With years of martial arts experience under his belt, Chris Hall spent the last two years cranking out his debut thriller, America’s Game, a hard-hitting novel written in the same vein as Ben Coes and Alex Berenson.
While introducing readers to CIA superagent Michael “MJ” Joseph, a great new action hero, Hall’s first book also features a riveting terrorist attack on American soil, and continued fallout from 9/11 that his characters take on full-speed. If you like nonstop action and timely, relevant plotlines, this one’s for you.
Just ahead of the book’s release, Hall agreed to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him about everything from his writing process to what’s next for MJ moving forward. See the full Q&A below, then click here to get your copy of America’s Game, now available on Kindle and in paperback.
TRBS: First off, congratulations on releasing your first book! Could you tell readers a bit about your background, and talk about what made you want to write a book in the first place?
Hall: Thank you very much! It’s an exciting time! I’ve always had a passion for writing and inspiring others. Whether it was through teaching martial arts, writing articles, or posting thoughts online, I’ve always enjoyed motivating and making a positive impact on people’s lives. On the other hand, I love being creative. It’s funny, I remember writing little stories for my parents when I was a kid and I believe I even attempted to illustrate for those little stories. I just had a desire to create.
As for writing America’s Game, it started out as a little idea that kept growing and growing. I was on a flight back from a Caribbean vacation when I first started jotting down some ideas in the notes section of my iPhone. I was sitting there, a little bored since I finished the books that I took with me, and thought If I were to write a thriller, how would America’s enemies attack and who would be the one hunting these terrorists? The ideas came pouring out. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I found that I was experiencing a form of escapism just as I did while reading an amazing novel. But, what was even better, was that I was the one creating the story. I was getting lost in the writing process and was thoroughly entertained as I saw the chapters and storyline coming together like a movie in my head. I loved every second of it.
As I mentioned above, I come from a martial arts background. I have been training for twenty years in various styles such as Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Krav Maga, and Karate. In my research for this novel, I traveled to different states and countries and trained alongside military and law enforcement in the use of firearms (pistol and carbine), first aid, and close-range combative tactics.
TRBS: America’s Game introduces readers to a great new character in MJ. Is he based on a real person in your life, and how did you come up with the plot details for this book?
Hall: Well, I will start off by saying that I don’t personally know any CIA assassins. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to train with and speak to some very capable individuals. With that being said, MJ is a combination of those individuals and then some.
I came up with the plot details from personal experiences and research. I’m from Philadelphia, so, I wanted to highlight my hometown while writing about things and places I’m familiar with. The terrorist’s large-scale attack in the story is a game that has been played in Philly for many years. One of my other goals was to take the reader on a trip around the world. This is where a lot of research came in. Many of the countries I wrote about in the book are places I never visited and I had fun researching and learning about those places and their cultures. I hope I was able to paint vivid pictures through my writing.
One of my other goals in this book was to make sure that history isn’t forgotten. I don’t want that “out of sight, out of mind” saying to lull people into forgetting what happened to our country on September 11th. I also want my book to be a teaching tool. What I mean by that is, my son, like many other American kids, was born after 9/11. I want my son, and any other young man or woman who reads my book, to learn about what happened that day, to realize how many lives were lost and to honor those Americans by remembering them.
TRBS: What kind of research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write, and how long did it take you to knock out your first book?
Hall: Some of the martial arts and weapon’s tactics in the story were pulled from my own training. I did not serve in the military so, some of the things I don’t have experience with (i.e. breaching doors with explosives, among others), I had to research and learn about. I didn’t have “full-time” hours in the day to dedicate to writing, so it took about two years to hammer this book out. But, moving forward, I know I could cut that timeline down tremendously. With that being said, you certainly need patience in this field.
TRBS: Who are some of your favorite authors, and who (if anyone) inspired you to write your first book?
Hall: Hands down, Vince Flynn. (I’m grateful that Kyle Mills is keeping Rapp alive and hunting. He’s doing great.) I also enjoy reading Brad Thor, Dan Brown, and Ben Coes.
TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for MJ and the rest of the gang? Is this a planned series, and when could readers expect the next book?
Hall: There is much more to come. I already have storylines and ideas planned for books two, three, and four. MJ is going to be a force for many years to come. I have been overwhelmed with kind words and compliments about America’s Game and the characters. I’m thrilled that people are enjoying the book. So, I certainly don’t want to keep people waiting too long for MJ’s next mission. I plan on having the next novel out by the end of 2019.
CIA superagent Michael “MJ” Joseph, stands on America’s front lines against the war on terror.
While on a covert mission to apprehend a bomb maker, MJ discovers a terrorist leader’s dangerous plot to pull a daring attack on American soil. As MJ plunges into the rabbit hole, he learns that terrorists have two primary targets- a small-scale attack at Temple University, and a large-scale attack during the nationally televised Army vs. Navy college football game.
With ‘America’s Game’ coming up, The Islamic State plans to turn the game into a spectacle of terror that’ll be felt around the world. What they didn’t count on, though, was MJ- who must work against a racing clock and beat insurmountable odds, in order to thwart the attack before thousands of Americans are killed.
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.