Joe Goldberg has been a CIA covert action officer, corporate intelligence director, international political consultant, and currently is a college instructor and writer.
His work at the CIA garnered three Exceptional Performance Awards. In the private sector, as leader of Corporate Intelligence at Motorola, Joe received the Meritorious Award recognizing a single individual who has made significant contributions to the intelligence profession. He holds degrees in Political Science and Communications from the University of Iowa.
During 2014, Joe self-published the novel Secret Wars: An Espionage Story, with sales of nearly 9,000 print and e-book copies. It was a finalist in both the fiction and historical fiction categories of the Independent Author Network awards.
He has a passion for writing, US history, Jimmy Buffett, the Iowa Hawkeyes, and his family.
Questions & Answers
You have a background in intelligence, what was that like?
I am having a unique career. Government. Corporate. Consultant. I spent eight years at the Central Intelligence Agency. They interviewed on campus, at Iowa, and I decided it would be a good way to put together my politics and communications degrees. I always wanted to work in the public sector, so this was a great opportunity. I am proud to have raised my hand and pledged to defend the Constitution. From there, I went to work in the private sector in Motorola’s world-class intelligence groups. I am now a political and intelligence consultant.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
When I was in the CIA, in the daily chaos of intelligence and espionage, I was struck by the quality and character of the people I met. I wanted to make certain this was one of the key themes in Secret Wars.
Is this really fiction?
Yes…any resemblances to anyone, living or dead, are purely coincidental. There are real historical events inside—the bombings in Rome, Vienna, and Berlin; the bombing of Tripoli; and military actions in the Gulf of Sidra, among others. Of course, you write about what you know. So there are biographic elements, experiences, characteristics of people, and other observations.
Are there any secrets in Secret Wars?
My mantra while writing this was to be as accurate as I could without going to prison. By signed secrecy agreement, which I wholeheartedly concur with, this manuscript was sent to the CIA’s Publications Review Board for review and approval.
Why did you self-publish?
It was first researched and written from 1999–2001, the nascent Internet days, when libraries, bookstores, and other “analog” resources were still the best means available to get information. On September 11, 2001, the working drafts were in proper format, the cover letter had been meticulously crafted, and all of it was bundled in nice packages ready to be taken to the post office. After the attack, I pulled out the cover letters and rewrote them with the theme, “If there isn’t an interest in terrorism now, there never will be.” Agents and publishers disagreed, despite a few kind comments.
In 2001, publish on demand was basically a phantom concept, so Secret Wars languished for years in hard copy and on hard drives until January 2014. Then, what I took as several not-to-be-ignored coincidences, perhaps omens, motivated me. Rather than go through the time-consuming and uncertain agent/publisher search, I wanted to move forward and learn. So self-publishing seemed the best option.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
My goal was to tell a story, so I decided to keep it simple. It would be presumptuous to say I am a “writer.” Writers study structure, techniques, and styles. They practice. I am amateur, but someday I hope I can confidently call myself a writer. I had to research how to write, at least enough to start, and to keep with the goal of storytelling.
What authors do you read?
I read both fiction and non-fiction (truth be told, I actually read more non-fiction, than fiction). For fiction, I have read Fredrick Forsyth, David Ignatius, Tom Clancy, John le Carre’…and more. The usual suspects. Storytellers.
For non-fiction I really enjoy history and biographies. Ben Macintyre—his books on WW2 deception operations are fantastic. Nathaniel Philbrick, Simon Winchester, Erik Lawson. Great writers weaving interesting stories.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I read. If you write, you need to read. I spend time with family. I exercise. I like Jimmy Buffett. I follow all things Iowa Hawkeyes.