MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR HUMPHREY HAWKSLEY
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
Humphrey Hawksley International Thriller
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
My latest thriller is Man on Ice set on the remote US-Russian border in the Bering Strait where there are two islands less than three miles apart. One is Russian. The other is American. The Russian island is a military base controlled by the Far Eastern Military District. The American island is home to less than a hundred Eskimos and border protection is handled the joint US-Canadian military command based out of Anchorage. One of the islanders is Captain Rake Ozenna, of the Alaskan National Guard who takes his fiancé, trauma surgeon, Dr Carrie Walker to meet his home community. It is mid-January, two days before a presidential inauguration. With increasing acrimony between the US and Russia, this is when Moscow chooses to test American resolve by invading and occupying the American island. To avert all out war Ozenna needs to cross the ice and neutralize the Russian base.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I am a foreign correspondent, covering conflicts all around the world for the BBC, CBC, NPR and other media. Borders, political tension, war and stories of heroism have always fascinated me. Why do we keep getting ourselves into a mess that leads to bloodshed? Who are the individuals involved? What motivates them? What are their stories? Fiction is often the best way for explaining the relationship between the human character and a complex political canvas such as many of us are facing around the world at present.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I visited the island of Little Diomede, living with the community there for a week. These are tough, independent and brave people. I then went to the Elmendorf-Richardson base in Anchorage to learn how the joint US-Canada command protected the border. In Washington, I spoke to many people about the intricacies of an acrimonious transition. Part of Russia’s thinking is to strike when the US administration is at a weak point because so many in charge are new to their jobs.
I reported the Little Diomede story for the BBC and other outlets The ice curtain that divides US families from Russian cousins
Can you tell me about your Series?
Man on Ice is the first in the Rake Ozenna series. The audio version is due out in November and the mass market paperback in October 2019. The sequel with the working title, Man on Edge, has Rake Ozenna and many of the characters facing down a threat in northern Norway and the Arctic.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
I write in the early morning, most productively between 06.00 and 10.00, either in my study in London or at my place on the beach on the east coast. I then break to make phone calls, gym, walk, swim, cycle and all that other stuff and in the afternoon I will edit what I’ve written and plan the next day’s writing. I only set a word target once the step outline is in place. Then, I will aim for 2,000 words a day. But if you divide that down into work on structure, character, pace, research, we’re looking probably at less than 500 words a day. I try to create time for writing stretches of at least five days straight.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
I am working on Man on Edge, the sequel to Man on Ice and also working on a sequel to my non-fiction book Asian Waters: The Struggle Over the Asia Pacific and the Strategy of Chinese Expansion which was published about the same time.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
Names need to be relevant, rare and memorable. I often pick sub characters by matching first and second names from authors on book shelves that surround my desk.
Where do your ideas come from?
From a blend of what’s in the headlines. Man on Ice came from Russia’s takeover of Crimea and general increased hostility between the US and Russia. And from characters I meet in the course of my work identifying fears and motivation.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
The first draft. And my advice – just get it down however bad it is.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I have experimented with trailers. No hard evidence they sold a single book.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
An investigative journalism campaign into the use of child labor in the chocolate trade. It helped start a global movement against multi-nationals abusing human rights in their supply chains.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
The freedom of working hours and to ask questions and think the unthinkable.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Doing the same
Have you always liked to write?
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Never show a piece of work until the first draft is finished.
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
I read most of them, but don’t respond, unless it’s a one-star Amazon spoiler. Then I call them out, because they need to be. You can spot them by going into their profile and seeing that the only products they have reviewed before are watch straps and sunglasses. They are often the first out on publication.
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
What are you working on now?
The Man on Ice Sequel and a journalism piece about the changing world order and rise of China and Russia.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
This was her second day at the hospital, her life-style decision to move down from New York, away from family who kept telling her to do this and that, mainly find a man, stay in one place, just like that and Carrie wasn’t that sort of person. She needed something big, complicated and edgy, among people who traveled and understood blood, sand, urgent sex and power cuts.
Why did you choose to write in your genre? If you write in more than one, how do you balance them?
When I pitched my first idea, both the agent and publisher automatically slotted it into the thriller genre. Once there, you tend to get locked.
Where did your love of books come from?
Reading adventure stories as a child.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Leo Tolstoy, Lee Child, George Elliott, William Boyd, Tom Wolfe….Gotta stop there, too many and they keep changing.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?
I love Rake Ozenna because he’s still developing. Kat Polinski in Security Breach is great. She’s smart, brave, but personally so vulnerable.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Early morning. No conversation. No e-mail. Nothing until it’s down on the page.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to tell a good adventure story. The plot needs to be original.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
Something like — The Best Life I’ve Ever Had
Where can your fans find you and follow??
My website www.humphreyhawksley.com
My Face book Page Humphrey Hawksley Books https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=humphrey%20hawksley%20books
Twitter @hhbooks1 & @hwhawksley
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤️
Many thanks, too.