I have the pleasure of knowing an amazing writer. Most recently, he released his first novel. Guy Harrison is the author of Agents of Change which is now available at Amazon. If you’re interested in thrillers click here and download it now. If you want to know more about the author and the book, look no further. I had the privilige of interviewing him.
1. Tell me a little about yourself.
I grew up in Philadelphia, but I currently live in Arizona. Although Agents of Change is my debut novel, I’ve been creatively writing since I was in the fifth grade. Up to now, I wanted to be a screenwriter. From my freshman year in college until last year, I think I’ve written four full-length features and two television pilot scripts. It wasn’t until this past October that I decided that I was going to write a novel for a change. Consequently, a friend of mine directed me to NaNoWriMo…the rest was history.
2. What’s your novel about?
Agents of Change is based on a premise and a simple question.
The premise is the idea that there are two secret agencies that use special abilities to be kind of be the world’s purveyors of karma. Under different, more inconspicuous names, one agency spreads good karma (bestowing generosity and inspiration to those who need it most) while the other spreads bad karma (killing off anybody who has yet to pay for crimes against humanity). The two agencies are complementary; together they attempt to create a Utopian society. The simple question is what if one of those agencies abused its power?
The novel is about Calvin, a corporate manager and part-time matchmaker, whose dream job falls into his lap when he’s recruited by the good karma agency (known as the Agency of Influence). Disaster strikes for Calvin, however, when an elaborate scheme leaves him as a prime murder suspect…and his new employer is presumably to blame.
With the authorities on his heels and his life left in ruin, Calvin uses his new powers to blend in until his journey for freedom becomes a quest for peace. As the agency’s complementary organization (the Agency of Justice) threatens the security of all of earth’s inhabitants, Calvin teams up with unlikely allies to save the world from the Agency of Justice’s twisted virtues.
3. What made you want to write it? Inspirations?
The story’s actually based on a television pilot I wrote about a year ago. It was meant to be a cross between the shows Heroes and Touched by an Angel. Although I obviously didn’t get any network executives to buy the show, I staunchly believed in its concept. And so when I went to write a novel, the first thought that came to mind was to make a novel out of the pilot. I figured that a novel afforded me more of a chance to showcase the characters and their stories than a 45-minute script could.
That said, Agents of Change is very different from the pilot for the show, which I called The Matchmaker. The novel is much darker and is more of a suspense/action piece whereas the show would have just been an hour-long serial dramedy. In fact, because I embraced the action element more and more as I wrote the novel, I’d even say the novel is very different from its outline.
4. How long did it take to write the novel?
If you don’t count the time it took to develop the TV pilot idea, the novel took a little less than four months to write and edit, edit again, and then edit some more. Ultimately, though, Agents of Change was about a year in the making. Readers will be catching what is essentially the fifth draft of the novel.
5. Who is your favorite character? Why?
My favorite character is Agent Elena Jimenez, the woman responsible for recruiting Calvin into the Agency of Influence and then for mentoring him on his first few cases. Although she’s involved with such a benevolent organization, she’s a gruff bitch. It’s much more fun making one of the good guys (or gals) so ornery that you begin to question their motives. On top of that, Elena’s got a military background, she’s beautiful, and she’s Latin. All of those characteristics, I think, make her a very unique character.
6. How do you think readers will respond to the story? How do you want them to respond?
Well, I hope readers will see it as a bit of a thrill ride with some depth. Even with the action, the book delves quite a bit into personal relationships. There are also quite a few themes that run throughout the book: selfishness as well as the calamity that comes with making assumptions based on appearances, among others. With the latter theme, the idea is that what you see is not always what you get. As an educated, articulate black man, Calvin kind of embodies that, but you see it play out with other characters as well.
7. What genre is the novel and why’d you choose it?
It’s funny, I didn’t really know how to classify the book’s genre until I was two-thirds of the way done with it. Now that it’s done, I can tell you that it’s an action/suspense with a science fiction twist. As I wrote it, it kind of evolved from a dramedy with magic realism, to an urban fantasy, to the suspense we have now. I’d say I settled on suspense and action when I started to really think big in terms of what these characters could do with their powers.
8. Is there a snippet of the story that you can summarize or give me that will pull readers in?
I slide my dark finger down the page, never minding the newspaper ink that’s almost certain to rub off on my fingertips. I’ve come this far, I must find the information I’m looking for.
I scratch my closely-coiffed head and separate my tie from my neck. It’s a bit stuffy in here. I would have gathered the information I was looking for last night but I crashed early. I can’t stay up as late as I used to. Are you supposed to get all grandfatherly in your late 20s?
Ah. Found it.
The local hockey team, the Flyers, won last night, 3-2. Awesome.
I look away from the newspaper and remember the envelope sitting in front of me. It’s stamped and addressed to one Celia Williams. I sign the bottom of a five-hundred dollar check and place it in the envelope. I lick the seal and press it shut.
I hear a knock at my door and look up from the newspaper. In the doorway is my assistant, Paula. It’s still odd telling people that are older than me what to do.
“Mr. Grace is on line one,” she says, sweetly as always.
“Thank you, Paula.”
“Can I get you anything? Coffee?”
I grin and raise my eyebrows.
She smacks her forehead with her right hand. “Oh, right. Sorry.”
“It’s cool. Don’t worry about it.” Really, it was. I hired Paula not more than three weeks ago. I’m in the minority of bosses who don’t like coffee; I’m sure that’ll take some getting used to. I’m also in the minority of bosses at Maxwell that are, well, minorities.
Paula closes the door.
I exhale as I close my newspaper and pick up the phone. I know what’s coming. “How are you, Mr. Grace?” I press the receiver closer to my ear and look at the set numbers and formulas scribbled on the whiteboard in front of me.
I play coy. “Sir?”
“That moron you have down there, Keeling—”
“I can explain—”
“No, don’t explain. Just fix.”
“He had a bad quarter. He’ll bounce back.”
“You’re too trusting.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“You’re the director, Newsome. Direct.”
“Wait, are you asking me to fire him?”
Silence from the other end.
“That’s a little harsh, don’t you think?” I ask.
“You might wanna think about it. You saw his numbers.”
I pinch the bridge of my nose. “Fine. I’ll call him in.”
“Good. And don’t be nice with him, either. I know how you like to play psychologist.”
I hang up the phone and dial Paula on speaker phone.
“Paula, can you let Trevor Keeling know that I need to speak with him, please?”
I hang up and turn to look out the window. I never used to think that corner offices were everything people made them out to be. That changed when I moved into this office. I get unobstructed, breathtaking views of Philadelphia’s skyline, its glass skyscrapers glistening in the spring sun.
On the other side of the coin, I used to think that being the director of business analytics had its vast array of advantages. Other than my office, though, I can’t say I’ve enjoyed this experience. It’s just not what I thought it’d be. Heck, not even my salary increase was worth celebrating—it simply meant that I was in a new tax bracket. Yippee.
Despite a bevy of efforts to avoid it, I’m now that guy that everyone tries to avoid. I’m the guy whom, when you’re called to my office, you get a knot in your stomach. It’s a feeling I’m sure Mr. Keeling feels now, though I can’t say it’s unwarranted from his point of view.
I pull a granola bar out of my desk drawer, unwrap it, and take a bite. I look down at my desk and look at the headline on the front page of the newspaper. City Pall. Clever. I hear a knock at my door and wave my visitor in. Trevor Keeling’s not my guy. He was a holdover from my predecessor.
“You wanted to see me?” he asks in a hushed tone.
I take a deep breath. “Take a seat.”
He sits down in a wooden chair in front of my desk and straightens his tie. His hands are trembling.
“I’ve had a chance to look over your numbers from the last quarter.”
He averts his gaze. “I know. They’re no good.”
“No good? Try inexplicable. Unfathomable.”
“I mean, what the fuck happened?” I ask, holding his report between my thumb and index finger. “You’ve never—”
Keeling’s lips begins to quiver. He places his hand up to his lips to hide them.
“I’ve been given the green light to terminate you,” I say.
“No…” he says, his eyes moistening.
“The fact is, my ass is on the line, too. And I refuse to lose my job because of you.”
“No, please, don’t do this to me.”
I rub the back of my neck and look down at my desk as I avoid Keeling’s sorry gestures. I look over at my partially-eaten granola bar. I’ve lost my appetite. I then look past Keeling and study the random numbers and formulas scribbled on the dry erase board behind him again. I furrow my brow with contempt as I recite each formula in my head. I hate this shit.
Keeling’s whimpering draws me back to the task at hand. “What am I supposed to tell my wife?” he asks.
I force myself to look at the man again and take in his pained, involuntary movements. I then look Keeling in the eye as I lean forward and place my elbows on my desk.
“Tell them that they have nothing to worry about,” I say in a quiet tone.
Keeling sits slouched in his chair with a confused look on his face.
“I know how much you love your family,” I say. “I’ve been by your desk, I’ve seen your screensaver. You’ve thought about what you’d tell them if you were ever fired, yes?”
He nods his head.
“And I’m sure you’ve imagined the looks on their faces.”
“Remember that image going forward, Trevor. I expect to see you kick ass this quarter.”
Keeling stifles a grin. “Wait, here? At Maxwell?”
“You’re gonna meet with me every Friday; arrange it with Paula. We’ll try and get you back on track.”
Keeling looks to the floor as he tries to hide his swaying emotions. I watch him silently for the next few moments. The man doesn’t move.
“You…can go back to your desk now,” I say.
“Oh, yeah, sure,” he says, breaking out of his trance. He gets up and walks to the door, stopping just before he leaves. “Thank you,” he says, now wearing a broad smile. I wave him off as he closes the door behind him.
“Dammit,” I whisper to myself. I then look at my clock. 12:28. I better get going.
My cell phone rings.
“Calvin, where are you?” It’s my adoring Ronni.
“Uh, at work?”
“Did you forget?”
“Forget what?” I then press my fist against my forehead. “Ah, fuck.”
I roll my eyes. “Fudge. I said fudge.”
“Ugh! I knew you’d forget.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you. How ‘bout tonight? Your place?”
“Fine,” she says like a spoiled teen. “You better bring Italian.”
We hang up the phone. I get up, grab my suit jacket and the envelope, and leave my office. Paula greets me outside.
“I’m taking my lunch now,” I say. “I’ll be back at 1:30.”
“Sounds good,” she says. “Hey, when’s the next community service outing?”
“Next Saturday. You want me to add you to the list?”
“Where will it be?”
Her eyes light up.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” I place the envelope on her desk. She’s been good at taking care of my mail.
“I didn’t think you were into animals.”
“Every dog has his day,” I say with a shrug.
“Good one,” Paula says, just as her phone rings.
I walk away toward the elevator and wait to take it down to the underground parking garage.
Veronica Lee—Ronni for short—is Chinese-American, first generation, in fact. I’ve known her since we were little kids. Her parents immigrated to the States in the ‘70s. They were among the few Asians who flocked to the eastern seaboard as opposed to the west coast. As you probably guessed, they were very strict with her, especially in regard to her studies. When Ronni would kick herself over the occasional B, she would tell me, with great disappointment, that she could see her father reminding her, “You no B-sian, you A-sian.”
Despite the fact that her academics took precedence, Ronni still found a way to love me in a way no one else ever has. When I’ve had my heart broken—or when I’ve done the heartbreaking—Ronni’s always offered herself as a sounding board. She also never laughed at me when I sought her out for college calculus help, even though I went to Penn and she inexplicably went to Philly U. Now, that’s true love.
In the garage, I climb into my car, a Kia, and decide to open the moonroof but not the windows. It’s a gorgeous day outside but if I have any shot of making my appointment on time, my only chance is on the expressway. I turn the ignition, emerge from the garage, and head west.
Before I get through all the high rises that comprise the city’s skyline, before I pass the intermittent gobs of pedestrians and the exhaust-coated homeless lying along the sidewalk, let me tell you what is so important that I’m driving so far from work on my lunch break.
In my spare time, I am a matchmaker. Don’t laugh. It seemed like a cool thing to do at the time.
I’m a matchmaker and fairly wet behind the ears with it, too. I’m so new to the industry, I haven’t yet posted a bio or photo on my website. See, in a field inundated with folks who are older and much more experienced than I, my services need to speak for themselves. I need to allow word of mouth to do the advertising for me.
Initially, in order to get my name out there, I had to offer a few free sessions to wrangle my first handful of clients. It was a strategy I learned in business school. It also illustrates my current predicament. That is, that even while trying to make a difference, I still have to take a businessman’s approach to things. And that’s not what I want.
I want my work to mean something without having to think about numbers and customers and cash flow. Despite my management degree from Penn’s Wharton School, I’ve never had a job that smacks of nicheness.
My current, full-time job is cushy, don’t get me wrong. But I never found much meaning in my work, even with the employee stock options and the silly-nilly corporate office games like hallway bowling. Call me too cool for school but that ain’t me.
While I’ll be okay if I end up being a matchmaker for the rest of my life, I really view it as a stopgap, something I can do immediately to fill a void as I explore other, more meaningful opportunities. Eventually, I need to do something everlasting, something the world can profit from, and not necessarily in a financial way. I want to do something that, when people see it, they know Calvin Newsome’s hands have been all over it. I want it to be different. I want it to stand out.
I’ve always been good at that, standing out. I use big words you’ll only find in the dictionary. I like hockey. I like rock music as well as rap. As a black man, those things make it hard to blend into the crowd.
Turning my right blinker on, I merge to my right as I approach my exit.
East Falls is a very woody, slice-of-Suburbia part of town, although it’s certainly not without its warts. Despite its greenery, sloping throughways, and desirable location, it still possesses Philly’s most common property, the row home. This neighborhood is also home to Ronni’s alma mater, Philly U, or “P.U.” as I used to say whenever I wanted to piss her off.
My client’s house is huge! It’s a colonial; red bricks, white window details and all. The house stands as a fortress along the two-lane road in front of it. Before opening my door, I take off my tie and leave it in the passenger seat, undoing my shirt’s top button for a more business casual look. I climb out of the car and grab a notepad before closing the door.
Two large trees surround both sides of the home’s expansive, forward-leaning front lawn. A small stairwell of about three steps, leads me from the sidewalk onto a concrete path through the lawn up to the front door. Startled, I look up when I hear the loud kazoo-like squawking of a bird come from one of the large trees.
As I approach the door, I remember this client being female. I ring the doorbell, expecting Blanche Devereaux to answer.
The door swings open and standing before me is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever laid eyes on. A goddess. One far younger than my usual clientele.
“Hi,” she says.
She’s Latin, sports shoulder length brown hair with highlights, and caramel-colored skin. Her form-fitting t-shirt and jeans accentuate her curvaceous figure. Mother Earth would be jealous. To top it off, she’s wearing my favorite scent. Vanilla.
“Uh, hi,” I manage to say through clenched vocal cords. Consider me speechless.
“Come in,” she says, all business as she opens the door even further. I step inside and the aesthetics don’t quit. Polished hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings, classic yet tasteful window valances and beautiful, nearly-mint condition leather furniture beckon the home’s guests.
The woman reaches out her hand. “Elena Jimenez,” she says, her face emotionless as her large brown eyes fixate on mine.
“Calvin Newsome. Nice to meet you.” Despite her allure, I can’t hold her gaze. I choose instead to take her in just a little bit at a time.
“Take a seat,” she says, pointing to a leather chair in the living room. Still no smile.
Elena walks briskly to the kitchen as I take a seat in the chair. One of the perks of this job is getting to see my clients’ homes. This one is the nicest, by far.
“Can I get you some water?” Elena asks from afar.
“That’d be great.”
I pull a pen out of my pocket and, as I put it to my notepad, there are only two words I can think to write at the moment. Hot mamacita.
The only downside to this is that I don’t really have an age-appropriate male to set her up with. That’s not entirely a bad thing, though. At the very least, I could post her photo on my website and use her as bait for both my male and female clients—my practice is flexible like that.
Elena comes back with a glass of water in hand, still very much poker faced. She may be beautiful but if this is the extent of her personality, I can see why she’s single. I take a swig of water and place the glass on an end table as Elena sits in a couch across from me.
“So, what can I do for you?” I ask.
“Tell me about the process,” she says. “How does it work?”
“Well…” I suddenly feel the urge to close my eyes and begin to fall forward, despite a steadfast desire not to. I hit the hardwood floor with a thud, landing in the fetal position. Before my eyelids call it an afternoon, the last thing I see is the bizarre image of the beautiful Elena standing over me…with a rope in her hand.
What the fuck?
To Learn more about this amazing author and Agents of Change, you can swing over to his blog www.guyharrison.com.