Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Author Interview: CHRIS ALLEN on INTREPID

I recently interviewed Chris Allen, author of DEFENDER and HUNTER, the first two published books in the action thriller series INTREPID. Having devoured both books in quick succession, I was keen to delve deeper into the world of Alex Morgan and that of the author who created him.

Defender: INTREPID 1 (INTREPID, #1) Hunter: Intrepid 2 (INTREPID, #2)

Josh (OzNoir): HUNTER reads like one long action sequence. You’ve spent time in the defence forces, did that experience influence your writing style?

Chris: Most definitely. I think anybody who has undertaken military service, especially within the airborne or special forces community, will know that things don’t ever happen in slow motion like they do in the movies. I actually get quite annoyed when I’m watching a movie and every action scene gets slowed down just so that we can watch every millimetre of a bullet’s trajectory or the excruciating frame-by-frame of someone’s jaw getting dislocated as they’re punched. It worked well in the Matrix because it was new then, but now it’s a clich√©.

People who like to read action thrillers or watch action movies want the pace to be fast and the reason for that is because it's exciting. When things are happening in real time there’s no chance to slow them down. You’ve got to run with it. That’s exactly what I try to achieve with my writing. I want the reader to feel unsettled, like they are right in the midst of the action. So, when I’m recalling things that I’ve done or I’m capturing the experiences of my friends and colleagues and attributing those experiences to my characters, I want the reading experience to be as realistic as possible. If I can manage to get someone to miss their bus stop on the way to work or make it a little more difficult for them to get off to sleep at night because they’ve been so engrossed in a scene of mine, then I’ve achieved my objective. That is, to entertain them.

You introduced some interesting new characters in HUNTER, namely, The Key – where do you derive inspiration for your character designs?

You know, I’m extremely fortunate in that the career I’ve had has been anything but the standard military or law enforcement career. For one reason or another I’ve crash tackled my way through a particularly diverse array of experiences, so I consider myself lucky enough to be a guy who has done a bit of everything.
As a result, I’ve developed some incredibly tight and enduring friendships across the range of military, law enforcement and aid environments from almost every corner of the globe. When it comes to conjuring characters, I’ve no end of individuals upon whom I can base a character and, where necessary, add or subtract actual personal character and/or physical traits as required to fit the story. In the case of the Key or even Dave Sutherland, for example, those two characters - critical members of the INTREPID team and Alex Morgan’s closest friends – are based on two of my own closest friends. Of course, I’ve enjoyed messing around with them a bit but the core elements remain true to the men themselves. Again, the reason I take this approach is because it’s very easy for me to build the story around the characters and create interplay between them because to me they're real.

HUNTER showcases Morgan’s talents towards policing and more investigative nature whereas DEFENDER cast Morgan in light of a soldier – was this intentional? (or am I simply misinterpreting the feel of the books)

You’re absolutely right. It was definitely intentional.
In DEFENDER it was important for me to introduce Alex Morgan from the perspective of his core persona: soldier. The storyline - chasing down corrupt officials and arms dealers against the backdrop of a coup d'etat in Africa – gave me the perfect vehicle within which to showcase Morgan’s skills and attributes as a soldier. But, as we now know, there’s more to him than that. He is after all a member of INTREPID and, therefore, has been selected and trained to operate as an INTREPID agent: part-policeman, part-soldier, part-spy.
In HUNTER I wanted to introduce Morgan’s investigative skills without the story becoming a whodunit. So, in order to take the reader on a new adventure and, being at such an early stage in the INTREPID series, I wanted to bring that other dimension of the character to the fore. It think it brings him to life and introduces new possibilities in terms of what he can do.

Arena Halls was one of my favourite characters in DEFENDER. What was the decision to have her appear in a less prominent role in HUNTER? (I suspect the introduction of the sassy Charly may have something to do with it)

I'm glad you enjoyed Arena so much. She's based on someone very close to me.
With HUNTER being such a different story to DEFENDER, I needed a fresh take on the lead female character and I’m thrilled with how Charlotte-Rose ‘Charly’ Fleming has emerged as such a stand-out. As you say, she’s sassy, as well as self-assured, accomplished and, when she needs to, she can absolutely look after herself.

In the same way that I enjoyed seeing Charly emerge from the pages of HUNTER, I also enjoyed creating the Arena Halls character in DEFENDER and seeing her come to life. As the first female lead in my INTREPID series it was really important to me that Ari would be intelligent, strong, independent and, above all, able to hold her own within a pretty dire set of circumstances.

The last thing I would ever want to be accused of would be that my heroine’s are simply vacuous two-dimensional window dressing stuck into the middle of the action as eye candy. So, I’ve worked really hard to ensure that they are anything but that and, based on the reactions I’ve had to Arena and Charly, especially from other women, I feel confident that I’ve achieved it. I’m particularly pleased that they’ve both resonated so well amongst the male readership.

So, don’t despair, while Arena didn’t really appear in HUNTER – other than a few passing references– I wouldn’t write her off just yet. Never say never, right?

Your books are being touted as a mixture of James Bond and Jason Bourne, however I see a little bit of Scarecrow (by Matthew Reilly) in Morgan, you’re obviously a fan of the genre – what books would you recommend that have influenced you?
Wow, nice of you to mention Matthew Reilly. I had the great fortune of meeting Matthew just a couple of weeks ago in Canberra at a fund raising launch for an independent film called 'BLUE WORLD ORDER'. I've enjoyed Matthew's books for years and I actually have a signed copy of TEMPLE from back in 2000 when he was on book tour in Perth. So, it was a real buzz to meet him properly and chat about his books. He's a great bloke. The thing I enjoy so much about his novels is that they are designed to entertain. They are at times absolutely outrageous and total unbelievable, but they're a great read. So, yeah, Matt Reilly's books for sure.
In terms of my primary influences, Ian Fleming is the standout. His were the first books I read by choice. I discovered them when I was about thirteen and I've been reading them ever since and I still love them. The shelf behind my writing desk is all Fleming - various editions of the Bond books, biographies, movies - you name it. The second major influence on me is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I am a nut for the Sherlock Holmes books. He was such an incredible writer and it's still an absolute joy just to read his descriptions of people and things. The banter between Holmes and Watson is timeless.
Others in no apparent order: Clive Cussler, Alistair Maclean, Jack Higgins, Fredericks Forsyth, Andy McNab, Wilburn Smith. You get the idea!

Keen Aussie readers have been crying out for decent, well priced ebook publishers – how have you found working with Momentum to publish the INTREPID series?

Well, the partnership with Momentum came at the perfect time for me. While it’s been pretty much a ‘start-up’ entity this year - as Pan Macmillan’s new digital imprint –the team has had an incredibly successful year in launching and supporting a number of great new Australian authors across a range of genres. The editorial support particularly has been absolutely outstanding. It really has been an enjoyable, if sometimes stressful, process for me to work with such professional editors – at the structural, copyedit and proofreading stages – in order to turn two books around in the same year with the results that we’ve achieved.

I’m sure that under the leadership of chief publisher Joel Naoum, Momentum will continue to go from strength to strength.

The INTREPID series is really gaining momentum (publisher pun intended), what’s next for the All Australian action hero Alex Morgan?

My plan is to get Alex Morgan straight back to work. There’s far too much going on in the world for him to be sitting around resting on his laurels. So, at the end of HUNTER I’ve announced that he will return in his next adventure AVENGER. Obviously, the details of that operation must remain classified at this point. That said, I did drop a hint here and there within HUNTER.

In the long term, I’d like to write at least ten or so Alex Morgan adventures. I’m two down now and the third is in development. So, how hard can it be!


“The aftertaste of blood and gunmetal makes it clear these books are written by a real soldier. I cannot wait for the release of Hunter.”
Bradley Trevor Greive, New York Times Best-Selling Author

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