Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Author Q&A: Tom Cain on 'No Survivors'

EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

What's your book about? 'No Survivors' is about Samuel Carver, the protagonist, who is a hired assassin, paid to remove dangerous individuals who are beyond the reach of the law.

As it says in my first book about him, 'The Accident Man,' he does very bad things to even worse people. Specifically he creates accidents that make their deaths deniable. His victims have it coming – with one very significant exception that provides the story of 'The Accident Man' - but even so, Carver is profoundly conflicted about his work, morally and psychologically scarred by the corrosive effect of violence and death. His greatest hope of redemption lies in the love he has for his Russian lover Alexandra ‘Alix’ Petrova, but both their circumstances and their characters complicate matters, to put it mildly.

Plot-wise the story of 'No Survivors,' which is set in 1998, involves missing Soviet nukes, a Texan billionaire with a longing for The Rapture, the rise of al-Qaeda and the conflict in the former Yugoslavian province of Kosovo. Fundamentally, though, it’s about Carver, Alix and the twists and turns in their relationship. Even in a thriller, all the action, excitement and tension in the world mean nothing if you don’t care about the man and the woman at the heart of it all.

Where can we find your work? I sincerely hope you can find it in your local bookstore! And if not, you can certainly find it on Amazon.

How did you get your start in writing? I’ve been a professional writer since I was 19 – which was a LONG time ago! – and have done most of my work as a magazine editor and newspaper journalist in London.

What does your writing routine look like? Day-by-day I start work at 10.00am, but tend to do my best writing between about 4.00-8.00pm. In terms of the Carver books, I start thinking of them in the early months of the year … gradually accumulate research and ideas through the spring and early summer (all the while working on other assignments and projects) … start writing in about August … begin to panic in October because I don’t have anything I like … knuckle down again … gradually pick up speed and deliver in mid-January.

Tell us some writers whose work you admire. Among thriller, crime and adventure-writers … Ian Fleming, Raymond Chandler, Alistair MacLean, Wilbur Smith, Mario Puzo, Dennis Lehane, Michael Crichton, Dick Francis, Lee Child, James Lee Burke, Stieg Larsson, David Chase (creator of the Sopranos), Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow (the creators of 24) … all those classic British murder queens: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, PD James, etc … and in other genres I’ll throw in Tolstoy, Jane Austen and Anthony Powell. Shakespeare had a pretty dab hand with plot and dialogue, too, come to that!

What are you working on next? I’ve just handed in the third Carver novel, Assassin, to my publishers and am starting on No.4 soon. What made you decide to write this novel? Contractual obligation!

What challenges did you face with this book? Well, there was the general second-novel challenge, which is that you fill your first story with a lifetime’s worth of good ideas, and then you’ve suddenly got to do it all over again, and almost certainly much more quickly. Specifically, I had the problem that 'No Survivors' follows on directly from 'The Accident Man,' which ends with Carver in a pretty bad way (I won’t say more for fear of spoiling it!), with the result that he’s incapable of action in the early stages of 'No Survivors.' Having a semi-vegetative protagonist, it transpired, was a very, very tricky proposition when writing an action-thriller. But I hope I overcame that difficulty!

What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers? Keep going. Don’t let rejection and failure get you down. Learn to sort the useful element in any criticism from the nonsense that surrounds it. Obsess about the structure of your books: getting that right is far more important than worrying about fancy prose. Create believable, interesting, multi-faceted characters. And never forget that you write at the service of the reader. Yes, you should express yourself. Yes, you must follow your own passions and instincts. But writing means nothing if it does not communicate.

Favorite Links: (This is a British site, but it’s the best place to find out about me). (I’m always interested in making new Facebook friends) (Because you’ll want to be buying the books, right?)

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