It's very easy as an author to get bogged down in the research for a new idea, instead of concentrating on the writing, especially if you're writing outside of your comfort zone.
My next thriller, Under Fire, features a stolen submarine. Problem is, I've never served on a submarine - so how to make the scenes realistic?
The solution was a simple one. Find a submarine, have a wander around, and get that all-important sense of place I was trying to capture in my writing.
The Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour, Sydney was just the ticket. They have an Oberon-class submarine, HMAS Onslow, which is open to the public daily. I managed to pick a quiet time during the day (I think everybody else was in the pub) and spent some valuable time with one of the volunteers, asking questions and getting a real feel for what it was like to serve on the vessel.
The visit helped my imagination gauge what it must be like for a submarine crew - the cramped conditions, the heat, noise, smells. Everything I experienced that day would be amplified in the confines of a serving submarine. Within an hour, I'd joined those lucky what-names at the pub and was furiously scribbling into my notebook.
Hopefully when you read Under Fire later this year, you'll get that sense of place too.
One of the best things about being an author is the opportunity to get involved with other aspects of writing and publishing.
I was excited to be approached by the creators of Espionage Magazine a couple of months ago, who wanted me to take a look at their new anthology of thriller stories, Death Toll.
Featuring stories by the likes of Jake Needham and Stephen Leather, the anthology also introduces a wider audience to writers such as Liam Saville, the Sydney-based author of "Predator Strike" and a great advocate for new authors like myself.
In short, it was an honour to be asked to provide a "blurb" for the anthology, and having downloaded it on to my Kindle on its release a week or so ago, I would urge readers to do the same.
I don't think the thriller genre is known for anthologies - with any luck, Espionage Magazine and Death Toll will convert people's thinking, and fast.
You can find out more about the anthology here.
The savvy amongst you will have noticed a new page crop up on the website recently. Yes, after weeks of teasing people on Twitter, Facebook and the like, I finally uploaded the movie-style book trailer for Under Fire which will be my 2013 release. Head on over, take a look - I'd be delighted to hear your thoughts.
I have a new interview featured today, courtesy of Indie House Books. Find out about my books, what I'm reading & my writing processes here
‘A Very British Blog Tour 2013’ was initiated by Paul Anthony
earlier this month, and I was kindly invited by Clive Eaton
to join a hand-picked group of British authors to take part.
The idea is to encourage readers (and other authors of course) to discover new books by British authors by visiting and supporting the websites of authors involved in the tour, and who are dedicated to turning out some of the finest books available in Britain today. Each author, named at the bottom of the page, has been asked the same questions, but their answers will obviously all be different. You merely click on the author’s name at the bottom
of the page to see how they have answered the same questions.
Firstly, a note from Paul: "We British have certain conventions, traditions and procedures that are expected. There is a dress code in the reading of this British blog and you are expected to comply with it.
For example… Gentlemen will wear suits, white shirts and dark ties. (Military ties are expected wherever possible). Ladies will wear dresses (one inch above the knee, no higher, no lower) and floral summer hats. A break for tea and cucumber sandwiches is expected at some stage, and is permissible. The list at the bottom the page is not a queue. We British hate queues, and will accept them no longer. It is an invitation, and you are expected to accept that invitation and support the home-grown product. Now then, let us proceed in an orderly fashion. As you know, we are all very boring and staid in Britain, aren’t we?
Well, there’s a myth about the British and your starter for ten is - stuffy, class conscious,
boring, staid! But is this still relevant in today’s world? Let’s find out from our wonderful writers what they feel about it."
Q. Where were you born and where do you live at the moment? I was born in Swindon, Wiltshire (at the Princess Margaret Hospital to be exact!) and now live (for the moment) in Brisbane, Australia.
Q. Have you always lived and worked in Britain or are you based elsewhere at the moment? I moved out to Australia in my early 30s.
Q. Which is your favourite part of Britain? I have a huge soft spot for the area around Wantage, Oxfordshire – I lived there for a while when I was working in publishing and playing guitar in rock/blues covers bands for a few years, and still have many friends there. White Gold features the area heavily, so any locals will spot a few familiar locations!
Q. Have you ‘highlighted’ or ‘showcased’ any particular part of Britain in your books? For example, a town or city; a county, a monument or some well-known place or event? As well as Oxfordshire, White Gold features a car chase through London. Now that I don’t live in England, I couldn’t exactly hop on a plane and walk the car chase route, so I had to spend a few evenings with a notepad and pen with a copy of the A-Z turned this way and that while I plotted the way the cars went. I admit, I might have got a bit dewy-eyed looking at the familiar London Underground map…
Q. There is an illusion – or myth if you wish - about British people that I would like you to discuss. Many see the ‘Brits’ as ‘stiff upper lip’. Is that correct? I think we have an enduring sense of humour that gets us through things – the Australians are very similar in that respect, which is probably what has made it so easy to settle over here.
Q. Do any of the characters in your books carry the‘stiff upper lip’? Or are they all ‘British Bulldog’ and unique in their own way? Dan Taylor certainly isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes in, even if that goes against orders. In Under Fire, he has to rein it in a bit because he literally is ‘under fire’ from all sides – his superiors, the bad guys, everyone. Sometimes his arrogance gets him into trouble – but it’s often that ‘British bulldog’ determined attitude that sees him through the hard times. It’s more than just a ‘stiff upper lip’ – he hurts like everyone else.
Q. Tell us about one of your recent books? White Gold was the first in the ‘Dan Taylor’ series and introduces him as a lost soul – after surviving an IED incident in Iraq, he’s hit rock bottom, until one of his friends gets into trouble and he has to overcome his inner demons to stop a weaponised super-conductive white gold being detonated in London.
Q. What are you currently working on? White Gold was originally written as a standalone novel but a lot of readers contacted me and asked if there was going to be another book featuring Dan Taylor – he seemed to resonate with a lot of people, which is a great compliment as a writer.
Under Fire provides some closure to elements of White Gold but in this novel, Dan is coerced by his superiors to undertake a new mission to protect the UK’s energy supplies. The action is divided between the UK, USA, Qatar and Malta and some of the other characters from White Gold will be joining him to thwart the bad guys.
Q. How do you spend your leisure time? Eh? Spare time? I write in my spare time! I have a full-time job here in Brisbane, but when I do come up for air I enjoy going to the gym to switch off, or think through a writing idea. Whole scenes have popped into my head on the rowing machine. I’ve recently introduced karate back into the mix – I haven’t done that for a few years now so I’m enjoying that.
I love going to the movies and will watch almost anything, but obviously I have a soft spot for action/adventure thrillers. Last year was great with Skyfall, Argo and Looper out and there are some great films coming out this year. Once Under Fire is released I’ll be catching up on my guitar playing and undertaking a few screenwriting courses as that’s something I’d like to collaborate with other writers on (feel free to drop me a line via the contact page if you're reading this and interested!).
Q. Do you write for a local audience or a global audience?
Definitely a global audience – it’s the traveller in me!Q. Can you provide links to your work?
Yes, click here
If you’re a British author and would like to join in, please get in touch by clicking on the link above.
Authors on tour:
So, what's the Liebster Award I hear you ask? Good question. I was nominated for this by Clive Eaton
who explained that he didn't know where it began either. Good start.
Aaaaanyway, apparently what happens is that I have to (1) tell you 11 random facts about myself; (2) answer 11 questions which Clive has set me; (3) nominate another 11 authors; and (4) set them 11 completely new questions to answer. Got it? Right, let's make a start then...
11 Random Facts
- I was born in Wiltshire and grew up in Hungerford, Berkshire in the UK
- I used to play lead guitar in blues/pop/rock covers bands. Coolest gig ever was at Blenheim Palace near Oxford
- My first pet was a guinea pig called Lizzy
- I failed mathematics at school
- A primary school teacher once likened my handwriting to 'a spider walking across a page'
- I don't like clowns. Or ventriloquist's puppets. They're just wrong.
- I wasn't afraid of spiders until I moved over to Australia. Hey, those things'll kill you!
- I love to travel. When I'm not travelling, I'm either talking about it or planning the next trip
- I was a film extra in the James Bond film 'The World is Not Enough'
- The first film I ever saw at the cinema as a child was 'The Empire Strikes Back'. What can I say? I had parents with good taste in movies
- Donna Usher pointed out I only had 10 random facts. See Point 4 above.
11 Questions from Clive Eaton
1) Let’s start with an easy music question. What is your favourite all time album, and why?
Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon
. There are so many layers to it – you can listen to it time and time again and still hear something new. I was lucky enough to see Roger Waters perform all the songs here in Brisbane a few years ago – it was spine-tingling stuff.2) You have a hot-air balloon with ten famous people in it (all currently living).
The balloon is rapidly heading towards the entrance of a volcano - which would result in death for all on-board. With just nine on-board, the balloon would head to safety. Which famous person would you sacrifice, and which famous person would you save above all others, and WHY?
Sacrifice: anyone who professes to be a member of a radio breakfast show “posse”
Save: the Dalai Lama. I’m not a religious person, but just in case we don’t survive the volcano with 9 in the balloon, I’d like to have an ace up my sleeve… 3) Marmite, Love or Hate? (If you don’t know what Marmite is, then visit -
Hate. And that includes its Aussie equivalent, Vegemite, too.
4) You are invited to a hypothetical dinner party with three other guests (dead or alive) - Who would you choose, and why?
Keith Richards, Peter Sellars and Douglas Adams. Music and mayhem.
5) If you could change one thing about this World, what would it be?
Our lack of respect for the planet we live on.
6) Do you believe intelligent life exist beyond this planet? Please explain the reason behind your answer, whether it be yes, or no.
I hope so. I'm with Calvin & Hobbs on this one though.
7) You could be given the answer to one
question, yet unanswered by mankind, what would that question be?
Why on earth did they invent Marmite?
8) If a famous author said they wanted to use, on the front cover of their book, a quote from you about one of their books - Who would be the author, which book would you review, and what would be your one line quote?
Anonymous, the dictionary, “it’s in here somewhere!”
9) Your favourite musician/band has agreed to play three songs to you and a small group of friends. Who would you choose, and what three songs would you want them to play?
Pink Floyd. Wish You Were Here
and Learning to Fly.10) You’ve been offered a VIP package to a sporting event. Which famous sporting event would you most like to see, and who would you want to see win it.
The Ashes. Australia. There, said it. Sorry Poms! 11) Which book do you wish you had written, and why?
Michael Crichton’s Timeline
. It’s a perfect combination of sci-fi, history and thriller. TaggedDonna UsherAnthony LavisherChristine NolfiStephen OrmsbyDiane MajorJohn BetcherRichard StephensonK J WatersChuck BarrettMike WatsonLiam SavilleYour 11 Questions
1. What’s your favourite album cover and why?
2. You’ve got the chance to travel back in time and be in your favourite movie. Which movie, and which character do you choose and why?
3. You’ve been offered the chance to interview a person of your choosing. Who would you choose – and what’s your opening question?
4. You’ve been asked to speak about writing in front of a class of 12-year olds. What advice aren’t
you going to give them?
5. What’s the worst (repeatable!) joke you’ve ever heard?
6. Relaxing holiday or action holiday? And where?
7. You’ve got the chance to go back to your schooldays. What would you do differently?
8. Your house is burning down, you’ve got the family and the pets out. The flames are making their way towards your bookshelves … and you can only save one. Which book do you rescue, and why?
9. You can be a superhero for the day (or a villain). Who are you going to be and why? (And yes, you get to wear the costume with the cape too if that sort of thing floats your boat.)
10. Animal, vegetable or mineral?
11. If you could play an instrument, what would it be and why? (And if you can already play an instrument, pick another!)
Ian Walkley, author of the thriller No Remorse
, recently featured an interview with me on his website here
You can read more about Ian's writing and his creative processes here
David Thornby, a writer I've met through a few writing races we've both participated in, recently tagged me for a 'chain' blog entitled 'The Next Big Thing'. Ahem. Not sure I quite
fit that description yet, but it's an honour to be asked and it's been fun working through the questions and having the opportunity to 'tag' a few authors in turn (see below). David was tagged before this by Dawn Barker and I've included details of their blogs so you can explore the writerly thoughts that go around in their heads. Ready? Here we go then:What is the working title of your next book?Under Fire
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I had so much fun writing the first Dan Taylor thriller, White Gold
, and a lot of readers asked if he was going to have some more adventures, that by the time I’d published White Gold
, I’d already started roughing out some ideas. Once the White Gold
marketing had calmed down a bit, I was able to develop those ideas into what is now a corker of a first draft. What genre does your book fall under?
Thriller. Definitely no vampires, zombies or post-apocalyptic shenanigans here. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I’m a bit loathe to pigeonhole anyone to be honest. I think each reader has their own image of Dan Taylor in mind when they read about his exploits so I wouldn’t want to dictate to them what he looks like. I’ve always said that with well-known book characters, it’s probably best to go with a total unknown who fits the character as described in the book as best as possible.
Now we can start the Daniel Radcliffe/Harry Potter vs. Tom Cruise/Jack Reacher debate, right? What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
It’s too early to give anything away! Check back here over the coming weeks, and I’ll give you all the gossip! Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m planning to self-publish, but agents of existing thriller authors are welcome to apply – submissions are open! How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
It's going to be about 12 months when I finish at the end of January – simply because the marketing of White Gold
took up a lot more of my time than I expected and I scrapped about 20,000 words at the start because the scenes I’d written just didn’t fit the story any more. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Anything by Chris Ryan, Andy McNab, Clive Cussler, Jack Higgins, James Rollins etc – I’m
inspired by action adventure thrillers. I still read a lot of crime/thriller books, but it’s action and adventure stories which I love the most - the modernisation of the Hero's Journey really.Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I had so much fun with Dan Taylor’s character that I wasn’t ready to let him go, and a lot of readers asked if there was going to be another adventure in the pipeline for him. I'm a stickler for reading through at least 3-8 news websites a day, so there is always plenty of fodder for story ideas kicking around in my head. Once again, I'll be capturing some very real issues which Dan and his team will have to overcome. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
It’s a high-octane adventure which will appeal to crime, action and thriller readers and if you enjoy any of the authors I mentioned above, you won’t be disappointed. Promise.Thanks to:-David Thornby Dawn BarkerYou're "tagged" !Clive EatonMatt S WilsonAnthony Lavisher
It struck me the other day how much I’ve really learned about writing and publishing this year, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on the ‘big stuff’ – the real eye-openers which have made a difference to my writing this year:-
Marketing will always take up more time than writing if you don’t manage it properly. Set aside one morning a week to read/respond to emails, set up automatic Twitter feeds if you can, and jot down ideas for blog updates so you’ve always got a handy stash up your sleeve.
Switch the internet off. You’re supposed to be writing, remember?
One project at a time. At least finish the first draft and have that tucked away ready for editing before you start something else – otherwise you’ll never finish anything!
Ask for help. I’m always amazed by the number of experts who are ready to drop everything to answer a question to help me with my research. For my current project, the next Dan Taylor thriller, I’ve met an ex-helicopter pilot, two submarine experts, a doctor and an ex-bomb disposal technician, all of whom have provided guidance and advice (thanks guys!).
Be brave. Don’t be shy – your research is going to involve more than surfing the internet for information. See point 4 above. People love to help – so ask them!
Read. Read a lot. Writing thrillers? Read thrillers. Watch thrillers. It’s called research. Honest.
Get a notebook and keep it on you at all times. Or use the ‘Notes’section on your smartphone. Or a recording device. Whatever. Don’t lose that idea for a sentence/scene just because you’re not organised.
Some people won’t like what you write. Some people won't like that you write at all. That’s okay. Write for you. That’s why you started doing this in the first place, right?
Talk to other writers. Build up a support network of other authors. Help others when they ask for help – there are no ‘trade secrets’ in writing. Pass it on.
That’s it. Thanks to everyone for your support this last year – it’s been an absolute blast and I can’t wait to share the next book with you.
All the best for 2013.
Many thanks to Stephen Ormsby for the interview on his blog today - I had a lot of fun answering his questions about all things bookish!
Come on over and take a look here