IndieView with Howard Kaplan, author of The Damascus Cover

The novel was originally published by a major publisher then amazingly long in the dust bin and out of print, a feature film adaptation was made starring Jonathan Rhy Meyers and Sir John Hurt one of his last films, for worldwide release in the spring of 2018.

Howard Kaplan – 12 September 2017

The Back Flap

In a last ditch effort to revive his career, washed out agent Ari Ben-Sion accepts a mission he never would have 30 years ago, to smuggle a group of Jewish children out of the Damascus ghetto. Or so he thinks.

In Damascus, a beautiful American photographer, Kim, seems to be
falling in love with Ari, but she is asking too many questions. His
communication equipment disappears. His contact never shows up. The
operation is only hours away and everything seems awry. Desperate to succeed, Ari might risk everything. Even his life.

About the book

What is the book about?

The book is a misdirection.  A beaten down Israeli spy faces the choice of being put to pasture or a mission beneath his stature, smuggling a group of Jewish children out of the Damascus ghetto.  However, the head of the Israeli Secret Service has another operation running simultaneously of which Ari is unaware though he’s an integral part of it. 

When did you start writing the book?

I started writing the book in 1975 when I was 25.

How long did it take you to write it?

The first draft took me nine months of continuous work.  I typically produce about 5 double-spaced pages a day

Where did you get the idea from?

When I was 21, I had been an exchange student in Jerusalem.  A friend suggested we fly to Egypt and wave an Israeli flag in front of the pyramids and sell the photos to Life Magazine.  This was before peace with Egypt.  We got to the Egyptian Embassy in Cyprus and were denied visas for Egypt.  So we flew to Beirut which did not require an advance visa and from there traveled to Damascus.  We attempted to enter the Jewish Quarter of Damascus and were followed by secret police.  This formed the starting point for the novel.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

All of it and none of it.  I did not know if I could actually write a novel, did not really believe I could so I just stopped asking myself that question and forged ahead.

What came easily?

I enjoyed doing the research for the descriptions of Damascus and it was easy to put my characters in their path.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

I was a Freshman at Berkeley in 1968 and by time I graduated in 1972, I felt burnt out.  So what I did, is transmute the tiredness I felt, albeit at 22, into a burnt out man of middle age.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

I’ve always favored John LeCarre and the American suspense writer, Charles McCarry.  For pure style and verve, I like T.C. Boyle.  I’m beginning to read Tim Tigner.

Do you have a target reader?

Not really.  I find people of various ages and both sexes fond of my books.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

My process is write six days a week without fail.  To keep it going.  I found early on friends didn’t take me seriously and whenever off work wanted to go to breakfast or spend the day at the beach.  I turned down everybody, always.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

I think outlining is very valuable and I don’t do it extensively enough.  I heard John Irving speak once and was amazed and impressed that he spent a year or years outlining everything in minute detail.  I’m too restless and in fact the major twist in The Damascus Cover came to me only after I was two-thirds through it.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

I kept going.  John le Carre writes in the mornings and edits that work in the afternoons.  I think there’s a lot to be said for that.  I guess if I look at it I’m afraid I won’t like it and then run for the hills.

Did you hire a professional editor?

The novel was originally published by a major publisher then amazingly long in the dust bin and out of print, a feature film adaptation was made starring Jonathan Rhy Meyers and Sir John Hurt one of his last films, for worldwide release in the spring of 2018.  In 2014, I’d long had the rights back, I self-published the book as an Indie Release.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

I wrote this book before computers and before I had any money.  So I made pen edits on the page and in the end I had to type over the whole book.  I played Cat Stevens’ Tea for the Tillerman album over and over as I typed to mesmerize myself to keep my fingers flying.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

In 1976 I submitted my work to an agent who took it and sold it to Dutton

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

The film adaptation was a fluke. My old agent had long retired.  A director had asked a friend of his if she knew any Middle East novels and she took mine down from her shelf.  He and I met for coffee and we signed the deal, no lawyers, no agents.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

My indie cover is great, even better than the original Dutton one.  I hired a graphic artist to do it and it was not expensive.  I often see Indie Books with mediocre covers.  This is a huge mistake. BookBub has selected this Indie edition twice as their Action and Adventure selection, a lot has to do with the cover.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

Mostly winging it.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

You have to be willing to spend a lot of time on social media promotion, writing reviewers, posing on your Facebook Author Page or a website.  There are 700,000 Indie Books published a year and 300,000 from traditional publishers.  It’s work to stand out.

About You

Where did you grow up?

Los Angeles

Where do you live now?

Los Angeles.  I travel a lot but have always returned home.  As I write this my 98-year-old father called and said he wants to have lunch.  He wants to tell me his plans for when he can no longer play bridge and has nothing to do all day.  He plans better than I do.

What would you like readers to know about you?

I’m grateful Indie publishing exists so that writers can easily have their vision in print.

End of Interview:

For more from Howard follow him on Twitter or like his Facebook page.

Get your copy of The Damascus Cover from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

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