Friday, April 23, 2010

Kill ing Castro Virtual Book Tour

With us today is David Pereda, chatting about the second book in his fascinating Havanna series. For a chance to win what promises to be an intriguing read, leave a comment.
Welcome, David. Tell us how the creative process works for you.

“Where do you get your ideas?” I’m frequently asked.
The question always stumps me. Generally, I give a politically correct answer like “from everyday life” or “from places I’ve been to and things I’ve seen” or “from my own experience with a little help from the Internet”—and move on quickly to the next question. The truthful answer is that I don’t know.
So I decided to do a little research into my own creative process to share with the readers of this blog, and I selected my own Havana Series of thrillers as the centerpiece.
I don’t know, exactly, when I started writing the first book of the series. I can tell you, however, how the idea germinated on my mind. My ex-wife was a successful plastic surgeon, and, thanks to her, I was able to witness several complex surgeries. Since I was born in Cuba – write about something you know, remember – I started thinking, “Why not a thriller focused on a face-disguising plastic surgery to Fidel Castro?”
Once my mind had grasped the original concept, as well as its political implications, I started asking myself dozens – nay, hundreds – of “What if…” questions. “What if Fidel Castro was terribly ill?” “What if he wanted to leave the country and retire elsewhere?” “What if a member of the CIA switched identities with Castro to steer the country back to democracy?”
This process went on for quite a while, with each question carrying me further into the idea, until I had the entire concept worked out and an outline of the basic plot.
Then I started the same process with my main characters. “What if my central character was the plastic surgeon who did the surgery?” At that point in the process, I was stomped. I knew Castro wouldn’t trust just anyone, and least of all an American doctor, so I developed a critical “What if.”
“What if the plastic surgeon was Cuban-born?” Again I was stumped. How did I get him to Cuba? And here I came up with another critical “What if”, one that gave my story a great dramatic arc. “What if when the surgeon abandoned Cuba, he left his girlfriend pregnant with the son he always wanted but his late wife could never have?”
That led me to the next “What if.” “What if his childhood friend, a CIA agent Raymond hadn’t seen in thirty years, popped in his life to tell him his son is dying of Cancer and wants to meet his dad before he dies?”
And so on. Get the picture?
One of the most interesting anecdotes about the book is how I came up with the character of the beautiful but ruthless female assassin, Marcela.
I wasn’t happy with the first draft. The basic story of the widowed doctor lured to Cuba after thirty years to perform plastic surgery to Fidel Castro, in the process rekindling an affair with the childhood sweetheart he left behind and meeting the son he never knew, was interesting but plain vanilla. I felt that it lacked excitement and needed a counter-point subplot. So I came up with another “What if” question. “What if Raul Castro sent an assassin after the doctor?”
I developed a male assassin named Marcial and stuck him in the book. But I felt no empathy for Marcial. He was a mean lump, lacking energy and excitement. Marcial gave me writer’s block. One day, commiserating with my wife during dinner about my problems with Marcial, she posed to me a great “What if” question. “What if you made Marcial a woman called Marcela?”
And, suddenly, I had an epiphany. The character of Marcela exploded in my imagination. I could see the entire storyline, in vivid detail, in front of my eyes. It was an incredible moment. Marcela would be like Halle Berry on steroids but with yellow eyes, a lethal professional killer but with a strict religious and moral code. I wrote the rest of the first book of the series in three months of furious writing.
That first book, Havana: Top Secret, led me to the next, Havana: Killing Castro, and to the next, Havana: Twin Powers, which I am writing now.
Of course, throughout the process of writing each book in the series, new scenes and characters came to me – and those were based on my own experiences. I have been blessed by the gods of writing who have given me the opportunity to travel around the world for work and pleasure – which has provided the authenticity of locales and people you find in my books. I have been to all the places I describe.
All my characters are based on real people, although not on a one-on-one basis. I’d say 70% of any one of my characters is a composite of various characters I have met around the world. The other 30% is my imagination.
So ask me again that question, “Where do you get your ideas?”
I still don’t know. Is it magic, perhaps?
And now...the blurb and excerpt from KILLING CASTRO


When an old fisherman is gunned down on a Mexican beach, prominent Miami surgeon Raymond Peters becomes the prime suspect. The dead fisherman is believed to be Fidel Castro whom Dr. Peters had helped disguise through clandestine plastic surgery on a trip to Cuba two years earlier. But is the body really that of the Cuban leader? In order to save his own life, the beleaguered physician must solve the murder, find the killers and retrieve a mysterious journal. And this has to be done while outwitting a sensual but ruthless assassin named Marcela, sent by Castro’s brother Raul.


In three days, Marcela had been able to locate the suspected killers. And
like the experienced predator that she was, she had selected her first target,
the weakest link: the stocky man named Mauricio. He came to the Versailles
for coffee every afternoon at around three p.m.
Today she would make contact.
Mauricio was there when she sashayed around the corner. She
skipped past the cars cramming the Versailles’s parking lot and took a
place standing next to him at the counter of the crowded coffee bar. The
dark-haired waitress looked at her and posed a silent question with her
arched eyebrows. She held a steaming pot in each hand, one filled with
coffee and the other with boiled milk.
“Un cafesito,” Marcela said. “And a guava pastry.”
“Con leche?”
“Coming right up.”
Marcela felt Mauricio giving her the eye, but she pretended not to
notice. She had stuffed herself into tight yellow latex pants and a white
sleeveless cotton blouse with a plunging neckline that left little to the
imagination. She wore minimalist dental-floss panties, so her buttocks
showed nice and round, and no brassiere. To bring out the color of her
eyes, she had combed her hair back and tied it with a bright yellow
band. Marcela knew she looked good.
She was dressed to kill.
The waitress put coffee and pastry on the counter, and Marcela,
smiling, turned to Mauricio and caught him staring at her. “Pass the
sugar, please?”
“Sure.” Blushing, he placed the glass sugar container in front of her.
“Never seen you around here before.”
Marcela poured sugar into the small cup and stirred it with a
teaspoon before answering. “Never seen you here either, so that makes
two of us.”
“I come here every day.”
“Good for you.”
Marcela took a bite of her guava pastry and chewed. For effect, she
breathed in deeply and kept her back straight. God, she looked good,
and she knew it. She had a terrific and fit body, with large, pointed
breasts, long legs and a muscular ass. Cuban men liked nice asses, and
she had one of the best.
Mauricio was looking at it right now.
Marcela let him ogle a little longer, build up expectations, before
talking to him again. “I was living in New York. I just moved down to
Miami. Too cold for me there.”
“How do you like it here?”
“I don’t know yet. I’ve been here a week, and I haven’t been
“Why not?”
“I don’t have a car, and I don’t know anybody here.”
“You know me now.” Marcela noticed how Mauricio puffed his chest
when he said that and knew the fish had taken the bait and was on the
hook. “And I have a car.”
Marcela cocked her head and inspected him up and down. “You
“Let me check your hands.”
Marcela took Mauricio’s hands, one at a time, and checked the fingers
for evidence of wedding rings. Oh, the human touch! She let her fingers
linger a while before removing them. Mauricio had goose bumps.
“I guess not.”
“How about you?” Mauricio coughed.
Marcela put her arms on her hips. “Do I look married to you?”
Mauricio cleared his throat. “No boyfriend, either?”
“That’s the reason I left New York. I broke up with him. He used to
get drunk and beat me.”
Mauricio scrunched up his face sympathetically. “Sorry to hear that.”
Marcela gave him her alarmed face, squinting eyes and all. “Say,
you’re not one of these men who like to beat up women, are you?”
“No, no,” Mauricio mumbled. “Of course not.”
“Or one of these sexual predators from Miami I hear about all the
time. My girlfriend Elisa warned me. She told me there’s a rapist on
Calle Ocho who has killed dozens of women. Is that true?”
“It is, but the police caught him already.”
Marcela looked directly into Mauricio’s eyes while Mauricio tried
hard not to look at her breasts. Men are so predictable.
“No, you don’t look like a sexual predator.”
“You have beautiful eyes.” Mauricio fidgeted. “Yellow. I’ve never
seen eyes that color before. They’re odd.”
You haven’t seen anyone like me before. “Is that the best pickup line you
“No,” Mauricio blurted out. “I mean, it’s no line.”
“You’re not trying to pick me up then? I thought you were going to
offer to show me Miami?”
“No, I mean yes.”
Marcela placed a hand on Mauricio’s arm, resting on the counter. “I
was just teasing. When?”
“When are you going to take me out and show me Miami? I’m so
tired of seeing only the four walls of my room.”
Mauricio hit his cup with his elbow, sending a small wave of coffee
splashing to the counter. “Whenever you want.”
Marcela was getting excited, imagining what was coming. Her
nipples became erect. She leaned forward so Mauricio could glance
inside her blouse and feast his eyes on her breasts. Time to yank the line
and reel the fish in. She batted her eyelashes.
“You have anything planned for tonight?”


Kristabel Reed said...

I love the 'what if' aspect of this! How cool to add in local flavor, history and a great action story.

Congrats on the publication of Havana: Top Secret and Killing Castro (love that cover BTW!)

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Fascinating interview and great excerpt! I've always had a thing for Fidel Castro!

Sandra Cox said...

Hi Kristabel. Hi Julia:)
It sounds like a great read doesn't it?

Unknown said...

From a man who says he 'doesn't know' where he gets his ideas, I would like to have your imagination. And Marcela? I love strong female characters

David Pereda said...

Thank you Kristabel, Julia, Amarinda and Sandra. You're much too kind. It's been a pleasure being on Sandra's blog. And Amarinda? I love strong female characters too, in books and in real life. Best to all.