TToday sees the release of our hotly anticipated spy thriller, Spy Game by John Fullerton. To celebrate the launch, John agreed to answer a few of our questions, as long as we didn’t apply any enhaced interrogation techniques, or other tradecraft from his murky past (sorry John, we couldn’t resist!).
You see, John knows his onions when it comes to the murky world of intelligence, as during the Cold War he worked for the British Secret Intelligence Service in the role of head agent on the Afghan-Pakistan frontier.
Q&A with John Fullerton
Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you start writing and why?
I started writing plays at my prep school. It was something to entertain myself and my fellow boarders, I suppose. At the start it was a simple one-act affair – a body in the light of a torch – and then these efforts evolved into full-blown, three-act jobs with changes of scenery and roles for my pals. I’m sure they must have been toe-curlingly terrible, but folk seemed to enjoy them.
With no spoilers, tell us a bit about Spy Game and what prompted you to write it?
I thought I might use my own experiences, or some of them, especially the sense of place and the political context of the Cold War as a basis for a possible spy series.
How did you come up with the inspiration for the story?
Not sure about the world ‘inspiration’. I thought about it, tried out different approaches and this seemed to work, at least for me. I think if you know a particular location and a situation, that can provide the confidence to pursue it.
Is Richard Brodick based on anyone you know?
He’s myself, up to a point, I suppose, though he seems far more sensitive, anxious and lonely than I ever was. I’ve always enjoyed working on my own with as little supervision as possible and preferably none. I can’t say I was really ever frightened or especially nervous. I had few if any doubts. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, quite honestly. Lebanon and Bosnia were far more scary. In the second novel, Brodick does mature and generally toughen up.
Tell us about your writing routine and where you tend to write.
I don’t have a routine. I detest routine. Once it’s going well I push myself, then back off if I need to assess whatever it is I’m writing. I can go for weeks without writing a single word, but constantly thinking about it – imagining scenes and dialogue – and letting the pressure build. I can write anywhere. I did have backache some twenty years ago, so on the chiropractor’s advice I bought a decent ergonomic desk and chair. I have them still, though somewhat worse for wear for having been dragged around the world.
How did you find the editing and publication process? (Don’t worry about hurting our feelings – we’ve got thick skins…!)
Bumpy at times, but not as bad as I thought it would be. At least we can and do discuss matters. Communication is so important. With a big publisher that doesn’t seem to work so well. The give-and-take is vital, at least to me. I have to remind myself repeatedly that books are commercial, they’re commodities and not to take myself so bloody seriously. I’m not Tolstoy, after all. But that’s not to say it’s easy!
You share a passion with us for Spy Fiction – what would be your recommended go-to books in this genre?
Geoffrey Household, Eric Ambler, Graham Greene, Adam Hall, Ted Allbeury, Len Deighton, John Trenhaile, the early le Carre novels, Philip Kerr and Luke Jennings – to name but a few of the greats. I re-read all Deighton’s spy novels during lockdown and found so much more in them than the first time round in my impatient twenties and thirties. For me, these are the spy writers who’ve stood the test of time because they actually do write very well.
What’s next in the pipeline for you?
I’m delighted that Burning Chair will publish the second in the series, Spy Dragon, hopefully later this year. I have started work on the third, provisionally called Spy Hunt.
Finally, here’s our QUICK FIRE ROUND (one word answers only):
1. Plotter or pantser?
2. Pen or keyboard?
3. Character or plot?
4. Early bird or night owl?
5. Crossword or Sudoko?
6. Asking questions or answering questions?
Thanks John. Spy Game is out now in all good bookstores and you can find out all about it by clicking here.
Until next time… Stay lucky – and stay safe…
Pete & Si