Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Interview: Chris Allen (author of AVENGER - Intrepid #3)

author imageChris Allen writes escapist action thrillers for realists, having seen and done it all.

A former paratrooper, Chris served in three Commonwealth armies across two decades and four continents. He left the military due to injuries, retiring at the rank of Major. In addition to his military career, Chris has served with three law enforcement agencies in Australia, led security operations for an international aid agency in East Timor during the emergency in 1999, and was headhunted to take over the protection of Sydney’s most iconic landmark, the Sydney Opera House. In 2008 Chris was appointed Sheriff of New South Wales, one of Australia’s most historic law enforcement appointments. Today, he continues his career as a writer and government senior executive. Chris and his wife, Sarah, live in Sydney. They have two small boys, Morgan and Rhett.

Chris was kind enough to stop by the blog for a second time (you can read my previous interview with Chris HERE following the publication of the second Intrepid novel HUNTER back in 2012).

I reviewed the most recent Alex Morgan book, AVENGER last month. You can read the review HERE.

(Josh)Your latest book in the Intrepid series, AVENGER continues to develop your protagonist Alex Morgan. How much fun is it to write a character such as Morgan and see him grow with each book?

(Chris) I can’t tell you how much I enjoy writing Alex Morgan and creating his reality for him. Of course, I suspect he may have other views on that as you’ll note from Avenger. When I started the series with Defender, my principal objective was to set the scene and make it absolutely clear to everyone that Alex Morgan was an action hero. I deliberately threw him into the action from the very beginning of the book to leave no doubt what Morgan and INTREPID were all about. I consider Defender as the initial handshake. The introduction to readers that says ‘Hi, good to meet you. I’m Alex Morgan’. From that point on, if people are interested in each other, they take the time and make the effort to get to know each other. So, since then, through Hunter and Avenger, I’ve begun to delve more into his character and background, exploring what it is that makes him tick and pisses him off. Ultimately, I’m letting readers get to know more about him with each book. I’m enjoying that.

Your books comprise action, adventure, thrills, and fierce combat. What draws you to telling these sorts of stories? 

I grew up reading the stories of Maclean, Forsyth, Higgins, Cussler... the list goes on. As a young guy, their stories would transport me to places I’d never seen and experiences I’d never dream of having. So, in the days before you could race off to the video store to hire your favourite movie or find new favourites, it was all about books! I devoured action and adventure books as a kid and back then I’d have to find the classics in second hand stores because they hadn’t been re-released or anything like that. As a result, all of the paperbacks I have from those days are all very old (even older than me!) and you can smell the decades in them. It was reading those books that sent me off in search of my own adventures and, eventually, to writing my own books.

Avenger (Intrepid #3)Staying with that – who are the authors you go to when you want to read these sorts of books? Fellow author at Momentum in Harry Ledowsky immediately springs to mind...

Well, I’ve rattled off a few already, but like Harry I also love the work of Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum and John Grisham. Obviously, my absolute favourites are Ian Fleming and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In fact, I’d go as far as to say I’m a Bond and Holmes tragic! I think most people who know me know that by now.

I thought I’d change up the Q&A a little here - I know you’re a James Bond fan – what’s your favourite novel?

If I had to choose I’d say Moonraker. Forget the 1979 movie. The book is nothing to do with outer space. It’s all about a mega-Captain of industry, knighted by the Queen, who appears to be presenting Britain with the ultimate self-defence weapon, only to be discovered by Bond as being hell bent on destroying Britain right under the noses of the establishment. It’s raw, powerful and a very telling indictment on Western society’s proclivity to turn a blind eye to the bleeding obvious rather than offend which, as we know particularly today, is very bloody dangerous.  It’s the third in Fleming’s Bond series and, in my view, he’d really found his voice and his confidence with not only Bond but the world he had created for him. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it.

Still on the Bond theme – favourite movie?

Casino Royale, without doubt. I think Daniel Craig did an incredible job of presenting Bond in his most raw form, still learning the ropes and discovering what he was capable of in a world he was not yet prepared for. He was also the perfect choice for the new Bond in the post September 11 world. I loved it and was pleased with how closely they paralleled Fleming’s original story while keeping it contemporary and relevant. Eva Green was the perfect choice as Vespa Lynd and, importantly, proved that beautiful women don’t have to be little more than window dressing or playthings for Bond. She brought integrity, intelligence and class to the role of Bond’s accomplice and blew the old notion of being a ‘Bond girl’ out of the water.

Lastly (of the Bond questions) – favourite Bond?

Timothy Dalton. A cold, conflicted gentleman spy just as Fleming had intended. There, I’ve said it.

Defender (Intrepid #1)Back to the Intrepid series, and AVENGER in particular, how did you come up with the idea for such a unique villain and her heinous business in people trafficking?

I want to establish the Intrepid series as not only the ultimate contemporary action series in book, film, TV etc – but the most important thing to me is that I want it to be relevant. In developing each of the stories I look for current issues as backdrops to the fiction. In Defender it was gun running and the exploitation of struggling nations. In Hunter it was the hunt for fugitive war criminals. With the latest book, Avenger, I dealt with human trafficking. During the research for the book I discovered that many of the middle management type roles in the sexual servitude side of things are undertaken by women, most of whom have entered the business as victims. I wanted to explore this through the eyes of a young woman who has been exploited from the earliest stages of her life, and then in order to survive the trauma of her circumstances sets her sights on reaching the top trafficking pyramid but loses track of her own humanity in the process. The tragedy of it is that she is at her core a victim but life, self preservation, revenge, envy, greed - all the frailties and insecurities that make us fundamentally human – have irrevocably corrupted her view of the world and she becomes the enemy.

The ‘Intrepid girl’ seems to be a staple in the series now, can we expect more of the same in future installments? These girls seem to have a positive influence on Morgan.

Yeah, I think it’s important in these stories to keep Morgan’s personal life as real as possible. Despite the fact that he would love to find the right girl and settle down, there is no chance that he will be able to do that while he is an Intrepid agent. It’s just not going to happen for him. So, he meets people just as any of us do through the normal course of his life. In his life that usually means while he’s on a mission. The important thing for me is that all of the principal women in the stories are intelligent, strong and self-assured. They challenge Morgan and it’s that challenge that draws him to them. I don’t want these characters to ever be seen as window dressing. They’re not. They are important to him and, as you’ve noted, they have a very positive influence on him and his personal development. I’m not sure I’d describe my intentions for these relationships to be more of the same. I want to explore more about Morgan and, as he develops and learns to understand himself more, then his interactions and relationships need to reflect that journey. I don’t even know where that will take us yet.

What’s next for Alex Morgan and the Intrepid series?

I’ve reached a really exciting point in the life of the series. I’m currently writing the fourth Alex Morgan novel, Helldiver. All I’ll say at this point is that the story tackles a number of major issues that are confronting us all right now and I can’t wait to release the book later this year.  Other than that, I am absolutely focused on exploring every avenue to expand my readership and the great thing about publishing these days is that you don’t have to feel limited or constrained in that regard. If you’re willing to be your own champion and captain your own ship then the world is your oyster.

I chose the motto of the Celts – ‘To the brave belong all things’ as the maxim for Intrepid, and there’s good reason for that. When I set out upon this journey I had a very clear vision for Alex Morgan and Intrepid. I set clear objectives for myself and the series and I’m absolutely committed to achieving that mission.

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Hunter: Intrepid 2 (INTREPID, #2)Links:

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