Guest author – Alex Shaw

December is proving a bumper month for guest authors. Delighted to have Alex as my guest today – we met through the UK branch of ITW, sitting in peter James’s dining room. (Still can’t quite believe I was there.)

So, Alex, what inspired you to start writing?

I was living in Kyiv, Ukraine and had just started to read again as I didn’t have a television. I was reading a lot of spy and espionage thrillers and it struck me that no one was writing about the largest country in Europe, Ukraine. So as I had become an expert on Kyiv I decided to base my own espionage thrillers there.

Do you have another job (paid or otherwise) apart from being an author? If so, how do you juggle your time?

I used to alternate between teaching and working in international business development. But since the birth of my two sons I’ve been a full-time stay at home dad and a part-time author. I started writing at night when they were asleep, however now that they have both entered school (Reception and Year 1) I have managed to start writing during daylight hours.

What did it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?

It gave me a huge sense of achievement when I saw my words in print. Suddenly I was someone who had written a book and had readers paying to read it. I must admit that it made me feel a bit ‘clever’, but then as soon as I read a book by my favourite author I knew I still had a lot to learn.

Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?

I’d say as I write Thrillers I am plot driven, but I don’t outline the plot before I write! I try to make my characters seem real so in that sense they drive the story too.

If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?

I’d choose my main protagonist – Aidan Snow. He’s a former SAS trooper who now works for the SIS (the correct name for MI6). He’s resilient, inventive, intelligent, moral and highly trained in combat. However if I was in a financial corner I’d choose one of my wealthy characters to help me out with their chequebook!

If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?

To be honest I don’t really want to write anything vastly different to what I am writing now, but that’s not to say I won’t in the future as I do occasionally get odd ideas. The idea of a genre-bending book appeals to me much like ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’, or something utilising time-travel.

Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn’t finish?

No but I did find Jane Austen hard going. I know that her writing is sacrosanct but when I was sixteen it didn’t appeal to me all. I don’t think I was her target audience.

What’s your favourite thriller genre book? And why?

‘Without Remorse’ by Tom Clancy. It was the first Clancy I’d read and as such to me was the most instrumental in opening my eyes to what a thriller can do. The character arc was also very well handled.

What’s your next project?

I’m just about to finish the third Aidan Snow thriller. It should be out early 2015. After that I have a vampire novel to write…

Cold Black, out now from Endeavour Press.

Cold Black

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