Your latest book is Nano, the third novel in your E-Force series. What was one of the most fun or challenging aspects of writing Nano?
This book is a little bit more complex than its predecessors in that it involves three interlinking threads – three separate missions the team are involved with simultaneously. That said, it was really great fun to write, as, if anything, it is faster-paced than the first two.
You have written the opening story of the upcoming AusLit publication The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, a book of short stories which tells the fictional life story of title character Chester Lewis. What can readers look forward to in that opening story?
I loved writing this story as it is set in a time and place I find fascinating – 1930s Shanghai. It was great to research and I ended up spending far too much time finding out about early skyscrapers, fashions and cocktails! It’s quite a full-on opening with plenty of action. I was pleased the way it turned out and I can’t wait to read what the other authors have done with Chapter 2 onwards.
You are co-writing the novel Private Sydney with James Patterson, for release in 2012. What can you tell us about Private Sydney?
It’s part of a series. The first was set in LA and called Private. The second, Private London has just come out (and is currently #1 in the bestseller list). Mine will be the third or fourth in the series and is obviously set in Sydney. It is built around an investigative agency called Private which began in LA but has now opened branches around the world. James Patterson works with thriller writers living in each of the cities – a clever idea, I think. We’re just finishing the first draft now.
Your novels so far could all be described as thrillers, whether historical mystery thrillers or near-future hi-tech thrillers. What are some of your favourite thriller novels and what makes them stand out for you as a reader?
I’m very fond of Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by the Danish writer Peter Hoeg which was a big hit in 1992 – it’s dark and compulsive. It’s much better than the Stieg Larsson books. I’m also a big fan of Robert Harris (not to be confused with Thomas Harris, who I also like a lot). His most recent is The Ghost, but it’s not his best. He always does something different. Some of his books are set in Roman times, others in an alternate Europe in which the Germans won WWII. He has a great imagination.
Part of your approach to writing novels so far has been that one scene equals one chapter. What features tend to make for a good scene, or what is a novel scene you have enjoyed and what made it work so well?
Yes, I do use that cinematic approach. With my ‘more serious’ novels – my Michael White thrillers, the scenes can be ten or twelve pages long. With the James Patterson co-write, there’s a golden rule – no chapter can be more than two pages long, three at a big push! I think it works on many levels. It makes the read easier especially for the modern world where people use Kindles on the train. It also moves the story on quickly but without losing colour and detail. I’m a big fan of the technique.
In your previous interview with The Australian Literature Review you cited depth and pace as important to good stories. What advice do you have for new writers for writing stories with depth and pace?
For depth – research is essential. Absorb yourself in the world you are creating. Spend time creating believable, interesting characters which have their own unusual internal histories. I tend to spend a long time creating ‘lives’ for my characters and only a fraction of this appears in the book. But, it enables me to know the characters. Pace is one of the most difficult skills a writer needs. Personally, I think it is a learned skill rather than something intuitive. It comes with practice.
You are also a musician and a photographer. Are there any ways you find these other creative/artistic pursuits help with your fiction writing?
I find music is a great alternative creative pursuit which gets me away from the main focus of the day – writing books. It is useful to record or write a song if I get stuck with a plot or feel bogged down with what I’m writing. I find it frees up my thinking.
What can you tell us about your upcoming novel The Returning and any other projects you have coming up?
The Returning is soul food. It is the book I’ve always wanted to write and I see it as my ‘masterpiece’. It is about the idea of reincarnation and the concept that we could return to previous lives by hypnotic regression and perhaps influence what we did in past lives. It’s also about soul mates and eternal love with a plot centred on the Kennedy assassination. If that sounds confusing, you’ll have to wait until the book comes out to discover what the hell I’m talking about!
More on Michael White and his fiction can be found at www.michaelwhite.com.au.
The Australian Literature Review