What can readers look forward to in your latest novel African Dawn?
African Dawn is a sequel to my third novel, African Sky. Like African Sky it’s partly historical – all my other novels have been set in modern times. In African Dawn I wanted to trace the recent history of Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) through the eyes of three families. Two of those families already ‘existed’ in African Sky, so I thought that was a good place to start off.
Your third non-fiction book, The Grey Man, was released recently. For those unfamiliar, how would you describe The Grey Man?
The Grey Man is a charity started by ex Australian Army commando John Curtis and dedicated to rescuing children caught in the Asian sex trade. John’s a fascinating guy who decided after drifting through his first 35 years of life that he wanted to give something back to the community, and find some direction in his life. It’s a story as much about his journey as it is about the good work he and his team do.
In the past year or two, several of your books have had international versions released in countries beyond Australia. What do you think tends to separate a novel with wide international appeal from one with little appeal beyond a single country or region?
I’ll let you know if one of my books takes off overseas! Seriously, though, I think the continent of Africa, where all my novels are set, inspires and fascinates people from all around the world. I’m counting on the appeal of the continent to draw in new readers from overseas.
You have had eight adventure novels published and you also enjoy reading adventure novels by authors such as Peter Watt, Grant Hyde, David Rollins, Steven Horne, Frank Coates, Wilbur Smith, and Don Winslow. What advice would you like to give for writers starting a manuscript for their debut adventure novel?
Read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft before you even start writing. Secondly, get ready for a long haul. All the books I read about how to write (with the exception of On Writing) said you had to have a plot mapped out before you started writing. This never worked for me, so my other advice would be: stop reading books about how to write and just get writing!
What are some of your favourite things about doing a book tour?
You get to meet people who want to hear you talk, stay in nice hotels, your food bills are covered, and you get lots of frequent flyer points if you travel interstate and overseas (I’m going to New Zealand as well as around Australia). What’s not to like? Some authors don’t like touring, but I really enjoy it. I love meeting people who’ve read my books, and I love convincing those who haven’t to give one a try!
If you had to write your next novel set somewhere other than Africa where would you set it and why?
Hmmm, difficult. I think maybe something military, based around the Australian Army’s service in Afghanistan or Iraq. There’s been a bit of non fiction to come out of the recent and current conflicts, but not any Aussie fiction that I’ve noticed. I think there’s a gap in the market there that needs to be filled.
What is one of your favourite movies, and what made the story work so well for you as a viewer?
Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo Di Caprio, about the illegal diamond trade in Africa. The thing I liked about this movie is that apparently it was based not on a book, but on a magazine article. Whoever wrote it did a cracking job of turning that article into a full length movie script. The writing is brilliant and hats-off to Leonardo who, for an American, pretty well nails the Rhodesian/Zimbabwean accent.
What is a novel that hooked your interest strongly on the first page, and why was the first page so effective at getting you interested in the story?
I’ve used this example before, but it still has to be The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett, which begins with something like, ‘the children came early to the hanging’. You just have to keep reading
What is next for your fiction?
I’ve just finished a ninth African novel, which my wonderful publisher, Pan Macmillan, has accepted. I’m off back to Africa in a few weeks’ time to write a tenth.
The Australian Literature Review