intrepid

Meeting Chris Allen

On Monday night, we held our first online TBYL Event, where we had a chance to chat with author Chris Allen. It was entertaining and informative, a fabulous insight into writing, reading and living an adventurous life.

Here’s how it happened…

TBYL: To start with… the links between yourself, your career and your writing absolutely fascinate me. Could you tell us a little more about how you came to writing, and the relationship that your work has with the stories that you tell?

Chris Allen Typing

Chris: Great question. It’s one of those chicken/egg scenarios I think. I’ve wanted to write from about the age of 14 or 15. I loved action movies and TV shows, obviously the Bond films became my favourites but back then you had to wait for them to be on TV rather than just going out and hiring the (dare I say it) video! So, the only real option for me was to find the books to read in between waiting for Bond movies to appear on TV. As soon as I read Ian Fleming’s ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ – it was in the school library – I was hooked. Then it was a matter of wanting to lead a life that would enable me to write my own stories and one thing led to another…

TBYL: Do you think you would have been able to write the stories that you have without the real-life experiences that you’ve had?

Chris: There are many great authors – past & present – who have not actually led the lives of their protagonists yet they still manage to write fantastic stories. The crux of the issue is that people want to be entertained by the story. The ability to achieve that, the process of conveying the story is different for every writer. In my case, I was eager to get out and see the world and have some adventures of my own with the intent to write about it all at some point. In my case, as an errant teenager, anything I tried to write back then was just drivel. So, I think it was best that I waited for a while. As it turned out, I ended up getting my first book published when I was about the same age that Ian Fleming was when he had Casino Royale published.

TBYL: Did you ever find yourself in the middle of a place, event, adventure and thinking ‘wow, this’ll be a good story’?

Chris: Occasionally I did found myself saying ‘If I live through this I may just write about it!’

TBYL: Your characters are very likeable or loathsome, well developed and stay with you once you’ve finished reading the books. How do you go about building such a believable cast?

Chris: Thanks so much. I’m thrilled to hear that reaction. There are two sides to this. Firstly, I base my principal characters i.e. Alex Morgan and his compadres, on people I actually know very well. For the most part, these are people with whom I’m still very closely connected. So, its easy for me to describe them as they are – as you say, likeable and real. In terms of the loathsome creatures who from time to time inhabit my pages, I’ve also based some of them on people I have personal experience of. Of course, the antagonists really need to be, in my opinion, larger than life. So, I tend to draw of characteristics, attitudes or behaviours I seen in others that I don’t like and then infuse them into the larger than life evil-types who Morgan has to deal with.

TBYL: What do your friends think about being committed to page (the good guys I mean)?

Chris: I think the guys secretly love it, although they do like to chastise me a bit for taking liberties. That said, they’re always keen to tell anyone who’ll listen that they’re the inspiration for this character or that one. It’s funny.

TBYL: How you do set yourself apart from other action and adventure writers?

Chris: Phew! How do I answer that one? I guess, in a contemporary sense, what I’m trying to do with my Intrepid series is write stories that are (I hope) reminiscent of the stories I grew up on while giving them a new edge. Someone recently described my books ‘like an old friend with new stories’ and that really captured it for me. While I want to keep the books as real as possible, I don’t want to be writing training manuals. So, it’s important for me to also maintain the escapism.For example, there are plenty of books out there about the CIA, the FBI, Secret Service, Mossad etc etc but I want readers to be excited about something completely new… a truly international agency that serves the world community, not just one country. That’s why I cam up with Intrepid.

TBYL: I assume that’s why your take your reader to a new location almost every new chapter?

Chris Allen ClovellyChris: Yeah, I like to keep the reader on their toes! It’s important to not only keep the pages moving but, wherever possible, I like to catapult the reader through the chapters. Taking people around the world while they’re sitting on a bus or train immediately gives them that sense of escape. That’s what I enjoy so much about my favourite books. I’ve had people tell me that they’ve missed their train stop on the way to and from work. I love that!

TBYL: Personally, I really like the fact that although your stories are rich with detail, they’re not heavy with ‘specs’. Is this choice to avoid micro-detailed descriptions of weaponry/strategy/etc deliberate?

Chris: You’re spot on about the specs and weaponry. I believe in giving the reader just enough to enable them to make sense of those things so that they can continue to enjoy the story rather than leaving them qualified to actually operate the gear!

TBYL: At about the time of Hunter’s publication, you struck up a new friendship with Momentum Books. Can you tell us a little about this? How are you finding the digital publishing industry?

Chris: I’ve been really fortunate to have found a great publisher to work with on Defender and Hunter. Joel Naoum is the publisher who runs Momentum and it was clear to me right from the outset that he got where I was coming from – the whole ‘old-school meets new-school’ approach I’m taking with the books. So, it made complete sense for me to partner with Momentum under Joel’s stewardship. I’ve enjoyed it immensely. Digital publishing is absolutely the future. That said, there are still huge sections of the reading community around the world who prefer to read from the printed/paper page and in my view, as an author you have to address that if you want your work to be read by as many people as possible. After all, if you’re a rock band and you know that half of your potential market still listens to music on vinyl, you’re not going to limit your latest album just to CD or digital. You’re going to get vinyl LPs pressed too! That’s certainly my approach anyway!

TBYL: So what about you? Do you have a preference when you’re reading?

Chris: I fall right in the middle – I love my kindle and it’s full of my old and new favourites, but I still like to pick up a paper book and settle in for a read! The stories are everything. I have all of Conan Doyle’s stories in paperback and eBook. Can’t get enough. In fact it’s much easier to read the full Sherlock Holmes compendium on my kindle than carting around a paperback the size and weight of an average house brick!

TBYL: Do you have plans for Intrepid 3 yet? What can you tell us?

Chris: Ah ha! THE question  Well, I am currently writing the third Alex Morgan adventure which, those of you who’ve read HUNTER will know, is called AVENGER. I don’t want to spoil it by letting on too much but I can assure you that I will be delving much more into Alex Morgan. A lot of readers have told me that they want to know more about him, so I’m really enjoying bringing Alex to life, exploring him as a man not just a secret agent.

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I must extend a huge thank-you to Chris, Sarah and Momentum Books for helping make Intrepid Month happen. I had a fantastic time, and I hope you’ve all been adequately tempted to pick up one of Chris’ books! You wont be disappointed…

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Watch out, he’s back! Hunter…

At the beginning of 2012 I was lucky enough to be introduced to Defender, the first in the Intrepid series by author, Chris Allen. I was immediately drawn into the world of Intrepid agent, Alex Morgan, hard-hitting and action packed, I enjoyed every page. You can read my original review here, but let me just say, I’ve been hanging out ever since for the release of the second instalment, Hunter: Intrepid 2.

A lot has happened for Chris and his crew since his first release, not the least of which was the building of an exciting relationship between Chris and Pan Macmillan’s digital-only publishing arm, Momentum. A match made in heaven, this pairing has meant that Hunter has been brought to us with great gusto and in a fantastic digital format.

HunterI’ve been reading Hunter over the last couple of days, and I’ve found it hard to put it down. Right from the get-go it’s firing on all cylinders…

His orders are simple: ‘The safety catch is off. Return that girl to her family and drag those bastards back to justice. Dead or alive. It makes no difference to me.’

Alex Morgan – policeman, soldier and spy for Intrepid, the black ops division of Interpol – is on the hunt for Serbian war criminals. But these guys were never going to let it be that simple. An assassination attempt is made on the presiding judge of the international tribunal. Days later, the judge’s daughter, the famous and beautiful classical pianist Charlotte Rose, vanishes in mysterious circumstances.

The girl is not just a pretty face and the daughter of a judge, however. She’s also the goddaughter of Intrepid’s veteran commander, General Davenport. It’s up to Morgan and the Intrepid team to track the kidnappers and the missing woman before the very fabric of international justice is picked apart at its fraying edges.

Part James Bond and part Jason Bourne, Alex Morgan must walk the line between doing the right thing and getting the job done. And this time he’s got permission to make it personal.

It’s fantastically international, intricate in its detail and cast with a range of beautifully developed characters, all with their own missions and methods of achieving them.

One of the things that strikes me the most about Chris’ work is that it is incredibly authentic, clearly very well researched, but at the same time avoids the trap of tedium that some highly detailed ‘action’ titles can fall into. At all times, the balance between fact and adventure is maintained superbly meaning that the story is punchy, compelling and always entertaining.

I’ve only one problem now…

I have to wait until next year for Intrepid 3!

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Chris Allen, author of the Intrepid series has been having a browse at the TBYL Store and put together a shopping list!

5 things I like from the TBYL Store, who I’d give them to and why!

Curses and Blessings for All Occasions, by Bradley Trevor Greive… I admit to being very biased here because I know the author well and he is a great fella. However, despite my bias, this is an incredibly funny book. It is a must for anybody you know who deserves the escape and immense enjoyment of this page-by-page indulgence. This one is particularly suited to my wife Sarah who I’ve often found, on many occasions, giggling mischievously to herself as she discovers yet another favourite among BTG’s plethora of hilarious anecdotes.  In addition, there’s an incredible history behind each and every illustration. Not to be missed.

Haunted Pendant Small2pm Haunted Small Pendant (1″)… There’s something very dark about this.  I don’t know what it is that drew me to this piece but whatever it was it has succeeded in piquing my interest.  There are a couple of people I have in mind for this. Suffice to say I think this gift would be more suited to a fan of, say, ‘A turn of the screw’ than the Twilight series.

Happythoughts are Everywhere by Nicky Johnston… The thing that attracted me immediately to this book for kids was title followed immediately by the cover. We have a couple of great friends who are parents to three incredible little boys. I can say this now because Sarah and I have two little boys and boys are an absolute handful. When I saw this cover I immediately pictured the dad sneaking away for a quiet moment of solace under one of his boys’ beds having commandeered some toys. Although, in reality it is in fact the mum who would be in much greater need – and much more deserving – of the escape!

Diary of a Penguin-Napper by Sally Harris… I absolutely love the premise of this book especially the fact that the young hero would do anything to impress the girl of his dreams. I want this book for my two boys! Enough said!

Casino-Royale-200Casino Royale by Ian Fleming… It is absolutely no secret that I am a huge fan of Ian Fleming. With the recent release of Skyfall there’s been more than enough discussion of James Bond of late. However, I am duty bound to explain my reason for jumping on the bandwagon. It’s a sad fact that only truly die-hard Fleming fans or those who have read at least one if not some of his books can genuinely attest to his incredible mastery of story telling within the modern thriller context. I would offer this book as a gift to any reader of action thrillers whose only experience of 007 is via the movies. Casino Royale is a timeless classic of the genre, evidenced by the superb cinematic realisation in 2006 of the story first published in 1953. My love of reading was ignited by Fleming’s writing and he left such an impression on me that I can also unequivocally trace my determination to become a successful published author back to his books. 

Feel free to have a browse around the TBYL Store yourself… you can shop here!
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You can pick up a copy of Hunter: Intrepid 2 at the Intrepid website, and if you’d like to check out some other exciting Momentum titles, take a look at their website here.  

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Defender of the Faith, go along for the ride

I’m pleased to report that this weekend I finally got hold of the ipad for long enough to finish reading Chris Allen’s Defender of the Faith. A Sunday well spent, I bunkered down in my reading chair and finished off this action-packed INTREPID adventure. After a day of reading, a flat ipad battery, and a wild literary ride on boat, and car and chopper…through Africa, London and the streets of Sydney, I was left gasping for breath and wanting more…

Defender of the Faith is the story of INTREPID agent, Alex Morgan as he works to unravel a web of corruption and greed. It’s his job to uncover those pulling the strings of a deadly coup in Malfajiri and to bring them to account. He does this with brawn and brains, and the promise of beer. Of course, whilst busy fighting rebel soldiers and repeatedly cheating death, Morgan still has time to attract the lovely Arena Hall. Their resulting affair creates solace for the couple, in a recuperative Spanish villa no less, but it also threatens to compromise Alex’s mission, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat.

The novel is wonderfully authentic, nicely paced, it contains plenty of detail and just the right ratio of plot-to-action. The character of Morgan is also quite interesting. At first he seems your standard-issue operative, one part renaissance man, one part action hero. There’s no doubt, there is that to him – he’s unbreakable, he’s clever, and he’s quite the lady’s man. But interestingly, he’s also a bit more than that. I was struck by the character’s morality, his sense of doing right and defending the innocent. This really makes Alex Morgan stand out, both against the crooked adversaries that he faces off with, but also when he’s compared to other ‘James Bond’ type characters – he’s a new breed of hero.

Now, I was really lucky to be able fire off five quick questions to the author of this exciting novel. In his own words, here’s what Chris Allen had to say about his debut novel:

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As a new author, can you tell us how it is you came to write fiction? It’s quite a departure from your ‘day-job’ – why the shift?

I’ve always wanted to write, from the time I was a boy, but I was never one of those kids who was drawn to the theory of it. I just wanted to write – my way. Most importantly, I have always wanted to write action thrillers. I think I learned most of the craft from reading the works of my favourite writers: Ian Fleming, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alistair Maclean, Jack Higgins, Frederick Forsyth and Clive Cussler. Of course, to be in their league I felt I needed to experience the things I wanted to write about first hand.  So, one thing led to another, and a career within the military, humanitarian aid and law enforcement environments beckoned.  While I watched with great interest (and envy) the successes of great contemporary Australian writers in the action/crime space, like Matthew Reilly, Tara Moss etc, in my case, I had to get to a point where I felt I was ready to put pen to paper and write the style of thriller I’d always hoped to. It took many years, but I’m finally there.


How did the character of Alex Morgan come about? He’s such an intriguing, down-to-earth yet exceptional operator…

www.defenderofthefaith.com.au

Well, Alex Morgan is an interesting guy. He was originally to be styled around the fictional favourites of my childhood, like James Bond, Napoleon Solo (from ‘The Man from UNCLE’), Dirk Pitt, and Bodie (from ‘The Professionals’), and to an extent he still is.  But, with the benefit of real experience, Alex Morgan became much more.  As you see him now, Morgan is a hybrid of a select few, very  real people; friends and colleagues whom I have had the great privilege of knowing and serving with over many years.  While I have loosely used myself as his foundation, I have extracted various skills, experiences and character traits from three or four friends to really give him the gritty, down-to-earth realism that you find on the page.  People who do the kind of work that I’ve attributed to my INTREPID agents, can’t afford to be superficial, self obsessed loners. They have at their core a sense of service, loyalty and obligation that can only be built amongst comrades.


Clearly you know your stuff, evidenced by the amazing details included throughout this adventure…how much, if at all, did your military experience inform Defender of the Faith?

My time as an Army Officer definitely provided the basis for what I would eventually create within the characters and storyline for Defender.  I spent time on attachments to other armies and worked alongside soldiers from at least a dozen different countries.  I served in Europe, Africa, Central America and South East Asia.  But, my service hasn’t all been in the military. Mid-way through my time in the Army, I took a brief sabbatical to serve with the Australian Federal Police. Years later, when I eventually left the Army due to injury, I served with an international humanitarian aid agency in East Timor at the height of the intervention mission in late 1999. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, my career has been predominantly within the Government protective security arena. Fortunately, I also have an incredible group of very close friends, many of whom have made expert contributions to my work to ensure that I kept every detail as accurate as possible!

So, over almost thirty years, I’m accumulated a quite diverse range of skills and experiences, all of which led to the creation of INTREPID and, most importantly, Alex Morgan.


When you’ve got a minute or two to put your feet up and have a read, what do you pick-up off the bookshelf?

Honestly, when I want to completely escape and go back to something that is totally familiar and entertaining, I can’t go past the Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories.  Otherwise, I try to read current authors, both established and emerging, mainly within the action/crime space and these days, I do most of my reading via my Kindle.  If I’m finding it too hard to get to a book, then I’ll have an audio book in the car.


What’s next? Will we see more of Morgan or something new?

I am absolutely committed to writing a series of Alex Morgan/INTREPID adventures.  I’m in the midst of writing Book 2 right now and I’m loving it, but there are times when I get really frustrated that my two-fingered typing is slowing me down while the ideas are trying to pour out of me, especially when I’m writing an action sequence! Meanwhile, there is serious interest and discussion at the moment from a number of people over the possibility of a Defender film. In my view, Alex Morgan & INTREPID presents an unprecedented opportunity to launch a uniquely Australian action hero into the contemporary international context.

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I for one would pay good money to see that film, and equally, I’m eagerly awaiting the next INTREPID instalment. In the meantime, I’ll have to make do with an action-filled re-read of a few choice chapters:

“Morgan chanced a look back towards the rebels. They were everywhere, their rounds biting into the dirt at his feet. The distinctive crack of high-velocity ammunition pierced the air, inches from his face. Morgan expected that at any second he would feel the unmistakable thump and burn of the bullet that would find him. It was inevitable. A quick death was preferred, but unlikely, especially if he was still alive when the rebels reached him”

If you like a fast-paced, authentic read, you’ll love this book. If you’re still not convinced you can sample the first 12 chapters for free, available at the Defender of the Faith website. Also, you can pick up a copy of the book over on the website too, paper or ebook. Well worth a look.

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