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Friday, May 25, 2012

Interview/Guest Post with Charlene Keel and Paul Wineman

Guest Blog
Interview with author Paul R. Wineman
By his Co-Author, Charlene Keel

Delighted when Kati asked me to do a guest blog, I knew what I’d most like to share with her readers. He’s one of the most exciting men I’ve ever met—my co-author, Paul R. Wineman, with whom I wrote Seventh Dawn of Destiny. You can see him in action, as a young Army officer stationed in Iran, by following this link to his episode of The Big Picture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ni-EbAgGvw (after you read this interview, of course).

Charlene: What compelled you to write Seventh Dawn of Destiny?

Paul: As a young U.S. army officer stationed in Iran in the early 1960s, I lived an adventurous life, a significant part of it in the Middle East. I remained there throughout the late 1970s, with various studies and business ventures. Because I was in the right place at the right time and knew some of the right people, I became a participant in events occurring in the Arab world that affected America’s role there. At the time they were taking place, I recorded my account of them—and my reactions—so they would stay fresh in my mind. As the years progressed and America’s role in Iran changed, I realized that the best way to preserve and present my experiences would be in a book.

Charlene: Now let’s tell readers how you met me and decided to hire me as your ghostwriter.

Paul: I have many talents but writing exciting fiction is not one of them. I needed a ghostwriter and since by then I lived in southern California I thought a good place to start would be with an ad in the Hollywood Reporter. When the sales rep heard what I was looking for, he told me, “Save your money. A writer just placed an ad looking for clients,” and he gave me your number. You had some pretty solid credentials and that convinced me you were right for the project.

As I began relating my experiences and the way of life I’d led and you became as interested in the story as I was, it was soon clear to me that the success of this project hinged on your ability to capture equal parts of romance and adventure based on the information I gave you—and you didn’t disappoint!

Charlene: What’s the book about and what kind of preparation did you do so that the writing could begin?

Paul: I’ll answer the second part of your question first. I got out all the tapes I’d recorded years before and listened to them again (on an old reel-to-reel machine), and then I turned everything over to you. As you listened to my tapes over and over again, we met frequently so I could answer your questions and review your pages-in-progress.

We decided together on the direction this epic could take—and it was epic. When we finished we had over a thousand pages, which we had to whittle down to a manageable size. As for what it’s about, let me just give you the blurb:

Did the CIA topple the Peacock Throne?
The luxurious lifestyle U.S. army officers once enjoyed in Iran seduces Scott Fallon from the moment he arrives. By falling in love with the daughter of an Iranian general, he gives American oil and arms interests a way to force him into an assassination plot. Assigned a special mission for the Shah, he becomes a friend of the royal family—and the CIA station chief in Teheran has a man in place, should termination become necessary.

“I want you to look at this like a giant game of Monopoly,” Lou said, and Scott wasn’t surprised at his choice of allegory. Lou was not a man who played chess. “And in the Middle East whoever’s got the oil has Boardwalk and Park Place and is therefore unbeatable. It’s all about the oil, Scott. It has always been about the oil and it will always be about the oil.”

Scott is a hero who fights the system when it’s wrong but this time the stakes are incredibly high—the death of the most powerful man in Iran in exchange for the life of Scott Fallon’s son.

Charlene: In the afterword at the end of the book, you say that you lived many of the experiences you talk about in Seventh Dawn of Destiny but you can’t tell us which are real and which are fiction. Why did you decide to write a novel based on events instead of a straight autobiography?

Paul: For an autobiography I’d have had to be too specific about situations in which I was involved that may still carry United States security cover. I thought it best to do a work of fiction so I could incorporate a mix of real events with fictitious ones.

Charlene: Scott Fallon’s adventures get the attention of the Shah of Iran, which we know is actually based on real events in your life. What brought you to the Shah’s attention and what was it like going on a special mission for him that was also very important to the U.S.?

Paul: In June 1963 I was involved in putting down an attempt to overthrow the Shah’s government. When he heard about my participation—and that I’d been the subject of a U.S. Army training film, and that I speak Farsi—he requested that I brief him personally and screen my film for him. I was 25 years old and a U.S. Army Green Beret Officer attached as an advisor to the Shah’s Special Forces Units. I can say no more about that part of my life, but you can read the fictionalized account (which is also pretty exciting) in Seventh Dawn of Destiny.

Charlene: The CIA Station Chief, Lou Michaels, asks Scott to spy on the Iranian paratroopers (and the Shah). In your real-life experiences, did you ever act as a spy? If so, can you tell us some of your adventures (without giving away government secrets)?

Paul: Because of my background in both Iran and the Arab Middle East I often get asked that question—and I can’t answer it with any credibility. If I say, “No,” no one believes me. If I say “Yes,” which I never do, no one believes me because if I really were a spy I wouldn’t be able to admit it. It’s kind of like trying to answer the question, “When did you stop beating your wife?” Whatever I say, I’m guilty!

Charlene: Scott Fallon falls in love with Janous, a beautiful Iranian girl whose father has already promised her in marriage to an Iranian general. Could something like that really have happened in Iran in the 1960s, and could it ever have ended happily for the couple? Why or why not?

Paul: It is conceivable that a young American officer based in Teheran could have met and fallen in love with an Iranian girl—but it is highly unlikely that it could have ended happily. Like Janous, Iranian girls, especially in upper levels of society, had their marriages arranged by their parents, usually to increase family holdings or social position. And, as in our book, these girls had no choice in the matter.

Charlene: One of the most poignant scenes in the books is when, many years after the fact, Janous’s husband tells her that he has always known she was in love with Scott Fallon. We understand that something like that can get a girl killed—literally. Was it true back then that in all Persian families any woman who had an affair before marriage would most likely be put to death by her own husband and father?

Paul: Yes—and it still happens today in the Middle East . . . particularly in tribal areas within families who are not well educated. But it does happen in the educated classes as well.

Charlene: The years you were a soldier in Iran life seemed very luxurious for American army officers, who were respected and welcome. Why did it change?

Paul: The U.S. military was in Iran at the invitation of the Shah, so no one showed any animosity at having us there. Once he fell from power and the Ayatollah Khomeini took over, things changed abruptly. All the Americans were immediately evacuated, with the exception of our embassy staff who remained until November 1979, after they were held hostage by Khomeini’s followers.

Charlene: With your knowledge and expertise in Middle Eastern studies, politics and social customs, what would you say is in the future for relations between the U.S. and Iran? And, do you have any advice for the U.S. government on how to make things better?

Paul: I believe that some time in the future, Iran will again need the backing of the U.S. We should continue a behind-the-scenes dialogue between as many high-level and mid-level contacts as possible, in preparation for that day.

Charlene: What do you hope people will get out of reading this book—besides entertainment?

Paul: In Seventh Dawn of Destiny, we present the inhabitants of that part of the world as just as human as we are. Our Middle Eastern characters have the same desires as we do to be successful, raise good children, have a close family life and become members of a multi-national world—and they love, they hate, they feel, they laugh and they die, just like us.

Charlene: You now own a consulting company that advises corporations on how to do business in the Middle East (and internationally), with some pretty impressive clients over the years, including Anheuser-Busch, Litton Industries, ConAgra, DeKalb Genetics and Apple Computers. Where is your company headed in the future?

Paul: I continue to work as a professional negotiator for Fortune 500 companies interested primarily in doing business in the Middle East.

Charlene: You have another amazing book that would be beneficial to anyone who ever needs to negotiate anything (especially authors). Where can people find that?

Paul: About 13 years ago, at the suggestion of one of my corporate clients, I wrote The Sweet Art of Negotiation, which encompasses the fundamentals of what one has to do to become a good negotiator. It’s basically a primer on negotiation, broken down into short sections. It’s available on Amazon.com or directly through my company at http://trainingnegotiation1.com/who.html.

Charlene: If Seventh Dawn of Destiny were made into a movie, who would you cast to play Scott Fallon? Janous? Susan (the American girl Scott marries)? Lou Michaels? General Sadeghi (Janous’ husband)?

Paul: I think Matt Damon would be perfect as Scott Fallon and I see Angelina Jolie as Janous. For Susan, it’s a toss-up between Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman—I’d be thrilled with either one—and for Lou Michaels, Tommy Lee Jones would be perfect. For General Parviz Sadeghi, Iranian-American actor John Abraham looks absolutely right for the role.


And The Sweet Art of Negotiation at




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