Thursday, August 15, 2013

Author Interview – AFN Clarke

Do you intend to make writing a career? Writing IS my career and I can’t imagine doing anything else.  I think it’s a career because it’s more than just something I do to earn money or pass the time – it’s a lifelong passion and activity that I nurture and grow and do everything I can to excel at and learn more about.  I hope each time I write that passion and growth shows and inspires my readers to read more and new writers to keep on writing and be even better.

What genre do you like writing most? I think the way I write is the way I live life – I’ve lived all over the world and experienced many different things and so that’s reflected in my books – I love to delve into many different genre, and use each genre to explore ideas from different perspectives.  For example, CONTACT, my first book, is a memoir of a soldier’s experience of combat – now my fiction books take me in a different direction – An Unquiet American is provocative political thriller; The Orange Moon Affair the first of a new suspense series; The Book of Baker series are satires which allow me to use humor to say things I could never get away with normally; Dry Tortugas is about the drama and fragility of family relationships; and the “horror” book Collisions explores PTSD and a mind becoming unhinged.  All different and yet all from my own experience and from my intense curiosity and desire to make sense of the many worlds around me.

What’s your greatest strength as a writer? I think my greatest strength is trusting my instincts and allowing my characters to write themselves into an intriguing story.  I never plot out my books from beginning to end, I just can’t write that way.  To me the characters and story have a life of their own that they reveal to me as I write – and so to touch a reader I need them to think, live, breathe and expand the way life does – never predictable, never scripted but something that grows and develops organically.  I guess it takes a bit of insanity to write this way, but it’s my way and for me it works.

How did you come up with the title? Contact was an obvious title that said it all – one hard cutting word that describes what the book is about – “contact” in a combat situation, “contact” with the so-called enemy, “contact” being the clash of my mind, body and spirit with a life threatening situation, “contact” between different values, ethics, world views and political agenda.  It’s simple, raw, evocative and visceral to me.

Can you tell us about your main character? As this is my memoir I guess I am the main character, though to me everyone in my platoon and the soldiers whose lives depended on me are more important than I am.  This is a story of us all, our daily lives, how we faced our fears, used humor to try and stay sane, used crazy rituals to try and bring some order into the chaos of our lives, how we dealt with the boredom and at the other end of the spectrum the heart-thumping danger and action. How we geared up mentally and emotionally to go out and possibly face the last minutes of our lives.  It’s a story seen through my own eyes, though I did ask a number of my soldiers to read the original manuscript before publication to check the validity of my recollections and they all encouraged me to have the book published.

Who designed the cover of CONTACT? My publishers designed the original cover and I never liked it – I had worked with a photographer to create a cover that I felt was more evocative of the theme of the book but as often happens, I ended up with no say in the matter, even though some of the details on the publisher’s cover were blatantly wrong.  However, the current cover is NOT the original one, this one I designed myself when I got the rights back to the book and published it as an ebook.

This new expanded edition of AFN Clarke’s bestselling and controversial book CONTACT is a raw, visceral, “no-holds-barred” account of combat from one of the men we paid to kill. When first published it caused a furor for its devastating honesty and chilling revelations.

Clarke vividly recounts his experiences of two tours in Northern Ireland (in Belfast and Crossmaglen) as a Platoon Commander with Britain’s elite Parachute Regiment during the blood soaked 1970′s. Soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan comment on how relevant the book still is today, as the dangers, political agendas and religious roots underlying the conflict are eerily and heartbreakingly similar to their own more recent experiences.

Clarke takes us to heart of the action.  We feel what it’s like to live each day with senses on high alert, waiting to be ripped apart by the accuracy of a sniper or a well-hidden bomb.  We enter the private world of soldiers ordered to hold the lines in an ancient quarrel they have little affinity for, but whose consequences are deadly.  We experience their emotions, fear, courage, humor, bravado and the anguish of death.

This expanded edition continues from where the print version ended, revealing the untold nightmare Clarke lived through having nearly died, with half his insides missing, suffering from PTSD and being expected to return to a “normal life”.  A story of the scars of war that affect generations.  Of heartache, courage and hope for peace.

“I am an ex soldier who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and this is an excellent account of what it was like. I only wish we had an officer like Captain Clarke.” pm, 5 Stars Amazon UK“.. its honesty and passion cannot be denied .. Mr. Clarke has sent out a powerful and disturbing early warning signal.” Maurice Leitch, Daily Telegraph.

“..a major contribution to our understanding of war and how people act .. Contact is the work of a brave writer.” Kevin Toolis, Irish News.

“As a civilian it’s hard to imagine what’s it’s really like to be a soldier in combat but this book opened my eyes. I highly recommend it …” KTHuffy, 4 Stars Amazon USA.

CONTACT was reviewed by soldiers who served with Captain Clarke as verification of his recollections.  It was first published in the UK in 1983 by Martin Secker & Warburg, was serialized for 5 days in The Mirror and became an instant best seller. In 1984 it was published in paperback by PAN Books, by Schocken Books New York and made into an award-winning BBC TV film.  And in 2012 came the expanded ebook edition, which all these years later is still selling strong.  Readers outside the UK are invited to visit for soldier’s reviews and comments.

AFN Clarke is a full-time author and writes fiction of various genre – fast-paced thrillers (An Unquiet American), poignant human drama (Dry Tortugas), humorous satire (The Book of Baker Series - Dreams from the Death Age; Armageddon; Genesis Revisited), psychological horror (Collisions); and the Thomas Gunn suspense series (The Orange Moon Affair) with more coming soon. Visit the Amazon Kindle Store or for further information.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Autobiography / Biography & Memoir

Rating – 18+

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