I have great pleasure in presenting an interview with Chris Allen, author of the Intrepid series of thrillers. I’m sure that you’ll find what he has to say, especially the insights into his remarkable past.
When did you first discover the desire to write was so strong in you?
I grew up in the sleepy town of Rossmoyne, Perth in the 70’s and I loved two things, equally: one was playing the drums in a jazz band, and the other was reading Ian Fleming‘s novels (and to a lesser extent, watching the Bond films). Reading an Ian Fleming book was a way to escape and see the world through the eyes of the sometimes-dark, ever-attractive James Bond. In fact, I joined the Australian Army aged 18 so I could get out and see the world and write action scenes convincingly, just like Mr Fleming had done himself ( of course, he served with the Royal Navy, but I did a secondment to the British Paras, so close enough).
Do you usually write in the same genre you tend to prefer to read?
Well, the authors I return to time and again for entertainment or support, inspiration, adventure or comfort – the equivalent of a hot cup of strong tea, or tumbler of whiskey – are the aforementioned Ian Fleming and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. You’ll find me reading their work at least once a week for their effortless prose as well as the journey I go on when I get into their stories.
I do read pretty widely on top of that. At present I’m into a lot of Australian writers that I’m getting to know personally, like Australia’s answer to Wilbur Smith, the ever-adventurous Tony Park; author of thriller Rotten Gods and all-round-good-guy Greg Barron; or author of noir classic Dark City Blue Luke Preston. I’m of the firm view that there’s room for all of us on the best-seller lists, that we all have something different to offer, and that there’s strength in solidarity.
When reading, do you prefer traditional printed books or ebooks?
Good question. For years, I collected books. As a paratrooper, often moving around the world on various deployments, it got complicated with so many books to keep in storage, and I have such a collection that moving house makes my wife Sarah come out in hives. Then a few years ago I was given (from Sarah, funnily enough) my first Kindle for Christmas. I was unsure at first, but it changed my life. The ability to store thousands of books on one tablet! So light! So easy to pack and travel with! A bookstore at my fingertips! I also had the handy experience of self-publishing my first thriller novel in 2010 and learning to convert the text file to eBook, so I have first-hand appreciation for both the work that goes into creating an eBook and the ease of distribution at a click, with no postage or double-handling required. For me, a story is a story, no matter the medium that transmits it: mouth, or book, eBook, audio listening device or screen. That said, I still love a full bookshelf in my home and that will never go out of fashion!
Have you been influenced and/or inspired by another writer, or writers?
Yes, Fleming and Conan Doyle as well as Alistair Maclean, Jack Higgins, Frederick Forsyth – the classics.
Do past or current events in your life have an influence on your writing?
Sure. There’s a chapter in Defender that is an amalgamation of a couple of almost-failed parachute jumps I experienced as a Paratrooper that appears about a third of the way in. There’s also a highly entertaining flight briefing I received en route to East Timor from a full-of-personality UN pilot that I replicate almost word-for-word in Defender. It’s attributed at the end of the book, too!
Have you got a favourite author, who stands well ahead of all others?
It’s gotta be Fleming. But that’s probably pretty clear already.
Have you got both printed and digital books published?
We do eBooks and print-on-demand through Momentum Books, the digital-only imprint of Pan Macmillan. However, it’s not all about eBooks yet, though there is a lot of hype and uptake in that area, so we are working on securing traditional print deals in Australia and New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Canada. That’s for starters. It’s all about making your work as available as possible so you can reach as many readers as possible.
Do you try to write to satisfy what is fashionable, or do you write pieces that you would want to read?
I like to think of my stories as old-school action thrillers with a modern twist. I write what I want to read, what I grew up reading, what I’ve done and experienced, what is ensconced in the depths of my mind from my life and literary experiences thus far. One of the fulcrum points of my professional career was around 9/11 – I was in-demand, unfortunately, for my critical infrastructure protection expertise and counter-terrorism knowledge. So creating Intrepid, the ultra-secret sub-directorate of Interpol, was a culmination of a lot of that insider knowledge and understanding of the inner workings of these types of soldier, policeman and spy agencies that do – hypothetically – exist.
How do you fit writing into your life? Do you have set times for writing?
We have two small boys aged three years and six months respectively, and as you can imagine, life can get pretty unstructured and messy with them around – but all in a good way. I try and do some writing each day, but you need to give it a jolt by setting a deadline for your work. I wrote the first book, Defender, over a period of ten years which was nice but unsustainable if you want to make a living from your work. The second book, Hunter, I wrote in six months door to door. Avenger – the third in the series – will need to be out before the end of the year. So, I can see in my crystal ball some very early mornings, late nights, and a whole lot of pieces of paper with ever increasing word counts jotted down. About 2,500 words a day was what I had to crank out whilst on deadline last year!
Do you keep every jotting of ideas, just in case they might be developed at some later date?
I have a couple of great leather-bound notebooks that I keep in my briefcase, by my desk, by my bed, to help capture the inspirations that pass through my head. I get my main ideas when I’m off on a drive – down to the nation’s capital Canberra, which is three hours from Sydney – or up the Central Coast for my Author Talks. I guess it’s a good thing Australia is a really big place.
For more information visit www.intrepidallen.com, or say g’day to Chris at www.facebook.com/intrepidallen.
To read a sample of Defender: intrepidallen.com/getdefender
To read a sample of Hunter: intrepidallen.com/gethunter