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August 31, 2020

After completing a self-publishing course, Mooney was inspired to write his debut novel, Time to Pay the Piper, a thriller with some eerie similarities to our current reality.

What inspired Time to Pay the Piper?

Several years ago, I was asked to consult on a project to work out a credible way that the U.S. could solve its debt and deficit problems. The report concluded that the only way to balance the budget and start repaying debt was to massively increase taxation and, at the same time, substantially reduce the dependence on welfare. Neither of these options is politically palatable or even achievable. As part of the project, I modelled the effects of welfare ceasing to exist. The results were staggering.

This led to the obvious next step and is how the idea for the book arrived: introduce a bad guy with access to a weapon of mass destruction that has a 100% mortality rate. Once I had worked out a credible WMD and a way of targeting only select individuals, the rest was easy. I just had to keep asking questions: What would happen if... ? What would China do in this situation? Are there any effects from the law of unintended consequences?

Why or how do you think this book is particularly relevant now?

I finished the first draft of Time to Pay the Piper in Sept. 2019, and it is scary how much of my fiction has turned into reality. Time to Pay the Piper features a unique pandemic that targets an extremely vulnerable section of American society. The pandemic is released by corrupt government officials and overwhelms the essential workings of the economy. China and Russia sit in the background biding their time to take advantage of American weakness and achieve their ambitions to regain superpower status.

Why do you think readers enjoy the thriller genre so much?

I think it is hardwired into us to enjoy thrillers. Since the dawn of time, men and women have engaged in problem-solving. How do I get from point A to point B faster than walking? How do I communicate over vast distances? How can I continue working when the sun goes down? We also have a brain that responds with fight or flight and pumps natural chemicals into our body. To me, a good thriller combines the two elements. It gives us a problem, or problems, to solve with some twists that get the pulse racing. Thrillers gel with our DNA, which is the reason it is the largest genre.

What advice would you give prospective writers?

I don’t know whether this qualifies as advice, but here is what has worked for me. I knew how I wanted the book to start and had a rough idea as to a middle and an end. I didn’t get too bent out of shape by not having every chapter fleshed out at the very start. I mostly worked in roughly five-chapter slabs, and this worked well for me. It allowed me to come up with several twists and turns that I had not considered at the very start of the process.

Find what is comfortable for your style and then just start writing. And expect to edit and reedit and reedit again. And definitely hire professionals to help you: developmental and copy editors, proofreaders, cover designers, interior formatters.

Are you working on anything new?

I’m working on my next book and hoping that I’ll have the first draft finished this year, ready to publish early in 2021. I am marketing it as the “Unabomber on steroids,” as the villain lays siege to the U.K. with a bombing campaign designed to get the Royal Family to abdicate.