Hi all! Cynthia D’Alba here. Today I’m thrilled to welcome a longtime friend to the blog, Stephen W Brooks. Steve and I grew up in the same hometown, graduated high school at the same time, and now both write fiction. Steve has the kind of background perfect for writing strong, intriguing heroes and storylines. He started his law enforcement career with the Hot Springs Police Department where he held positions as Patrol Officer, Hostage Negotiator, and Evidence Officer. In 1982 Steve was selected to become an instructor at the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy where he taught firearms, evidence, hostage negotiation, and hostage rescue among other courses.
In 1988, Steve was selected as an Anti-Terrorism Specialist with Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia, an agency that was one of 22 absorbed into the newly created Department of Homeland Security in 2003. During his tenure with the FLETC, Steve has held the positions of Lead Instructor, Senior Instructor, and as a subject matter expert in the field of antiterrorism. Steve has also held supervisory positions in the Behavioral Science, Legal, and Training Management Divisions, Chief of the Legal, Student Services Division where he was the agency Registrar, and is currently Chief of the Asset and Logistics Management Division.
Steve’s career taken him around the globe to such as places as Rome Italy, Chisnau Moldova, Harkhov Ukraine, Bangkok Thailand, Rabat and Casablanca Morocco, and Cairo and Alexandria Egypt.
Steve’s accomplishments included being selected to teach hostage negotiation techniques to the Diplomatic Security Service’s Regional Security Officer (RSO Program from 1989-1991.) He was the FLETC liaison to the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) at Fort Bragg, NC from 1993-1995.
Steve has published and lectured extensively on many related topics listed above as well as the transnational crime of human trafficking.
After all that, it should be no surprise his first book, Sailing The Curvature Of The Earth: A Vision Quest, focused on human trafficking.
I asked Steve to talk about his characters and how his personal background fed into his fiction. Here is what he told me…
Writing a series of romance novels is not something a thirty-plus-year career law enforcement officer normally does. However, as a wise man, the head of an internal affairs unit once said, “It is what it is.”
I originally started out writing a textbook on the identification and investigation of human trafficking that evolved into the first novel, Sailing The Curvature Of The Earth: A Vision Quest. To ensure accuracy in developing the textbook, I read extensively on human trafficking cases, their investigations and prosecutions, the few that there were at that time. After a year of reading and playing with various “What if” scenarios, a very good friend of mine for the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security looked at it and told me that if I continued to connect the dots and fill in the gaps with a story, I’d have a very good book.
And . . . as the sports fans say, this is how my writing career got started.
My story locations are places I have been to or through and I try to bring that experience to my readers, even down to the food I ate and the wine I drank.
My characters are based on people I’ve known for decades coupled with people I met in passing for five minutes. Some characters I made up in my head. But, I always visualize what they look like and what they sound like.
I write a biography on the character and write out their relationship to the other characters in the book. It’s cast of characters, scoundrels, and ner’do wells. One aspect my readers have told me they like about my books is trying to figure out who this character is when they show up in the book, and what the hell are they doing here.
One of the most enduring characters is based on a retired DS Agent that I have known for over twenty years. Scot Folensbee. A couple of examples of why he makes perfect hero material.
It was 1988 and the capital of Liberia, Monrovia, is a war-torn city, unsafe for Americans, and just about anyone else. DSS Special Agents Tony Diebler, Scott Folensbee and Steve Fakan have successfully moved all American diplomats and civilians within the safety of the US Embassy walls. Exhausted, battle-scarred, they get word that a group of journalists are trapped in a nearby hotel, death a certainty if not rescued. Like the heroes they are, they ducked bullets and hand grenades to bring those reporters to safety. The Discovery Channel did a series some years ago entitled “Heroes Under Fire” and Scot was profiled in a segment entitled, “Escape from Liberia.” (EDITED: Here is a link to the video)
One more Folensbee story. Another agent was sent to Liberia during a coup to advise as to the instability of the region. His situation report had the Department of State asking how many MSD teams he needed. (MSD is the Mobile Security Division and at that time consisted of five, five-man tactical units. Their version of a SWAT team.) The on-site agent advised all he needed was Folensbee. They saved numerous American lives among the civil unrest and received numerous accolades.
Scot is an unassuming man, referred to as ‘Doc’ by his friends due to his being a former Special Forces Medic in Vietnam. His valor is evident from his receiving four purple hearts among other awards for valor.
But as he is known as a warrior poet for his gentleness and kindness that know no bounds. The pictures of Scott are dated, taken in Vietnam. He has requested no current photos as he is very sick from being poisoned while assigned to the rebuilding of the US Embassy in Moscow. Scot is now CEO/President of Specialized Security Risks located in Falls Church, VA. His company provides sensitive security investigations for domestic and international clients with strict confidentiality.
I work hard to make sure my books are very technically accurate from the weaponry to the sailing. Once I had a reader call me from Charleston, South Carolina to ask how long I had lived there. He was amazed I had never lived there. He told me that as he read a certain passage it was like I was in his head because the character walked down a street to a restaurant the way he would have to go, turn they he would have to turn and ate what was exactly on the actual menu. That is probably the greatest compliment I’ve received as a writer.
But I’ve also been embarrassed by my technical accuracy. My agency’s Director stopped in the HQ’s building with her immediate staff and said to me, “I’ve read your books.” When I thanked her she replied, “Full fashioned nylons and stilettos? I’ll never look at you the same way again.”
You gotta have a sense of humor in this business.
If you want to connect with Steve, here is his Facebook Profile.