In the same way some films take you by storm and don’t let up until the last frame, “Bishop’s War” explodes right off the page and never gives you a breather. My taste in books is all over the place, but I’ve always loved crime, espionage and war movies—anything with good guys vs. bad guys. I personally have never seen a stage so full of both elements; it almost boggles my mind that Rafael was able to keep them all straight in his head. But now I know that he drew his inspiration from people he knows, from a lifetime of close relationships and world-altering events that changed all of us to some degree.
What Rafael serves up in Bishop’s War is an all-you-can-eat feast of every imaginable threat a country or civilization or individual could ever face. And every situation he flings both characters and readers into is startlingly believable and arrestingly intense. It’s got MOVIE written all over it!
But until that blockbuster hits the theaters, we’ve got the book and the up-coming sequel(!) to tantalize us, plus Rafael’s own very fascinating and moving story behind Bishop’s War. Take it away, Rafael!
Cynthia, thank you for inviting me to talk about Bishop’s War- the story behind the story.
My inspiration for writing Bishop’s War came in four parts, the first being 9/11, but let’s call that tragic day a catalyst rather something that inspired me. My office was in the South Tower and in the days following 9/11 many of us in New York City were bracing for follow up low tech attacks that thankfully never happened. I started having very vivid dreams for months afterwards and one night a hero named John Bishop appeared out of nowhere and stopped an imaginary attack in a park near my house. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but the name and the dream would pop back up from time to time over the years.
Fast forward a decade later and I’m flying from New York to Houston for work and reading a bestselling airport thriller on the plane to pass the time. I’ve always been an avid reader and would often finish two or three novels a week, but I just couldn’t connect with this one. I finally put the book down in frustration and sat there thinking about the author’s choices and about writing in general and at that moment I opened my laptop and decided to write a novel. So, I guess you can say the second thing that inspired me to write Bishop’s War was reading a book that I really didn’t enjoy!
I’d never written anything before and I had no idea where to begin or even what the book was going to be about so I started by writing about all the insane experiences that me and my friends went through growing up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side (LES) during the rough and bloody 70’s and 80’s. The story was really just a bunch of random scenes without a plot or an outline. That said, the more I wrote, the more I enjoyed it and then one night a few months later the hero John Bishop reappeared only this time as a Green Beret returning home from Afghanistan to stop a terrorist attack in Manhattan’s Union Square Park.
This brings me to part three. A great friend of mine from my LES neighborhood joined the Army with his son during the summer of 2001. Yes, that’s right, father and son went to basic training together! My buddy’s plan was to share the moment with his boy, get some extra benefits and earn a few extra dollars as an Army reservist. That all changed after 9/11 and now seventeen years later he’s a highly decorated Special Ops warrior with multiple deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa. He’s a true American hero and although I don’t write about his actual missions out of respect for the men and women he’s served with who have been killed or injured on the battlefield, he definitely inspired me to write action-packed Military thrillers with an LES badass as the main character.
The last and most inspirational part of this journey was my mother. As I said, I had never written anything before and even though I couldn’t wait to fire up my laptop every night, Bishop’s War was just a late-night hobby and I was writing purely for my own enjoyment. But not long after I “finished it” we found out Mom was terminally ill with only a few months to live. Before she passed she sent me a bunch of links on how to self-publish and made me promise her that I would “finish-finish Bishop’s War,” throw a cover on it, then post it on Amazon and see what happens.
Even after I self-published I fully expected to sell a few hundred copies to friends and family and that would be the end of it. Promise to Mom check. Box on my bucket list of having a book I actually wrote strategically placed on my shelf next to Elmore Leonard, Tom Clancy, Stephen Hunter and John Sandford… check-check. Needless to say, the old cliché, Moms know, definitely applies here and I feel she’s right here with me on this surreal journey that’s connected us with hundreds of thousands of readers from all over the world.
And now that I actually am an author (I smile every time I say that!) and I’m nearly finished with book two in the Bishop series I want to give a huge shout out to all the Bishop’s War fans out there, but especially to the Veterans, Active Duty and Deployed men and women who really seem to enjoy it. Since we’re talking about inspiration here, there is nothing more inspiring than reading emails sent from soldiers on the front lines in Forward Operating Bases and Combat Outposts telling me about how a book I wrote helped them get through their day. Your personal messages have forever changed my life and as someone who’s never served, I’m honored and humbled by your outpouring of support and encouragement. I’m no longer writing just for me anymore, but for all of you as well. Thank you for all you do and may God bless and protect you.