Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Author Interview: Andrew Man, Author of Beyond the Rest of Us

Andrew Man was born in Exeter, Devon, in April 1946.

After the War, Andrew’s parents moved the family to Nottingham, England. Andrew’s education was completed at a school in the Midlands and he followed another old school boy D.H. Lawrence, in his quest for the purpose of life? Having shown little interest at school, he was sent to a School of Navigation and then apprenticed to the ‘Port out - Starboard home’ Steam Navigation Company. He served on some very old cargo vessels and some yellow funnel dream boats during the 60’s and 70’s. Then becoming disillusioned and bored he went back to study for a new career in finance. His career in finance was to last nearly thirty years, working with British, American and Swiss Banks and finally with his own finance company in downtown Beirut.

His writing developed after he retired through visits to the CERN science centre in Switzerland, which also forms a basis for some of his stories. To write his books, he has moved through places where he worked in the past, from London, Lebanon, to Geneva and the Caribbean.

Andrew lives in the Swiss Romande part of Switzerland with his wife and a teenage son and if you stand on a chair in the garden you may see the Mont Blanc. 
Beyond the Rest of Us, a Time-travelling conspiracy thriller by Andrew Man
 A retired Swiss banker is kidnapped at a Geneva hotel for crimes he doesn’t understand. An Italian cruise ship crashes into rocks in the Tyrrhenian Sea. A respected American scientist disappears into thin air. And a British secret agent follows a trail of corrupt power in this gripping third book featuring Andrew Man’s aging male protagonist James Pollack.

Who are your influences?
My writing influence sits between two very different authors: the English author John Fowles, and the American, John Updike. I know it’s a struggle to place both of these greats in the same camp, but I dream of mixing similar styles and coming up with something equally special. I love the language Fowles uses, and his intricately woven plot lines, the evolution of literature to allow the story to unfold. Then I am gripped by Updike’s ability to bring us closer to the sensations of being alive. A further influence I also consider when writing is John Le CarrĂ© and his famous spy novels. I enjoy his use of mood, and the way he builds tension, when searching for a way to enhance a scene.

Thinking towards the field of unorthodox science, I am also a great admirer of Graham Hancock. I find his ability to challenge the accepted scientific norms and find better solutions, to be most refreshing. And … he’s been doing it for over thirty years.

When did you begin writing?
As a young man in the navy I loved reading. As soon as I joined a new ship, I would start acquiring all the adventure books on board, often about the places we were to visit with books like Conrad’s ‘Lord Jim’. It was also a time when I read most of the great English classics spending a lot of time outside foreign ports, swinging around the anchor chain. I never actually wrote anything at that time, except letters to my parents and friends back home, some of which I have kept. Life in the 60’s was quite different and as young cadets we were only allowed ashore with an officer to swim at the Indian Mission Clubs, but that all changed when we became officers with a certificate of navigation and a new life on passenger ships.
My move into the world of banking and finance was only after a degree course and post grad studies at the University of Plymouth. International banking was entering new sectors of the economy which required copious capital for some of the biggest post war industries, such as North Sea Oil. I never really attempted to start writing about my past maritime experiences, but the memories lived on. One day I knew I would write these stories, but the time was just not right then.

Some five years ago I had a major heart operation and found I needed a more relaxed lifestyle. I retired a year early and began to think about writing a book. My first full length novel was born, almost as an auto-biography.

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names etc.?
I look to find real-life places and events from the past that reflect deep insights and personal experience. More important I often do months of research about a situation, or a place out of the ordinary. Background reading takes up a lot of time at this stage, even if you want to write fiction you must be as correct as possible with the details. Once you are confident with the scene you have to decide which characters it will involve. Since I travelled a lot with my work in the past I had a wide range of location choices. The first book, Keeping God’s Secret, covered events from the early period of my life from the 60’s to the new millennium. The second book Forces of Retribution continued the story with the same characters up to around 2010. With Beyond the rest of Us, I had been investigating my own family tree and found that our maternal DNA came from a group of people who must have walked from a region south of the Alps, to the S.W of England over 15,000 years ago. This sounded most unlikely. However when I read reports about the climate change of the younger Dryas period (12,000 years ago), it drove an interest in the end of the last ice age. With astral travel, there was also the possibility of writing about different dimensions in time. When you add to that the rumour of intrigue about sinking cruise ships and disappearing aircraft, you have the basis for a new book.
The scenes I write often come from ideas seeded during my working days in the past which have included a suicide, bomb blasts and storms, although some events have their roots in real news events from the more recent past. As my writing developed, I found it needed a present day, dynamic antagonist to support the final book of the series. By 2014 the disunited union of Europe, appeared to be a likely candidate for that role.

After the first book I wanted to keep a damaged male hero and a group of strong female characters for the second book. Then with too many female characters, I decided to split them into two groups, one here in our time and the other in another dimension, 50 years in the future! Names are important for each character, and some names need to have ancient meanings. The unlikely name of the hero James Pollack is the same as one of the US founding fathers, who sourced the words ‘In God we trust’ on every dollar bill. Living in Europe helps, as you can checkout first names and common surnames in the region and then play around with various combinations that meet the character. The antagonist Elizabeth Kilmister immediately jumped out at me, as a British secret agent.

Do you work from an outline?
I always work from an intro as a timeline and have a few ideas of the early chapters, but then let the story find its head in its own direction. This is known as writing ‘by the seat of your pants’, while other writers are called ‘planners’. I hear of authors who plan their story with cards for each chapter and lay them out for weeks on end, trying to decide if chapter one should follow chapters 3 or 4. It all sounds a bit daft to me, but I probably do a bit of both. There are also graphs of how the story should rise at the beginning, fall in the middle and rise again to a climax at the end. Maybe that’s what Shakespeare did, but he didn’t need a graph, he wrote from his heart.

Keeping the initial premise in mind, I never devise the ending, mainly because I haven’t written the middle part needed to drive the story. The plot plan at this stage ends up as little more than a word count spreadsheet, as I’m not an author who writes 500 pages when it can be said in two hundred. I do move scenes around, often at the beginning. In my last book, I teased the readers in the first four chapters and only started to explain the real plot in chapter five. After that, they either say this book is interesting and different or give up reading the novel. As I'm writing, I feel that I may need to introduce a new character in the direction I need, which is not easy as the story develops, particularly if you have a lot of characters.

Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel.
With the theme of the title, it may come as no surprise that my favourite scene involves the Italian cruise ship crashing into rocks. This is where the ‘Concordia’ ship takes an expected hit on an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea. I loved helping Janet with her interest to save the ship in the future, as the story occurs in dream. Janet has a deep emotional attachment to James who is undergoing surgery at a hospital at the same time. Yet, in this scene she is forced to pull out her hidden knowledge, in order to save the crew trapped in a flooded compartment. The scene peaks as James thinks that this may not have been an accident, thinking as an evil banker. For me, the scene evokes a sense of triumph: not only Janet’s triumph over the impending collision, but also her triumph over the greater political threat in Europe. In a way, it hints at the courage Janet is required to draw on to survive the upcoming challenges.

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?
I set out to write a series which would be more than a good story. Oddly, I’m greatly motivated by unorthodox science. It started with writers like Graham Hancock thirty years ago and then when I started writing realised that a lot of science and our ancient origins are hidden by the close control of main-stream science. The philosophy of my writing is to shine a light on some of these more enlightened ideas today. I like to think of readers immersing themselves in a story that takes them on a journey away from their real life surroundings. I write to question what I think is missing in main stream media. Having spent so much time researching scientific ideas, I find it refreshing to allow my mind to run free.

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
Not really, I did manage to complete a short pilot script which took the lead character through a series of time travel events. It was actually a combination of the second book I had written spanning different dimensions, and across different countries. The style was, in a way, based on my second novel. My intention was more to learn what worked in the film industry and what didn’t, pitching it to film execs in Hollywood. I still believe, this, could be a success, but they needed the final book to the series. I may look at adapting that story one day and putting it out as a TV script.

Beyond the Rest of Us is available at Amazon, Barnes& Noble, and wherever good books are sold.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

8 Tales of Noir Release Announcement

November 2 is the date I will be releasing my noir anthology, 8 Tales of Noir. Two of the stories are novella length and have been previously released as stand-alone ebooks, but this is the first time one of the stories will also be available in paperback format. The other six stories were all featured as episodes in my podcast, which is available at thrillsandmystery.com.

This also marks the debut of the ebook cover. I've posted the paperback cover before, but the new ebook cover features an entirely original photo shot in my living room and featuring my daughter's arm as the corpse.