CONFLUENCE is Stephen J. Gordon’s second novel featuring his hero Gidon Aronson that follows his debut novel, IN THE NAME OF GOD.
In both novels, we find Gidon going about his daily life—running his martial arts dojo and substitute teaching at a local private school. On the surface it appears to be a rather normal life. Fortunately for some people, like a visiting Israeli diplomat or a young rabbi’s family, his specialized training leaps to the forefront when needed.
This is the double-edged sword Gidon deals with. He is learning to live with the consequences of his life as an elite member of the Israeli special forces and finding that living a quiet life is harder than anticipated. In both books, as Gidon tracks the perpetrators, he finds the assaults have roots in Israel and the United States, particularly his hometown of Baltimore.
Gordon had specific goals in mind when he created Gidon. “It’s important to note the hero is not Israeli. He’s an American who moved to Israel to serve in the army and help a country that has meaning to him and is surrounded by enemies. On the world stage, Israel and her people are, really, the good guys routinely fighting an extremist enemy.
“Special ops guys work at tasks that are by nature high stress and high value. They have an international reputation for being bold and resourceful. In Israel these guys are part of the family and the overall culture. In Gidon, I wanted a man with high moral standards, but who, because of his past operations, bears emotional scars. By design we are entering his life at this point in time when he is emotionally raw.
“I love the fact that Gidon is messed up emotionally. In the first book (IN THE NAME OF GOD), he’s with a woman who is too young for him and he knows it. He’s in pain and simply wants companionship and some physicality. That relationship changes over the course of the story.
“What’s also great about Gidon is his strong sense of right and wrong, plus he is very accomplished in the martial and the military arts, but is very low key about it — plus he has a great sense of humor.”
Gordon has given his hero a nice supporting cast and he admits he “loves the relationship between Gidon and his circle of friends.” The other part he enjoyed about CONFLUENCE was in writing the last third of the novel as the story accelerates toward the climax.
But there were challenges in crafting CONFLUENCE. One of the most difficult parts was in making sure he was revealing enough of the mystery “so when the hero screws up, we can understand his perspective. On the other hand, you don’t want to reveal too much so ‘aha’ moments remain a surprise.”
For IN THE NAME OF GOD, he created the Gidon Aronson universe and developed scenes and dialogue to reveal character traits and motivation. CONFLUENCE has the challenge of standing alone, yet must be tied in someway to the previous book. Different scenes work to reveal the same character elements developed in the first book, but have “to be fresh and new and exciting. On top of that, there has to be character growth. The hero shouldn’t be at the same emotional place at the end of the book as he was in the beginning. His core may be the same, but the experience of the story should have an effect on him.”
Research for his books was pretty straightforward as Gordon worked out from his personal knowledge base. “I’ve been to Israel many times, have had many conversations with soldiers and other professionals. One thing leads to another. I remember writing one scene in CONFLUENCE where a sharpshooter on a beach needed to take out a sentry. As I was composing the scene, I picked up the phone, called one of my contacts and asked, “I have a guy making a 400 yard shot. What would he be using?”
He uses a similar approach for his martial arts scenes.
Writing a novel is not an easy process but Gordon works it around his job as a teacher at a private middle school in Baltimore. “My writing is reserved for breaks, then I write at the dining room table on a laptop surrounded by pages of manuscript and my notes. To my right is a large picture window that looks out on my backyard where I can peer out and get lost in my scene. Sometimes when I need to work out a difficult plot detail, I’ll go for a walk with my dog and run stuff through my head.
“I work from both ends of the story. Once I have the villain and the main plot, I working through the ending by making copious notes and then I work on the opening scenes. I definitely outline, though not in the traditional sense. The “outline” may be bullet points, or a series of paragraphs. I also create a timeline, so I can follow the evolution of the plot and the steps the protagonist has to take. The notes get more detailed the closer I get to writing a particular scene.”
When not on break and actively writing, Gordon does a “great deal of note-taking, long walks with the dog, and even some scene writing” so he can capture specifics of what he wants.
“I left the end of CONFLUENCE with some definite transition possibilities for Gidon and his love interest. His adventures will continue. I’ve begun work for the third novel though I suspect it will be another year before a manuscript is ready.”
With a full teaching schedule and the start of the third Gidon tale underway, Gordon spends some of his free time reading fellow ITW authors including Lee Child and Daniel Silva. He also recommends THE PRIME MINISTERS by Yehuda Avner, which gives a personal look into the lives of Israeli leaders.
In addition to CONFLUENCE, Stephen J. Gordon is the author of IN THE NAME OF GOD, Gidon Aronson’s debut thriller. Mr. Gordon’s other writing credits include a memoir for Good Housekeeping and television series work for Maryland Public Television. His feature film script Rapid Eye Movement was accepted by the Independent Feature Film Market in New York. Mr. Gordon lives in Baltimore.
You can learn more about Stephen J. Gordon and his books, IN THE NAME OF GOD and CONFLUENCE, by visiting his website.