Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Koala sanctuaries and international espionage: an interview with Rachel Amphlett

Welcome to our latest issue of 9mm, the long-running author interview series here on Crime Watch. Last month we hit the 150 interviews mark, and I took a moment to pause and reflect on all the fantastic authors who have been interviewed thusfar, and where I could take 9mm in future.

I've really enjoyed interviewing so many fascinating crime writers, and hearing their stories about books, writing, and broader life. I hope you have too.

Today I'm very pleased to share my recent interview with international thriller writer Rachel Amphlett, who is based in Brisbane but I had a chance to meet at Crimefest in Bristol in May. Rachel moved to Australia from the UK more than a decade ago, after working in a diverse array of jobs including running a pub, playing guitar in bands, and various roles in television, radio, and publishing.

A keen traveller, Rachel has written four books in her Dan Taylor series of international thrillers (and a prequel short story), as well as three standalone thrillers. Taylor is part of a group tasked by British Secret Service with protecting the country's energy supplies, leading to adventures in exotic locations threaded with modern counter-terrorism and cyber security issues. The series has been compared to the books of Michael Crichton and Robert Ludlum: heart-pounding and high-octane international espionage adventures.

Rachel has recently released the fourth novel in her Dan Taylor series, BEHIND THE WIRE, but for now she becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1, Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Two spring to mind, starting with Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch – I can’t remember how I first discovered the books but I do recall being off work for a number of weeks after a major operation six years ago and devouring at least 11 of the novels in a row. I love the way Bosch’s focus is seeking justice for the victim, nothing else. As a writer, Connelly is almost peerless in his scene-setting – and he gets you to care about the minor characters as well.

About four years ago, I discovered Robert Crais and his Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series of novels – again, they’re mostly set in LA, but Crais has a totally different way of bringing the city to life than Connelly, and in Joe Pike has one of the most engaging characters I’ve ever read. In fact, I think The Watchman is the only crime novel to make me cry in recent years.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Jack Higgins’ The Eagle Has Landed  - my grandfather lent it to me one rainy weekend back in the UK when I was about 13 and had run out of books of my own to read. I think it was the way in which Higgins’ used historical fact, then turned it on its head and asked “what if?” – the tension throughout the book is incredibly intense, and it’s one of those books I tend to go back and read every few years.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I had a few short stories that were published in the UK and Australia.

Before I knuckled down and started writing my first novel, I dabbled in writing speculative fiction short stories while I was learning my writing craft. I’m a huge fan of Richard Matthieson and Stephen King, but when it came to writing a full-length novel I returned to my first love – crime thrillers!

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I love films, especially thrillers of course, so trips to the cinema are a constant ‘must do’.

We’ve recently finished renovating a house, which has taken up most of our time and money these past two or three years, so once that’s sold and we’ve down-sized I’m really looking forward to getting back to exploring more of Queensland where I currently live (we emigrated here from the UK nearly 11 years ago).

I love to travel, so we’re already planning trips for the next 18 months, some of which will hopefully include skiing, horse-riding, and exploring historical sites as I’ve missed all that as well.

I like to do as much hands-on research as possible, so I’ll be sorting out some trips to shooting ranges and the like over the coming months now that it’s cooling down over here.

5. 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?
One place we always take visitors to is the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, as everyone just turns into a big kid when they’re given a koala to hold or a kangaroo to feed! The trick is to go by boat rather than drive there, though – a lot of people don’t know that you can do that, so I’d highly recommend it.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Well, Helen Mirren still kicks ass and I love her attitude, even if she is over 30 years older than me. I don’t know if she would want to play me in a film, but I definitely want to be like her when I grow up.

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
It’s hard to choose, but I’m going to say at the present time, it’s Look Closer because it’s so different to all my other books in that the protagonist isn’t special forces or anything – he’s an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances.

It was definitely one of those stories that had to be told – I found it impossible to work on anything else while Look Closer was going round in my head.

The reaction from readers to Look Closer has been great, too – it’s definitely captured people’s imagination, and given me the confidence to try something like that again in the future, when the story reveals itself.

8. 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 on a bookseller’s shelf?
That moment when I see the first paperback copy of each of my books has never changed – it’s so exciting to see everything come together in a package after all the work that goes into it, and that includes the team effort from the editor and cover designer, too.

Of course, by then I’m already well into the next project and trying to get words down every day, so that first print run acts as a bit of an incentive to keep going, knowing that in a few months I get to hold another new paperback!

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I always have to try to keep a straight face at book signings when people approach the table laden with my books and merchandise and ask “Are these your books?”. There are so many answers I really want to give, but of course I simply nod and smile!

Thank you Rachel, we appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch. 

You can learn more about Rachel Amphlett and her books, including getting a free copy of the first Dan Taylor thriller, WHITE GOLD, at her website here

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