In addition to your novels, you have written many biographical books about scientists and writers. Given that in both the biographical and fiction writing you are writing about extraordinary people attaining extraordinary achievements, are there major crossovers in the main skills you use for biographical and fiction writing? If so, what are some of the key skills you use for both types of writing?
There are indeed many crossovers. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I would not have succeeded as a novelist if it had not been for the non-fiction I wrote. I learned so much from writing the biographies of great people as well as the other science-orientated books in my canon. My Sam Fisher books, which are greatly concerned with cutting-edge technology, were a joy to write because much of the background research came from a non-fiction book I wrote a few years ago called The Fruits of War, which was nominated for the Aventis Prize. In it I dealt with the future of technology and this gave me everything I needed to create the futuristic scenarios in the E-Force novels.
The subtitle of your novel State of Emergency reads: “Meet a new breed of hero”. What makes the heroes of State of Emergency different from other heroes?
All six members of the team are highly intelligent, over-achievers in different areas of expertise. They then undergo special training – fast tracked to learn to fly mach 10 jets, use incredible cyber suits and to operate futuristic machinery. They have each given up lucrative careers to become saviours.
Could you give us an overview of the process you went through writing State of Emergency (first novel in the E-Force series) or After Shock (second novel in the E-force series)?
The first step is the outline. I carefully plot the entire book before I start writing the narrative .This does change as I write, that is inevitable, but the basic structure and some of the detail remains from the outline. I then sketch out the major characters. I write pages and pages on each of them, most of which never appears in the book, but informs me as a writer. I need to know these people so that I can guide them naturally in their roles.
Your action-adventure novels have a lot of very short chapters. What makes a great chapter, and how do you typically decide what and how much to put in specific chapters?
A chapter is a scene. I’m informed by decades of movie-watching and studying the structure of Film and TV. I believe strongly in the concept of chapter = scene for this sort of book. It adds pace and is a great aid for the reader who can easily be distracted by everything else happening in the world around them.
How much research do you do for your action-adventure novels, and what sorts of things does this involve?
As I said above, I was very fortunate in that much of the research had been done when I was writing non-fiction. I make a great effort to keep up with the very latest in new technology and cutting-edge concepts, and I try to inform my novels with his attention to new things.
What are some of the key aspects that go into making a great series of novels, or what are some key aspects that make one of your favourite novel series and why do you think it works so well?
My favourite books include The Lord of the Rings and Asimov’s Foundation Series. I love these works, in part because they are series. You can really absorb yourself in the world created by the author. In crime fiction, the Ian Rankin books comprise of what…a dozen books? And you can really be drawn into Rebus’s world. A series just helps you immerse more completely.
Who is one of your favourite fictional characters and what makes them stand out for you?
It has to be Gandalf. Gandalf is a superman, a guru, the archetypal wise man, someone everybody would like to have as their granddad!
What is the key to a great adventure story, or what do you usually like in an adventure story?
Depth and pace. It is extremely difficult to get this balance right. So many books have pace but no depth, and most of ‘literary fiction’ has depth and no pace. Only the master writer can blend the two perfectly. I would like one day to attain that lofty state of being.
What is next for your fiction writing?
I have two books out this year – Aftershock (Sam Fisher) and The Art of Murder (Michael White). I’m about to start Book 3 of the E-Force series, which will be called Nano. I’m also writing a Michael White thriller (as opposed to a Sam Fisher) with the working title – The Returning, which has as is central premise – what if reincarnation was real? I am also writing a thriller with James Patterson called Private Sydney, due for publication in 2012.
Find out more about Michael White and his writing at www.michaelwhite.com.au.
The Australian Literature Review