To celebrate, we thought we’d ask Steve a few questions for you.
Tell us about the setting of Nations Divided, why did you choose this particular conflict?
At its heart, Nations Divided is a book about the extremes a group will go to in order to achieve their aims, and the strength required to stop them. In this case, after the signing of a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, a group of ultra-hardline Zionists will do almost anything to destroy the deal, because they see it as the death of Israel. And, as the cover no doubt reveals, there’s a nuclear submarine involved.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one I’ve always been interested in. Both sides have legitimate wants and needs, both sides do some things that are questionable and, at various times, the two sides have started to frame what a peaceful resolution to the political and security situation might look like. I think it’s fair to say that many authors are also afraid of writing about the conflict and I wanted to have a crack at it.
This book is also the most globetrotting of the series to date. While The Foundation had a fair bit of zooming about the place and I kept State of Emergency geographically isolated to the United States, for Nations Divided I needed to capture the truly global ramifications of this conflict and this plot. Jack Emery visits four continents and ten or so countries in the race to stop the Zionists, and the whole book takes place over about a month.
Is Jack Emery based on anyone? What/who were your influences?
No. Given how much Jack has been beaten up, tortured, blown up, stabbed, shot at, stressed out and locked up over the past little while, I don’t think I could do that to someone. If he was based on anyone, and that person found out, I’d have a restraining order slapped on me. I wanted him to be a relatively normal guy, rather than a commando or one man action hero. He has problems and stresses and pain and weaknesses.
A heavy influence on my writing, and on Jack, was the early work of Tom Clancy. I devoured the Jack Ryan books as a kid, and Jack Emery got his first name partly in recognition of that. Otherwise, Nelson DeMille, John LeCarre, Robert Ludlam, Michael Connelly, Vince Flynn, Ian Rankin and many others in the crime/political/conspiracy thriller space have influenced me in ways large and small over the years. Beyond the genre, there’s too many to name. I read pretty widely beyond thrillers.
Why did you choose to have an Aussie protagonist for a series largely set in America?
I’m not American, but most of my political interests are there, and that’s what I wanted to write. Honestly, the prospect of writing about bad stuff happening in a system I’m not super familiar with from an unfamiliar point of view was a little daunting when I was starting out. Making Jack Emery Australian was a tiny crutch that was comfortable as I was trying to figure out how to write books. The unintended benefit has been a cool ‘outsider effect’ that I’ve really enjoyed.
Can you tell us a bit about the research you did?
I made a deliberate choice to avoid the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the peace deal – who got what and the exact terms of the agreement. I did this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the detailed contents of bilateral treaties are boring to anyone without a political science or a law degree. Secondly, there was a danger that, if I included the detail, the reader would be sidetracked (and potentially outraged, depending on their views) by the detail rather than the story.
I did do my best to understand the issues, the perspective of all the main players and the history of peace negotiations to date. Though most of this isn’t in the book, and the depth of research will mostly be invisible to the reader, I had to have it in my back pocket to give me the confidence to tackle a subject this weighty. Surprisingly, by far the most difficult area of research was on nuclear submarine launch procedures. It’s hard to find that stuff!
And finally, what’s next?
A little bit of a break while shadowy publishing industry figures read over a plot plan for my next novel, a psychological thriller that I’ve wanted to write for a while but have had the time to. I’ll start writing it around Christmas, I hope, with the aim of having a finished draft by mid-2016.
After that, I’m discussing a new series with you fine people at Momentum, and playing with a few more concepts that haven’t really formed fully in my head yet. And, of course, potentially some more Jack Emery novels in the pipe once I’ve had a rest, and he’s sat on a beach drinking cocktails for a while.
Books discussed in this post: