Wednesday, October 14, 2015

9mm interview: Thomas Ryan

Write what you know, is an oft-heard piece of advice, and new New Zealand thriller writer Thomas Ryan has definitely applied that to his own storytelling. Coming to the page later in life after having several interesting careers, Ryan has been a soldier in a theatre of war, worked in business in Eastern Europe, and travelled to several continents. His first thriller, THE FIELD OF BLACKBIRDS, was published by Thomas & Mercer earlier this year, and the 'who's who' of New Zealand literature acknowledged in the front goes to show how seriously Ryan is taking his storytelling.

Some of the biggest names in the New Zealand books world have mentored Ryan as he's honed that first novel over a number of years. It introduces Jeff Bradley, and ex special forces soldier now operating a vineyard, who ends up heading to Kosovo to try to find his missing vineyard manager. I read it earlier this year, and it's an exciting, pacy thriller that kind of reminded me of my younger days reading Alistair McLean and Tom Clancy (though with less technical faff than Clancy). I enjoyed the read a lot, and will soon be opening THE MARK OF HALAM, the second Jeff Bradley thriller, which continues the terrorism plotline and was recently released. Ryan is an exciting new voice.

But for now, the former soldier becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective, and what is it you love about them?
For me it was always Sherlock Holmes. The Holmes character is irresistible and I liked that he was believably over the top. In my younger days I read all the Arthur Conan Doyle books, then watched all the movies and now watch the television versions, which are numerous. Even I have written a Holmes story which is included in my second short story collection. Of course, I enjoyed Agatha Christie’s quirky Poirot and James Lee Burke’s Robicheaux, Connelly’s Harry Bosch and Ian Rankin’s Rebus but in the end, for me, Holmes will always be king.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
The book I remember reading first and loving was Robin Hood. In hindsight, I was captivated by the pure fantasy of this larger than life hero fighting against the overwhelming forces of evil and winning. I also enjoyed King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, The Three Musketeers and Robinson Crusoe.  I read them all many times and now I think about it, all these books were thrillers and probably started my love of the thriller genre.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Before completing my first novel I wrote short stories. Years ago I was excited when one was produced for radio but the cheque for $150.00 did not inspire me to seek a literary career. Decades later when I returned to writing I began with short stories and two of these collections are on Amazon and selling well. I used the short stories to hone my skills before moving onto writing novels.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
I play golf, take long walks and have a regular exercise routine with weights and a treadmill to keep fit. I do not read as much as I should. I like to watch movies and meet with other writers as often as I can.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider? 
I think a visitor to Auckland would find the west coast beaches a worthy experience. A walk around the rocks of Piha Beach and you might believe you’re walking on another planet. The area has wonderful bush walks, waterfalls, dams and windswept wilderness adding to the spectacular views.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?  
Please let it be Benedict Cumberbatch or Jason Statham and not Groucho Marx.

Of your writings, which is your favourite, and why?
As a new writer I do not have a great selection to choose from. I liked my first collection of short stories, seven completely different studies of human nature that I believe were small thrillers and every story had a twist that few readers guessed.  I am especially proud of THE FIELD OF BLACKBIRDS. Years in the making, rewrite after rewrite until I felt it was ready to go to market, then more rewrites. From the reviews and the response from my publisher it appears to have hit the mark.  

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form?
Finding out one of the world’s leading publishers wanted ‘The Field of Blackbirds’ came as an absolute shock. I had not approached agents or publishers and had self-published. Late one night I was checking my emails and I opened one from Thomas & Mercer informing me that my book had come to their attention, they had read it, liked it and would I be interested in working with them. It was too late to open champagne so my wife and I celebrated the next night.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
As yet, I haven’t had any strange or unusual experiences at book signings but when I do, you will be first to know.

Thank you Thomas. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch. 

You can read more about Thomas Ryan and his thrillers here.

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