NAW Interview with Gary Haynes

Gary Haynes

Gary studied law at Warwick University and completed his postgraduate training at the College of Law. As a lawyer, he specializes in commercial dispute resolution. Gary writes cinematic-style, fast-paced, action-packed political/military/spy thrillers. His debut work, State of Honour, Tom Dupree #1 is an Amazon and Barnes & Noble best seller. Tom Dupree #2 will be published in January 2015 by Harlequin. Visit him here.

NAW- Tell us about your book, State of Honour. How did you get the idea for it? What is it about?

The hero is Tom Dupree, a special agent in the US Bureau of Diplomatic Security, who is head of the US Secretary of State’s protective detail. The secretary, Linda Carlyle, is kidnapped on Tom’s watch in Islamabad, Pakistan. Her kidnappers threaten to kill her within a three-day time frame if their unrealistic demands aren’t met, and this sets the clock ticking for a race against time adventure across four continents. Apart from the trade craft, espionage and military aspects, many of my readers have said that they learned a lot about Middle East politics too, which is gratifying. But ultimately it’s a fast-paced, action-packed thriller that readers of spy, political and military thrillers will enjoy.

The idea for the book came once the character of Tom Dupree became fully formed in my mind. I didn’t want a stereotypical CIA or ex military protagonist, but someone better-rounded. Tom’s back-story has a profound effect on the narrative, and redemption is a theme that I’m very interested in and seems to permeate all of my writing. I have always been interested geopolitics, particularly the interplay between the West and the Middle East, and as I thought about all the ingredients required for a high-octane, cinematic-style thriller, it seemed more appropriate for the secretary to be kidnapped, rather than Tom thwarting an assassination attempt, or chasing down someone who had carried out a terrorist attack.

NAW- What drew you to political thrillers?

I’ve had a lifelong interest in foreign policy, geopolitics and the various international intelligence communities that play their part in this world. My focus at present is on the Middle East, because that is so important to world stability and will be for the next two decades. Once I’d decided to write thrillers rather than another genre, it seemed a good fit. As a lawyer I have developed certain skills in respect of research and I also enjoy this element of being a writer, although it is important to only include a small percentage of your overall knowledge in a novel, and to be careful to it without disrupting the narrative so that it doesn’t appear as an information dump.

For me the political arena, in particular the international political arena, is the very stuff of thrillers. It is constantly changing, unpredictable, and often based on conflict. The reality is literally stranger than the fiction too, which means that readers don’t have to stretch their imaginations to find something credible. A decade ago, who could have dreamed up the excesses of the Islamic State group or the descent into a new Cold War with Russia?

NAW- How long did you take to finish the book? Tell us about the research you carried out for it? How do you go about researching for your works?

It takes me about a year to write a 100,000 word thriller. I was lucky because both with State of Honour and the second book in the series I had little structural editing to do from my publishers. If you write a book and then are faced with huge changes of this nature it can take another four months to deal with them. We all have to do copy edits, of course, but these can be dealt with fairly quickly and I tend to do them in one sitting.

I always plan my novels, chapter by chapter, before I start writing and this can extend to a 10,000+ word synopsis. There is flexibility here, of course, and sometimes I can write half the actual chapter, and sometimes I go off road, but I always know where my final destination is going to be.

As I’ve mentioned my research skills are pretty well honed and it’s something that I enjoy. I use a combination of methods for my research including trusted sites on the Internet, non-fiction books and interviews. People are willing to discuss most things, I’ve found, especially if there is a degree of trust and they can see that you are serious both about your writing and ensuring their anonymity.

NAW- What can a novice reader expect from State of Honour?

A face-paced, race against time narrative with plenty of set pieces and state-of-the-art action scenes. Interesting, three-dimensional characters involved in an international plot with many twits and turns and unexpected reveals. An explanation of some of the current problems in the Middles East, especially the major schism in the Muslim faith between Sunnis and Shias. High-tech weaponry and military and intelligence community trade craft. And humour, of course!

NAW- Tom Dupree is such an interesting character, and has a lot of charisma. How did you develop the character?

I find some action heroes to be predictable and their actions border on psychopathic. The real world isn’t like that and neither are the real action heroes who inhabit it.  Tom is tough and brave, but he has a compassionate side and is willing, if necessary, to compromise. As I’ve said, he is haunted by his past and his relationship with his father is tense at best. In the second novel, published by Carina, an imprint of HarperCollins, in January 2015, I explore his character more thoroughly. It was quite difficult to do this in State of Honour, due to the very tight time frame in which the book is set.

NAW- The best part about State of Honour is that it tackles many themes, I mean it’s a political, spy and military thriller all rolled into one. Did you plan to write it out this way mixing more than one genres or did it develop later?

A bit of both to be honest. I didn’t expect it to have as much military influence, but realistically I couldn’t  write about an authentic search for a US Secretary of State without incorporating Special Forces – Delta Force and US Navy SEALs – and CIA paramilitary operatives. This is the main difference, I suppose, to classic espionage novels, which, in my opinion, are necessarily linked to the political arena, and often the international political arena.

NAW- Can you tell us about the sequel, (The Silent Jihad?) (Note to editor – the title is yet to be agreed with my publishers) It tackles a very contemporary subject; that of the Islamic State, doesn’t it? Will we be seeing more of Tom Dupree in it?

It’s the second Tom Dupree novel and, I have to say, it is very current. It is set in Syria, the Gaza Strip, Turkey and Lebanon, as well as France and the US. Apart from Tom, their is the return of his sidekick, Lester Wilson, and CIA man, Dan Crane, although like State of Honour, it can be read without reading another book in the series.  The antagonist, Ibrahim, is planning a massive attack on he US military, but this is an attack like no other. There are no conventional weapons, no suicide bombers.

As I was completing the Palestinian-Israeli section of the book, the war in the Gaza Strip began.  This was one of several coincidences that made me feel that the book was meant to be written. I can’t go into the main fact-fiction collision, because that would be a huge spoiler. But like State of Honour, readers can be assured of plenty of action, a fast pace, twist and turns and an intelligent plot and character development.

State of Honour_Book cover

NAW- Tell us about your other works.

I have completed a World War Two novella based on the fall of Berlin which will be published later next year. I have a deep interest in military history, especially the Eastern Front in WW2, and this book was a pleasure to write. I’m also completing a standalone thriller based in the UK, which I’m very excited about. It’s different to anything else I’ve written before, although the redemption theme returns. I don’t want to say too much about this as my agent has yet to see the completed first draft!  And, of course, the third Tom Dupree novel will be out in late 2015 and is currently in the planning stage.

NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?

I read, of course, everything from non-fiction history, politics and popular science to literary novels. I enjoy listening to music, and again, I have an eclectic taste which encompasses both modern and classical music, although I find myself returning time and again to the operas of Richard Wagner. I enjoy spending time with my family. I have three grown up children. I am a big sports fan, mostly football and boxing. I live on the coast close to a moor so I do a lot of walking and, when I have time, I like to workout at my local boxing gym. I love films of all genres. I’m also a big fan of new technology and social media, especially Twitter, and I like to blog about Middle East politics and anything that is current. I have to say I’m busy most of the time.

NAW- Please name your favourite writers. Are there any who you’d like to name as an inspiration?

My favourite authors are Joseph Conrad, Ernest Hemingway, Frederick Forsyth, James Lee Burke, Richard Flanagan and John Connelly. As for inspiration, that’s such a difficult question. In my political thrillers I would say Ernest Hemingway in terms of brevity and precision. In my other writing I would say Burke and Connelly, in terms of trying to find a believable coexistence between a thriller plot and a more literary style.  But the father of British thrillers, Frederick Forsyth, whose cracking novel, The Day of the Jackal, began it all, I suppose, is an abiding influence on my work.

NAW-What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading the Man Booker winner, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and The Outsider by Albert Camus, and a WW2 novel, A Meal in Winter.

NAW- Any advice for budding writers?

Stephen King said read a lot and write a lot and I don’t think there is better advice. But it takes time to learn how to write well and you should give yourself that time. Importantly you should write the type of books you enjoy reading, rather than what you think might get published or sell well. Writing a 100,000 word novel takes a lot of time and commitment and getting some enjoyment out of it is crucial. Above all, writing is both a craft and an art form, and I don’t believe that you can have one without the other. You can learn the craft, but you can only develop your own distinctive voice and imagination by using it on a daily basis.

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