Author Interview with Literary Titan 20th September 2020
Pandora’s Gardner follows a harmless gardener who finds himself between two deadly factions fighting over a piece of tech in his possession. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
The inspiration is drawn from multiple sources, but the main one is the Alfred Hitchcock film, North by Northwest with Cary Grant as the advertising executive Roger Thornhill, who is inadvertently drawn into a web of intrigue through a case of mistaken identity. Other inspiration was the Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan. In both instances, the protagonists are on the run, and getting by on their wits, not knowing who to trust. Other sources were from Saturday morning matinee and the serials from the 1930’s – I always enjoyed the way that at the end of each episode there was a unresolved question or a jeopardy, and you had to come back to find out what happened next.
Concerning the technology, I was reading an article some years ago about someone who, in desperation, waded through the local waste dump looking for a disk drive that he had thrown out. He thought it was worthless, until he realised that it contained a Bitcoin key, apparently worth a fortune. I wondered, what if it had contained something other than a Bitcoin? As technology is ubiquitous and all looks the same, how easy would it be to hide something valuable in plain sight?
Other inspiration was from early childhood and a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, the “Brave Little Tailor”. The story starts with the tailor, preparing to eat some jam and when flies settle on it, he kills seven of them with one blow. He is so proud of this feat that he makes a belt inscribed with “Seven at One Blow”. This leads to various adventures where people assume the “seven” are men, and he rises to various challenges by using his wits. I liked the idea of this misinterpretation of ability driving events.
John is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
I didn’t want John to be some kind of invincible figure, I had other characters that could fulfil that role, but similarly I didn’t want him to be a wimp who miraculously transforms into a heroic figure as the story continues. He is an everyman, albeit someone who has kept himself in shape and has a sharp brain. I wanted someone who could be put in a situation, and then readers could say, “what would I have done?” rather than thinking, “well – he can do that because he is..." I made John a gardener as it was as far as I could get from ex-detective, bodyguard etc A gardener embodies good honest labour, unlike some characters in the book.
The other key thing is that John isn’t entirely comfortable with the idea that some women fancy him, although he always considers women equal, (as it should be). This allowed for interesting dynamics between him and the female leads.
I enjoyed the mix of action and humor in this book. Is this indicative of your normal writing style or something you tried for this novel?
It’s the way I write. Escapism is incredibly important to me, there is more than enough of the real world to go around. When I write I need both action and humour as otherwise I could end up with full on action, (which would wear me out), or a total gag-fest which would end up being forced and not funny. For me humour and action complement each other, it’s like salt and vinegar. Too much of one can leave an overpowering taste in the mouth. I enjoy what I call the “gear change”, to be able to move between serious and humorous prose, and attempting to do it without jarring, although sometimes it’s fun to use that deliberately to keep the story varied.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
It was my intention that Pandora’s Gardener be a standalone adventure. The problem with sequels is “second album syndrome”. How do you follow up, what if the next book is worse than the previous? That said, jotting down idle notes the other day, I realised that there is still more of the story to be told, (without over contriving or forcing it), and I was curious as to how it would end. Therefore, there will be a sequel to Pandora’s Gardener. I’m sketching out the plot at the moment. As to when it will be available, that will be a couple of years I’m afraid. The writing is the relatively quick bit – the time is in the rewrites – I do a lot of them. I’m sure with practice it will improve.
All I can say is that I’ll be expanding some minor characters to cope with an ongoing mystery of Pandora, and John is unwillingly roped in…