Interview with Anthony Davis

Jen: This weekend we welcome Anthony Davis to the blog. Anthony, will you please share a short bio with us?
Anthony: Sure. I began my military career with the Navy in the early 70’s. After a four-year term, I got out and moved to New Orleans. Shortly afterward, I began a commercial and industrial photography business. Not the portrait and wedding stuff – advertising, industrial work, promotional work for recording artists, and some editorial work. While that was quickly becoming a successful venture the business ended when an 18-wheeler hit me from behind. After a year of recuperation I joined the Coast Guard. I figured, “They never go anywhere.” After nine years at sea, including many winters in the Bering Sea, I found I was wrong.

During the Coast Guard years, I was part of the intelligence and law enforcement business. Around the time of 9/11 I was the Chief of Intelligence in the Mobile, AL area. My area covered west to Gulfport, MS; east to Panama City, FL and north to the Tennessee border. That was a very busy time. In late 2002, I retired from the Coast Guard and the very next day took a Federal Investigator position in the San Francisco Bay area. Nearly two years later, I went back into the intelligence business.

Throughout this period from 9/11 on, I began the Homeland Security Group, an information resource to keep out law enforcement, Intel, security and emergency management folks safe and informed. The rest is pretty much history.

Jen: Tell us about Terrorism and the Maritime Transportation System and where it’s available.
Anthony: My book, Terrorism and the Maritime Transportation System was a project that developed after a four-year survey I conducted to gauge the level of preparedness of our first responders. It quickly became apparent that these people that would likely be the first on the scene of an incident were in fact, unprepared and untrained for such an event.

While it would seem the book is written for just first responders, the fact is, the book is a benefit to anyone wanting to have better view of national level of preparedness and vulnerabilities we face everyday. Every citizen is impacted by the Maritime Transportation System. The book is available on Amazon in both print and kindle versions. For those with an iPhone or Kindle reader, they can download a sample with the Intro and first two chapters. Additionally, readers can get an autographed copy from my website by purchasing it through the PayPal link. My website is at: http://www.homelandsecuritygroup.info It is through the sales of books that I’m able to continue doing my volunteer work with the Homeland Security Group.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Anthony: I’ve always been creative in one form or another. Writing was one of a long list of other artistic outlets I’ve pursued since I was around nine-years old. I would often sit down and write whenever I had one of those, “Must create something” moments.

Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Anthony: No. I came from a very unstable and abusive home. I learned early that I needed to get out of there and make some good choices. Of course that’s not to say that I always did, over time, maturity finally kicked in. No writers back there.

Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Anthony: Well, the work I’m doing with non-fiction is likely a much different approach than that of a fiction writer. Yet, I’ve done both so I’ll try to cover both sides. With Terrorism and the Maritime Transportation System, I felt that I had a good idea of how the final text would look. Given that, I put together a proposed table of contents and then began researching and writing. Of course, there are many areas in the book that discuss personal experiences so in those cases; it was just a matter of telling a story.

When writing fiction, I write about subjects that have a strong emotional impact. I find it is important to embed yourself into the story and characterize how you feel. If a portion of the story makes you sad, build upon it with a narrative until it makes your heart hurt; if happy, write until you smile. I believe that it is important to take the reader beyond just digesting words, but to cause a physical result. A few years ago, I wrote a very short story entitled, “No Boundaries.” This short narrative discussed the last few days in a concentration camp and the hurt and emotion of wanting to be rejoined with a loved one. When I saw people cry during the story, I knew I was on the right track. Readers have to FEEL your story.

Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Anthony: I generally get up early, have a cup of coffee, small breakfast and begin work for an hour or so. It may not be an hour of writing, some days are research days. When I’ve got the material to put it all together, I begin writing my drafts.

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Anthony: Since this book was about Terrorism and the Maritime Transportation System, I began researching materials that would provide a variety of viewpoints on the subject. Many people will begin with a Google search and get 10 Million hits. It’s important to define what you want to know and what types of materials you hope to research before ever going to any search engine. I wrote long strings of search variables beforehand and looked for materials that were published in .pdf form or PowerPoints. Generally, the professional and educational community publishes papers or presentations in these formats. From there, I read the materials, and made notes. For those areas that I found of value, I then pulled the references and researched other materials from the same authors.

It’s important though, not to just parrot what someone else says. What do “I” think about the materials? If there is something that I disagree with, I research that as well to get an understanding of the alternative point of view. This is very important because it helps you to address these issues when making a case in the book.

For my current work with Human Trafficking, I estimate that I have about 300,000 pages of materials to read to put it all together. I know how I feel about the subject, but what current laws are in place? What works? What does not? What needs to be done differently? Given the amount of research needed to put a substantive non-fiction book together, I sometimes think that fiction might be easier.

Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Anthony: Getting through the material is certainly the most challenging. That is especially true with the current Human Trafficking project. In this case, the information is tough to digest and I often times have to step away from it. In the maritime terrorism book, the challenge was the very large amount of materials to read, keeping notes and source the info.

For me, the easiest part of the maritime terrorism book was writing about issues where I had personal experiences. Yet, even those areas had some challenges because I served in the law enforcement and intelligence communities. I had to be sure that everything I wrote was publishable material.

Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Anthony: The most rewarding aspect since publishing Terrorism and the Maritime Transportation System has been the feedback I’ve received from other experts globally. Recently I’ve been invited to be a part of a project addressing global piracy at Harvard University; other colleges and universities are incorporating my book into Homeland Security courses. Then, I’ve gotten emails from everyday citizens wanting a better understanding of the issues. Their feedback has been very rewarding.

Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book?
Anthony: While I’ve written other books within the Government system, this is the first publicly published book that I’ve done. For this one, I slept late and then had a pizza that night.

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Anthony: One of the reviews I received said:

“I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy Terrorism and the Maritime Transportation System, but I am so glad I read it! Anthony Davis obviously has the background to put together such an awesome piece on a topic that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been fully covered before. I learned so much about the military, how terrorism can and will affect us, security, and even the ships themselves! I’ve learned more in this one book than I’ve ever learned from reading any other reference piece before.

After reading Terrorism and the Maritime Transportation System, I have a new found respect for those in the field and I’m thankful that Mr. Davis has put this book together to educate the public without making the content dull or boring. I found it difficult to put this book down as I wanted to keep learning more through every turn of the page.”

I gotta tell ya…that was a pretty cool review. I’m not sure I could have paid to get that written.

Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Anthony: I’ve always like Robert Ludlum and the whole collection of books. I’m currently reading a couple different books, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright and a textbook called Conformity and Conflict a book about cultural anthropology.

Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Anthony: Free Time??? What’s that? When we’re done here I’ll be cutting the grass, and then going to the gym, a few errands…then probably back to research. Actually, I do take some time away for “photo days.” There was a time many years ago when I had a commercial photography business as I mentioned earlier. Nowadays, I shoot for fun and recently began to post some of the work on a stock photography site.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Anthony: The next “big” project is the Human Trafficking book.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Anthony: I have two main websites: The Homeland Security Group at: http://www.homelandsecuritygroup.info and there’s my Author/Photo site at: http://www.anthonymdavis.com I’m also very easily found on Google as I usually fill the first few pages.

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Anthony: Yes. Given that the “Maritime Transportation System” encompasses our waterways, highways, rail systems, trucks and pipelines, what do YOU worry about regarding a terror attack?

Jen: Thank you Anthony for being our guest. Readers, Anthony is giving away a signed copy of the book to the person who answers the question regarding what they feel their greatest concern regarding a terror attack on the Maritime Transportation System. To complete your entry (after answering the question), you must leave an email address in your comment or send a message to admin.bookblog@gmail.com letting us know you’d like to be entered. Due to shipping costs, this contest is only open to people in the US. The winner will be chosen on Friday, August 28.