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Monday, October 8, 2012

Sweat by Mark Gilleo (Author Interview / Book Review)

In association with Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Mark Gilleo, author of Sweat!

Author Interview

Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Mark!

How long have you been a writer?

I started writing in 2002.

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

I do have a day job. I am currently a financial planner. Prior to that, I spent a little over a decade as a product manager for internet applications, for a couple of well-known organizations. It is likely the average reader has used at least one of the applications I have worked on. 

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

My inspiration to become a writer struck from out-of-the-blue. I succumbed to this sudden urge to write a novel and a couple of months later I was on the beach reading the first draft of my first manuscript.

Please five a brief description/storyline about Sweat.

Sweat is about a US Senator, a businessman, a seamstress, a hit man, a spy, an arms dealer and a young man who is trying to tiptoe through a minefield to do the right thing. Sweat, examines the topic of sweatshops, and the shenanigans - and danger - that surround these operations. 

What was the inspiration for this story?

The inspiration from the book came from a conversation I overheard in Asia regarding a corporate executive who spent some time establishing manufacturing facilities for American corporations. At the time, I didn't think too much about the conversation, but it obviously struck in my subconscious mind. A few years later it was the seed for Sweat.

How did it feel to have your first book published?

It was cool.

Do you write books for a specific genre?

Not intentionally.

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

I like to think that I write commercial fiction. Although there are certainly "thriller" elements in my novels, they are not what I would consider "action packed." I have about ten books in my head and half of them are not pure "thrillers." When I think of good fiction, there are different things different writers do well. For example, Nelson DeMille, in my opinion, is the best at telling a story in the first person. A lot of his recent novels were written through the eyes of a single character, meaning that character was in every scene and he had to tell the story from a single point of view. It is something I would like to consider doing in the future, but I am not sure I could pull it off. 

As for favorites, there are too many to list them all. I really liked a lot of Grisham's early stuff. I love Baldacci, as do a lot of people. DeMille. Stephen King. Clancy. Cornwell. Eisler. One of my favorite classics is Cannery Row. For non-fiction, my favorite book is probably All Over But The Shoutin, by Rick Bragg. 

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

Not currently, but a few years ago when I was just starting to write, there was a comfortable leather chair at a local coffee shop called Jammin' Java. I spent a lot of time in that chair. So much time, in fact, that I wrote down the maker of the the chair and took a couple of pictures in the hope of buying the same chair for my apartment. I later lost the pictures and the information, and the coffee shop removed their comfortable chairs in favor of less-inviting wooden chairs. 

That said, I can write anywhere, if it is quiet, or if I have headphones and some good writing music. 

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

I couldn't tell you where the ideas come from. And when I am writing, most of the time I am not sure what word is coming next. 

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

I write when I can. I have another job, a family, obligations, bills to pay, etc. All things being equal, I would prefer to write early in the morning.

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

The most intriguing part about storytelling is fitting the pieces of the puzzle together while keeping the story moving and coherent. It is also the hardest part of writing. But it is really the only part of writing that makes it worthwhile. 

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

Hiking, biking and traveling. I have a large family - a lot of aunts, uncles and cousins, most of who live in the DC area - so there is usually something going on. 

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

The best piece of advice I ever heard was at a writer's conference in DC a couple of years ago. I can't remember the writer's name, but he stood at the podium and said,"I am sure there are better writers in this room. But no one in this room is better at getting to "The End" than I am." Essentially what he was saying was, "finish what you start writing." 

What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?

The most gratifying thing about being a writer is seeing where the story takes you. I am sure that some writers have an outline and follow that outline as they write the story. I don't use an outline when I write. I let the story take me wherever it goes. So, for me, I am along for the ride. I think if I had to write from an outline, it would seem like real work. I do write outlines, or pieces of outlines after I have written that portion of the story and when I am done, but not as an outline to follow as I write. 

What is you definition of success as a writer?

Not having to have another job. Making a living as a novelist would be success.

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

You will have to stay tuned.

Thank you Mark for visiting Jersey Girl Book Reviews and sharing a bit about yourself and your writing career with us!

About The Author

Mark Gilleo holds a graduate degree in international business from the University of South Carolina and an undergraduate degree in business from George Mason University. He enjoys traveling, hiking and biking. He speaks Japanese. A fourth-generation Washingtonian, he currently resides in the D.C. area. His first two novels were recognized as finalist and semifinalist, respectively, in the William Faulkner-Wisdom creative writing competition.

Mark Gilleo's Sweat Virtual Book Tour Page On Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours


Book Review

Sweat by Mark Gilleo
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Format: Paperback - 364 pages / Kindle - 731 KB / Nook - 1 MB
ISBN: 1611880513
Genre: Thriller


Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.

Book Description:

When Jake Patrick took a summer internship at his estranged father’s corporation, he anticipated some much-needed extra cash and a couple of free meals from his guilty dad. He would never have guessed that he'd find himself in the center of an international scandal involving a U.S. senator, conspiracy, backroom politics, and murder. Or that his own life would hang in the balance. Or that he’d find help – and much more than that – from a collection of memorable characters operating on all sides of the law. Jake’s summer has turned into the most eventful one of his life. Now he just needs to survive it.

From the sweatshops of Saipan to the most powerful offices in Washington, Sweat rockets through a story of crime and consequences with lightning pacing, a twisting plot, an unforgettable cast of characters, and wry humor. It is another nonstop thriller from one of the most exciting new voices in suspense fiction.

Book Excerpt:

As the van pulled away in a small cloud of dust, the senator inspected the main guard booth and the now present guard. Lee Chang took Peter by the arm and stepped away. The sweatshop boss dropped his voice to a whisper and looked over Peter’s shoulder as he spoke, “Interested in the usual companionship?”

Peter, in turn, looked over at the senator who looked back and nodded in approval to the conversation he couldn’t hear but fully understood. “Is Wei Ling available?” Peter asked as if ordering his favorite wine from the menu. 

“Yes, of course. Wei is available. Shall I find a companion for the senator as well?”

“Yes, the senator would enjoy some company. Someone with a good command of English. I don’t think he wants to spend the evening playing charades,” Peter responded.

“No, I’m sure he wouldn’t.” Lee Chang smiled, nodded, and barked at Chow Ying in Chinese. The large subordinate walked across the front lot of Chang Industries, down the side of the main building, and vanished into the seamstresses’ two-story living quarters. The CEO, senator, and sweatshop ruler went upstairs to wait.

Traditional Chinese furnishings cluttered Lee Chang’s living room.

“Nice piece,” the senator said, running his hands across a large black cabinet with twelve rows and columns of square drawers.

Peter spoke. “It’s an antique herbal medicine cabinet. The Chinese characters written on the front of each drawer indicate the contents.”

“Tattooed reminders of a former life,” the senator said with poetic license.

Lee Chang stepped over and pulled open one of the drawers. “And now it holds my DVD collection.”

“Modernization never stops,” Peter added.

The three men found their way to the living room and Peter and Senator Day sat on the sofa. Lee took a seat on a comfortable wooden chair, small cylindrical pillows made from the finest Chinese silk supporting his arms.

The middle-aged woman who entered the room to serve tea didn’t speak. She had standing orders not to interrupt when her boss’s guests were wearing suits. The senator watched the woman skillfully pour tea from a blue and white ceramic teapot. He wondered if the woman was Lee Chang’s lover. Peter knew Lee’s taste ran much younger.

The intercom came to life on the wall near the door and Chow Ying announced that the ladies were ready. A brief exchange followed in rapid-fire Chinese before Lee Chang ended the conversation abruptly, flipping the intercom switch off.

“Gentlemen, if you are ready, the car is waiting.”

The senator took the front seat next to Chow Ying. Peter gladly sat in the back seat, squeezing in between the two beautiful Asian women. As he got comfortable in the rear of the car, Wei Ling whispered in his ear, her lips tickling his lobe. Peter smiled as his lover’s breath blew on his neck.

Shi Shi Wong, the senator’s date for the evening, looked up at the seamstresses’ quarters as the car began to move. She spotted several faces pressed against the glass of a second floor window and fought the urge to wave.

By the time the black Lincoln exited the gate of Chang Industries, Peter had one arm around each lady. He kept them close enough to feel their bodies move with every bump in the road. He leaned his torso into theirs with every turn of the car.

Peter Winthrop’s favorite table at The Palm was in an isolated corner next to a small balcony overlooking intimidating cliffs thirty yards from the back of the restaurant. A steady breeze pushed through the open French doors that led to the balcony, blowing out the candle in the center of the table as they arrived.

Peter asked for recommendations from the chef and ordered for everyone. They had spicy barbecued shrimp for an appetizer, followed by a salad with freshly sliced squid that the senator refused to eat. For the main course, the party of four shared a large red snapper served in a garlic and lemon-based Thai sauce. Copious amounts of wine accompanied every dish.

Chow Ying waited subserviently in the parking lot for over three hours. He fetched two cups of coffee from the back door of the kitchen and drank them in the Lincoln with the driver’s side doors open. With his second cup of coffee, he asked the waiter how much longer he thought the Winthrop party was going to be.

“Another hour at the most,” came the reply.

On the trip back to the hotel, the honorable senator from Massachusetts threw his honorability out the window and sat in the backseat with the ladies. Flirtatious groping ensued, the senator’s hands moving like ivy on human walls. His Rolex came to rest on Wei Ling’s shoulder. His Harvard class ring continued to caress the bare skin on Shi Shi Wong’s neck.

Peter made conversation with Chow Ying as the driver forced himself not to look in the rearview mirror. Peter, never bashful, glanced at Wei Ling on the opposite side of the backseat, their eyes meeting with a twinkle, her lips turning up in a smile for her lover. Peter smiled back.

Wei Ling was beautiful, and a sweetheart, and intriguing enough for Peter to find an excuse to stop in Saipan when he was on business in Asia. He usually brought her a gift, nothing too flashy, but something meaningful enough to keep her compliant in the sack. A dress, lingerie, earrings. He liked Wei Ling, a simple fact tempered by the realism that he was a CEO and she was a third-world seamstress. Pure attraction couldn’t bridge some gaps. But Lee Chang was proud of the fact that Peter had taken a fancy to Wei Ling. It was good business. She was a company asset. He wished he could put her on the corporate balance sheet.

Chow Ying dropped the party of four off at the Ritz, an eight-story oasis overlooking the finest stretch of white sand and blue water on the island. He gave Wei Ling and her sweatshop roommate-turned-prostitute-without-pay a brief command in Chinese and followed with a formal handshake to the senator and Peter. He waited for the four to vanish through the revolving door of the hotel and then pulled the Lincoln into the far corner of the parking lot. 

The senator and Peter weaved slightly across the lobby of the hotel. Wei Ling and Shi Shi Wong followed several paces behind. The concierge and hotel manager, jaws dropping momentarily, engaged in a seemingly urgent conversation and didn’t look up until the elevator doors had closed.

My Book Review:

From the sweatshops of Saipan to the powerful offices of Washington DC, author Mark Gilleo weaves an intriguing international political thriller of corruption, greed, and the injustice and dismal working conditions in overseas sweatshops.

After Jake Patrick lost his mother to cancer, he reluctantly takes an internship at his estranged father's import/export company, Winthrop Enterprises, in order to try to get his life back on track. But his new position in the company is anything but cushy ... it will send him on a dangerous adventure that will put him right in the middle of an international scandal that could threaten his life!

Sweat is a riveting story full of scandal, conspiracy, corruption, greed and murder that takes the reader on a thrilling roller coaster ride of an adventure! Masterfully written in the third person person narrative, and rich in description and vivid details, this action-packed compelling story transports the reader around the globe with stops in Seattle, Washington, Saipan and Washington DC for behind the scene glimpses into international political and business corruption and injustice within the world of illegal import/export sweatshops. With enough corruption, greed, bribery, blackmail, kidnappings, assassination attempts, murder and even a bit of romance thrown into the mix, this fast-paced action thriller is a compelling page turner that will keep you guessing and wanting more.

From greedy and corrupt politicians and businessmen, to organized crime, to the downtrodden sweatshop workers, Sweat has a variety of cast of characters who are realistic and complex people, who will captivate you with their interweaving involvement and actions throughout the story. The character dialogues are realistic and intriguing, they grab your attention and make you feel like you are watching the interactions occur.

The author's description of the horrible working conditions and treatment of the workers in the sweatshops was a fascinating yet disturbing portrayal. The author engages the reader with some very thought provoking descriptions that will invoke a range of emotions from anger and disgust towards the corrupt politicians and businessmen, to horror and compassion for the oppressed sweatshop worker. Likewise, the author also provides some really great insightful descriptions into the behind the scenes political wheeling-dealing that goes on in the US Senate and in the offices of the big corporations.

Sweat is an international political thriller that will captivate you with its riveting behind the scenes glimpse into the greed, corruption and scandals that encompasses the illegal dealings within the political and business world.



  1. As usual, a phenomenal review, interview and post. I found the interview interesting and insightful. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Cheryl! Thank you for the opportunity to read, review and host Mark's virtual book tour event. Thank you for your kind comments, I appreciate it! :)

  2. Hi Teena! Thank you for stopping by. You have a nice blog site. :)