Maybe it was Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. Maybe it was David Seltzer’s The Omen. All I know I had to have my own monastery. So I created one.
The small scene in Incognito took me quite a while to construct. I was not only writing the story, I was playing medieval architect.
Photo shows the Monte Cassino monastery in Italy. Reminds you of one of those virtual combat games like Counter Strike and Assassin’s Creed and whatever else that I am too old fashion to know.
Many of you know this, but I’ll just mention it anyway.They didn’t built monasteries thousands of feet above ground not for mystical reasons or in their attempt to reach God. They built them high to protect monks from marauders.
Saint Peter’s square, Vatican City. Almost every religious thriller novel and movie about the Vatican will have an image of it. It has become the standard.
In fact, authors have covered almost every inch of the Vatican that’s its really tough to produce original scenes and ideas.
But I had a good creative director when I used to work a short while at an ad agency. I noticed how he saw things differently even if something had been overused. It took me a while to see how he sees things, and then an idea hit me.
I saw something at the square that jumped out at me. I realized how this could work for INCOGNITO. As with my first novel, Smokescreen, expect the unexpected.
I’ve been asked this question a lot: What inspired me to want to be an author? For some authors, it’s the case of reading another author’s novel. For others, it could have transpired after attending a book festival or meet-the-author session. There are plenty of reasons. A life experience could also be a catalyst to push you to want to pick up the pen – well, keyboard, these days… at least for most of us. I, for one, have never understood my own reason. But I would attribute some author-themed movies as having a strong influence on my decision to pick up the storytelling pen. Here’s a few of my favorites:
Tom Selleck plays a mystery novelist Phil Blackwood who is having trouble finding inspiration, so he goes to the courthouse to observe real criminals in action. There he
encounters a gorgeous immigrant charged with a gruesome murder. Convinced she’s not guilty, Selleck furnishes Nina with an alibi and a place to stay. But, as the two begin to fall in love, Phil finds he has grave doubts about her innocence.
Even though Robin Masters was never seen, his mysterious persona was inspiring enough to want me to pick up the pen while Tom Selleck (Thomas Magnum) went about solving cases.
Author! Author! is a 1982 American comedy drama film starring Al Pacino, Dyan Cannon, and Tuesday Weld. The plot concerns a Broadway playwright trying to solve his family and relationship troubles while trying to get a new play into production. My favorite line in the movie: “We’re all depress in this family. We will all stay depress — together.”
Stand by Me
After the death of a friend, a writer (Richard Dreyfuss) recounts a boyhood journey to find the body of a missing boy. The finale scene where Dreyfuss types out the last sentence in his manuscript was meaningful. He wrote: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
One of my top favorites, a cunning and resourceful housewife Roseanne Barr vows revenge on her husband when he begins an affair with a wealthy romance novelist played by Meryl Streep. I was rooting for Streep. Funny as hell.
The life of a Depression-era family in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains is the subject of this wholesome series. The TV series is seen from the point of view of eldest son John Boy, who becomes a novelist.
A writer (Johnny Depp) is accused of plagiarism by a strange man, who then starts haunting him for “justice.” Yikes!
Michael Nouri plays a Detroit taxi driver with aspirations of becoming a crime writer. He picks up a woman (Joanna Pacula) who turns out to be on the run from murderer.
The movie, adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name, revolves around a writer returning to his hometown to discover the citizens are turning into vampires. Freaked me out, this one.
I didn’t set out to write INCOGNITO, my second thriller novel. I accidentally stumbled upon it. The experience was bizarre, I tell you. It started after my encounter with two different women in Switzerland.
The first story took place in Geneva. I was looking out my hotel room window one cold night when I noticed a tall, large woman in black standing stiffly under a street lamp. Later, I decided to go downstairs to talk to the hotel receptionist in an adjoining office as he had invited me for coffee. I took the stairs instead of the ancient traction elevator since my room was only one floor down.
Descending halfway, I saw the same woman in the lobby. She glared at me. There was no one else. I realized she was mentally challenged, but her behavior gave me the creeps. I ran back up and locked myself in the room. Something about her reminded me of a character in a horror movie. And how the hell did she get in? Every guest had a password to open the digital door lock. She was not a guest.
In the second story, I was hiking up a snowy mountain in Saint Moritz. There, I met another woman. I asked her for directions as I wasn’t sure of my surroundings. She then introduced herself and told me she visited the alps regularly for inner peace. She added that she followed a certain religion although she was not born into it. She also complained about how Switzerland was no longer the same. She even denigrated the country’s politicians and bankers. Then, with a finger pointing at Italy, she ranted about the Vatican.
All this while, I was praying the woman wouldn’t ask me about my faith. I was concerned she might also have issues with it. I got the impression she had issues period. She was carrying a hiking pole unlike me. I was worried she might get a bit creative with the stick. If I had to defend myself, it’ll be my word against hers since there were only the two of us on that mountain section. How fast could I run with snow boots on, anyway? But the idea for a story had transpired. Some 3,000 feet up high on the Swiss alps, I suddenly realized I was looking at the vista of a new thriller novel!
Then I visited Italy, which gave me more ideas about what to include in my manuscript. It was like picking fruits in the garden. I had visited several other countries that I felt would be relevant to the plot and theme. So I began crafting with all the ingredients in the pot. Trial and error, rewrites, back and forth… and then it was all done.
In weaving the tale, I wanted a cocktail thriller set on the international scene without the usual players. No CIA, no Mi6… none of those kind of people. I wanted something different – something fresh. So I added a few new elements that in my view sounded plausible. I am happy with the outcome. Honestly? I didn’t think I would ever finish writing the manuscript. But I did. Phew!
I’ll skip the boring details about how I went about writing the story. Every author does the same thing. We research (lots of research), fact check, interview people, make observations — that kind of thing. Nothing glamorous about that. But I knew the story had to be different
Well, I hope you’ll read INCOGNITO when it’s released. And yes, l couldn’t help it, the novel does contain a secret message. Please don’t tell when it’s finally revealed to you … that’s the fun part about sharing a secret.
Over and out.
p.s. A special thanks to Jörg-Thomas Weidtke who worked at Hotel Stille, Saint Moritz for letting me take as much chocolate as I want from the bowl at the reception desk.
From a press release issued by the publisher…
PENSACOLA, Fla., September 6, 2016
World Castle Publishing is proud to unveil the cover for Khaled Talib’s highly anticipated thriller, INCOGNITO, scheduled to be released next year. Early buzz from thriller fans across the globe and social media platforms is anticipating this novel to be a huge success.
The book cover’s overlaying fiery red ruby communicates the intense theme that brings together incongruent elements in a striking finish. It personifies a story that is mysterious, suspenseful, action-filled, and tumultuous all at the same time.
The author’s new protagonist, Ayden Tanner, is a former British SAS commando who happens to be officially dead. He and his crew are dispatched by a covert division of the international hacker group, Anonymous, to find the pope, who is missing. In the story, Anonymous has created a covert division called The League of Invisible Knights, which aims to bring about the triumph of good over evil.
INCOGNITO was inspired by the author’s chance encounter with several individuals and visits to places during trips to Switzerland, Italy and Istanbul.
1)The novel was supposed to be set in a dystopian era.
2)The American ambassador, Michael Dexter, was initially a Caucasian. The African-American was another CIA agent named “Charlie Brown.” The characters were merged into one to simplify the plot.
3)The ambassador’s mansion was the actual property of the author’s grandfather.
4)An action scene in Manhattan, New York, was removed because it was deemed “redundant.”
5)The protagonist Jethro Westrope (Jet West) was initially known as James Gent, a brand for a toiletry company.
6)The protagonist initially drove a Pagani Zonda. It was changed to an MX-5 to accommodate his journalist salary.
7)The cat described in a Cairo scene is based on an actual character.
8)The secret underground base in Singapore is inspired by an actual location.
9)The mysterious island with the citadel is inspired by the old Dutch fortress, Fort Belgica, located in the Moluccas islands, Indonesia.
10)The novel is riddled with secret messages.
Shhh… don’t tell anybody.
All these years while I was writing and rewriting my manuscript, that small coffee cup kept me company. I never noticed it until now. I swear, I had nothing to do with the book’s cover design. It was all the publisher’s idea, and I never saw it until the last minute. Spooky.
During my years in Cairo, Egypt, I discovered, from speaking to many people in the business of business — including policemen, military officers, and Bedouins in the Sinai area — about the intricate tunnels built by Hamas and other Palestinian groups.
Due to the siege and blockade, the tunnels serve as a means of livelihood. The smuggling of goods from food, cigarettes to military equipment is unbelievable. If you can’t picture it, imagine the underground world built by Mr. Toad’s critter friends in The Wind in the Willows.
In writing my novel, I created a tunnel route in which a messenger travels from Egypt to Palestine before connecting to Jerusalem. This is one of my favorite scenes where I tried to invoke the sinister and tense atmosphere to give the reader an exact feel of what it would be like to be a Palestinian trying to infiltrate Israeli borders. The question is, did I imagine the route, did someone draw it for me or was I given a tour?