Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Author Interview: Gary Lindberg, Author of The Shekinah Legacy

Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to welcome back author Gary Lindberg, for day two of his virtual book event for his novel, The Shekinah Legacy!

How long have you been a writer?

I've been writing since I was a few years old, waking my mother up in the middle of the night to scribble down my musings. Since college (at the University of Minnesota) I have been a professional writer, primarily in training and marketing. In 1982 I went into the entertainment industry and co-authored the screenplay for the Paramount Pictures release That Was Then, This Is Now, starring Morgan Freeman and Emilio Estevez. I also produced the movie. My recent thriller, The Shekinah Legacy, is my first novel.

Do you have a "day job," or is being an author your career?

I still work as a communications professional and business consultant, developing marketing plans,  creating ads and commercials, rebuilding brands, and helping start-up organizations move forward with a strategic vision and plan. 

What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer.

When I was very young, my father showed me his collection of first edition Tarzan novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I was hooked immediately. I wanted to write great adventures like that. So I started ... and tried hard ... and found out how difficult it is to write good stories well. Over the years I continued to hone my craft in creative writing, and finally published my first novel in 2012.

Please give a brief description/storyline about The Shekinah Legacy.

The Shekinah Legacy is on one hand a touching human drama about a star international news journalist, Charlotte Ansari, and her difficult relationship with her brilliant but challenging 13-year-old Asperger's son. The story becomes a riveting thriller as the two become involved in a dangerous attempt to solve the disappearance of Charlotte's mother thirty years earlier, and to save the woman's life after she resurfaces in a cryptic email begging for help. The coded message catapults Charlotte and her son on a dangerous mission to India and Kashmir to find the only secrets that can save the old woman's life. Their search uncovers the astonishing truth about Charlotte's mother and disrupts the plans of powerful, unseen forces. 

The secrets that are at the heart of this thriller are heartfelt elements of faith for Christians around the world - so heartfelt that many people will risk their lives to protect the 'truth' of the secrets as they see it. In this provocative novel, two religious relics reveal their true power to influence the world as forces on every side - the CIA, Mossad, Vatican intelligence, Evangelicals, Islamic terrorists, and hired assassins - all battle for possession of the objects for very different purposes. In The Shekinah Legacy, author Lindberg uses the form of the thriller to explore the limits and perils of belief. 

What was the inspiration for this story?

While absentmindedly surfing the Web one evening, I came upon a website about a shrine in Srinigar, Kashmir, that purportedly held a secret that, if true, would blow the lid off traditional Christian beliefs. The facts are, of course, open to interpretation, but I started wondering - what if they could be scientifically proven? I knew I had the makings of a powerful thriller here. I couldn't let it go until the story worked itself out in my mind. The shrine exists. But the story is fiction.

How did it feel to have your first book published?

At first, exhilarating. But then, very quickly, terrifying. What if everyone hated it? This was my first novel, after all. Since then, of course, it's received many rave reviews and was the Most Popular thriller on Amazon, and the #2 Bestseller on Amazon in April, 2012. 

Do you write books for a specific genre?

My first published novel was a thriller, but the first novel I wrote was historical fiction. These are the two categories that appeal to me. I hope to publish a second thriller and my historical novel later this year.

What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?

I loved Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow because of the masterful blend of characterizations and imaginative storytelling. And of course the original Tarzan series of novels, which started me on my writer's journey. I also very much liked John Updike's Rabbit books for their powerful writing. And just about anything by Nabokov. I guess I'm drawn by literary writing, as none of these are thrillers. Strong writing is the appeal. 

Do you have a special "spot/area" where you like to do your writing?

I write all over the place. I have an office in my basement that offers the solitude I need from time to time. But I've worked on my books in the car while traveling, at other people's homes (I can be quite a bore, I'm sure), on airplanes, in coffee shops - you name it. Still, I prefer my home office because all my research materials are there. 

How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?

The ideas for my books usually come out of research, or material I've stumbled upon. My books tend to deal with the power of belief to cause people to take unexpected actions. I've discovered it doesn't really matter if the facts are true - it's what a person "believes" to be true that's important.

When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?

As a professional business writer, I learned to write on demand. I usually set myself deadlines for completing a certain amount of writing in a specific time frame. If I waited for inspiration, I'd probably never write. The act of writing itself is the inspiration I need. I don't think I've ever experienced "writer's block." I just start writing, and all of a sudden the ideas are flowing.

What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?

I find great pleasure when my characters start to talk back to me and refuse to do what I planned for them to do. The more this happens, the more I know that I'm on to something good. With all of my books so far, I've started out with a general flow of the story in my head, but then the characters have veered off and totally surprised me many times. What fun! To be surprised at one's own story. I get to be the first "reader" of my novels. 

What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?

I love reading, music, and travel. To me, travel is not only pleasurable, but presents a lot of good material and characters for my books. I could not have written The Shekinah Legacy if I had not traveled around the world and spent a great deal of time in India. The people and places I encountered there show up in my first thriller. 

What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?

To ignore the old axiom that you should only "write what you know." What fun is that? If I can't research and learn new stuff, and then write about it, I'll give up writing. The best part of writing is the learning. 

What is your definition of success as a writer?

Having the ability to spend most of one's time writing.

Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us?

My second thriller is a sequel to The Shekinah Legacy. Readers told me they couldn't figure out how a sequel was possible, so of course I took that as a challenge.

In the first book, Charlotte Ansari is on a treasure hunt while pursued by all manner of villains. But she is protected by a "Guardian Angel," who is actually a professional assassin hired to keep her alive. She doesn't like to admit it, but she falls for the guy. It's probably the only authentic relationship she's ever had.

In the sequel, the assassin is ordered to, well, assassinate Charlotte because her investigative reporting has gotten too close to his employer's secrets. 

This book, not yet titled, will be released late in 2012. I'm terribly excited about it, as I think the story is even stronger than the first thriller, and the characters go through many different kinds of crises. I'm almost two-thirds through the drafting right now. 

Thank you Gary for allowing me the opportunity to interview you on Jersey Girl Book Reviews, and for taking the time to share some things about you and your writing career with us!

About The Author:

Gary Lindberg traveled around the world to research this story. As a writer and film producer/director, he has won over one hundred major national and international awards. He is the co-writer and producer of the Paramount Pictures feature film That Was Then, This Is Now starring Emilio Estevez and Morgan Freeman. The Shekinah Legacy is his first published novel. He lives in Minnesota wit his wife, Gloria, and his Jack Russell terrier Fletcher.


BUY THE BOOK: The Shekinah Legacy

Virtual Book Tour Event: On Friday and Saturday, July 6-7, 2012, author Gary Lindberg participated in a two day virtual book event with an Author Guest Post and Author Interview on Jersey Girl Book Reviews.

Book Description: The Shekinah Legacy

In this controversial Amazon best-selling thriller, international cable TV journalist Charlotte Ansari and her Asperger's son are caught literally in the crossfire of history when terrorists, the CIA, Mossad and the Vatican all converge in a pulse-pounding search for relics that could forever change the balance of power in the world.

Three decades ago, Charlotte's mother suddenly vanished with no trace. The mystery was never solved. Then suddenly, on the same day that Charlotte's home is attacked by terrorists, her son receives an email from the grandmother that he has never known. The coded message catapults Charlotte and her son on a dangerous mission to India and Kashmir to find the only objects that can save the old woman's life. Unfortunately, Charlotte and her autistic son don't know what they are looking for.

The Shekinah Legacy is a thriller in the tradition of Dan Brown, Steve Berry and James Rollins. In this provocative novel, author Gary Lindberg uses the form of the thriller to explore the limits and perils of belief.

Book Excerpt: The Shekinah Legacy

                                                    Chapter 2

The convoy of four military vehicles grumbles out of the Green Zone with Charlotte and Curt in the third vehicle, an up-armored Humvee. Charlotte Ansari peers out of the rectangular side window as the sepia sandstorm chokes the groaning engines and grinds off the desert camo. It is already over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and sweat bubbles up on Charlotte’s face and neck. Inside the Humvee it’s closer to 120 degrees. She glances at Curt, who is busy shooting dim footage of a ten-year-old with one leg. The boy is steering a wobbly bicycle alongside the convoy into the teeth of the gritty storm.

Human interest stuff.

Bud, the Marine driver, and Chopper (who is “riding shotgun,” according to Curt) are rudely silent. Charlotte knows they blame her for this dangerous foray into the nightmare gauntlet of Baghdad streets, a mission that puts a dozen soldiers at risk for no military purpose.

Instinctively Charlotte pulls her loose black veil protectively around her eyes though the driving sand can’t penetrate the thick glass of the window. She starts to rehearse her questions for the Siyyid. “Is there any hope in your mind for peace with the Sunnís?” and “Is it inevitable that Iraq will be divided into Shi’ite, Sunní and Kurdish partitions?”

Curt is zooming in on the face of the youngster on the bicycle who has managed to keep up with the convoy while pumping the pedals with one leg. In closeup, Curt watches the boy pluck a cell phone from his pocket. Instead of punching buttons or putting the phone to his ear, the boy simply holds the device in his hand. And then stops.

Something is wrong here. Curt knows it. And then it dawns on him…

“Stop the truck!” he screams.

His voice is so loud that Bud squashes the brake pedal with his foot and the vehicle skids to a stop.

“Stop them all!” Curt yells.

Chopper turns angrily to Curt, snarling. “What the hell—”

“That boy…” Curt begins to say.

And then an IED explodes in a flaming ball of scrap metal and human flesh. The first two vehicles are torn apart. A Marine’s dismembered body slams into Bud’s windshield, cracking the blood-spattered glass. An axle from the second vehicle spears the radiator. Charlotte is thrown into Curt’s lap, slicing her head on the door.

Chopper holds a hand to a bloody eye and desperately radios for help.

Within seconds three Toyota pickups surround them. Bearded men in plaid shirts pour out of the vehicles waving machine guns. Bud pulls a pistol and starts to fire, but then Charlotte hears a rattle of machine gun fire. When she turns, Bud’s body is jerking with the impact of the bullets. Blood spurts onto her face. Hands wrench open Chopper’s door and Charlotte sees the flash of a knife, then the Marine’s neck begins to gush red.

She screams.

The back doors are torn open. She and Curt are dragged into the street. All she can hear now is laughter and Arabic cursing. She is kicked hard and her veil is stripped off. She can see Curt lying on the street, three rifles pointed at his head.

One of the men, a stout Iraqi with crooked teeth and a slashing scar across his cheek, kneels down to look at her face. “And who are you, riding in the American Humvee?” he asks in a thick accent.

The wind whips his dark hair as another man hands him the camera.

“Journalists!” he says. “Welcome to my country. Want an interview?” And then he laughs.

The one-legged boy steers his bicycle up to the stout Iraqi and hands him the cell phone. The man ruffles the boy’s hair and pats him on the back. He looks back at Charlotte, staring, then takes the woman’s chin in his sweaty hand to get a better look at her face.

“I know you,” the stout man says. “From the television!”

Charlotte glances away. Her celebrity seems little protection right now.

“You are lady from CCN—am I right? Charlotte something. I am great admirer of your work.”

The man says something to the others in Arabic and they all laugh.

The man turns back to Charlotte. “You are famous. And now I will be famous, too—the man who captured Charlotte something from CCN. They will pay a lot of money to get you back, Famous Woman.”

Charlotte is lifted to her feet. A quick glance reveals that all the soldiers in the fourth vehicle are dead. She and Curt are thrown into the back of a pick-up, hogtied, and blindfolded. With mad yelps and shots fired into the air, the insurgents clamber into their trucks and bolt the bloody scene.

The pick-up rumbles down rutted streets, bouncing over debris and bashing the bound bodies of Charlotte and Curt. After half-an-hour the journey is over. Bruised and bloodied from the turbulence of the ride, Charlotte and Curt are pulled from the truck bed and their feet are untied. Prodded by the sharp barrels of guns, they stagger sightlessly down a rocky walkway, careen through a door, and climb a tall stairway. Hands shove them into a room. They crash into a stone wall and slide to the floor, scraping their foreheads and shoulders.

Charlotte is dizzy with fear and pain. She can hear the sounds of punching and kicking, and she knows the men are working over her partner. Curt grunts with each blow and Charlotte can hear him vomit. The sharp, sour smell assaults her nostrils.

Suddenly her hair is yanked upward. Are they going to torture her, too?

A voice barks, “Famous Woman, I am going to watch CCN now. Maybe they will tell that you are now hostage. You see, I make you even more famous!” It’s the voice of the stout Iraqi, who laughs at his own joke.

But then he stops. In a bored tone he says, “But first, my men wish to welcome you to their home.”

Rough fingers begin to tear open her long-sleeved blouse and pull down her skirt. She starts to kick, striking one man in the face. The man screams painfully but the others laugh, apparently believing that pain inflicted by a woman is hilarious.

Strong hands restrain her legs and push up her bra to expose her breasts. Charlotte can feel the humid heat of someone’s breath on her skin, the prickly brush of a beard or moustache.

An Arabic phrase pops into her mind, an Iraqi tribal saying that had been taught her by a translator on a previous visit to Baghdad. At that time the phrase had made her laugh, it was so ridiculous. But the translator had urged her to remember it because, he said, in Iraq there would always be a time when all options were exhausted and it would be necessary to plead for protection.

“Ana bisharbic,” Charlotte says. “Ana bisharbic.” I am in your moustache. So silly! What a thing to say when you are about to be gang-raped by terrorists.

The room becomes quiet and still. She hears a slap, and then her legs are released. I am in your moustache, she thinks. Protect me. In Iraqi tribal tradition, if someone asks for your protection, it is shameful to refuse it.

She hears many footsteps and a door closing. She senses that the men have left. Her hands are still tied behind her back, but her feet are free. She twists her body to face the cool stone wall and presses her blindfold against it. The coarseness of the stone catches the cloth and she is able to lower her face, pulling the blindfold above her eyes. She turns so that her back is against the wall. At last she can see the room.

All their captors have left. There are three shuttered windows on the wall. Sunlight beams in from the edges. Curt lies unconscious on the floor. His face is bruised and puffy. Blood flows from his mouth, but he is breathing.

Sitting with her back against the wall, Charlotte lifts her butt off the floor and starts to wriggle her bound hands beneath her rump, but her arms are too short. She looks around the room. It is bare. Using her legs to push herself up the wall, she reaches a standing position. It feels good to stand. She feels more confident standing than sitting. She walks to the window. The shutters are on the outside, but the windows have glass. The room doesn’t seem to have been prepared for a kidnapping victim. But then again, these men probably hadn’t planned an abduction. They had just gotten lucky.

An idea occurs to her. She presses her buttocks against the glass of the nearest window. Hard. She hopes to break the glass but doesn’t want the sound to alert her captors. She pushes harder and hears a crackling sound. The glass has broken. Slowly, she starts to lower her body, hoping to ease the shards soundlessly to the floor. Inch by inch she slides downward. One of the shards digs painfully into her flesh. One piece of glass slips out and clanks brightly on the hard floor. Charlotte anxiously looks toward the door, trying to hear any approaching voices or footsteps.


She moves away from the window and turns to see a large broken splinter of glass still firmly lodged in the window. Perfect!

She stands again, her back to the window, and maneuvers her hands so that the edge of the shard is between her wrists. She starts to gently saw the cords that bind her wrists. It takes ten minutes, but finally her hands are free.

She pulls her bra down—amazing how this simple act helps to restore her composure—and rushes over to Curt. As she cradles his head, he begins to stir. Sighing, then groaning, he opens his swollen eyes.

“Are you all right, Luv?” he asks. “They did a number on me.”

“I’m okay,” she replies. “Do you think anything’s broken?”

He begins to move his body. Everything hurts, but as he tests his limbs and joints he decides that no bones are broken.

“Help me sit up, Luv, will ya? There, that’s better.”

“I think we can escape through that window,” Charlotte says. “If you can get that old body moving.”

Curt grimaces in pain. “I think you should do it yourself. There might be something busted inside of me that isn’t made of bone. I don’t feel so good.”

“Then we’ll just wait a bit.”

“No, you go. Get help.”

“In this neighborhood? I’m not leaving without you.”

Charlotte takes his hand. He is cold and shocky.

“Give me just a minute to think,” she says. “Wait here, okay?”

“Not goin’ anywhere right now, Luv. Let me know what you come up with. You’re the brains of the outfit.”

Charlotte stands and walks to the window. It’s a good twenty foot drop to the street below. Yelling for help certainly wouldn’t help—most of the people in this neighborhood are probably insurrectionists.

As she stares at the street, four men approach the wall and stand directly below the window. They are dressed in untucked plaid shirts that seem to be the official uniform of Iraqis. One of the men is pushing a cart covered by a rug. The men are whispering to each other.

Charlotte wonders if these are her captors, or perhaps more accomplices.

As she studies the men from above, she sees one of them whisk away the rug to reveal a cart filled with automatic weapons. In moves that seem well rehearsed, two of the men reach for the weapons and begin to move down the street.

Charlotte’s heart is pounding. What is going on?

A loud crashing sound, like a door being knocked down, makes her jump. Suddenly there are shouts and curses, but no shots. Then the sound of footsteps charging up the stairs.

Charlotte crouches against the wall. What is happening? She closes her eyes and whispers the one word that might give her comfort—her son’s name: Greg!

In the room below, the door crashes down and four bearded men enter. Two of them point machine guns around the room. One of the men, obviously the leader, points with a knife toward Curt. Two men race to the photographer’s side, lifting him up. The leader walks to Charlotte and kneels down. Charlotte’s eyes are still closed. She is shaking violently. A gentle hand strokes her cheek. She hears the words, “It’s all right, but we have to hurry now.”

Charlotte and Curt are rushed down the stairs. The stout Iraqi and seven others lie dead in the lower room. They seem to have been killed by knife wounds, not bullets. A nearly silent massacre.

A car pulls up at the doorway. Curt spies his video camera on the floor and grabs it before he and Charlotte are shoved into the back seat of the car. The leader of the team jumps into the front seat and the car roars away. The other three men simply begin walking down the street, casually blending into the city as if nothing had happened.

The team’s leader turns to look at Charlotte. “That was close,” he says. The man could be an Iraqi, but he has an American accent. “The time of kidnapping for ransom is past. They would have been instructed by higher-ups to kill you by evening.” “Who are you?” Charlotte asks. “Special Ops? CIA?”

The man turns to stare straight ahead.

“How did you find us?”

The man will say no more. Forty minutes later, Charlotte and Curt are dropped off outside the Green Zone. Their rescuers vanish into the disappearing light. Four marines rush to their side and escort them into the compound.

“Charlotte Ansari, right?” asks one of the Marines.

Charlotte nods.

“Damn lucky. Did they drop you off?”


“The bastards that killed your escort and took you?”

“You don’t know who rescued us?”

The Marine looks confused. He stares at Charlotte, speechless. Then he turns to Curt and sees the video camera in Curt’s hand. It is still wrapped in the baggie. “I’m afraid I’ll have to take this, sir. You’ll get it back.”

Curt shrugs. He removes the baggie and surrenders the camera. Then suddenly he clutches his abdomen. “Don’t feel so good,” he says. “I need a latrine. Now.”

The Marine points to a door about twenty feet away and Curt races to it. Inside he enters a stall and closes the door. He reaches into his pocket and removes a small cassette that he had removed from the camera on the way back to the Green Zone. He wraps the cassette in the baggie, tying it tightly, then drops the bagged cassette into the toilet tank. Curt had known the camera would be confiscated and the tape seized. The camera will be returned to him; of that he’s sure. But the tape, if he gave it up, would certainly disappear into the U.S. intelligence bureaucracy.

Curt emerges from the latrine. “Feel better now,” he says.

“We’ll be escorting both of you to the dispensary,” the Marine explains. “Follow me.”

Curt knows this routine, too. They’ll undress, put on hospital gowns, and during the physical examination their clothes will be thoroughly searched. If the video cassette were in his pocket, it would be lost forever.

Not this time, though.

The pudgy military doctor examining Charlotte is friendly but army-blunt. Looking at x-rays, he points to a blocky shape in Charlotte’s upper left chest area and asks, “What the hell is this? You’re too young for a pacemaker.”

“For chronic high blood pressure,” Charlotte says. “Drugs didn’t help.”

“My goddamn blood pressure’s been through the roof since I got to this hell hole. Wonder why. So what’d they stick into you?”

“Pulse generator. Electrically activates my baroreceptors to help control the blood pressure.”

“Really.” The doctor is impressed. “Does it work?”

“You took my blood pressure. You tell me.”

“Normal. Even after that scary shit you been through. Man, I’ve been in this hotbox too fuckin’ long. Medical technology’s passin’ me by while I saw off legs and stuff guts back into my boys. By the time I get back to the States I won’t be qualified to dump bed pans. Tough to get through airport security with that thing?”

“Got papers from my doctor. So how am I, doc?”

“Famous. All over the news. When one of CCN’s people gets plucked you can’t get away from the news. But I suppose you mean physically. You’ll live.”

“Thanks. Then I’d like to go home.”

“Okay then. Just one more stop.”


“You could call it that.”

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