Chris Allen, author of Hunter
Tell us about your latest creation:
The second Alex Morgan novel in my black-ops Intrepid series is Hunter: Intrepid 2. It’s a rapid-paced action-packed rollercoaster of a story and it deals with a current issue with the backdrop of the Serbian warlords being brought to justice in the Hague – the sentencing is happening right now.
Where are you from / where do you call home?:
When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?:
I dreamed of a few different things, actually. The military tradition ran pretty deep in my family, so I felt compelled to serve as well. Add to that, I knew my all-time favourite author Ian Fleming had served in WWII, and wanted to see the action that I too could write compelling stories about.
Finally, I was a mad drummer as a teenager, but loved the old jazz tunes and big live rock songs at a time when the likes of ‘Tainted Love’ were chart toppers.
All those things combined drove me straight into the welcoming (!) arms of the Australian Army, which is where I spent the next 13 years of my life. What do you consider to be your best work? Why?: The one I’m currently writing is my best work this far, which is called Avenger. I want each story to better than the last.
In this series, my flawed protagonist, the unstoppable Alex Morgan will age as time passes. He lives in real time, not a vacuum, and the stories will mature as my writing and Alex Morgan does.
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:
My writing mancave is a large room downstairs, with lots of natural light. I’m surrounded by great books and writers and things that have significance from my time in the military, humanitarian aid and law enforcement environments.
I find this kind of environment helps me to write realistic action scenes based largely on real-life experiences. All with a generous serving of escapism in the mix, of course!
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:
My literary legends, the ones I turn to time and again are Ian Fleming and Arthur Conan Doyle. Quite simply, their stories never get old.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:
The first thriller I ever read was The Wooden Horse — I was about 12-13 at the time.
At that age, I was really interested in a lot of stories of WWII, particularly the stories that were about individuals and how they overcame things. This was a story about guys who were prisoners of war, pilots who’d been shot down and captured by the Germans. I remember details about that book – that they needed to escape and someone came up with this idea that they needed to build a tunnel to escape. The shortest way for them to build a tunnel, so there was less chance of collapse, was to start right under the middle of the exercise yard, under the nose of the prison guards. So they requested exercise equipment from the guards like a wooden bolting horse. They hid two guys in the wooden horse and those men would work each night to dig out the tunnel each night. The detail was ingenious.
This book had all the elements of intrigue, deception, danger, subterfuge coupled with fearlessness, innovation and ingenuity borne out of a desperate need to escape captivity.
What more could a teenager in Perth ask for in his reading material!? If you were a literary character, who would you be?: I think I’d most like to be Watson from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock series.
In the books, Holmes is so reliant on his partnership with Watson. If it wasn’t Holmes saving the day with some well-paced Judo moves, it would be Watson with his revolver.
I love the duo. They are a much more equal pairing than the old movies ever gave them credit for.
Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:
Well, on a recent rare weekend I was allowed out of the writing man cave for 48 hours. I really enjoyed taking the family up to the beautiful Blue Mountains just a couple of hours drive west of Sydney.
There’s nothing I love more than exploring a new town like Blackheath, taking in some historic sites, enjoying the views, browsing in an antiques store and drinking lots of good coffee and red wine.
What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:
There’s nothing quite like an evening meal served with Brussel Sprouts at this time of year… they’re solid and nuggety, multi-layered, with the strange ability to be bitter and buttery at the same time. If I had my way, I’d like that served with a full-bodied Shiraz most nights of the week.
Otherwise it’s tea for me, strong tea with milk. Being ex-Army, I’m quite particular about my brew.
Who is your hero? Why?:
You know what? I don’t actually have a hero. I’m inspired creatively by figures from real life, but as bad as it sounds, I don’t have a hero that I call my own.
I think you should aspire to be the best person you can be, and not set someone else up as the benchmark, because people are still people, and it can be all too easy to fall for the idea of the person without understanding the context and full story of their life.
I’d rather be the best person I can be, and judge myself that way, than worship some other mortal bloke or lady based on some uninformed view I have of them!
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:
Independent bookstores are undergoing a reinvention, becoming community hotspots that embrace all that reading and storytelling has to offer – books and eBooks and, maybe one day, print-on-demand technology.
Books make excellent gifts and the bookstore owner is an important part of the local community. As we know, while there has been a digital revolution underway, our need for community remains strong. The other constant is one of our ability to tell a story about the place we live. The intersection of the two is the local bookstore owner’s challenge.