A Belgian and U.S. national, Georges Ugeux is the Chairman and CEO of Galileo Global Advisors LLC, an investment banking advisory boutique. Ugeux joined the New York Stock Exchange in 1996, as Group Executive Vice President, International. An adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, Ugeux is the author of a numerous nonfiction books about finance. The Flying Dragon is his first work of fiction
Q: Congratulations on the release of your first mystery novel, The Flying Dragon. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?
A: I spent my entire life in international finance and was deeply shocked by the financial crisis. I wrote several “serious” non-fiction books on finance. Now is the time to expose the dark side of finance in a crime case. The novel was another way for me to express my feelings about the dark side of finance and I chose a young, Chinese woman as the leading detective (Instead of the men that usually dominate the world of finance).
Q: What do you think makes a good mystery novel? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?
A: The plot, the characters and the setting. The plot of my novel is unusual and takes the reader to the Chinese world and exposes corruption. The characters are real – I feel them. I feel their anger, emotion and pleasure. The setting is Hong Kong, a huge financial center with global ramifications and huge human challenges!
Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?
A: I followed the characters and the story as if I were a reader. At the end, I was so nervous. I had to decide who was guilty, the motives and how to trap the culprit!
Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?
A: I did not need to do character interviews or sketches to approach the development of the protagonist. I am active in the Chinese world and worked closely with young Chinese women for decades. I believe I understand the elements that make them both strong and vulnerable at the same time. It was wonderful to use this knowledge and understanding to create a “new” person: Victoria Leung.
Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?
A: I had several “villains” in mind as the story developed, but I was not prepared to decide who would be “THE ONE” until the very end. I followed the lies, turpitudes, fraud and aggressions..eventually they emerged as credible in their own motives.
Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?
A: By keeping chapters short, and switching character perspectives, I presented something similar to a series of short stories. For a while, I was the only one who knew how they were connected and why they were there. It was a nice game of cat and mouse.
Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?
A: I have been fortunate to travel to many parts of the world. While this first novel takes place in Victoria Leung’s home, she will eventually travel around the world as well, solving darker mysteries. The settings will always be places I have spent significant time. However, as I did with Hong Kong, I will always reach out to local connections/people I know to be sure my descriptions of the specific locations are accurate.
Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?
A: I knew it would be about the trading room environment, what happens in this world, and would involve fraud. Victoria, a former auditor and fraud department cop, had the expertise to decipher these mysteries. This is a theme that I developed in my original non-fiction book (the Betrayal of Finance) and used as the source of a culture that has turned its back on its vocation in favor of individual greed.
Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?
A: I hope that readers will love the story and Victoria Leung as much as I enjoyed creating them. The creativity is in me. Editing was and has been hugely helpful in ensuring the story was consistent and succinct. I never felt that my creative wings were “clipped” in any fashion.
Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?
- A: Story telling is number one. A novelist who gets lost and cannot keep the story line under control will soon lose the reader.
- Mixing real experiences with fiction as the circumstances of the mystery develop, without identifying the fact from fiction for the reader – it encourages curiosity keeps readers interested.
- Whether I love or hate the characters, I am not indifferent to their fate and my emotions, as the author transpire in the book. The reader should be able to connect with the characters.
Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?
A: Writing a novel, for me, is the reverse of homework. Homework is boring and tedious. I enjoyed every minute of this creative work. It is so different from the non-fiction world, in which tediousness can be essential. I truly enjoyed this journey.
Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?
A: My inspiration is diverse and plentiful. My main inspirations are Georges Simenon and Agatha Christie. I read all of their books. I find mystery movies (like the new Sherlock Holmes BBC series) riveting. Also, my professional life has taught me not to trust everything as it appears – it is often necessary to investigate.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?
A: Imagination is critical: have pictures and movies in your mind. Speak and review what you write. Then, follow your instincts.