starkey has lived it.

glenn starkey

 Author Glenn Starkey

 

Rivers: What drives you to write your stories?

 Glenn:  Growing up I wanted to be an artist and paint with oils.  I could sit for hours sketching and studying the works of various masters, especially Michelangelo and Da Vinci. Somewhere along the line my professional pursuits were sidetracked and I went from paint brushes to weaponry. The artistic drive remained though. In time my words became the substitute for oils and before long, as I often tell people, I began painting the canvas of a reader’s mind.  

Rivers: You have a unique look into a historical past that personalizes your characters. How do you come to see their attributes and bring them to life?

 Glenn:  Historical fiction all too often gets a bad rap from readers. Without reading one most people think it will be too similar to a bland, history text book from their school days. But I enjoy hearing from people who changed their minds after reading one of my novels. In reality, a historical novel is nothing more than present day problems set within a past, specific time period.  Greed, love, hate, lust, and so forth are the same human emotions today as they were a thousand years ago—only the clothing and conveniences are different.  After I develop the idea for a novel, I next consider the characters to be involved. This is as critical as the overall novel’s research. I spend days making a list of the characters, defining their physical and mental limitations. Each character must fit with the others as tightly as pieces of a puzzle do to form a complete picture. As I write, I’m in their heads, feeling their maladies, weaknesses, and seeing the story from their viewpoints. Another aspect of this comes from my professional background in having had to closely watch people, analyze their expressions and physical actions, and make critical assessments of how they may or may not react under certain conditions. I will not accept what I call cardboard characters in any of my novels. There must be dimension to each.

Rivers: Time is all consuming when it comes down to writing stories for your readers. Do you have a set time you like to write? Why?

 Glenn:  I spend months performing research, making notes, walking around thinking about the storyline—but when I begin to seriously write, it will be during the week nights from 10 p.m. until about 4:00 a.m.. These are my magic hours because I’m free to sit and solely concentrate on a novel.  Trying to write during the day is difficult because I have this guilt trip that I should be running errands, working in the yard or repairing something around the house. Plus the telephone rings throughout the day! Writing at night clears my conscience because you’re not going to be working in the yard or running errands. But regardless of how late into the night I write, I always get up when my wife wakes for work. I do this for several days then catch up on my sleep over the weekend.

 

glenn starkeyRivers: The Cobra and Scarab, Solomon’s Men, Year of the Ram, three outstanding books and more to come. Which of these titles is your favorite?

 Glenn:  Every novel I write is special to me for different reasons, but “Year of the Ram” stands out among them. It was my first novel and was born from a dream that haunted me until I decided to write the story. Call it a reincarnation thing or whatever, but one scene kept replaying itself in my dreams as if I had lived it. So, I created an entire novel around that scene…and the dream vanished. What was the scene? Well, read the book then write to me. Tell me which scene you believe it is and I’ll let you know if your guess is correct….

Rivers: When writing, a lot of authors draw characterization from the living. Did you find this possible with historic figures?

 Glenn: Every year I find new research information being released on historical figures. Often the depth of the research leaves little to an author’s imagination, but I do look at comparable, present day people to fill in gaps wherever needed. All I generally need is for history research to provide me with a sequence of events about a person and I know who to use as a similar model.  As a side bar, Greg Valdez in “Solomon’s Men” was created after studying the actor Antonio Banderas in numerous movies.  

Rivers: What author in the past has been a special interest to you? Why was he so unique?

 Glenn: Two authors have left the greatest impression upon me: Nicholas Guild, author of “The Assyrian” and Robert McCammon, author of “The Wolf’s Hour.” Both were highly published, magnificent, award-winning authors, writing in a variety of genres—and both went missing in action from the public for years. From Guild’s “The Assyrian” I learned how a true work of historical fiction should make a reader feel, and from McCammon’s “The Wolf’s Hour” I learned the true craft of writing! Now, when I say they went ‘missing in action’ from the public for years, I mean exactly that. Here were two of the greatest authors of their day with what seemed to be the perfect writer’s status, men who seemingly had the Midas touch with a pen—and suddenly they stopped—and vanished from the public’s eye for years. Guild is still missing, but McCammon has returned.  Soon I intend to write more about them in my site’s blog, but for now it will have to suffice to say they are perfect examples of great authors who carried everyday problems upon their shoulders as each of us do.

Rivers: If I remember correctly from reading another interview, you too were one of those ‘missing in action’ authors. Is that correct? Was there a particular reason you wouldn’t mind sharing?

 Glenn: I set my writings aside for about ten years or so due to a perfect storm of events. I seriously began writing in the late 70’s. I’ve had two agents through the years, written several novels that made their way across editor’s desks at almost every major publishing house, and at one point was to sign a three-book, action-adventure contract from one of the houses. That contract opportunity fell through when the editor suddenly left that house under heated terms. Another of my books became caught up in the maelstrom of a publisher wanting it revised to this and that—and my agent urging me to change it according to their whims. I was young and against my gut feelings I began revising. A year and a half later, after more revisions than I care to think about, I realized we had come full circle back to the original story. I said that was enough! By coincidence, each of my agents retired, plus I was exhausted from having done nothing but revisions for so long. “Solomon’s Men” was finally published but when released I learned I had cancer. There was virtually no marketing for the book and my health issues had to be addressed. Then the events of “9-11” magnified my responsibilities, work hours, and government activities as a security manager with the corporation. It wasn’t until the spring of 2011 that I was finally able to seriously address a return to writing.

Rivers: What do your readers have to look forward to in the future?

 Glenn:  I’m presently working on my first sci-fi based, horror/action thriller, “Amazon Moon.” I’ve always wanted to challenge myself with such a project and this is it! For anyone that has read one of my novels, I’m packing this one with equal action and intensity. I don’t want to give a lot away now, but readers will follow John Alvarez through the darkest abyss of his life and to the brink of insanity.

Rivers: What would you like for readers to know about you? Don’t be shy, I know you like to work helping children.

 Glenn: This is always one of those questions you answer then spend days afterward wondering why you didn’t answer differently. I’ve laid out my past in bio’s and other interviews—Marine Corps, Vietnam, law enforcement, global oil corporation security manager, writer, volunteer worker with school kids to improve their reading skills—and several of those professions held activities some people would be fascinated to learn.  But I’ve reached a point in my life, thankfully through maturity, where I simply look at my past and realize I’m lucky to have lived through some things, fortunate to have succeeded where I did, and grateful for the wonderful family I have. I served my country, enforced the law, protected people, and did what was needed to insure their safety. I’ve done more than some people and less than others. So now I simply want people to know me as one hell of a good writer and a devoted family man.    

Rivers: Do you have any news you would like to share with your readers?

 Glenn:  By end of this year I hope “Amazon Moon” will be completed and ready for publication in eBook and softcover formats.  I also hope “Year of the Ram” will be released in eBook format. It’s already available in softcover. Oh, and before I forget… the book cover artwork for “Amazon Moon” is a killer! My son created the artwork for two of my books, but his schedule is crowded and I had to choose a different artist for “Amazon Moon.”  After seeing the excellent cover of your book “The Black Witch” I contacted the artist, Ryan Bibby at Novel Branding.Com. He is now completing the final polish on “Amazon Moon” as we speak—and it looks fantastic!

Rivers: When a new writer approaches you, what advice do you have for them to continue finding their dream?

Glenn First and foremost I encourage them to write if that is truly what they wish to do. Pursue their dreams until they draw their final breath! Next, I lay out simple actions for them which generally separate the true writers from the talkers: Read, read, read. Read classics, all genres, new books and old books. Learn the craft (this is an old phrase but so valuable!) If you can, take a creative writing class at a local college. Don’t run out and buy 50 “How to Write” books and expect to gain some secret knowledge. Good writing is hard work, very hard work. If you start to write a book, finish it before concerning yourself with agents, marketing, book tours and signings, etc. Be honest with yourself. Don’t think everything you write is great. Most will be junk that should never have seen the light of day. Don’t be afraid to cut words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, and even chapters from your book if it doesn’t add to your story. Develop your own writing voice and don’t try to copy others. You need positive, critical feedback about your writing. Yes, all your loved ones think your book is the best thing since sliced bread, but you need unbiased feedback from at least ten people about your writing—and don’t argue with them about their reviews. Look at the norm of the reviews and try to see where you can improve. NEVER ask people to write favorable reviews so you can publish them to promote your work. That might fly for a while but in the end, the truth surfaces and if your work is bad then readers will tag you as untrustworthy. No one likes a rigged game, and readers paying hard-earned money for books expect their monies worth. There’s more helpful advice, but usually this is enough to send an aspiring writer into cardiac arrest….

Rivers: What would you like to say to your readers?

 Glenn: Oh, man…There’s a lot I’d like to say but ‘Thank You’ is the most important. For someone to set aside time in their hectic, daily schedules to read my novels means so much to me that I cannot truly define it. I want every reader to know each book I’ve written, I’ve put my heart and soul into creating the best possible story—and I intend for my future novels to only be better.  And I appreciate those readers who have taken the time to write the good reviews I’ve received.

Thank you for talking with me today, Glenn, and I am looking forward to your future releases.

Excerpt from Year of the Ram:

 

YEAR OF THE RAM

* * *

“General.” Temur’s voice was filled with tension. “General, wake up.”

“What do you want?” Etar answered, half asleep, half awake.

“General, the Emperor of Emperors wants to see you.”

Rubbing his eyes, the warlord tried to clear the sleep from them. He attempted to rise but one of the women still lay asleep across his stomach, the other nestled next to his left side.

“Is it night already?” The General yawned, trying to wake himself.

“Yes, sir, it is night.” The commander’s voice grew increasingly nervous.

“Is something wrong?” Etar raised his head to look at the captain. What he observed was not what he expected or wanted to see.

Standing five paces behind Temur was the Emperor, hands resting on hips, looking down at his naked son in bed with two nude women. He said nothing and only stood grinning.

With a strong push Etar came out of the bed, throwing one of the women onto the floor. The other one awoke, immediately pulling the silk sheet around her, covering her breasts.

“Leave us!” Etar snapped at the women.

Hurriedly they moved away, bowing low to the Emperor and Etar as they went past them. The Khan playfully tried to swat one on the wiggling buttocks, smiling wide as he did so.

“I see you enjoy your new home,” the Emperor said, turning to face his son. “Yes, a stallion should cover as many mares as he can.”

An infuriated look shot from the General to Temur for not awakening him before the Emperor arrived.

The captain kept a puzzled expression.

“Now that your gungjyu is taking a rest, we can talk,” the Khan stated, motioning toward Etar’s limp hanging member.

Realizing he was standing nude before the Emperor of Emperors, Etar glanced about the room for his clothes. They were gone.

“Temur, get Mai Ling to bring me clothes now!”

Without answering, the captain ran to get the woman but she was already walking toward them with clothes draped over her arms.

Not waiting for her to lay them down, Etar grabbed whatever he could and began to dress. Once his leggings were on, he felt better. He looked at each of the clothes she had brought. They were the same rich manner of dress as the Khan wore, only different in coloring. Something was missing though and he could not think of what it was.

The delicate young hand of Mai Ling extended to him. She held his dagger and quirt in her hand. He nodded in gratitude, took them from her and placed the dagger in his sash and the quirt back on his wrist. Now, he felt fully dressed.

“Do not blame Temur for my unexpected presence. I came in through a private entrance,” explained the Emperor.

“I looked in to see if you were safe, my general, and the Emperor was standing here. I searched the room personally. Sir, it is my fault and no other,” stated the captain, lowering his gaze to the floor, waiting to be ordered away in disgrace.

“No, I am sure you checked the room, Temur. My passageway was designed so none should be able to distinguish it. If you had found it, I would have executed the craftsman who built it for doing poor work,” the mighty Khan said in defense of the bodyguard commander. “You have always been a faithful soldier and guarded my son well all these years. So, I say nothing shall be done to you.”

“The Emperor of Emperors is most gracious and too kind to his worthless servant,” Temur said, daitouing before the Khan.

“I am this time, Captain. From now on, never let the General out of your sight. Even if he is mounting a woman! The next time someone gets near him without you knowing it, your head will be gone,” replied the Emperor without a hint of humor.glenn starkey

“Yes, my Emperor.” Temur remained daitoued. Rising, he backed several paces, feeling a lump in his throat.

Chi Kwan and Mai Ling approached carrying platters of meats, bread, fruits, and drinks. After placing the food on a nearby table they too stepped back to await further instruction.

Oil wicked lamps were lit about the room, illuminating the area. The Khan walked to the table and picked a fruit from a tray. He bit hard into it and juice ran down his chin onto his thin beard. Rubbing his arm sleeve across his mouth, he wiped off the liquid.

“Come. Eat. You will need your strength later,” said the Kahn jokingly. “A stallion must have nourishment.” The Emperor’s sternness had vanished within the blink of an eye.

Seeing his father enjoy the fruit made Etar’s own appetite return, especially now that he was fully clothed. As Etar began to examine the assortment before him, the Khan looked at Temur and tilted his head toward the servants. Temur immediately understood and escorted Chi Kwan and Mai Ling from the room. Once they were gone, he positioned himself by the door.

The Khan walked to a gathering of pillows and leisurely seated himself while still eating the juicy fruit. When finished, he tossed the core onto the floor.

With a large chunk of meat in one hand and a cup of wine in the other, Etar moved to a pillow and sat close to the Khan. He ate as his father talked.

“Much has changed since you were last here. I know you were surprised upon your arrival. They were necessary changes. We are the largest empire in the world. I wish I could ride into battle like you, but as the Emperor I cannot. My own palace has become a prison to me. I must rule the empire from here and ensure all is done properly. I have people from all races, and wherever their talent fits, I place them there. The Chins have shown me many things which are good. All these things I will have someone show you later. For now, I want to talk with you about a different matter.”

Etar stopped eating for a moment. He observed a change in his father’s expression.

“My spies recently intercepted several messages from a foreign emissary here in the palace.” The Emperor’s words came out wearily. “The messages suggested plans for attack on our nation by a group calling themselves the Council of Kings.”

“I will take my army and destroy them!” Etar stated angrily.

“There are several countries involved in this. They intend to use one man to plan their campaigns and provide leadership for their attacks against us.” The Khan’s eyebrow lifted as he watched his son’s face for a reaction. “Without him, they will argue among themselves. With him to provide backbone to their forces, they will be strong. I want you to kill the man,” said the Khan without emotion. He stared at Etar.

“What one man could be so important to so many countries? Is he some warrior I have never heard of?”

Leaning back onto more pillows, the Khan kept his gaze locked on Etar. “His name is Sabutai. He lives on the Plateau of Tibet.”

The words struck the warlord with the force of a thunderbolt exploding into a tree. His eyes widened and the lower jaw gradually opened. Etar was at a loss for words.

“The man called the Grand Master?” Etar asked, hoping it was not.

“I know he was the physician who helped heal your wounds many years ago, and I know this brings back many memories, especially about the girl. But he is dangerous. He is the only man who could organize those countries against us.” The Emperor’s tone of voice was a mixture of consolation and demand.

“The old man?” Etar asked again. The full impact of what the Khan was saying hit him harder.

“Yes, he could turn a nation of cowards around if he wanted to. Without his knowledge they cannot unite. He must be killed. There are spies in this palace working for the Council and it has become more than mere threats. I know how you feel about him. After all, he did save your life. Our nation is at stake though, and I will not risk an empire for the sake of one man.” The Emperor moved closer.

“Etar, you are going to be the next Khan when I die. Months ago I chose you and placed your name in the Book of Records. Should something happen to me, the Book will be opened and you will be hailed the new Khan. No one but you knows of my choice and it must remain a secret until that day comes.” Leaning across to his son, the Emperor’s gaze grew cold as he laid a hand on Etar’s shoulder. “I will not jeopardize our people for anyone. I order you to kill Sabutai.”

Lowering his head, Etar gazed at the floor. Silence filled the room when the Emperor finished speaking. The warlord slowly lifted his face to look at his father. He had been given a direct order from the ruler of his nation; an order he had no choice other than to accept. His thumb and forefinger rubbed back and forth across his necklace stone as he thought of what must be done.

Mustering strength, he stood, walked to the table and filled his wine cup. In one drink he emptied the cup and gently set it on the table. He slowly turned to face the Emperor of Emperors.

“I will kill him as you ordered,” Etar said as a cold chill raced through him.

His father studied him for a time and stood. Both men looked at one another as if waiting for the other to speak first. Finally, the silence broke.

“We are alone. Speak freely, I give you permission,” the Khan said.

“Why me?” The warlord jabbed a finger into his own chest.

“Why did I select you to be the next Khan or why did I choose you to kill the old man?” the ruler questioned calmly.

“Both. I am a soldier. I do not want your throne. You have ordered me to kill Sabutai, and I will, but he brought me back from the dead. By our own laws, if he were a Mongol, I would owe him my life! My honor is important to me, I have nothing else, and you order me to take the life from an old man who healed me!” Etar’s voice rose to a shout. He slammed his fist hard into the table.

The table shook from the impact of the strike, causing a porcelain cup to roll and fall to the floor. Nothing was said by the Emperor as he calmly watched it shatter into several pieces. His gaze came back to meet Etar’s angry stare.

“If any other man had talked to me like that they would die the Lingering Death, but I gave you permission to speak your heart,” said the Emperor with an iron voice. “I chose you to be the next Khan because it is in your blood. Of all my sons, you would put our nation before your own wants. The others are too busy counting their gold or trying to mount every servant in the palace. I placed them all in positions of authority to monitor their abilities, but none have shown me the qualities as you have. They do not know how to rule men as you do. You have had control of my armies for years and I have seen their loyalty to you. A Khan must rule with the sword and his head. You know how to do both!” He paused then spoke in a softer tone.

“All these years you have blamed me for the death of that woman. I had been told you were a prisoner there. I sent those men to rescue you. It is unfortunate she was killed in the battle, but there are other women to service you and bear you sons. You have not taken any wives. You have no sons! Whose name can you write in the Book of Records if you have no sons? You are going to rule the Mongolian nation! As for that old man, there is a reason why he must die. Would you have preferred I send someone else to kill him and you learn of it later? At least he will die quickly by your sword and not be tortured to death by someone who enjoys it. It is out of kindness I let you kill him.”

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Comments

  1. An intelligent, creative interview, Michael. Well done. Thank you.

  2. Micheal,
    I can only say “Thank You” for this wonderful opportunity to be interviewed on your website and be introduced to your readers. Recognition by a great author such as yourself is quite a compliment, one I am extremely appreciative of receiving.
    Sincerely,
    Glenn
    “Semper Fi”

  3. I love this interview–especially the real life mystery of those two authors. Would love to read your blog about that.

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