Monday, 5 May 2014

My Writing Process - Blog Tour

I've been asked to take part in a 'blog tour' on the process of writing by another Headline author, Jason Dean. It's a 'tag team' affair whereby an author answers four questions, and then 'tags' another author to do the same thing the week after. It sounded like fun, so I was happy to oblige!

I met Jason a couple of years ago at the Theakston's Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, and he's a really nice guy. But more importantly - if you're reading this at least! - he's also a great writer, and the creator of the James Bishop character who features in Jason's exciting, fast-paced novels THE WRONG MAN and BACKTRACK. His third in the series, THE HUNTER'S OATH, is out in hardback on June 5th and - if the first two are anything to go by - it should be a real page-turner!

Jason posted his answers last week, and you can see them here -

Right then, on with the Q&A!

What am I working on?
I am currently working on a follow-up to my first novel, STOP AT NOTHING, which features Mark Cole, a former covert agent for the US government. I’m really excited about this, as I love the character and have some great ideas about how the series is going to progress. STOP AT NOTHING wasn't traditionally published like my subsequent novels, but I put it on Amazon as a Kindle exclusive as I personally still liked it very much, and it has really taken off in the US, even making it to #1 on the Amazon Best Seller chart for Political Suspense Thrillers. And because there’s been such a positive response, both to the book and the character, I've decided to continue Mark Cole’s story as a series exclusive to Amazon Kindle.

Here’s the blurb for the new book:

A Chinese cargo ship is hijacked off the coast of Indonesia by ruthless pirates; North Korea is involved in a covert plan to reunify the country by taking control of the South; and in Saudi Arabia, a terrifying new terrorist group has emerged that threatens to destabilize the entire world.
Adrift and psychologically damaged after the brutal murder of his family, ex-covert operative Mark Cole stumbles across a clue which might lead him to the hijacked ship. Realizing that it offers the opportunity to give him a purpose in life, Cole sets out to find the ship in a bid to earn redemption for his past.
From a gun market in the ancient jungles of Cambodia, to the teeming streets of Jakarta, Cole stumbles upon a plot far greater than the simple hijacking of a ship; and as he battles against North Korean agents and Islamic fundamentalists, he promises himself that he will do whatever it takes to stop the unleashing of a terrifying jihad which threatens the Western world like never before.

Hopefully it should be out in June, so watch this space!

How does my work differ to others of its genre?
I think the main difference is the emphasis I place on the action; for me, it is absolutely fundamental to my work. I spend literally hour upon hour planning and choreographing each action scene with great care and attention, and I like to think that the results are worth the effort. I try and see the action scenes like a movie, very visual with something of a cinematic feel, and I flip between different character viewpoints like a change of camera point of view in a film. I think it adds pace and tension to the scenes, and hopefully leads to the impression that my books are like ‘movies on a page’, which is definitely the feel I want to achieve.

In addition, I like to have twists in the tale, and to keep the reader guessing. As such, I sometimes kill off characters unexpectedly, or write scenes which perhaps some other authors wouldn't. I like readers to feel unsettled, to not have that comfortable ‘Oh, that’s not going to happen’ attitude. I want there to be a feeling of danger; when a character is in a dangerous situation, it is definitely not a given that they will live through it!

Why do I write what I do?
I write thrillers for one simple reason – I love everything about the genre, and I always have. I was probably about ten years old when I read First Blood by David Morrell, and I absolutely loved it. Alistair Maclean, Jack Higgins, Eric Van Lustbader, Robert Ludlum, Marc Olden, Tom Clancy, Clive Custler - all through my teens I read every thriller or action-adventure I could get my hands on, and they had a massive impact on my development as a writer. Even the stories I wrote as a child were always strongly biased towards action, probably due to my love of US action TV series such as The A-Team, The Fall Guy, Airwolf and Magnum P.I., as well as comic books like G.I. Joe and – of course! – the James Bond films. I was always a big fan of martial arts films too, and Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon has been my favourite movie since the age of about six! I love the creativity of the fight scenes, and Jackie Chan is a perfect example here; he is a true genius when it comes to choreography. John Woo is similar in his choreographed gun-play – Hard Boiled is just incredible! I suppose my aim when writing is to marry all of these influences together – the strong plotlines and story arcs of authors such as Tom Clancy, the excitement of action comics and classic American 80s television, and the incredibly imaginative action and strong visual aesthetic of Hong Kong cinema.

How does your writing process work?

I will have an idea for a story – maybe from something I've read in the news, or from a conversation I've had with someone, or any of the countless other places ideas can come from – and then I’ll start to research the details and plan it out. I’ll work out a basic outline, and then it’s a matter of answering questions – if 'A' happens, what effect does it have on 'B'? Does it make sense? Can I make it more exciting? I fill notebook after notebook with my scrappy handwriting, trying to answer these questions and establish an outline which makes sense, and is also both unique and exciting. 

Once I have that, I go into it in more detail, mapping out the novel scene by scene. At this early stage, this is quite vague, but the whole story will be there in its entirety. Things might still change as I go, but I like to have the basic structure there before I write a single word of the book itself. 

And then, as I begin writing in earnest, I will always start off with a very brief paragraph on what I want to happen in each scene, and have it there in front of me so I can refer to it as I write. Again, it’s not written in stone; sometimes the characters do surprising things, and – if it makes sense and is an improvement over what I had originally planned – I make the changes and go with it. I like this process, as it makes the writing part very comfortable for me. I don’t sit staring into space for long periods of time – that’s what the research and planning phase is for! When I start writing for real, it is only when everything is in its place, and I’m confident that the story and the structure will work.

Well, thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you've found it interesting. But now I have a confession to make - I've been so busy with writing that I've not had time to get in contact with other authors to carry on the chain.

This is down to terrible organization and time-management on my part, but let's take it as an opportunity instead!

And so, I'm going to open it up a bit - if any writer out there fancies answering these same four questions on their own blog, please feel free to do so, send me a link to your blog or website in the comments section below, and I'll post the links on this blog next Monday!