I’m pleased to be joining the blog tour for Appetite For Risk, organised by Emma at damppebbles, with a guest post from author Jack Leavers.
Before we get to Jack’s guest post, here’s what Appetite For Risk is all about…
With Saddam Hussein deposed and an entire country in need of rebuilding, former Royal Marine John Pierce hears the siren call of adventure and opportunity. His fledgling UK business is struggling to support his young family and he has connections in the Iraqi capital – fate seems to point one way.
In early 2004, Pierce rolls the dice when he jumps into a taxi in Jordan and heads for the turmoil of postwar Baghdad to grab a share of the reconstruction gold rush. But when Iraq spirals into the hell of a full-blown insurgency, he must rely on his wits and his local friends if he’s to evade the rampant bloodshed.
As the action rolls across the blood-stained Iraqi landscape and embraces London’s seedy underbelly, Pierce tangles with the authorities at home and finds himself thrust into the heart of British and American covert operations against Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Having set out with little more than ambitious goals and an appetite for risk, can a determined ex-bootneck survive the mounting chaos unscathed and succeed in hitting the jackpot?
Book links ~ Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones | Foyles | Nook | Google Books
Appetite for Risk (ebook) will be part of a BookBub deal on Saturday 14th September. The ebook will also be discounted to 99p/99¢ up to and including 16th September.
Now over to Jack…
How to write a novel – no cuff too tough
Appetite for Risk is a novel set in the aftermath of the Iraq War. It features ex-bootneck (former Royal Marine) John Pierce and his efforts to grab a slice of the reconstruction gold rush in Baghdad to offset his struggling business in the UK. And how did I come up with this story idea you might ask? Well, I’m an ex-bootneck who took a taxi to Baghdad in 2004 to set up shop on a shoestring budget and a wing and a prayer.
Elsewhere I’ve discussed the issue of combining extensive real life experience with fictional plot lines. Here, I’m going to look at the implications for story structure as it applied in this case and based on my self-taught knowledge of how this writing lark works.
Some authors are ‘pantsers’, writing by the seat of their pants, and others are ‘planners’, outlining in advance in extensive detail. I suspect that most fall somewhere in-between. In the same way, some authors stick rigidly to tried and trusted story telling methodologies like the Hero’s Journey, Three-Act Structure, Four-Act Structure, and other similarly defined examples. Others write a natural story, although they may well find it mimics one of the defined examples to some extent. After all, those methodologies have been defined for a reason – they work with readers and viewers of books, television and movies.
Appetite for Risk might ape one of the defined story structures or parts of more than one, I really couldn’t tell you. When you’re writing the flow of real events and decision making that drives much of the book, it takes on the irregular, crazy roll of the dice that real life tends to throw up. I didn’t approach writing it from the viewpoint of creating a story that would get published. I came from the angle of an ex-bootneck who’s been around a bit and had a story to tell, a dit to spin, and to hell with convention if it didn’t fit.
So, where do I sit on the pantser/planner spectrum?
I’m a man with a plan but a flexible one. My outline consisted of little more than a page of handwritten notes about the fictional plot lines and how they should merge with the real-life recollections to bring the novel to life in a coherent way.
Although the structure of the story never changed from the first draft, I had to implement many changes at a paragraph and sentence level for the dialogue and prose. By the time I’d reached The End, I’d learned so much about writing that I needed to go back and reflect that learning in much of the rest. Multiple passes of editing and proofreading ironed out my natural, formal ‘report writing’ voice and tendency to caveat unknowns as had always been necessary with risk assessments, complex proposals, contingency plans and the like.
That might surprise some readers. The voice in the book is informal, conversational, and often sprinkled with dark humour. It’s closer to how I would sit you down in the pub and spin a dit about Baghdad, Basra or Kurdistan, rather than my formal report writing. But it took a lot of effort to beat that formal side back and let John Pierce speak through the writing.
I hope readers enjoy the ride with John. As Carlsberg might say, it’s probably the best book in the world for understanding what it was like to be in Iraq alongside Iraqis in those dark and dangerous times.
Yours aye, Jack.
Jack Leavers is a former Royal Marine with over thirty-years’ experience spread across the military, private security, corporate investigations, maritime counter-piracy, and risk management. His varied career has included numerous deployments to conflict zones around the world such as Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, trouble spots in Africa, and the Somali pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean. Jack continues to work in challenging environments and has now begun to pen novels inspired by some of the more enterprising projects that got the green light, and other audacious plans that didn’t.
The current WIP is a follow up to Appetite for Risk that sees ex-bootneck John Pierce return to face a ruthless enemy in Africa.
Jack is normally based in London, UK, but finds he’s at his most productive writing-wise when deployed overseas. Trips to Iraq and Africa beckon, so the follow up should be finished soon.