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.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favourite authors? Why?
I love good literature and books that stretch my horizons. I grew up on the classics but if I had to choose one author to highlight, it would be JP Donleavy. His books like “The Gingerman”, “A Singular Man”, “The Onion Eaters” and others opened my eyes to the fact that creative writing is a living organism. When you write creatively you have the ability to invent in many ways, both grammatically and with vocabulary, which if it works, creates a vivid colourful and satisfying result. Donleavy turns convention on its head, leaves out verbs, uses words in a visceral or visual rather than “correct” way and it’s an amazingly freeing experience to read him.
If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
I think they’d see something that resembles a really large, intricate, interconnected spider web. Because I write in a “stream of consciousness” style, my stories evolve organically. This means that I continually have all of the characters, events and sub-layers in my mind all the time. This creative soup is “processed” 24/7 into intricate patterns that find their way onto the page each day. The web is woven in my head first, so that’s what readers would see – it’s a bit like chaos theory – there actually is order in what appears to be total chaos.
Do you have a favourite character in your new thriller series, aside from the lead? If so, which one and why?
In my new Thomas Gunn thriller series, in the first book, The Orange Moon Affair, one of my favourite characters is Julie. And in the second, The Jonas Trust Deception, it’s Sarah. Most “male dominated” thrillers avoid strong female characters, but why? In my opinion women often have greater insight and that quiet strength of character that men often lack when they only resort to brute force to solve problems. They’re also more unpredictable. Julie weaves all those characteristics, plus a fierce loyalty and other hidden abilities into a dominant role that results in a highly surprising ending to the first book. With Sarah, I love her courage, gutsiness, down-to-earthiness and her willingness to take on any risk, despite her own physical disability. But mostly, she just makes me smile.
In all the years you’ve been publishing your work, what is the biggest mistake you made that you could share so others can avoid making it?
Fortunately, my first book CONTACT (a memoir) was a bestseller but then I made a rookie mistake that I’ve never made again. My publisher said “so what’s your next book?” and I said “what book?” Oops – wrong answer! My second book, Collisions, did OK, but it took a while to get the momentum back. My advice? Don’t let the limelight get to your head – take your ego, box it up, and get back to work! Now I always know what my next book is going to be… and the next… and the next.
How important do you think villains are to a story?
Villains are important in certain types of stories, the most obvious being in thrillers, suspense, espionage, action and adventure and in true stories, of course. But the villain role may be equally played out in other genres, by someone who simply evokes strong emotions and creates dramatic tension. Those kinds of roles help carry a story forward and keep the reader’s interest.
The danger of villains is when they are written one dimensionally and become cardboard cut-outs that take away from, rather than add to, believability. Mind you, sometimes a Bond-movie-type-of-villain that’s pure evil whom we love to “boo” is greatly entertaining, and just what we need.
How do you find the time to write?
I think every writer is, to some degree, self-indulgent, as to be successful we simply have to sit and write no matter what else is happening around us. Or that’s how I feel, anyway. I’m lucky to be writing full-time but have to acknowledge that my amazing wife bears the brunt of handling the demands of everyday life so that I can actually spend each day at my computer. I let go of a lot of things normal people do – I become more of a hermit and far less social but the consistency pays off and I think my books are better for it.
What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
Ha, that’s a very funny question! I have to admit I have a short fuse with people who won’t think for themselves or refuse to “think outside the box”. I am insatiably curious, read tons, and love to have heated discussions. That’s when I feel most excited and alive, and so I’m baffled by some people who seem to live life on automatic, and never question anything. Or people who just want to sit on the side-lines of life and “watch”. Sadly we’ve become too much of a “spectator society” instead of getting in there, boots and all, and participating.
You are self-published, what led to you going your own way?
My first 6 books were traditionally published, but I’ve stepped out of that system in more recent years. I found I had to do most of the marketing myself anyway, so why not take back control and reap the rewards? So I did, I got my rights back and released all my work as eBooks in the Amazon Kindle Store. Interestingly, after 30 years Random House agreed to hand back the rights to my bestseller CONTACT as the book was supposedly “too old”. I am glad to say I have proven them wrong! It’s still one of my bestsellers and resonates with readers all over the world. I love the freedom self-publishing brings, though would still work with a good publisher on a more equal footing if that were possible.
The Jonas Trust Deception, another Thomas Gunn thriller by bestselling author AFN Clarke, follows The Orange Moon Affair, a “hard to put down”, “5-star novel by a 5-star author”. Thomas (ex-Special Forces) goes on high alert after a desperate message from his journalist friend, Morgan. She’s in danger. But where? And why? Rushing to her ranch he finds it being torn apart by a highly-trained female assassin of East European descent, with a mysterious butterfly tattoo on her neck. An image that sends his mind reeling. Dread seeping into his soul.
In her ongoing investigations, Morgan may have uncovered something even more explosive and far-reaching than the Orange Moon conspiracy. If so, her enemies will want both her and her information destroyed. Racing to follow tangled leads, Thomas and his girlfriend Julie are thrust into the deadly path of Mexican drug cartels, corrupt politicians, unscrupulous financial brokers like Jonas T Purdue, the FBI, the UK intelligence services and their arch nemesis Marika Keskküla. What deception binds these unlikely “players” together? What’s their power struggle really about? And even more personally disturbing, why the constant links back to a secret mission in Afghanistan, that Thomas has tried so hard to forget?
Outraged by the feeling of constantly being “played”, Thomas decides to turn the tables on the faceless “puppeteers” by taking an action so bold, so dangerous, and so unexpected, that even his team fear he’s lost his mind. Has he? Or can he expose the “vermin” at the top and finally eliminate them forever?
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Genre – Thriller
Rating – PG-13
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