Author Interview: AFN Clarke

Today we have the honor to feature an amazing author of an action story THE ORANGE MOON AFFAIR.

Let AFN Clarke to share with us his own personal story:

TBM: How do you imagine the ideal reader of your book?

AFN Clarke: I imagine the ideal reader of my thriller/suspense books to be someone who savours being immersed in a good story, a fast paced plot with twists and turns, layers of intrigue, contemporary themes, characters with depth, and imaginative and thought provoking content that keeps them guessing to the very last page and leaves them wanting more.

Anyone reading my satirical books would relish an outlandish story with larger-than-life characters and have a wicked and irreverent sense of humour. A reader of my literary works? Someone with a thoughtful, passionate nature interested in the nuances of human behaviour and how people deal with life when it throws them unexpected curve balls.

TBM: How was the writer inside of you born?

AFN Clarke: When I was young my family moved around a lot – we lived in exotic places like Hong Kong, India, Libya and Iran and I was exposed to many different cultures and ways of life. To me it was a great adventure, and so from the time I could read I sought out books that created that same sense of adventure, transporting me to another world even more enthralling than my own. I was a voracious reader, devouring all the classics as well as books by new and unknown authors. So it was natural I wanted to express myself using words to create new worlds, new ideas, new images, tastes, sounds and smells to bring my stories to life. But I didn’t become an “author” till I was in my late twenties. I served in the British Parachute Regiment, two tours of Northern Ireland that left me without most of my insides, trying to understand what the violence, conflict and damage to generations of people affected by such a war was all about. It was then I wrote my first book, a memoir called “Contact”, and the rest is history. It became a best seller and thrust me onto a path of writing that has taken me on many adventures since.

TBM: What genres do you work with and why are you attracted to these forms of writing?

AFN Clarke: I think the way I write is the way I live life – I delve into different genres, and use each genre to explore ideas from a different perspective. Literary fiction allows me to explore the more human, vulnerable side of life. With satire I can use my irreverent sense of humour to say things I could never get away with normally. But I am most attracted to the mystery/thriller/suspense genre in recent times as it allows me to create a sense of heightened excitement and expectation in my readers. I am fortunate to have such a rich background to draw on. I was an officer in Britain’s elite Parachute Regiment, fought terrorism, used weapons and advanced communication technology, have knowledge of the intelligence community, drove racecars, flew planes and helicopters, lived all over the world including places embroiled in controversy and revolution like Iran and Libya. Add to that my natural curiosity about everything, love of research, and excitement at being challenged to create a story that is more imaginative, thought provoking and multi layered than your typical “good versus evil, hero gets the girl” kind of thriller  - and you start to see what motivates me to sit down each day and let the words flow.

TBM: As a reader, what elements of a story do you love, or do you hate?

AFN Clarke: I love a story that enthralls me. That captures my imagination with an unusual plot, rich or quirky characters, unexpected themes, that makes me look at life through different eyes for a while, expanding my world, not making it smaller. I love writing that flows, that creates images, sights, sounds, smells, textures. Writing that’s evocative!

I don’t like books that are predictable, or characters that are shallow. I dislike books that go on forever with a simple story that is dragged out like molasses. And I don’t like books that are all “black” and “slit-your-wrists depressive” – life is more complex than that. If I want to be depressed, all I have to do is watch the news on TV. I don’t want to curl up with a book like that.

TBM: What inspired you to write “The Orange Moon Affair” and what do you hope your readers will take away from this book?

AFN Clarke: I was inspired to write “The Orange Moon Affair” and the Thomas Gunn thriller series by my own sense of adventure and experiences in life and the life of a great friend who, sadly, is no longer with us. Terry Forrestal was an outstanding human being with a background in Special Forces. His life, at times, read like a James Bond novel, but was far more complex than 007’s.

I think he would like Thomas Gunn, the central character. He’s former Special Forces, trained in assassination, covert operations and international espionage. He’s also a compassionate, caring, passionate lover of life who desperately wants to leave his old life behind him. So while I hope my readers can indulge themselves in a thrilling and intriguing page-turner, I also hope it provides a deeply enriching experience as they witness the very human inner turmoil of someone like Thomas. A trained killer with a conscience, with values, ethics, desires and dreams that are constantly being challenged.

I also hope they will gain a lot of food for thought, by the very real possibility of what takes place in this book, the seedy players of international intrigue, deceit and corruption that live in the darkest shadows of our lives and manipulate world affairs for their own ends, more than we’d like to think or hope for.  

TBM: How long did it take you to write this book and what did you do the day that you finished it?

AFN Clarke: This book took me about 3 months of full time writing to finish, then a month of editing, rewriting, editing, rewriting etc. It was a very intense period where I lived and breathed being every character in the book most of my waking hours and also when asleep. So when I finished, it was like the end of a marathon! I danced around the room with my wife, who was glad to have her husband back and not be living with Thomas Gunn each day, had a large glass of Single Malt Whisky, then sat and stared out the window for hours. I know it sounds strange, but I actually go through a low period after I finish each book. It’s like giving birth to a new being and the process takes its toll. This whole new world no longer has to be sustained and nurtured in my mind. So I feel kind of empty for a while, there’s more silence in my brain, which is a good thing. Until the creative ideas come roaring back and I start writing all over again. I give thanks for my extraordinary wife who is also my chief critic, editor and marketing diva. How she puts up with me, I will never know J

TBM: What would you like to say to your readers?

AFN Clarke: What I would like to say to my readers is that if they choose to read any of my books, my greatest wish for them is that they have an entertaining, thought provoking and truly enriching experience, so that when they close the last page they sit for a moment with a satisfied smile on their faces, and feel the time they spent reading was worth it. But more than anything, I simply encourage readers to keep reading. I am astonished at how many people in the world have never read a novel, when books are so easy to find with the explosion of ebooks and publishing in general. So I say, be adventurous. Explore new authors, new books, new genres. Some you will like, others you won’t, that’s fine! But there is so much richness, depth and pleasure to be found in the reading experience, so go for it and be excited by what you discover.

TBM: What’s your greatest strength as a writer?

AFN Clarke: I think my greatest strength is my ability to have a general idea of where I want to go with my stories but allowing them and the characters to write themselves.  Rather than forcing a fixed idea, my books and characters take on a life of their own taking me where they want to go as much as the other way around. It takes a leap of faith and great trust to do this and probably a little insanity. But I’ve never been able to outline a book on paper and then write to that – it doesn’t work for me even though it does for many other writers. When I write to a plan, that story doesn’t breathe and expand and contract the way life does.

TBM: Why should the reader read “The Orange Moon Affair”?

AFN Clarke: If you’re a bit like me  - and love the suspense and action of a good thriller where new twists and turns make you hold your breath, wondering where the next page will take you, and you also relish getting to know fascinating characters with real life challenges being played out on a world stage, as well as thrive on new insights into what might be happening behind-the-scenes in the world of international intrigue -  then I think you might just like this book. I’d be delighted if you’d join me for the ride, and let me know how you find it.