Tata, a retired brigadier general, imagines a terrorist plot that targets America’s top military leadership in Direct Fire (Kensington, Jan.).

Why did you decide to use the notion of terrorists entering the U.S. by pretending to be innocent Syrian refugees as the plot for Direct Fire?

I spent a lifetime as a military leader asking, “What is the worst thing the enemy can do to my soldiers?” and then developing solutions to prevent that from happening. Now, as an author, I use that thought process as a catalyst for plot development.

The terrorists in your novel kill a significant number of the Army’s top command. How realistic is this?

Sun Tzu had a maxim that if you defend everywhere, you defend nowhere. It’s nearly impossible to defend dozens of senior leaders 24/7 with perfection and still allow them to feel they’re leading normal lives. The opening scenes in Direct Fire speak to some of the vulnerabilities of senior military and civilian personnel. That said, security around our senior military leadership is strong.

Do you wonder if terrorists or other enemies of the United States get ideas about how to stage attacks by reading thrillers?

Our enemies are always thinking of ways to do harm to our nation and people. I believe if I can think of it, they probably already have thought of it. That said, our law enforcement personnel are also reading the thriller genre, and I believe that the creativity of the plots spark ideas for countering the threats our genre develops. So it cuts both ways. While the bad guys may be reading the books, the good guys are thinking through the plots as well.

How does a general become a thriller novelist?

I have always wanted to write fiction since I was a child. I was one of those kids who came back from book fair day in elementary school with an armload of mysteries. I became fascinated by the authors’ abilities to create interesting characters and develop intriguing plots. I began to study the mechanics of writing and then followed Tom Clancy’s and Stephen King’s advice, which, paraphrased, is, “If you want to be a writer, then write.” I began allocating time weekly to write, and then it became daily, either early in the morning or late in the evening. For me, writing is a release. I love the creative process, and it is a passion for me.