Terry Hayes, author of I Am Pilgrim
Tell us about your latest creation…
“I Am Pilgrim”. It is an epic book – an international spy thriller which is the story of one of America’s greatest intelligence agents. he retired young – sick of living in the shadows and by-passed by the huge changes the war on terrorism have wrought. He comes out of retirement, tasked with chasing and finding a mysterious man called The Saracen who has brought back to life the world’s most deadly virus. The mission takes Pilgrim back into his past and from England to Germany, Saudi Arabia to Santorini, Bulgaria to Turkey. And a host of countries in-between. It is a harrowing race against time and, full of false leads and shattered hopes. A story that is not resolved until the last paragraphs on the final page.
Where are you from / Where to do you call home?…
I was born in England, migrated to Australia as a five-year-old, was raised in Sydney where I became a journalist and later went to Los Angeles to work in the film industry. Myself, my wife and four children are now residents of Switzerland.
Always a writer. I cannot remember a time when I wanted to be anything else except a writer.
What do you consider to be your best work? Why?
I think my best work is Mad Max 2 and Dead Calm in movies; The Dismissal, Bodyline and Bangkok Hilton on TV; and I Am Pilgrim as a novel. On the movies and TV mini-series I was both a writer and producer.
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?
Orderly to me! Chaotic probably to anyone else. Two computers and screens – in case one goes belly-up – lots of notebooks and pads with notes and research, pictures of my kids for inspiration. A few movie posters – Payback, Dead Calm, From Hell – to remind me that I have written stories before and I can do it again.
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?
Newspapers, magazine articles – once a journalist, always a journalist – useless information which often, very surprisingly, proves to be very helpful. The
internet has given instant access to wonderful information and articles from all round the world. Books? Classics and whatever is recommended to me – usually by my wife.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?
Anna Karenina – a classic that moved with all the pace and emotion of a great thriller; Catcher in the Rye; The Great Gatsby; Shogun; anything by Herman Hess – it was eclectic if nothing else!
If you were a literary character, who would you be?
Pilgrim from I Am Pilgrim. I wrote it as first person account and there is a lot of me in it. Or at least what I would aspire to be – courageous and true, intelligent when it’s needed, self-effacing and modest. My wife, on the other hand, says the character is completely fictitious – so maybe I’m just deluded.
Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?
My main occupation is to operate The Paceman cricket bowling machine to a) stop my two young boys from braining themselves with a fast ball and b) attempt to improve their batting skills. I hate to say it – but Australia needs them.
What is your favourite food and favourite drink?
Anything healthy for food – Japanese fits the bill perfectly. I love sushi and tempura. Sake, in the Rocks in Sydney, serves outstanding food in my opinion. And no, they haven’t bought any books in return for that glowing endorsement.
Who is your hero? Why?
In my own life – my wife. She has never faltered in her belief in me and my work. She has encouraged, cajoled and threatened me. I would never have been half the writer I am – whatever that may be – without her. She has also been a terrific mother to the most important thing in my life – the four children. She likes dogs too, which is never a bad thing!
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?
Good stories, however you define that phrase. Storytelling has been with us since men first sat around fires in caves and it will be with us long after we have colonised other planets. It is wound deep into our DNA and that is not going to change any time soon. Delivery systems, technology, public taste are always changing and presenting challenges. If we think the ground is shifting now – imagine what monks copying texts by hand must have thought when they heard about something called the printing press. As long as their are people, there will be eaders and they will need stories. Books – and book-selling – have succeeded, so far, in adapting to new technology where both the movies and, especially, the music industry have failed. The great thing about books is that personal recommendations mean more than in any other popular art form I know of – for that reason the highly-respected book store, staffed by knowledgeable people, will always play a crucial role in this whole enterprise. On-line stores may have a role to play and present real challenges but they will not replace a good bookstore any more than Wal-Mart replaced great local shopping areas.