(andrewgrossbooks.com, Nov. 2008)
I’ve always been fascinated by how quickly life can change in a nanosecond. Even the most successful lives, the most insulated. This was a theme in THE BLUE ZONE. In this case it’s a good dad and successful hedge fund trader who fate lures into a terrible event. And that event unleashes a web of mystery about who that man really is. And what’s behind him all these years…”
The novel begins explosively with a catastrophe on a commuter train arriving at New York’s legendary Grand Central Terminal, a scene that will knock readers back in their seats and leave them breathless. How long have you been planning to delve into the concept of a life simply “disappearing” in the wake of a sudden catastrophe?
Well, this book really isn’t about terrorism or catastrophe. It’s only the catalyst to drive the central mystery of the story. It’s about a woman whose husband kisses her goodbye in the morning, wakes up the kids, gets on the train, and is never seen again. The reaction I’m hoping for in my readers isn’t fear or horror at the big events, but the uncertainty and confusion at having to solve the mystery of a husband’s life, learning who he was. And then the shock over what she ultimately finds.
You set THE DARK TIDE in Greenwich, CT — an affluent suburban community in your own backyard. Why Greenwich?
It’s a rich, beautiful place, with powerful interests working behind the scenes. Landed gentry well-established, with even more moneyed financial CEO’s and hedge fund managers moving in. It’s small enough that it’s a place we can all identify with—a milieu for families, sports, errands—but with a global range of influence.
(Note – THE DARK TIDE is the first in a series of novels set in this luxurious bedroom community)
Have you ever heard murmurings of real-life misdoings behind the ornate gates of Greenwich’s grand mansions?
Yep. Many of our friends are part of the financial community there, and a lot of the sub-plots and characters in the books are stories I’ve picked up and drawn (and altered) from our life there. Still, THE DARK TIDE is not a tell-all. Not my kind of book. But I think people who know Greenwich will recognize the place.
There’s a great line in THE DARK TIDE about “Billionaires ruining it for millionaires” – tell us more…and tell us why the concept is so intriguing to your working-class protagonist, Ty Hauck.
Well, it’s not my own line, but it’s one that people feel here. The well-heeled, calm world suddenly ripped apart by people building gated castles, with huge in-home theaters and heli-pads. One thing I’ve learned is that there’s rich—and then there’s VERY RICH—and you don’t quite know them apart until you see it. The idea of Ty Hauck, as you say, an educated, not unworldly, but still “blue collar” guy, who goes up against forces much larger than he is, not backing down, is one of the driving elements of the book. The idea of these powerful “unapproachable” people who are brought down by an ordinary man (as James Patterson wrote about in JESTER and LIFEGUARD) is one of my favorite themes.
Greenwich detective Ty Hauck will be a continuing character in future novels. What qualities does he possess that make you want to revisit this character in future books?
He’s dogged, persistent; he possesses a true, inner sense of right from wrong. And he’s willing to put his life on the line to defend that. At the same time, he’s tender and caring and has a good sense of humor and is a great dad, yet his life has been touched by tragedy. He’s slowly had to re-learn how to give himself over to someone again. To me, he’s a knight, and he’s prepared go on his own “quest” to defend the people he loves.
THE DARK TIDE features a strong heroine – as in your previous novel, THE BLUE ZONE. How do you manage to weave a true, resonant female perspective in your novels?
Beats me—I’m drawn to the theme of a woman growing from weakness into empowerment and strength, who breaks through doubt and fear to perform the heroic acts of the story. There is nothing sexier to me. (Maybe other than dark hair and glasses.)
Family traumas are pivotal plot devices in your novels. Why are readers so drawn to these kinds of storylines?
They are the universal stories which illuminate the day-to-day and provide the true, resonant richness of life. They are the stuff of all great myths. Behind all good fiction—even genre fiction—are these myths and leitmotifs which ring true, no mater who is reading–which inform character and fire up the heart. The murders and chase scenes all have a way of coming and going. But the betrayal of a daughter by her most-admired father or a husband’s deception of his wife, hiding a world she has never known, is the stuff that lingers in the soul long after the last page is turned. Of course, Harold Bloom has not asked me yet to weigh in on this!
In your “previous life,” you were in what you like to call the rag trade — do you think your work in the clothing industry gives you a more tactile feel for writing fiction which appeals to a wide range of consumers?
No. But I’m the only thriller writer to use the word “chintz” in one of my books.
You feature financial intrigue in both of your first two books–writing about people of great wealth and apparent success, who turn out to be agents of deception and betrayal. Do you know individuals like this? Is there something in your own background that is familiar with this personality type? How do your research these phenomena?
In my past life in business, I was a member of a worldwide management organization, and, in my own local Greenwich chapter, several of the most successful” shining stars” were disgraced and brought down in CEO scandals. Some even served significant prison time. My own father, a successful and charismatic guy, was brought down by his own self-destructiveness. I’ve seen my own family apparel company, once on the NYSE, crash and burn in one of the first of the public financial scandals. So I guess I’ve seen a lot of this stuff through the years. And the thing that eats at me most is the hypocrisy and self-importance that always seems to accompany examples of great success, which in many cases, turns out to have been built on a lie. My dad used to say, “You’re never as smart as they think you are when you are on top. Nor ever as dumb as they call you when things fail.” It’s a good life lesson.
Reading THE DARK TIDE, and THE BLUE ZONE, we wonder how much of these stories are drawn from drawn from your life?
Well, everyone thinks because my wife’s a yoga teacher (and pretty, and with a good heart) that Karen in THE DARK TIDE was based on her, but in fact–in the interests of full transparency– I based her character a little bit on the mom in the TV drama “Friday Night Lights” who I have a huge crush on. I do have a daughter a bit like Kate in THE BLUE ZONE, but so far I haven’t disappointed her the way Kate’s fictional father did! However, there is, in fact, a dog named Tobey– just as barky and incredibly annoying. Visit my website for proof of that…
With a recently-announced agreement that has you writing nine books through 2015 with William Morrow…we have to ask, what’s Andrew Gross writing next?
No clue–but thank God, so far it always seems to flow when it has to!