GARY HAYNES: I HAVE SEEN THE WORST IN HUMAN BEHAVIOUR
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Gary Haynes is a practicing lawyer who published his first novel State of Honour last year. The book won very fast a nice number supporters among political thrillers fans. We’ve got a chance to discus the story with the writer in our next interview.
– What is your book State of Honour about?
– The book is a political action thriller. The protagonist, Tom Dupree, is a special agent in the US Bureau of Diplomatic Security and head of the Secretary of State’s – Linda Carlyle – protective detail. On Tom’s watch, she is kidnapped in an explosive attack in Islamabad, Pakistan, and he has three days to find her. Her abductors have made unrealistic demands of Washington and threatened to kill her if those demands are not met within the timeframe.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– I have always been interested in foreign policy and the internal politics of the Middle East, and I wanted to incorporate theses elements into a novel without there being any information dumps. I wanted to write an action thriller, but one where the hero was a three-dimensional character with a past and foibles. Once the character of Tom Dupree was fully formed in my mind, a man haunted by his failure to keep his promise to his mother and which led to tragic circumstances, his story had to be one of personal redemption as well as his desire to save the secretary and prevent the outbreak of another Middle Eastern war.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– The story is complex in the sense that it has many twists and turns and unexpected reveals. In order to make these a thrilling surprise there needs to be a foundation stone for them otherwise the reader will find it unbelievable. But at the same time there can’t be too many clues or otherwise the reader will spot a reveal a mile off. It is the tension between these two essential elements of a suspense thriller that I found challenging. In addition, there are scenes incorporating both close-protection tradecraft and the tactics employed by Special Forces – Delta Force and US Navy Seals. In order for these to be authentic every detail has to be correct, right down to the type of glove used to fast-rope from a Black Hawk. The novel is set in several geographical locations, including Pakistan, France and Yemen, and it is equally important to get the details right here too. But I was assisted in the process by my publisher’s very capable structural editor and copy editor, which gave me confidence.
– Tell us something more about your main character? Is it close to someone from your real life?
– Tom differs from some action heroes in that he has a compassionate side, a desire to protect rather than destroy. His estranged father is an army general, who left Tom’s mother when he was young. Tom speaks fluent French, Arabic and Urdu and is an expert in Muay Thai, which he took up when he was stationed in Bangkok. As stated above, he is both haunted and motivated by his past, and, after promising the secretary that he will bring her home safely from Pakistan, nothing on earth is going to stop him. He is determined not to break another promise. His character is entirely fictional.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– The novel is over 100,000 words long and by the time I had gotten to an acceptable draft it was over a year from when I had begun. The time between the publishers acquiring it and it going on digital release worldwide was about six months, in which time there was some revising.
– Who are you?
– I live in the southwest of England. I am a lawyer by profession, specialising in commercial dispute resolution, which is basically resolving disputes between companies. I am fortunate enough to live and work by the coast and within a few minutes of miles of rugged moorland. I enjoy going for long walks and working out at my local boxing gym. I read a lot, mostly other thrillers, including literally ones, contemporary fiction in general and military history nonfiction. I am interested in new technology and am an avid user of social media, especially Twitter. Apart from my three grownup children to keep me busy, I enjoy films, listening to music – everything from Richard Wagner to Eminem – and I blog about Middle East politics.
– What are your writing habits?
– I try to write something creative everyday. I usually work in the evenings and look to get in about four hours. I write all day on Sundays and have two-week holidays where I will probably write almost nonstop. The imagination is like a muscle and the more you use it the stronger it gets.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of the book?
– Yes, in the sense that it has sold thousands rather than hundreds. When in reached the overall top 100 on amazon.com and number one in a couple of sub-categories and was number 14 in the overall Barnes and Noble Nook chart, I thought, okay, not bad. I have a lot of author friends/acquaintances and I quickly realised that once the obsession with being published is satisfied the obsession with sales figures very quickly takes over. I am trying to concentrate on the quality of my writing rather than the figures, but I’m only human!
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– In terms of promotion, and other than what my publisher does, I have focussed on Twitter, my Facebook author page, my website, my Goodreads author page and doing online interviews, such as this one. I have about 35k Twitter followers and, together with my other digital platforms, this drives hundreds of people to my website every week, which wouldn’t be the case otherwise. My publisher says that metadata – information on the Internet about your book – is more important than reviews, because it gives you increased visibility, and I can’t argue with that.
– We will see your next novel in January. Would you give some hints about it?
– Tom Dupree #2 – the title is yet to be agreed with my publisher – is very current. It is essentially the story of Tom’s hunt for a jihadist only known as Ibrahim. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but Ibrahim is threatening the West with a new kind of terrorist weapon, one that cannot be seen or detected for very plausible reasons. This time it is personal for Tom, again for reasons I’d rather not state. The action begins in war-torn Syria and, apart from the US and France, continues in Turkey, the Gaza Strip and Somalia. I finished writing the section in the Palestinian territories, which includes smuggling tunnels, just as the Israeli-Palestinian war was breaking out in Gaza. This, together with the main premise of the book, makes it feel a little portentous. The book will be out in early January 2015.
– Do you have other books or short stories published?
– I have written a World War Two novella based on the fall of Berlin which is due out in 2015 and I am two-thirds of the way through a standalone thriller based in the UK, which is unlike anything I’ve written before and is more of a literary thriller, but with oodles of tension. I am working on this with my London agent. I hope that Tom Dupree #3 will be out at the end of 2015.
– You are working as lawyer. How your job helps for your creativity in writing?
– Working as a lawyer has many advantages for a writer, which I suspect is why so many do become writers. On the practical side my research skills are, I like to think, better than average and I have an acquired ability to know when something is going to be useful to me early on and when I have gotten to the bottom of whatever it is that I’m researching. Second, I have seen the worst in human behaviour up close and know how devious people can be while under pressure. Third, I am able to retain large amounts of information in chronological order, which means that I don’t require any writing software when I am writing a novel. Apart from this, I do a lot of writing in my work and a lot of thinking and the essence of litigation is putting pieces of a puzzle together to make a coherent whole, and finding the discrepancies in what is presented to you from the other side as a whole. This helps greatly with plotting. As for creativity, well, lawyers don’t seem to be that creative by nature, and that is something which is individual and belongs more to the artistic side of writing than the craft. But both are equally important, of course.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be? (Don’t forget to answer)
– What are the themes of your work and why are these important to you? Some authors say that you only write about the same thing over and over and I have some sympathy with that, even if you change genres or mix them up. In my international thrillers I am addressing themes of geopolitics, the nature of courage and honour, and the differences and similarities between the warring parties. But on an individual character basis one recurring theme is the manner in which we are shaped by the circumstances that impact on our lives from unexpected sources, rather than our upbringing or families, and those circumstances are, I suppose, the micro equivalents of the macro events such as the wars and political standoffs that I am also writing about. But it is redemption, in the sense of desiring to put right a wrong by doing something which can be completely unrelated, that seems to me to be a fundamental human need, whether a person is religious or not, and one I admit to being preoccupied with. This is particularly so when where the manifestation and playing out are done at a different point in someone’s life and do not make amends to the person who was harmed originally. I can see myself writing about this for years to come.
Take a look at his book
State of Honour