How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
It’s been a major influence. I’ve lived all over the world, so from an early age I experienced different cultures and religious, political and social systems. My father was a low level MI6 operative and my mother worked in British embassies, so I was also immersed in the intelligence community and the intrigues of international diplomacy – all enhanced later by my own training as part of Britain’s elite Parachute Regiment.
These experiences are a rich source of content for my books, in terms of the plot, locations, the diverse characters and the historical background that’s key to the stories I weave.
What’s the one thing from your childhood that endures in your writing today?
An intense curiosity about everything! Having lived in exotic locations from an early age I was immersed in different landscapes, tastes, smells, sounds – and I found it all very exciting, intensely interesting and a great adventure. There was so much to explore, so many different people to talk to. That curiosity and the excitement of new frontiers and ideas continues today – so I hope that comes through to my readers and keeps them turning page after page into the early hours of the morning.
What’s your greatest strength as a writer?
I think my greatest strength is trusting my instincts and allowing my characters to write themselves into an intriguing story. I never plot out my books from beginning to end, I just can’t write that way. To me the characters and story have a life of their own that they reveal to me as I write – and so to touch a reader I need the characters to think, live, breathe and expand the way life does – never predictable, never scripted but growing and developing organically. I guess it takes a bit of insanity to write this way, but it’s my way and for me it works.
What’s your greatest character strength?
I would have to say, perseverance. It’s a trait that was definitely strengthened through life’s circumstances. The army taught me a level of perseverance that probably saved my life, once I was medically discharged. No-one thought I would live through my medical ordeal, but my determination proved them wrong. I’ve tackled difficult jobs and situations throughout my life and don’t give up easily and I think that’s what helps me as an author as well.
I knocked on doors for over two years before my first book CONTACT was accepted by a publisher and then became a bestseller. If a chapter in my book is not to my liking I will write and rewrite till I get the “aha” moment when I know I’ve cracked the code and it’s flowing again. I hate problems or puzzles I can’t solve – so I keep teasing away at them till I figure them out. It’s that curiosity plus tenacity that I think makes me want to continually be a better writer, better “whatever” and most likely helps me keep going when others might give up.
Are there any books you really don’t enjoy?
I think every book and genre of book has developed, in some measure, as a response to a wide variety of readers’ needs. And even if I do not enjoy a particular book, as an author I can still learn something from it. But nevertheless there are certain types of books I generally don’t read.
Romance novels, because I find most of them over sentimental, soppy and a bit formula. Books with gratuitous violence, which is strange to say, as my thrillers involve violent acts and death – but vivid descriptions of violent or sordid acts that are written just to shock are not what I enjoy reading and not what I would call good literature. “How-to-become-spiritual-and-a-better-person” books, because again, I don’t think that’s a “follow-these-steps” process or formula. My personal belief is that deep inside we all know what we need to do to become better people and we have the capacity – we’re just too lazy, it doesn’t always suit us, we try to avoid putting in the effort or personal change required.
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Genre – Thriller
Rating – PG-13