Monday, March 14, 2022

Matt Miksa Interview - Don't Get Close

Photo Content from Matt Miksa

Matt Miksa is a former FBI intelligence analyst who helped prevent foreign spies from stealing America’s secrets. Today, he writes espionage thrillers that blend history, politics, and science. Matt holds a graduate degree in China Studies from Columbia University and has spent time living in Beijing. He currently resides in Chicago with his wife and two young daughters.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book?
Oof, this is a tough one. I’ve always believed to improve as a writer, you have to read as much as possible across a diverse range of genres. Asking me to pick just one “all-time favorite” is insanely difficult. However, I’d say, my biggest influence is definitely Stephen King, so let’s start there. 11/22/63 utilizes such an innovative novel structure; Misery is a masterful locked-room mystery; and the consistently stylized voice of Dolores Claiborne is truly impressive.

But if I’m choosing a favorite from King’s many novels, I’d have to pick Pet Sematary. I’ll admit, I avoided this one for a while, mistakenly assuming it was about a psycho-killer cat or something. Had I only known this simple, yet powerful story would ultimately make my top list of all-time favorites. The relationship between Louis and his elderly neighbor is incredibly well-developed. King endearingly captures an often ignored connection that can form between adult men of different generations.

But the kicker, of course, is Louis’s relationship with his three-year-old son Gage. My own child was the same age as Gage when I first read this novel, and my heart is still recovering from Part Two.

Greatest thing you learned in school.
Trust your ability. My high school chemistry teacher (shout out to Mrs. Gregory!) recognized how self-doubt would often cripple me. She knew I understood the material, and help me see that I was just getting in my own way. Writing and publishing requires a great deal of trust in your own skill and talent. You hit so many roadblocks along the way—lack of motivation, stress, rejection—and you have to believe you’ll power through it all, eventually.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
There’s nothing like a global pandemic, homeschooling elementary school-aged children, leading a team remotely, and promoting a previous novel release to distract an author from writing. Much of this book was written before sunrise, when everyone who needed me was still unconscious.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Stories transport us to other worlds and dimensions, so there’s a crucial escapism benefit. They also force us to step outside of ourselves and imagine life from the perspectives of people who are absolutely nothing like us. This facilitates a certain empathy that only an open mind can achieve. Imagine how much better the world would be if more people read fiction?

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
My writing typically blends history, politics, and some aspect of emerging science. I recently came across a shocking scientific discovery in an academic journal. Unbelievably, this article was written more than thirty years ago. I kept yelling at my computer, “Why don’t more people know about this?” And more intriguingly, who would want to bury these controversial findings? These little gems really get my novel-writing wheels turning. It’s probably bad luck to say any more about the new project now. Stay tuned!

In your newest book; DON’T GET CLOSE, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
In Don't Get Close, Special Agent Vera Taggart walks away from a promising career as an artist to join the FBI. Her first assignment is centered on a cult of suicide bombers known as the Sons of Elijah who believe they’ve been reborn hundreds of times, going back centuries. Strangely, the group’s founding members shared the same therapist, a renowned psychiatrist who claims to help people remember past lives through hypnotherapy.

Taggart comes to suspect the Sons of Elijah are now targeting a high-tech government laboratory that could expose their greatest secret with a controversial experiment. To save millions of innocent lives, Tag must come to grips with the shocking truth about the cult and her own puzzling role in its timeless mission.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
Admittedly, I didn’t know much about the concept of reincarnation before beginning my research for this book. I’d always thought of reincarnation as something for New Age folks who collected magic crystals and made life decisions based on their horoscope. I had absolutely no idea that there are mainstream academic and medical professionals who have been studying people who claim to remember past lives for over forty years.

I read through hundreds of these cases to immerse myself in the bizarre findings of these professional researchers. In fact, every reference to remembered past lives, hypnotic regression, and near death experiences in Don’t Get Close is inspired by a real, documented case, with names and exact circumstances changed to fit my narrative.

This story may be categorized as speculative fiction or “paranormal,” but there’s actually much more truth to it than people may realize. I’d love for this novel to get readers to put preconceptions aside for a moment and think about the nature of human consciousness and what may really happen to us after our bodies die.

What part of Vera did you enjoy writing the most?
Vera Taggart’s career path is extremely unusual. She completes a graduate degree in fine art from the Art Institute of Chicago and somehow finds herself taking a job as an FBI special agent. I wanted this character to subvert the cliché FBI tropes we’re used to seeing on TV and reading in books. Using her artistic abilities as a kind of “third eye,” Taggart (who goes by Tag) is able to assemble clues through the expressive process of painting. She unlocks some of the most baffling cases. Plus, she has a penchant for gore, which is just lovely.

Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
Probably Florida. My dad worked for an airline when I was young, so we had to dress fancy to fly. I still remember that itchy wool suit. But I got to drink Sprite, too, so it was totally worth it.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Costco card (in case I need a jumbo vat of spicy pickles, right now).
A pair of glasses (in case my contacts jump out).
Comfortable shoes (in case I have to make a run for it).
Phone (in case my kids need me).
Water bottle (in case I get thirsty…or have to pee because I drank too much water).

Best date you've ever had?
The first date with my future wife, of course. We got together to just “hang out,” but at the end of the night she says, “Well, I don’t know if that was a date, but if it was, it was a good one.” We’ve been together for almost twenty years now.

First Heartbreak?
No. My heart’s fine.

What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
Mariah Carey doesn’t believe in time.

  • I went to the U.S. Naval Academy (for one year)
  • I recorded a pop album and mastered it at Capital Records
  • I tried to sit next to the former Governor of Texas on a Southwest Airlines flight, but was asked to move…’cause the plane was empty.
  • I’ve lived in ten states
  • I speak Mandarin Chinese
  • I served as an FBI counterintelligence analyst
  • I tried (unsuccessfully) to film a music video at the FBI Academy in Quantico
  • I once worked at the same place as Katy Perry (before she became famous)
  • I can often identify a voice with a single word, but I’m beyond terrible at recognizing faces
  • I’ve worked for the world’s largest bank and the world’s largest condom company…within the same year
Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from DON’T GET CLOSE
When researching DON’T GET CLOSE, I was shocked to learn just how many people believe in reincarnation. According to the Pew Research Center, about one third of Americans believes they will be reborn in another body after they die. These aren’t just the people who practice the various Eastern religions that include transmigration of the soul as a central tenet: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Shinto, and Taoism (to name a few). Twenty-nine percent of Christians believe in reincarnation as well. And this number has increased a whopping sixty-five percent over the past twenty years. You could say reincarnation is making a comeback! (How’s that for a dad joke?)

Still, scientists who study reincarnation struggle to find academic journals that will publish their work. With so many people onboard with the concept, why hasn’t this field found a place in mainstream science?

One of my favorite scenes in DON’T GET CLOSE, is when Dr. Jacobson experiments with hypnotherapy to treat a patient for anxiety and accidently stumbles upon a memory the woman can’t explain. With further probing, the woman shares shocking details, including the circumstances of an assassination she claims to have committed thousands of years ago. It all seems to prove the woman had lived before, possibly many times.

Stunned by the revelation, Dr. Jacobson is embarrassed, then intrigued, then intent on sharing his findings with anyone who will listen..

Dr. Jacobson says: “I’ve been called a quack, a charlatan, even a con artist. Hell, that’s precisely why it took me so long to come forward with my research. I worried: Would anyone take me seriously as a physician if I started telling tales about suspected witches reincarnated as insurance adjusters? It’s weird—I get it.”

The psychiatrist falls under suspicion when that same patient goes on to commit mass murder…again, in this life. And it turns out, she’s not the only one

FBI Special Agent Vera Taggart points out: “Two of your psychiatric patients—both highly educated with absolutely no criminal background—committed heinous murders after undergoing past-life regression hypnotherapy. It’s not hard to connect the dots, Dr. Jacobson.”

An infamous reincarnation cult resurfaces in the wake of a deadly bombing, and it’s up to an FBI novice to learn its true aim—and uncover its dark past before it consumes her.

Special Agent Vera Taggart walked away from a promising career as an artist to join the FBI, and she impresses her new colleagues with her eerie ability to divine conclusions from the grisliest crime scenes. Taggart’s first assignment is a decades-old cold case centered on a cult of suicide bombers known as the Sons of Elijah who believe they’ve been reborn hundreds of times, going back centuries. It seems like a low-risk assignment until a bomb tears apart a crowded Chicago restaurant. The Sons of Elijah have returned—and now it’s up to Taggart to stop their modern-day reign of terror.

Taggart’s investigation begins with Dr. Seth Jacobson, a renowned psychiatrist who claims to help people remember past lives through hypnotherapy. Jacobson had treated two of the Sons of Elijah’s founders before they’d gone on to commit a series of horrific murders. Desperate to understand how these ordinary patients could have taken such a violent path, Taggart agrees to undergo similar treatment with Jacobson.

Through her hypnosis sessions, Taggart comes to suspect the Sons of Elijah are targeting a high-tech government laboratory that could expose the group’s greatest secret with a controversial experiment. To save millions of innocent lives, Tag must come to grips with the shocking truth about the cult and her own puzzling role in its timeless mission. The fate of humanity rests on her ability to determine which threats are real and which exist only in her mind—and to decide whose side she’s really fighting for.

You can purchase Don't Get Close at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MATT MIKSA for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Don't Get Close by Matt Miksa.


  1. Not sure I'd call it flirting, but I was thrilled to see the plumber turn up.

  2. Many many years ago. These days I fear that would look grotesque.

  3. "When was the last time you flirted with someone?" I have never flirted with anyone, ever, and I never will!