Today I’m delighted to be the next stop on the Paul E Hardisty author of Reconciliation For The Dead blog tour.
Reconciliation For The Dead is published by one of my favourite publishers on the planet Orenda Books, Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction. This book is available in both kindle and paperback and you don’t even have to wait to get a copy as it’s already been published
To celebrate the occasion author Paul E. Hardisty has written a fascinating guest post, so without further ado…….
Engineering a Novel By Paul E. Hardisty
I was trained as a scientist and an engineer. In these disciplines, we are taught to apply scientific principles and mathematics to understand the forces, flows and stresses that govern a problem, and optimise a design to deliver the desired outcome. Over years of training and practice, this structured way of thinking becomes almost second nature, a part of you.
So, when I approach the writing of a novel, it won’t be much of a surprise when I say that I use the same approach. Even though it is a work of art, I engineer the novel.
First, I need to understand the problem. What is it that I am trying to accomplish with the book? Where do I want to take the reader, and why? What do I want to have the reader see, feel, think, experience, and what images do I want to leave them with? In other words, I need to have a firm idea, in my own mind, of the purpose of the book. For me, entertaining the reader is important, but it is not enough. I also want to inform, or evoke certain emotions, and to challenge the reader to consider other viewpoints than perhaps they might have had going in. In my new novel, Reconciliation for the Dead (third book in the Claymore Straker series), set in apartheid-era South Africa, the goals were to show readers how Clay became the man we meet first in Yemen during the 1994 civil war in The Abrupt Physics of Dying, and then in its sequel The Evolution of Fear. I also wanted to expose the reader to a little-known conflict, and illustrate why apartheid, and the ridding of that scourge from the earth, is still relevant today.
When I know where I want the book to go, I need to determine how to get there. For me, this means developing, or designing, the full narrative arc of the book, before I start writing. This arc is made of up a series of inter-connected and inter-dependent scenes. And if these pieces are not joined together well, the thing will fail when put under stress. Sometimes, I think of it a bit like a bridge, with each span and beam holding up the others. Sometimes, these designs can be quite complex, and in their own way, I hope, beautiful. In the first two books of the series, I used a simple time-forward structure, with events largely unfolding in un-creased chronological order. In Reconciliation for the Dead, I needed a more complicated structure. The core of the novel is a flashback to Clay’s time in the war as a young paratrooper in the early 1980’s. Interspersed within this are snippets of transcript (recreated) from the 1996 Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where Clay gives testimony, having returned to South Africa fifteen years after the war. This is buttressed on either end (by prologue and epilogue) with short scenes that take place after Clay has finished testifying, and is in Mozambique contemplating his future. You can call it a prequel set within the envelope of a sequel.
Once the structure is designed, I can start writing (building). I find that knowing where I want to go, what I am trying to say, and how I am going to get there, gives me a sense of certainty every morning when I sit down to write. Each day I plan to work on a specific span or section. Because I know where it fits in the whole structure, its unique role, and how it fits with the others, I can focus on the prose itself, and try to create the most beautiful and powerful imagery I can. Bit by bit, day by day, the whole structure rises, until one day, I have a first draft.
Then comes what I call the testing and infilling stage. The main structure is there, and (hopefully!) has achieved its overall objectives. Now, I weave in any additional detail and context that is required, not only to strengthen the whole, but to make the parts stand strongly together. This is where expert editorial support and review from others can be so helpful.
I have always felt that in science and engineering, there can be beauty. As I write a novel, I always get a strong sense that art and science are really not so far apart.
Canadian by birth, Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels.
In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and Director of Australia’s national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes. He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia with his family.
Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier.
It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make.
Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed. Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction.
‘A solid, meaty thriller – Hardisty is a fine writer and Straker is a great lead character’ Lee Child
‘A trenchant and engaging thriller that unravels this mysterious land in cool, precise sentences’ Stav Sherez, Catholic Herald
‘Just occasionally, a book comes along to restore your faith in a genre – and Paul Hardisty does this in spades’ Sharon Wheeler, Crime Review
This is a remarkably well-written, sophisticated novel in which the people and places, as well as frequent scenes of violent action, all come alive on the page…’ Literary Review
‘Hardisty doesn’t put a foot wrong in this forceful, evocative thriller … the author’s deep knowledge of the settings never slows down the non-stop action, with distant echoes of a more-moral minded Jack Reacher or Jason Bourne’ Maxim Jakubowski
My thanks to Karen over at Orenda books who publishes the most amazing books, Anne cater who organises such brilliant blog tours for Orenda books, and Paul Hardisty for his guest post.
As my post doesn’t include a review you may want to check out some of my fellow bloggers reviews who are on the blog tour.