#AuthorInterview #PaulHardisty #ReconciliationForTheDead @OrendaBooks
It is my great pleasure to welcome Paul Hardisty to my blog today! Paul is the author of three books, the third, Reconciliation for the Dead, was published in March by Orenda Books.
While I was at CrimeFest17, Paul very kindly found a bit of time in between panels to come along and chat with me.
Welcome to Bibliomaniac Paul! It's hard to know where to start with this interview when there is so much to talk about! So I'll just begin by saying a huge thank you for making time to speak with me during CrimeFest 17!
I've just listened to one of your panels where there was a lot of discussion about how much of an author is in their book. You're Canadian by birth, have worked all over the world as an engineer, environmental scientist and hydrologist. You were in Yemen when the 1994 Civil War broke out and in Ethiopia as the Mengistu regime fell. Obviously you've gathered a lot of experiences from your work which have influenced what you write about in your books - how much of Paul is in your protagonist Clay?
When I was19, I decided not to go to University then but take a year off and write a book. I did write one but it was terrible - absolutely terrible, because I had no experience- I had nothing to say. So I needed to work to gain the experience which gave me the ideas to help me build a novel. There are aspects of me in Clay but he is smarter, taller, stronger, braver than me. And he has issues. He suffers from PTSD as a result of all he's seen. I'm extremely fortunate in that so far I have not suffered anything like this.
The Clay in book 3, Reconciliation for the Dead, is probably less like me and more a kind of what could have happened to me if I'd made different choices - I nearly went to South Africa like Clay does but I didn't. He's a bit of what might have happened to me if I had.
You mention that Clay has PTSD. Your job is obviously quite intense and your books are also very intense. What do you do to protect yourself from any kind of repercussions from what you're experiencing either at work or when you are writing?
I love sport. I love doing long distance challenges like Iron Man and triathlons. And I do Martial Arts. So I guess I get to fight it out a bit!
Going back to the influence your experience at work has had on your writing, have any of your colleagues read your books?
Yes, they are staring too! I've always written, always, although I kept it secret for a very very long time, so it was interesting to see what my colleagues would think as much about the fact that I write as what I have written about!
My colleagues are beginning to read my books now but as I work with them, I see them as soon as they've finished the book and get very direct feedback -like really direct, face to face feedback! But so far it's all been very good. And now I don't have to write in secret anymore!
I do think my novels can be read on two levels as well so on the one hand, it is fast paced, plot driven journey that can just be enjoyed for the story, and then if the reader wishes too, there are lots and lots of layers there to explore. I think some colleagues, friends and neighbours have enjoyed it for the story rather than looking too deeply at what I might be revealing or exploring.
The panel earlier today was called "Where Fact Ends and Fiction Starts" and you say that your personal experience has influenced your fiction directly. Did you ever consider writing Non Fiction or a Memoir?
I did, briefly but with a memoir you can only talk about yourself. You can't explore other people's thoughts, reactions, perspectives and you're also constrained by law and fear. I've had to write a lot of factual reports for work and there are two things I don't like about them; they are generally shelved and never read or they are too sensitive too be shared. Fiction suits me better as it gives me more scope to write about the things I care about and with a disclaimer added in the back of the book, I can get closer to the truth rather than getting frustrated by the imposed restrictions.
Who are some of your literary influences or authors that have inspired you to stick to writing or even go back to trying a novel again after that false start when you were 19?
Hemmingway. There are a few quotes from Twain, Hemmingway and Amis about writing and how you should write - the gist being that you write about what you know and what you care about. You write the truth. Years and years ago, I was talking to my dad about all the things I cared about and all the things I wanted to say. I care about people, places, water, environment and travel. If I write fiction, I can write about all these things. I can write about the things I care about and the truth of what I care about.
Who else are your literary influences?
The french author Michel Houellebcq - French is my mother tongue so I can read it in the original and it's completely different from anything I write. It's poetry and the language is lyrical, hard, brutal and modern. I also like Cormac McCarthy. A non fiction book that's incredibly important to me is Negley Farson "The Way of a Transgresson" which my father lent to me when I was wondering if I really could do what I wanted to do. The hero in this book showed me that I could.
Location is very significant in your novels. As creating that sense of authenticity and immediacy between the reader and the story is so important to you, how do you ensure you do this convincingly in your writing?
I think living in the places you want to write about really helps. Not just living, but working there - and working alongside the people who live there. If you do this, you really get the feel the true fabric of a place; what motivates the people, what's important to them, how they operate and all the more nuanced things about the community and the place. This is really important to me and my writing.
Your novels are complex and explore huge themes, set in huge locations. How do you go about planning your novels?
I'm an engineer so I plot. I build a bridge. I know where I want to start and where I want it to end. I work out how to build the bridge over the river. Then I build the sections and work out how they link together. Once I've written the chunks and built the bridge across the river I go back and add depth and detail.
I like to think my books are literary thrillers. They can be read on many levels. You can race across the bridge in one straight flat, fast, line or you can delve beneath and peel back more and more layers. I like to add a lot of density under the surface. My novels are more literary thrillers because they deal with ethical and philosophical issues.
What is the one thing you want people to take away from your books?
From this book, Reconciliation for the Dead, I want they to take away that Apartheid still matters. Mandela became president in 1994 which isn't that long ago and what that represents is a country that was institutionally racist, but where the world fought it. No bombs were dropped, no International forces had to go in and liberate it, but the people stood up to it and they won. I'm not saying that it's not still a problem or that there's not still racism or problems in South Africa but what happened there was monumental. The worst regime was thrown off. That's what I want people to take away, that apartheid still matters.
Books are a much more active and engaging experience than watching a film or TV show where all the work is done for you. When the reader is reading they fill in all the gaps with their experience, their understanding, their point of references. It comes to mean many things to many people and they make more of what they are reading because they interpret it in a way that's relevant to them. I want people to enjoy the immediacy of my books, to get drawn in and then to learn something from my stories.
And one piece of advice to any aspiring writers?
Keep a notebook - write everything down! It may just be half snatched moments, thoughts or scenarios you witness but keep a note of it all. Life is just a series of 'moments' and whenever I flick through my notebooks - maybe even years later, I find hidden gems, things I had forgotten, moments I captured that inspire me to write a longer story. When I was 19, I had no experience but I started to keep a notebook so when the time came, I had pages and pages of experience to look back through and from which to start to build my ideas for novels.
(Paul with the actual real life notebook scribbling away at Crime Fest - probably making notes about an amazing blogger called bibliomaniac.....I mean, I'm just guessing, but surely that would be something worth recording??!!)
One last final question Paul. When on earth do you find the time to write in between travel, work, family and sport?!
Because of my planning, I am able to write in chunks and pick up from wherever I have got to. I have to write in the morning or it does't happen and I am extremely grateful to my extremely understanding wife who takes care of so much in order to free up my time so I can get on with my writing. I'm very lucky.
Thanks for chatting and it's been a real privilege to hear more from you. Enjoy the rest of CrimeFest17 and wherever your travels take you next!
You can follow Paul on Twitter @Hardisty_Paul
Reconciliation for the Dead by Paul Hardisty
Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier. It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make. Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed. Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction.
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