I recently had the chance to interview author Xander Richards about his new book, C.O.A.S.T: An Act of Burial. Last week, we posted a review for the novel, you can check it out here.
First of all, I’d like to thank you for being the very first author interviewed here at Every Read Thing!
Thank YOU! It’s an honor and a privilege. This is a super website, and I’m very grateful for both the invitation and your awesome review. You’ve been far kinder than I deserve.
Tell us about C.O.A.S.T: An Act of Burial.
It’s a war against terrorism tale involving hijacked nukes: an espionage action thriller. The atomic threat hasn’t gone away in our modern world; there are still rogue states and certain well-funded groups who could potentially deploy nuclear weapons. In your review you suggested that it’s like a movie, and I’m absolutely guilty as charged – I long for those kinds of books so I wrote one, but I wanted it real too: believable and grounded.
In your biography, you noted that you had spent some time in the armed forces. Were any of the characters in the novel inspired by those you had worked with?
There may be aspects which are similar to the activities of a covert operative, but I can’t comment on specifics. Not just for the sake of official secrecy, but because I don’t want to get any old friends into trouble with their C.O.
This novel takes the C.O.A.S.T team to different countries and continents all over the world. Tell us a little about your research progress and how you came to choose the locations in the novel.
One of the most marvellous visual tools we have these days is internet mapping, which allows you to see and describe real locations as though you’re there. For things like the chase sequences I had maps and photos plastered all over the walls. The location in the Cwmystwyth Valley is where the story idea first came to me in 1987, so that was a given. Others are places that I know well such as Nottingham, or are there to serve the story. I’m intrigued by all things Russian, so I had to have a Russian location.
You’re a self-professed fan of spy and thriller films, what are some of your favorites and were they influential in the writing of your novel?
As a kid I loved the early Bond pictures, although some look pretty hokey now. Then there was the Matt Helm series—also hokey—the Harry Palmer films and great action movies like ‘The Wild Geese’, or those based on MacLean’s novels such as ‘Where Eagles Dare’, ‘Ice Station Zebra’ and ‘The Guns Of Navarone’. I guess I miss the ‘old’ Bonds, far-fetched though they were. Recreating that kind of feel was important, but with real-world detail and authentic modern tech – no invisible cars. Conversely, it was important to have a team of three protagonists, because the dynamics of triangular relationships are so interesting.
C.O.A.S.T was initially conceived as a screenplay for a motion picture – were there any challenges in expanding and converting it to a novel?
It’s funny you should ask because I was having this discussion with someone else recently and I told them that I simply couldn’t write it without describing what was going on. The thing is, it always played out as a movie in my imagination, so I mistakenly thought that a screenplay was the way to go. But once I swapped to writing it as prose it was much easier, so I carried on.
One thing about C.O.A.S.T that stands out is the cover art. If you could, tell us about the process of creating and ultimately deciding on the finished product.
I bless the day that Jonathon Earl Bowser came to my workplace! It was my dream to get a real cover painting like one of those awesome Drew Struzan movie posters, and he did it. I gave Jon a rough idea, but I made it clear that I wanted him to give it his own ‘spin’ because, well, he’s brilliant. He even printed out the weapons full-size, stuck them to cardboard and photographed himself holding them so he could get the stances right and stuff. You can’t really see it on the cover, but McKinley’s watch reads five to midnight – an ideal time for some covert ops! Jon also did an excellent second edit pass on the text with his fiendish eye for detail. Having such a phenomenal artist contribute their talent is a tremendous privilege. He’s a writer as well, and his book ‘The Lotusmaiden’ is a potent and thought-provoking philosophical work with lots of images of his paintings.
Who is your favorite author?
There are so many to choose from! Arthur C. Clarke, Cussler, Clancy, MacLean, Fleming, Patrick Tilley, Niven and Pournelle… I’m absolutely, deeply fascinated by Lovecraft’s concepts even though I don’t get on with his writing style. I live in the same town as Yann Martel and I’ve met him a few times. Great guy. I haven’t read ‘Life Of Pi’ though – does that sound really remiss of me?
What is your favorite book?
Seriously man, where do I start? It’s hard to pick just one, so I’m going to say it’s a three-way split between ‘The Hunt For Red October’, ‘Raise The Titanic’ and ‘Rendezvous With Rama’.
What was the best book you had read in 2012?
Unfortunately I didn’t get much reading done last year because of working like mad to promote ‘Act Of Burial’ and plan the next COAST novel. But I really enjoyed ‘Howl Of The Wolf’ by Diane Rapp, which is a brilliantly-imagined bit of sci-fi, and ‘Dead Rock Stars’ by Wes Funk, which is kinda like a coming-of-age story except that the protagonist is already an adult.
The writing and publishing of C.O.A.S.T: An Act of Burial is truly an independent effort, something that appears to becoming more commonplace these days. Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers looking to get their work out there?
I’m not sure anything I can offer should be classified as wisdom! But I’ll say this; learn to love your editor. Having your work thoroughly edited by a professional is absolutely critical – I can’t stress that enough. I’ll quote British musician John Foxx, who said “I deliberately don’t define anything too closely, too fast, having learned years ago that’s how you kill songs – they might sound ok, but they’ll be inbred. You have to let other people walk them. Let them off the leash. See what they run off and mate with.” That’s brilliant advice. You HAVE to let someone else—your editor—walk your dog for a bit. And, as Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac said, “if you’re any good at all, you know you can be better.”
What’s next for Xander Richards?
2013 is shaping up to be a rudely busy year for me. There are massive new projects coming through at work and I’m knee-deep in the next COAST novel. I don’t want to give too much away, but the boys are back in town and they’re mad as hell. It’s bigger geographically and a bit more creepy, but there are some fun moments too. Real life has light and shade, you know?
Check out Xander’s Website – http://www.xanderrichards.com