Today I’m delighted to be kicking off The Evolution of Fear tour and have Paul E Hardisty here to talk about his new novel and what inspires him.
Welcome Paul to the CKT blog for a stop on your awesome #EvoultionOfFear blog tour.
To start off with, can you tell us a little bit about your new novel The Evolution of Fear?
The Evolution of Fear is the sequel to the CWA Creasy New Dagger award short-listed The Abrupt Physics of Dying. Claymore Straker is a fugitive, on the run from the authorities in the UK, and hunted by the Russian Mafia. As the assassins close in, Clay learns that the people who want him dead are also after Rania, the woman he loves. Breaking cover, Clay flees his safe house in North Cornwall to find Rania, who has gone missing. The trail finally leads him to Cyprus, where his worst fears are eclipsed, and Clay learns that he has so much more to fight for and lose than he had ever imagined. The Evolution of Fear is first and foremost a thriller, but it also explores some fundamental questions about the nature of fear, and the evolution that we must all go through if we are to conquer those fears which can so easily lead us to betray ourselves, those we love, and the things we believe in.
This is the second novel which features the character of Claymore Straker, how did you create such a dynamic and interesting protagonist?
Claymore Straker, I suppose like so many characters, is a child of many parents: me, who I might have been, and perhaps who I would have liked to have been, if I could have chosen to be someone else. But that child has grown since conception, and as the Abrupt Physics of Dying developed, so did the character. In The Evolution of Fear, Clay changes and grows as the kindness of strangers, the loyalty of friends, and the love of a good woman begin to erode the wall of hate and regret he has built around himself. Just when he thinks he can trust no one but himself, events prove him wrong. And just when he thinks he can never be forgiven for the wrongs of his past, the people closest to him show him how.
Claymore Straker is a fantastic name for a leading hero, how did you come up with the name?
I always liked the name Claymore, and for this protagonist, it was ideal. First because, as a soldier in the Border War in Angola in the early 1980’s fighting the communist insurgency, he on many occasions deployed and used the eponymous M18 directional anti-personnel mine (the Claymore), with its prophetic inscription “Front Towards The Enemy.” It was Clay’s father, originally from Scotland, who named him after the famous Scottish two-handed broadsword. Growing up as a boy, Clay loved his name, exactly for these combative characteristics. But after his harrowing experiences during the war (the subject of the prequel to the first two books, which I am now writing, titled Reconciliation for the Dead), he has come to hate it. Straker is actually the family name of some good friends in Perth, Western Australia, where we live. They said I could borrow their name!
There never seems to be any let up for Clay, which I loved. How did you come up with the idea for the story?
Clay is a character born of conflict. His life has been shaped by three little known regional wars, first in Angola during the border war in the 19880’s (the subject of Reconciliation for the Dead, out in 2017), the Yemen civil war of 1994 (the setting for The Abrupt Physics of Dying), and now in The Evolution of Fear, the Cyprus conflict, which began with the 1974 invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish Army, and remains unresolved to this day. I know all of these places well, and have studied these conflicts extensively, and in the cases of Cyprus and Yemen, first-hand. Because the Abrupt Physics of Dying left a number of questions unanswered, the Evolution of Fear was a natural extension of the story, taking Clay back to an island he already knew well, to face his and Rania’s destiny.
There are a number of locations which feature in the novel including; Cornwall, Turkey and Cyprus. What made you choose to set the story in all of these very beautiful, but very different locations?
I love writing about places I know – making them come alive for the reader. I lived in the West Country of the UK for several years, and always loved the rugged and isolated Cornish coast. Also, after the sun-scorched adventures in Yemen in the first book, I wanted contrast that suited Clay’s situation – dark, stormy, cold, with sheets of gusting rain. The first half of the book takes place in rain and darkness. Fighting through a storm, he slowly comes out into the hazy ozone-choked sunlight of Istanbul , one of my favourite cities in the world. I stayed at the Pera Palas hotel several times while I was living and working in Turkey during the 1980s, and wanted to re-create its atmosphere of faded end-of-century glory. Cyprus, where I lived for almost a decade, is a beautiful beguiling island which has been embroiled in conflict for over 40 years. In many ways, the island’s problems reflect Clay’s own battle with himself.
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you plot out all of the action first or do you just start writing and see where it takes you?
I am an engineer, and still work full time. My training has influenced how I write. It is very systematic. I start with an essential theme I want to explore through the character’s experience. Then I develop a core structure and plot line in advance, sketching out the action from beginning to end. I break up each day’s writing into a specific block or outcome, with a specific goal. Once the first draft is complete, and the structure can stand and bear weight, I start to allow myself more creative license, and start to weave in things that I think will add beauty, thematic relevance, or plot twists and turns. I love writing. Absolutely love it. I have to find a way soon to stop working full time at science and engineering, so I can write more.
Who would you say is the biggest influence on your writing?
I guess like most writers, there are a whole number of authors that I admire, and who have in one way or another influenced me. Hemingway, McCarthy, Kim Stanley Robinson, Balzac, Maupassant, Houllebecq. But I would have to say the person who has most influenced what I write about, and how, is my father. From a young age he bred in me a love and fascination for travel and other cultures, and a spirit of risk taking and discovery. Those are the things I try to put into my writing.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author, like myself?
There is all the usual stuff, which is good and true. Writers write. So write. As much and as well as you can. It’s a career like any other – you only get good by working at it over many years. Don’t give up. For me the most important thing is to back yourself – find your own voice, and your own way of telling a story and trust in yourself that if it is good enough, eventually, someone else will want to read it and will enjoy it. There is no point just copying what others have done.
What are you reading at the moment?
Right now I am reading Musashi, the quintessential Japanese novel about the life of the famous 16th Century samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, written by Eiji Yoshikawa before the Second World War, and translated by Charles Terry. I am also reading Jihadi: A Love Story, by fellow Orenda author Yusuf Toporov, and ploughing my way through A La recherché Du Temps Perdu by Proust, in French (my first language).
And finally, what is the rest of 2016 looking like for you?
Busy. I will be attending the UN Conference on Climate Change Adaptation in Rotterdam in May for work, and the Boucheron writing festival in New Orleans in September. Before the end of the year I am also planning to go back to Yemen to see and report first-hand on the effects of the current civil war there (if I can get into the country).
I would like to say a HUGE thanks to Paul E Hardisty for chatting to me today as part of his blog tour. Don’t forget to check out all of the other fab stops on The Evolution Of Fear blog tour!
Now for the Evolution of Fear Blurb:
Claymore Straker is a fugitive with a price on his head. Wanted by the CIA for acts of terrorism he did not commit, his best friend has just been murdered and Rania, the woman he loves, has disappeared. Betrayed by those closest to him, he must flee the sanctuary of his safe house in Cornwall and track her down. As his pursuers close in, Clay follows Rania to Istanbul and then to Cyprus, where he is drawn into a violent struggle between the Russian mafia, Greek Cypriot extremists, and Turkish developers cashing in on the tourism boom. As the island of love descends into chaos, and the horrific truth is unveiled, Clay must call on every ounce of skill and endurance to save Rania and put an end to the unimaginable destruction being wrought in the name of profit.