You wrote the opening story of The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, ‘War Baby’, which is split between Chester days before his hundredth birthday in Perth in 2032 and his mother’s account, in a letter, of events in 1931 Shanghai. Without giving plot spoilers, what can readers look forward to in ‘War Baby’?
I thoroughly enjoyed writing the opening chapter to The Life and Times of Chester Lewis. I have always been fascinated by China during the 1930s and have considered setting a novel there; but for one reason or another I haven’t yet managed it, so setting the opening there was a treat. There’s something particularly exciting and mysterious about the China of this time. Few Westerners experienced it and now of course none of us will because it is changing so incredibly fast. To me, setting is almost like another character and can be inspirational. I certainly found that to be the case with writing the opener for this book.
The story is really a saga and quite different to anything I’ve done before. I loved the idea of eleven writers each taking a chapter, but I was glad I had the first chapter to write. I think it would be tougher to write later ones leading on from other authors. The story will keep you turning the pages as Chester Lewis’s long and exciting life unfolds.
The Life and Times of Chester Lewis has a fan fiction competition, for stories 2000 – 4000 words, with a $2000 1st prize. What advice do you have for entrants?
Think outside the box and be adventurous. The format offers an amazing canvas for any author.
You are about to run a series of ‘You Can Write a Bestseller’ workshops around Australia. How would you describe what tends to make makes a bestselling novel, or a quality bestselling novel, stand out from other novels?
There is of course an element of luck and being in the right place at the right time with the right idea. But there are many things an author can do to minimise the element of chance and make great things happen for them. You have to want to write a bestseller. There’s no point thinking about such a thing if your ambition is to be a great literary writer, because, with very few exceptions, those sorts of writers reach very small audiences. If you want to have a large following and sell many copies you need to think practically as well as artistically and make choices that maximise your chances of being popular and successful.
You have a novel, Private Oz (Private Sydney overseas), co-written with James Patterson, coming out next month, after seven previous novels (and more than 20 non-fiction books) written without a co-writer. What is something new you took away, or something old which was reinforced, from the process of collaborating with James Patterson?
It was a big challenge. James Patterson has a very distinctive style, and although I had read a few of his novels before being offered this co-write, it was only when I sat down and studied his style that I began to appreciate that he does some unusual things. For example, he uses almost no description, everything is pared down to the absolute essentials. As a writer I was excited by the chance to see if I could take on someone else’s style. It was a bit like method acting. I had to think in the same way as Patterson so that our contributions meshed.
For those not familiar with James Patterson’s Private series, how would you describe it?
The series began with Private, which was set in Los Angeles. Jack Morgan sets up an exclusive agency called ‘Private’ that deals with wealthy clients and celebs. He is so successful he goes on to franchise the agency around the world. James Patterson very cleverly decided that he would co-write all the subsequent books with an author who lived in the city in which it was set. So, he worked with British novelist Marc Peirson for Private London and with me for Private Sydney.
You have another novel, The Kennedy Conspiracy, out in October. What can readers look forward to in that book?
It is the best book I’ve ever written! It is built on the premise of reincarnation being a real phenomenon. My hero, Mark Bretton is a British journalist who lives in New York and discovers he can regress. In his first attempt he wakes up and immediately experiences his own death! In subsequent regressions he learns that he was JFK’s press liaison on Nov 22, 1963. By going back to this lifetime he learns the secret of who killed Kennedy. I can’t tell you any more!
You also write action adventure novels under the name Sam Fisher. How would you describe the writing style and subject matter of your Michael White novels in juxtaposition to your Sam Fisher novels?
Sam Fisher books are faster paced and action packed. That is not to say the Michael White novels are slow. Far from it. It is just that the Michael White thrillers are a bit more complex, character as well as plot driven, and the story usually involves at least two different time periods with the plots intermeshing. The Sam Fisher books are very concerned with technology and cutting edge science whereas my Michael White books often have an element of the occult in them.
What is next for your fiction?
Good question. I’m not absolutely sure. I’m developing a TV series based on The Kennedy Conspiracy and I’m cooking up a thriller set in Sydney, provisionally entitled Twisted, which will star twin sisters, one of whom is a psychopathic killer. Watch this space.
Michael White author site: www.michaelwhite.com.au