Tony “A.J.” Tata is the bestselling author of 7 thriller fiction novels, including the popular Jake Mahegan series published by Kensington Books. His March 2017 novel, Besieged, was a national bestseller and his newest release, Direct Fire, is due in stores and online December 26th, 2017.  His fifth novel, Foreign & Domestic was a finalist for the prestigious literary Barry Award for best thriller. Tony is a former army paratrooper and brigadier general who earned the combat action badge and bronze star during his last combat tour in Afghanistan in 2006-07. After a 28-year career in the military, he also served as the Superintendent of Wake County Public Schools and the Secretary of Transportation of North Carolina. Presently he is the President of KaylaTek, LLC, a defense, transportation, and energy consulting and contract services company. He is the national security expert for One America News Network and a frequent guest commentator on Fox News and CNN. Tony lives in downtown Wilmington and can often be found 100 yards offshore by Crystal Pier on his surfboard.

What are the first thing you do when you wake up and the last thing you do before retiring in the evening?

The first thing I do when I wake up is check the surf cam at South End Surf Shop to see if there are any waves worth paddling out for. The last thing I do in the evening is read; I’m always reading either a fiction or nonfiction book and I usually fall asleep with the book on my bed.

What is your guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasure is a Copper Penny Philly Cheesesteak. Enough said.

If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?

Operate without sleep…wait, I already do that. Honestly, it would be great to have the power to, at will, crush the enemies of freedom.

If you could become an animal, which animal would it be?

A hawk. Stay above the fray. See everything. And kill what you eat.

What do you most enjoy about the Cape Fear region?

The combination of beach, river, downtown, and great people. It’s a one of a kind place that has something for everyone.

The Big 5 are fun, quirky questions that we ask members of the Cape Fear community each month. This is a fun, interactive way to connect the names and faces of our region with our readers. If you’d like to participate or nominate someone in the community, please send your email to the editor at kharin@ and we’ll do our best to accommodate your requests. Thank you and enjoy!

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