DIRECT FIRE: Five Questions with A.J. Tata

Aj tata


When it comes to hard-hitting thrillers, few are doing it better than General A.J. Tata. I’m a big fan of his work, especially his latest book, Direct Fire

Direct Fire is the fourth book in Tata’s Jake Mahegan series, which kicked off back in 2015 with Foreign and Domestic. With each book (Three Minutes to Midnight 2016, Besieged 2017) Tata gets better and better. His biggest just so far, though, is with his new book, a rip-roaring action thriller that starts quickly and only gets faster as the story unfolds. While this series was already very solid, it feels like Mahegan has officially arrived . . . Direct Fire elevates Tata’s franchise putting him one step closer to guys like Ben Coes, Mark Greaney, and Brad Thor. (If you’re a fan of their stuff and haven’t tried Tata’s books, you need to!) 

Ahead of the release of Direct Fire, Tata agreed to take part in our Five Questions segment, providing really insightful and thoughtful answers to a wide range of questions. See the Q&A below, then keep reading to learn more about the latest Jake Mahegan thriller. 


TRBS: First and foremost, General, thanks for answering a few questions! In my opinion, Direct Fire is your best book yet. This series has gone from very good to one of the best in a hurry. Where did the plot idea for this one come from?

Tata: Direct Fire’s plot came from two places. First, a high percentage of collateral damage in Iraq and Afghanistan seemed to be reported as “wedding parties.” After investigations, sometimes they were legit weddings and sometimes they were terrorists moving and using the cover of a wedding party to disguise their movement. Operation Groomsman is a reflection of that dilemma for commanders on the ground. Secondly, the ease with which immigrants can infiltrate the United States seemed like a plausible pipeline for three dozen or so bad guys to gather in the mountains near Asheville.
TRBS: Obviously, you write from experience having served nearly three decades in the military. At what point in your life did you know you wanted to be an author, and how difficult was it to write your first book?
Tata: I’ve always wanted to be a fiction novelist. As an elementary school student, I would come home from book fair day with an armload of mysteries that I would immediately begin to devour. I soon became intrigued by the fact that some authors held my attention and others did not. That notion led to me studying the craft of writing by reading books such as Stephen’s King’s Danse Macabre and On Writing. Knowing that writing requires production, I began to, well, write. Writing the first book (an unpublished, never submitted 500-page manuscript called The Last Gamble about a West Point Heisman trophy running back caught in a mob point-shaving scheme) was fun and gave me a great sense of accomplishment. The next ten have also been fun and I enjoy entertaining readers. My agent, Scott Miller, and my editors, Gary Goldstein and Marc Resnick, are great supporters and have made me a better author.
TRBS: This is actually your second book to come out this year, following Besieged (the third Jake Mahegan book) which came out in February. Take me inside your writing process — how are you able to crank out high-octane thrillers so quickly?

Tata: I mostly free write. Start with an idea–autonomous cars as vehicle IEDs in Besieged, e.g.–and then build around that concept. Who could do that? How would they do it? What would be their purpose? How could you stop it once unleashed? I get much of this thought process from spending a lifetime thinking of the worst thing that could happen to my troops and then finding solutions to keep that from happening. I had to be creative as a commander and developing stories is no different. I try to write 1,000 words a day. Some days more, some days less. I use excel to do a brief outline that moves me from acts one through three. For me, the most fun is getting to that “all is lost” moment where there is no chance of success for the protagonist and then having to devise realistic and cunning ways out of the dilemma.

TRBS: I just finished reading REAPER: GHOST TARGET, a book that you co-authored with Nicholas Irving  — wow is that book fantastic! Reaper comes out on May 8th, 2018. . . What can you tell readers about that project, and when can your fans expect to see Jake Mahegan again?

Tata: Riffing with Nick on that book was a blast. He’s a great partner and we had fun pulling that together. The idea of a sniper in combat who loses his spotter and his rifle in the opening scene captured us and set the stage for a chase. Nick wanted the antagonist to be his real-life antagonist in Afghanistan, so we created a fictional version of “The Chechen.” Vick Harwood, The Reaper, is a great protagonist and you’ll be seeing more of him after Ghost Target. With Mahegan, The Fire and The Fury (November 2018) will find Jake on the cusp of World War III chasing three human biometric keys to stop the Russian, Iranian, and North Korean (RINK) alliance. It’s the first step into a geopolitical combat novel with Mahegan and Jake finds himself, as usual, torn between peace and war. With the tensions so high right now my editor, Gary Goldstein, and I thought it was the perfect time to work on a high tech thriller that entertained the concept of a conventional and nuclear war in today’s Internet of Things and Machine Learning environment.

TRBS: Lastly, who are a few of your favorite authors, and what books are on your TBR list right now?

Tata: Oh wow. So many. Brad Thor,  Mark Greaney, CJ Box, John Sandford, Ben Coes, John Lescroart, Kim Howe, Matt Betley, Gregg Hurwitz, Kyle Mills (either as himself or on Vince’s books), Lee Child, Ward Larsen, Joseph Finder, Joel Rosenberg, and Michael Connelly, to name a few. That was a quick glance at the bureau in my bedroom. I preorder all of these authors.

TataPacked with high-powered action and stunning authenticity, the novels of Brigadier General A.J. Tata have won widespread acclaim from the bestselling masters of suspense. In Direct Fire, he brings the war on terror to America—with his hero, Jake Mahegan, caught in the crossfire. . . .
A powerful banker, gunned down in cold blood. A military family, senselessly slaughtered as they sleep. A four-star general, hacked and framed by virtual assassins. Another key general, kidnapped from his farm near Fort Bragg. Atrocities like these are all too common in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. But this is the United States of America . . .
When Jake Mahegan receives a distress call from General Savage in North Carolina, he rushes to the commander’s home—and walks right into an ambush. When the smoke clears, Mahegan is alive but the implications of the attack are as absolute as death: The terrorists are here . . . and no one is safe. Joining forces with Savage’s combat JAG officer, Alexandra Russell, Mahegan follows the trail to a killer who goes by the name “Jackknife,” a Syrian refugee-turned-terrorist who vows to avenge the bombing of a Syrian wedding—by killing as many Americans as possible.
But time is running out for Mahegan. Terrorist cells are gathering in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hackers are emptying the nation’s banks of millions of dollars. And their final act of vengeance will bring the whole world to its knees. For Mahegan, it’s time to kill. Now.
Special thanks to A.J. Tata for going on the record with us, and for giving such great answers! 
I was especially excited to ask General Tata about Reaper: Ghost Target, the book he co-wrote with Nick Irving, because of all the books I’ve read coming out in 2018 so far, that’s probably my favorite. It takes an awful lot for something to blow me away. . . and that book did. I can’t wait to talk more about that later on, so stay tuned for a full spoiler-free review in the near future. 
In the meantime, it sure feels good to have JakeMahegan back in bookstores. He’s one of the more underrated heroes in the action thriller genre right now, and Tata has developed him nicely over the last couple of books. One of the things that sets this series apart from others is the creative, yet terrifying, scenarios that Tata comes up with for his books. That continues in Direct Fire, which has a tad more action than Three Minutes to Midnight, and an even faster plot than Besieged
Mark Greaney’s Gray Man series went to another level when Greaney wrote Back Blast, and I predict Direct Fire will do the same for A.J. Tata. A few years from now readers will look back and realize this was the book that helped JakeMahegan soar to new heights. If you haven’t gotten it yet, don’t wait any longer. 
Direct Fire is now available wherever books are sold so make sure to run out and get your copy as soon as possible, or stay in and click here to order your copy today! 

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