Interview by Riley Banks
David Khara is the author of The Bleiberg Project, an adrenaline-pumping conspiracy thriller based on World War II and its consequences in today’s world. This fast-pace novel full of humor and humanity is the first in the Consortium Thriller series.
The book was an instant success in France, catapulting the author to the ranks of the country’s top thriller writers. It was published in English by Le French Book, a digital-first publisher specializing inbest-selling mysteries and thrillers from France.
Are Hitler’s atrocities really over? For depressive Wall Street trader Jeremy Corbin, absolute truths become undeniable lies overnight. He finds out his long-lost father is dead, he discovers his boss’s real identity, and he ends up boarding a plane to Zurich. He has a Nazi medallion in his pocket, a hot CIA bodyguard next to him, and a clearly dangerous Mossad agent on his tail. What was his father investigating? Why was his mother assassinated? Why are unknown sides fighting over him with automatic weapons? Can the conspiracy be stopped?
The Bleiberg Project is like a dash of Robin Cook, a splash of John Grisham, and a pinch of Clive Cussler combined into a unique experience with a very distinctive voice all its own.
It is the first of a trilogy that is about hope and paying tribute to all victims of war and to people who were deported.
“All the characters were based on survivors’ testimonials,” the author David Khara says. “Everything is factually based, although I do speculate with ‘what if?’”
Khara adds, “The idea of The Project Bleiberg came to me after hearing the testimony of a woman who survived the death camps. Three things struck me during the interview. The first one was her sharp sense of humor. She said that prisoners inside the camp made jokes whenever they could. Humanity cannot be destroyed as long as laughter is possible. It becomes an act of resistance. The second thing was her will to survive, no matter the obstacles, no matter the horrors she would have to go through. And finally, she was the living proof that to remember and understand history is the best, and maybe the only way, to avoid some mistakes being made again. The book tries to honor these three points.”
Tell us a little bit about you and how you came to be a writer.
I’ve always been a “pen for hire”—as a journalist and then an advertising copywriter. One day, ten years ago, I started writing a story for a friend to distract him from his grief. I did it on my spare time, so it took me five years to finish it. I discovered he had sent the chapters to other friends, and it seemed they quite enjoyed it. In 2009, I gave the manuscript to two authors I know with a single question: “What is the difference in quality between what I’ve done and what is published?” They both answered “none.” One of them introduced me to his publisher in France, a very small but passionate company. The book was more successful than expected, and that is how it all started.
Is this your first book or have you written others?
I wrote another book before The Bleiberg Project. French title is Les Vestiges de l’Aube”; in English it would be “Dawn’s early lights,” but it has not yet been translated. Also, I’ve written The Shiro Projectand The Morgenstern Project, two sequels in the Consortium thriller series. They have both been published in France.
What genre is it and who is the target audience?
I don’t believe in “genres.” To me a good story, with strong characters, comes before any other considerations. I rather see “genres” as colours given to a story. Be in it fantasy, science fiction or crime fiction, novels always have the same core: us, humans. If you insist, it is an international conspiracy thriller. As for the audience, my readers age from 14 to 90.
Do you write in one genre or mix it up a bit and write in a few?
Mixing up is what I enjoy as a reader, and so it is what I do as a writer. Writing is all about freedom.
Describe your favorite scene in the book.
Without hesitation, my favorite part in The Bleiberg Project is chapter 37, in which the real hero of the book is being deported to Warsaw’s ghetto and then to a death camp. I wrote it from testimonials of survivors and writing it was very emotional. It is to me the key chapter, the one that gives the true meaning of the novel.
If you had to choose one favorite character, who would it be and why?
Hmmm, that is hard to say, since I kind of love them all. Jeremy is silly and fun, Jackie is fun too, and has a quite a temper. But of course, Eytan wins the day! To know why, you’ll have to read the book.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you want to play the main characters?
Actually, a movie is in pre-production stage as we speak. Actors have not yet been chosen, but we have a few ones in mind. I’d love to see Alexander Skargard as Eytan. He has it all to embody this strong, deadly and emotional figure. Jensen Ackles would be a great Jeremy. Jackie is a bit more complicated, but I’m confident we’ll find the right actress eventually.
Where do you draw your inspiration? Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences, or is it all fiction?
Almost everything in my books comes from reality, especially the most unbelievable parts. Inspiration comes out of everything. My first publisher, an amazing guy called Philippe Ward, once told me “not writing is already writing.” Some grab music notes in the air; I see stories and characters everywhere.
I do not tell my story in my books, but I use my own experiences and feelings to feed my characters. I’ve also turned into some kind of vampire since I also use experiences from the people I know. Talking to me is never safe!
Is there a message in your novel that you hope readers will grasp?
There are several levels inside The Bleiberg Project. You can stick to the fast-paced, action-packed thriller, or go for the historical facts related to experiments on human beings and the lack of ethics that led to them. Also, the whole series is about the fate of one man, who becomes an inspiration to other people like Jeremy. I guess the keywords are “resistance” and “freedom.” Mainly, my novels are all about hope.
What are your thoughts on book trailers, and do you have one for your books?
I love them! One was made for The Bleiberg Project in French and it was fun. I like the links between books and movies, so why not tease both in the same way?
Do you have an agent or are you looking to get one in the future?
I do not have an agent per say. So far, I’ve handled most of the business related to my writing career by myself. But since things go faster and faster, and writing is what I want to focus on, I may have to get one sooner than expected.
If you had fifteen seconds of an agent’s and/or publisher’s time, what would you tell them about your book?
Give it a shot; you might not put it down until the end!
What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have a day job, and if so, what is it?
I used to be the CEO of a communications company, but dropped it all four years ago. Writing is a full-time job now. When I do not write, I watch movies—lots of them—and TV shows, listen to music, and read books—but not crime fiction since I’m afraid it might influence my work. I enjoy cycling, and boxing to lose the weight gained when writing. I confess I am also a videogame addict, so you’ll find me playing online CoD or Diablo 3 from time to time, but not as often as I’d like.
Where do you get your ideas?
They come from the news, the people I meet, music I’m listening to. Basically, everything is writing material to me.
How important is planning to you? Do you plan the whole book or just start writing?
I do not plan though I know exactly what’s going to happen all the way through. But I keep it mind, never writing anything down. This gives me the opportunity to take other directions if they come up, and leave the keyboard to my characters from time to time. In a way, I’m just there to make sure they stick to the main story.
What project are you working on now?
So many of them… There is the movie of The Bleiberg Project, Dawn’s Early Lights is being made as graphic novel, and I also work as script doctor for directors and movie producers. Shortly, I’ll start the sequel to Dawn’s Early Lights.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Be humble. Do not give success or failure a single thought. Be generous, never forget you are writing for people you do not know and that don’t know you. So give it all because, in the end, there is nothing to lose! Also, and that is by far the most important thing: be honest. You should laugh when you write something funny, or even cry when writing something sad.
Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I won’t be original on this one… Thanks!
Favorite place in the world to be?
Two actually. Brittany, my homeland, and Manhattan, my promised land.
What is your favourite thing about being a writer?
I get free books from my publishers! More seriously, it’s meeting my readers. Chatting with them is the best reward an author can hope for.
What is your least favourite thing about being a writer?
Most book signings and book fairs take place during the weekend, which means I miss a lot of sports on TV!
If you were a superhero, what would your super power be?
Tricky question… I’m an avid Silver Age Marvel Comic collector, I own like 4,000 books from the 1960s until the early 1980s. That makes the choice pretty tricky. Still, I’d say Mister Fantastic. Red Richard’s ability to type pretty fast could prove useful!
Favourite book to reread.
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, without hesitation.
Favourite TV show or movie?
The first four seasons of The Wire were amazing. I also enjoy watching Justified, The Walking Deadand Suits. I also like The Big Bang Theory. My favourite French movie is Mon Oncle by Jacques Tati. My favourite American movie is The Goodfellas by Martin Scorcese.
How many copies of your book have you sold?
The Project Bleiberg has sold more than 100 000 copies so far.
Who is your muse?
My sweet, beloved wife Sandra, whose humour you’ll find a little bit in Jackie’s character. And it gets worse in the third book of the series.
Describe your writing process? Do you write in an office, at the table, outside? Do you type on a computer or write in longhand first?
The ritual is always the same: in my garden, with a cup of coffee and my cigarettes nearby (I know, it is bad; I’m trying to stop), in front of a laptop computer on which I’ve written all my books. I bought a new, faster one, but I’m still too attached to the old one. Superstition.
If you could bring a fictional character to life, who would it be and what would you do with them?
I’d bring Eytan Morg, just to hear him tell about his tragic and amazing life.
You are having a dinner party and can invite four guests. They can be from any time (current or past), be fictional characters or real. Who do you invite and why?
Four guests? Let me think. I’d say Churchill, because he embodies resistance of the British Empire when Europe was down, and he wrote some of most inspiring speeches in history. Dennis Lehane, because I consider him one the best writers ever, and I got so much to learn from him. Alexander Skarsgard, just to talk him into accepting Eytan’s part though he’d have to shave his head. The last guest would be Hubert Reeves, because he is one of the greatest minds in history, and listening to him makes you feel more intelligent!
For information in English you can start with the author page at Le French Book. I also regularly post on Le French Book’s blog, I have my own blog that I’m starting to feed in English, and check out my Facebook fan page under the name David S. Khara. I interact with my readers on a daily basis. I would gladly answer in English. I’ll be on twitter very soon too.
Web page: http://www.thebleibergproject.com
Genre: crime, thriller, France, WWII