Gray Basnight on Alternate History Thrillers, New York City, Hurricanes and more

Book Pitch: An innocent man receives an encoded document in his email inbox and suddenly run for his life from men who want to kill him for unknown reasons.

Fun Fact: “My thirty-first great grandfather was a Viking named Ivar the Boneless who led an army that invaded and conquered what is now East Anglia, England in the year 865.  (Don’t ask what “boneless” means, ‘cause nobody knows for certain.”


Flight of the Fox CoverSR: What’s your new book/work in progress about? What inspired you to write it?

GB: FLIGHT OF THE FOX is a type of alternate history thriller, except that the alternate history is discovered by the reader at the same time the central character uncovers it.  The inspiration came from Ken Follett. I’ve always been a fan of his WW2 novels that revolve around a twist of fate. And also Robert Ludlum, who’s roller-coaster run-for-your-life books are real page turners.

SR: Practice pitching: tell us what your book is about in 30 words or less.

GB: After receiving an encrypted document in his email inbox, a mathematics professor must go on the run for his life from mysterious teams of black-ops hitmen trying to kill him.  While a fugitive, he decodes the file, only to learn it reveals many dark facts about crimes committed by the government in the 20th Century.

SR: How do you think your protagonist would respond if aliens landed in the center of town on page 57?

GB: He’d probably say, “Oh, of course!  On top of everything else, why not?”

SR:  Your protagonist has to flee the country. Where are they headed to and why that location?

GB: Well, he does flee.  In fact, he’s on the run for most of the novel, though his flight is limited to the East Coast of the U.S.  If he were to leave the country, his destinations would be Israel, Italy, and Germany. Why? Because that’s where he goes in the sequel, which is currently in progress.

SR:  What conspiracy theory is your protagonist most likely to believe in? Roswell? JFK? Princess Diana? What about you? Any conspiracy theories that you think might have some truth to them?

GB: Wow.  This question is bang on.  The answer is JFK, because his assassination and other crimes of the 20th Century are central to the narrative.

SR:  Is your protagonist more likely to go insane or end up in prison?

GB: Between these two choices, he’d more likely go insane, providing he survives.

SR:  Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen or Arya Stark? If your protagonist could be any fictional character for a day who would it be and why?

GB: My protag, whose name is Sam Teagarden, would be the mythological Greek hero named Prometheus, who stole fire from the Gods and gave it to humanity.

SR: What’s your protagonist’s greatest fear? Why?

GB: That his daughter and baby granddaughter will be drawn into the deadly and mysterious turmoil that’s suddenly up-ended his life.

SR: Is there something you hope the reader carries away with them after they’re done reading? An insight or philosophy that you wanted to come through in your work?

GB: “No wonder truth is stranger than fiction.  Fiction has to make sense.” — Mark Twain

SR: If you were in an arm wrestle with your protagonist who would win?

GB: He would, because he is bigger and stronger, and younger too.

SR: What is your protagonist better at than you?

GB: Mathematics.

SR: What are you better than your protagonist at?

GB: Writing.

SR:  If hell was watching one movie over and over and over again, or listening to one song over and over again, what would the movie or song be for you?

GB: Movie: Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (Terrible Movie from the 70’s) Song: Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (Yuck)

SR: For your protagonist?

GB: Movie: North by Northwest    Song: Born to Run (Springsteen)

SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?

GB: At the age of twelve, I graduated from comic books to inhaling everything I could find by Conan Doyle and Jules Verne.  After that, all I ever wanted to do was write.

SR:  Did you try your hand at poetry as a teenager or use stick figures to illustrate your comic books? Tell us about your early writing efforts.

GB: Poetry (so-called)–yes!  As to my early prose efforts, at the age of 13, I planned to write a novel about Alcatraz Prison.  I don’t remember why, except that it seemed like a cool setting. Problem was, living in Richmond, Virginia, I’d never been west of the Allegheny Mountains.  I think I got a few pages into the effort before giving up.

SR:  What’s the best thing about writing?

GB: It’s wonderful when the words, sentences, and graphs finally fall into place.  Sometimes it feels as though I’m a sculptor who may finally put down the hammer and chisel.

SR:  What’s the worst thing about writing?

GB: Everything.

SR: What detail in your writing do you obsess over the most? Character names? Locations? Description? Dialogue? Research?

GB: It’s all vitally important and merits obsessive attention.  Plotting and pacing is, for me, the most difficult, and therefore these are the issues I worry about the most.

SR: What was your journey to publication like? What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome?

GB: All writers face extraordinary obstacles today as the publishing industry continues to undergo great change.  I am fortunate that Down & Out Books liked this manuscript and approved it for publication. Prior to that, I endured the same old: querying agents and, when they respond, it would always be “not a good fit at this time.”

SR: Do you relate more to Sherlock Holmes or Professor Moriarty? Why?

GB: Definitely to Holmes.  He’s the man. The great one.  Moriarty scared me as a young reader and still does today.

SR: What’s your personal life motto?

GB: Be tolerant and cultivate your garden.

SR: Is there something you’ve experienced that’s affected your view of life? Tell us about it and how it changed you.

GB: New York City.  I moved there as young man with the intention of spending a year or two.  Forty years later, I’m still there. Just living in the city has been life enhancing in so many ways that it’s difficult to explain, but the word “education” is the principal headline.  I am a smarter and far more worldly person because of the tenacity required to be a New Yorker, which I am.

SR: You have to flee the country. Where are you headed to and why that location?

GB: Paris, because it’s the only city that can rival New York as a global metropolis.  It’s also the most beautiful city in the world.

SR: If you have to live in a potential natural disaster zone, would you pick blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions? Why? If you had to describe your protagonist as a weather system, what would they be?

GB: I pick hurricanes because of advance warnings.  They form slowly and can be tracked by meteorologists.  That’s good. Earthquakes, mudslides, flash floods, and other disasters tend not to issue much advance warning.

SR: It’s the zombie apocalypse. You have to pick a weapon from what’s currently within 10 feet of your present location. What will you defend yourself with?

GB: Umm….my coffee mug?

SR: How long will you survive in the zombie apocalypse? How long will your protagonist survive? Why?

GB: I’ll likely be zombie lunch before I could run ten feet.  But my protag, Sam Teagarden, would figure some clever way to survive no matter how implausible, because that’s what he does as a fictional character of my own invention.  Let’s see now…did you know that zombies dissolve into piles of harmless protoplasm when spritzed with ammonia? Well, there you go. Hand out water pistols filled with ammonia to everyone and humanity is saved!

SR: What movie world do you wish you could live in? Why?

GB: Warner Bros. cartoons: Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester, Tweety-Pie.  I love those guys. They’re so happy and confident. Bugs in particular.  He’s a great American.

SR: Everyone needs an outlet to help them recharge. What hobbies do you have outside of writing?

GB: Aside from reading, none.  I wake up and fall asleep thinking about my latest project.  Though my dog, a Golden Retriever named Tinta, is a great distraction.

SR: You strike it rich. What charity are you going to create or support?

GB: Women in Need, Fresh Air Fund, ASPCA

SR: Do you have any special events coming up? Where can people catch up with you in person or on a podcast?

GB: Because FLIGHT OF THE FOX is officially released on 7/23/18, I have a bunch of events coming up.  Here’s what I know for sure!

  • 8/18 — Live interview Suspense Magazine Radio –12:30 ET
  • 9/13 — Phoenix Books, Burlington, VT; author reading/signing
  • 9/16 – Private event, Toronto; author reading/signing
  • 9/17 — Live interview on Fran Lewis Podcast  – 10 am ET
  • 9/27 – Mamakating Library, Wurtsboro, NY;, author reading/signing
  • 10/23 – Huntington Library, Long Island, NY; double event – 2pm Kiss Me, Kill Me Mystery Book Club, 7pm  public reading/signing
  • 10/25 – Huntington Memorial Library, Oneonta, NY; author reading/signing
  • 11/14 – Clifton Park Halfmoon Public Library, Clifton Park, NY; author reading/signing
  • 11/16 – Mercer County Public Library, Lawrenceville, NJ; writer’s workshop
  • 11/28 – Tusten Cochecton Library, Narrowsburg, NY; book club chat
  • 1/24/19 – Delaware Free Branch Library, Callicoon, NY; book club chat


SR: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

GB: There’s only one rule: Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.

Gray Basnight Photo

Gray Basnight worked for almost three decades in New York City as a radio and television news producer, writer, editor, reporter, and newscaster. He is now dedicated to writing fiction full time.  Gray lives in New York with his wife and Golden Retriever.