First-time novelist Jay Gage talks exclusively with The Inquisitr about his new e-book, Occupy America.
Occupy America can be described as a thriller, sometimes called a “potboiler” back in the day, with the Occupy protest movement (i.e., Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots in other cities) as the backdrop.
Jay Gage has a unique background that lends itself to a broad spectrum of fiction writing. He is a former Navy medic in a Marine infantry company. After leaving the military, Gage earned a degree in cognitive science and went on to work as a federal law enforcement officer for six years. He also was a ghostwriter for an international televangelist before becoming completely disillusioned with the cult-like aspects of that movement.
In terms of the basic plot of Occupy America, the main protagonist of the book is a former NYPD cop who resigned from the force under a cloud and retreated to a monastery. His cloistered world is upended when the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Division asks him to help in a manhunt for his brother, a member of a breakaway terrorist cell of Occupy protesters who are plotting the overthrow of the country both by violence and through political machinations.
Whether you’re a fan of the thriller genre or not, you’ll find the book — which can be downloaded from Amazon — a page-turner.
The Inquisitr: What was your inspiration for Occupy America?
Jay Gage: When the Occupy movement was happening, I heard a lot of derisive commentary but it seemed to me that a lot of those people were being motivated by deep unrest. I researched the history of capitalism and read criticism from communist ideologues and eventually decided to use the Occupy movement as a way to write about the things that motivate us as human beings. For my model, I used the teachings of Thomas Keating — a Catholic monk — who distilled Maslow’s idea of a hierarchy of needs down to three essential components: security, affection, and power or control. The idea is that lurking behind all of our actions are those three core motivations.
I don’t think I ever explicitly mention the motivations in the novel, but my intention was to explore those ideas while writing an entertaining thriller. I was especially interested in how our need for security, affection, and power can distort reality and become confining, controlling drives. I wanted to explore how those drives can manifest in choices that actually adversely affect our attainment of the very thing we desire. I probably succeeded in some ways but failed in others. Ultimately, the story is about trying to live above those primitive motivations.
Writing Occupy America was also part of the healing process for me [in breaking free of the whole televangelism thing].
The Inquisitr: With that mind, does the book try to make an ideological statement of some kind?
Jay Gage: I don’t know that the story is meant to be political so much as sociological and metaphysical. My thought is that politics is the science of exercising power in socially acceptable ways meant to ensure our “God-given” right to pursue happiness, i.e., security, affection, and control, which — ironically — are not often paths to God.
All of us have a worldview that, knowingly or not, protects our understanding of how our intrinsic motivations are best satisfied. But we’re all wrong to some degree. Understanding our need for security, affection, and control goes a long way toward establishing tolerance for people with different viewpoints, but the real question is where those drives come from, and whether there is more to life than satisfying self-centered needs. I think the Occupy movement probes those questions, even if the actual ideology is less explicit.
Throughout history, the individual need for security, affection, and control can manifest as a group that huddles under a belief system that denies reality and would certainly use violence to get their way. It’s something that can happen in any society at any time, and does to varying degrees.
The Inquisitr: How long did it take you to complete the manuscript and what kind of writing schedule did you follow?
Jay Gage: I took me a little less than three months to write and another three to edit. I’m a morning person, and I like to write from the quiet of home. I set myself a daily goal of 1,000 to 1,200 words and usually stop when I’ve reached it. I find that if I write a ton one day then I end up being less productive the next, so I try to pace myself.
The Inquisitr: Did you have the whole flow of the storyline from start to finish locked down or were plot changes made along the way?
Jay Gage: In terms of writing a story, there are people who sit down to write and simply let the story bubble up from the subconscious, there are those who have every scene planned out before they write a word, and others who fall somewhere in between. I tend to have a broad outline of what I want to say and fill it in as I go, so I’m one of those in-between writers. After the first draft, I make more changes as needed to help the plot or structure.
The Inquisitr: What emotions did you experience when you put the finishing touches on the manuscript and uploaded the book for sale to the general public? Did you have some additional pep in your step?
Jay Gage: I don’t remember a joyous feeling of accomplishment or anything. I was just excited to get started on another project. I love the initial stages of creating a story but all of the editing and revising gets a bit tedious toward the end. And it’s also bittersweet when the manuscript is done because as soon as you release it to the world it stops being yours alone and belongs to the reader. Also, going the independent e-book route [rather than submitting the manuscript to a traditional publisher] has been satisfying.
The Inquisitr: In the book, “Cory” (who is one of the Occupy revolutionaries) tries to orchestrate a constitutional amendment that would create a tricameral federal legislature in this country. This third chamber of the legislative branch — which would join the Senate and House of Representatives — would be called the House of Commons and would in essence have veto power over the other two. How did you come up with that concept?
Jay Gage: The tricameral idea was a fun part of developing the Cory character. Occupy thought of itself as a leaderless organization without demands, but eventually every movement needs to consolidate power and make a demand or it simply dies out. Cory knows this and wants to help lead the movement before it fritters away. I tried to imagine what kinds of demands Cory and his friends would want and how they might try to achieve those ends. The tricameral legislature was what I came up with. Actually, if I were setting up my own civilization on an island somewhere, I might even give it a try.
The Inquisitr: Your book contains a heartfelt dedication to your wife. What kind of support did she provide during the writing process?
Jay Gage: Christina has seen me at my worst and still loves me. Having someone who believes in you like that is a powerful force. I’m just grateful to have her in my life. She’s also a fantastic editor, which comes in handy.
The Inquisitr: How to respond, if at all, to those who might raise questions about some aspects of the Occupy America storyline in terms of plausibility or believability?
Jay Gage: I try not to read reviews, positive or negative. My job is simply to write. It’s not my place to argue with readers about their opinions. Actually, one of the great things about storytelling is that it is a collaborative effort. As soon as you read the story, it becomes yours — it doesn’t belong to the author anymore. I’m hoping most people find something worth thinking about, but if not, I won’t try to convince them otherwise because people generally believe what they want to believe regardless of outside input.
As an author, I want to talk about concepts that stretch the capacity of words. I’m still growing in the craft, but that’s one of the things that gets me up in the morning, excited to pound away at the keyboard and thinking of new ways to explore ideas.
The Inquisitr: What’s next for Jay Gage?
Jay Gage: I’m finishing up another novel right now called Wounded Healer. It’s about a doctor who does a tour in a Combat Support Hospital in Iraq and ends up suffering from a specific kind of post-traumatic stress disorder known as “moral injury” — which is inner turmoil resulting from an action or the failure to stop an action that conflicts with your moral code. He meets the widow of a soldier he knew in Iraq and she watches his guilt drive him to the edge of sanity. The story is about the fragility of identity and the redemptive power of forgiveness.
The Inquisitr: Anything else you would like share with The Inquisitr readers about Occupy America?
Jay Gage: Thank you for the opportunity to talk about Occupy America. It reminded me of how much fun I had dreaming up the story and putting it down to paper
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