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You've got espionage

GSU alum's first novel deals with sexism, terrorists and technology


September 24, 2014

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    For the last nine months, Nathan Goodman has been leading a double life. By day, he’s a mild-mannered senior project manager at a technology company, a husband and a father of two. But his spare time has been spent dipping into a world of terrorism, espionage and government conspiracy — a world, by the way, he created himself.  
    A Georgia Southern graduate of 1989 and a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity on campus, Goodman had never been the kind of student who harbored dreams of writing a novel. Nevertheless, his first novel, The Fourteenth Protocol, is currently enjoying its first month of publication.
    “I don’t think it’s [being a writer] always been in me,” Goodman said. “I just never understood that I could do it too.”
    In Goodman’s words, The Fourteenth Protocol is “an FBI terrorist thriller with a very strong female lead.” That would be Jana Baker, a tough young agent struggling to prove herself against sexism in her male-dominated CIA unit. In the midst of competing with her closed-minded coworkers, Jana uncovers a government conspiracy between a terror cell and the CIA itself.        
    As Goodman describes it, the CIA in his book has adopted a tactic similar to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s strategy for breaking up drug rings: making drug buys and working its way up the ladder of the organization to bust the kingpins at the top. In taking this approach to take down a terror cell, the CIA of Goodman’s book ends up funding terrorists who use the money against American troops and civilians.
    Inspired by Stephen King’s advice in On Writing that suggests an author ought to use his own work as a backdrop for the story, Goodman drew on his experience working with email software to embed the evidence of the government conspiracy in an email server. That's where his second protagonist comes in.
    Balancing out Jana is Cade Williams, who — aside from his intelligence and familiarity with the email system — is mostly unexceptional but becomes one of the story’s unlikely heroes.
    “He’s never been in any of these situations, just like most of us would never have been faced with this,” Goodman said. “He’s just this email server guy, and all the sudden he happens to be working in the place where the big cover-up has started. And so he’s asked to spy, and we’re talking about spying against terrorists. And suddenly his life is on the line.”
    As research for the book, Goodman ran ideas by friends of his who worked in federal law enforcement to confirm basic titles and military language. However, he’s open about the fact that — like many military thrillers — The Fourteenth Protocol “Hollywood-izes” certain elements to up the stakes for the characters. Goodman said he took liberties with certain military procedures not only because it made for a more action-packed read, but also because it gave his female lead, Jana, more autonomy.
    “To try and prove herself in a place like that, it’s quite a good extreme compared to just the average person working in a business office,” Goodman said. “She still has to prove herself, but this is on a whole different level, and if she can prove herself on this level, she’s really accomplished something.”
    As the father of two daughters, Goodman had good reason to write a strong female character. Knowing that his girls would read the book had a big influence in the direction the story took, and his 12-year-old daughter was his first reader for any draft. He incorporated traits from both of his daughters into the characters — particularly Jana, so they could see themselves in the story as a character they could look up to.
    “I want them to identify with this character so they understand, ‘You can get through this. You can be looked at as an equal,’” Goodman said.
    As a novelist, Goodman was a self-starter in every sense. Though he’d never written anything seriously before, he made the commitment to write 15 minutes every day for nine months. Once the book was finished, he chose to self-publish rather than take on the financial commitments and extended publication timeline that come with traditional publishing. This way, also, he gets to keep the rights to the story — and any pending sequels, of which Goodman said there will definitely be at least one.
    The book has been out for less than a month and can be purchased in both ebook and paperback formats. Copies are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes, in addition to his author website NathanAGoodman.com, where signed copies of the book are available for purchase.
    So far response for the book has been positive, but it hasn’t been very wide. When an author self-publishes he takes on all of the responsibility of marketing, and competing with the 400,000 books published annually is an uphill battle. However, Goodman hopes the book will catch on so the story can spread what he believes is a positive message.
    “It’s bigger than just a thriller,” Goodman said. “I want you to walk away thinking, ‘Man, I can do this. I can do something.’ ”


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