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Saturday, 2 December 2017

Adam Hamdy

Mary-Jane Riley talks with Adam Hamdy
Adam Hamdy is a British author and screenwriter working with studios and production companies on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to his own original work, Adam has adapted a number of comic books and novels for the screen, including the forthcoming film version of David Mitchell’s novel, Number9Dream.
Adam has a law degree from Oxford University and a philosophy degree from the University of London.  He is a seasoned rock climber, skier and CPSA marksman. Adam lives in Shropshire with his wife and three children.

Mary-Jane: Your new book Freefall is the second in a trilogy. When you were writing the first, Pendulum, did you know there were going to be two further books with the same characters?
Adam: I didn’t.  I was a little over half way through Pendulum, when I was commissioned to write the screen adaptation of David Mitchell’s fantastic novel, number9dream.  My agent submitted Pendulum as a partially completed manuscript, so I wasn’t even sure of its ending, let alone whether there’d be another two books.  My editor, Vicki Mellor, first raised the prospect of a trilogy and I was thrilled, because I could imagine plenty more ways to make John Wallace suffer.

Mary-Jane: There are so many twists and turns in both books, how on earth did you keep track of them? Post-it notes? Wool and drawing pins? Or just a big brain?
Adam: I don’t have Post-it notes or a serial killer’s web of wool and drawing pins; just an obsessive brain.  I don’t sleep much when I’m working on a book and will be constantly thinking about it, rehearsing everything that’s happened and planning what comes next.  I work through a range of options for any given scenario and go with what feels right.  Real life is complicated, and we rarely ever take a straight road to any objective, so I’m always looking for that crooked path in my fiction. 

Mary-Jane: Do you plot everything out to start with or trust to luck and a certain amount of judgement?
Adam: I always write a rough outline before I start a book.  Rather than plotting, I find outlines are useful to help keep track of the characters’ emotional journeys.  Once I start the book, I’ll often deviate from the plot, but stick to the key emotional beats.  So, I supposed it’s a mix of plotting and trusting to judgement.  Ordered chaos.

Mary-Jane: One of the strands in Freefall (and alluded to in Pendulum) is a shadowy organisation called the Foundation, which is out to subvert the political and legal system. Do you worry that something like this could actually happen?
Adam: It already has.  Most of the events in Freefall and Pendulum are based on fact.  The Foundation was inspired by Propaganda Due, a secret society that wielded tremendous influence in Italy for almost forty years after World War Two.   I’ve added an author’s note to the third Pendulum book (published November 2018), detailing some of the real life incidents that inspired events in the trilogy.

Mary-Jane: The role of technology is a theme in both books too. You don’t bang the reader over the head with it, confounding her, but it is obviously something that concerns you – in what way?
Adam: Before I became a professional writer, I worked as a management consultant in the tech sector and launched my own Internet start-up.  Many of my friends are still in tech and a lot of them are extremely reluctant to let their children use devices or join social media.  Shaun Parker, one of the early investors in Facebook, recently expressed concerns about what social media is doing to children’s mental health.  I’m not just concerned about the mental health implications of social media and technology; I’m also worried about how it can lead to economic imbalances.  The last thirty years have seen tremendous change, but as a society we’ve never had a real discussion about where technology is taking us.  At the moment, it seems to be concentrating wealth in the hands of a few category leaders such as Amazon, Uber, eBay, Facebook, creating huge beasts that are devouring more and more of the economic pie.  With AI and robotics imminent, the economic consequences of technology will be even more profound.   I’m a huge advocate of technology, but, like any tool, it can become dangerous if it’s not used properly.  We need to be having a conversation about what we want from technology rather than simply letting it roll over us.  

Mary-Jane: You write for television and film as well, how has that influenced the way you approach a novel?
Adam: I live inside my books for however long it takes me to write them.  I have no idea how my family copes because for those months the book becomes my reality and I rarely think about much else.  It’s truly immersive and I try to give readers a similar experience, so that they’re living in the story, rather than reading about it.  I think that ethos has come from screenwriting.  I’ve learned the importance of perspective as a storytelling tool.  I’ve also picked up some good habits that help me convey action and place accurately, so that readers are able to orientate themselves in the world.  The single most important influence from my screen work has been the development of characters.  Character and motivation are discussed endlessly when one is developing a screenplay, and one comes to realise that it’s character above all else that makes a story truly stand out.   

Mary-Jane: How do you silence your inner critic?
Adam: My kids must be tired of hearing my mantra, but I truly believe that fear shrinks the world.  Some criticism is healthy because it can help spur us to better writing, but excessive self-criticism is a form of fear.  It can prevent writers from experimenting or taking risks, encouraging them to stick to safe ground, never truly shooting for something great.  I climb quite a lot and when you’re on a mountain, you can see how fear stifles creativity.  A climb that someone would have no problem tackling on an indoor wall at 12 feet, becomes almost impossible when they’re on the side of a cliff, 90-feet up.  Fear shuts down the problem solving and creative regions of the brain, paralysing people.  I believe my best work comes when I’m confident and relaxed, so I kicked my unhealthy inner critic into touch a couple of years ago and just kept the voice that encourages me to strive for the best.

Mary-Jane: Before you became a writer, you were a strategy consultant advising business in diverse industries, which sounds extremely important! Why on earth did you dump the corporate day job in favour of writing?
Adam: Writing brings me to life.  I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and the combination of creativity and problem solving is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.  I can be utterly exhausted, but the moment I sit at my computer or pick up a pen and paper and start writing, I come alive.  Writing fills me with energy and I do it because I absolutely love it.  It’s taken the best part of a decade of tough living and determination, but I’m now extremely fortunate to be able to do what I love professionally.  There are some things that are more important than money, and I simply can’t put a price on waking up every morning with a sense of excitement about getting to work. 

Mary-Jane: What have been the good and the bad bits on your road to publication?
Adam: The good bits have been meeting so many wonderful people.  Crime and thriller authors are a great bunch.  Very welcoming and good company with a wide range of backgrounds and interests, so conversation is rarely stilted.  The blogger and reviewer community have been equally amazing, and it’s fantastic to experience people’s passion for books.
One of my favourite bits has been people talking about John Wallace, Christine Ash and Patrick Bailey as though they’re real people.  I was recently accosted by someone who begged me to tell them what happens to Ash and Wallace in book three.  I got more of a sense of achievement from that exchange than from seeing my books in supermarkets.  It really brought home the fact that I’ve created stories and characters that matter to people.
The bad bits?  I’m struggling to think of any.  I’ll let you know if I come up with anything. 

Mary-Jane: What can you tell us about the third book in the trilogy – I dread to think what you’ve put John Wallace through! I see you delivered it to your editor earlier this month, always a tense moment….
Adam: I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be revealing this, but the third book is called Aftershock.  If I was to give each book a one-word description; Pendulum is gripping, Freefall is rich, Aftershock is deep.   Wallace, Ash and Bailey are united by the return of someone who will shock and amaze people who’ve read Pendulum and Freefall.  The thrills and spills keep coming, and there’s a new dimension that will really mess with readers’ minds.  I’m very excited about the book and can’t wait to share Aftershock with the world. 

Mary-Jane: And what is next for you, Adam? And for us, your readers?
Adam: I’ll be editing Aftershock and getting it ready for publication next November.  I’m also starting to work on a new thriller series based around a central character who’s already got me hooked.  I’ll share more as soon as I’m able to. 

Thanks so much for such interesting questions and for interviewing me for Mystery People.  It’s been a real leasure.     

To read a review of Adams Latest Book Freefall click on the title

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter, when she was eight. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, and  also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life.
Her second book,
After She Fell, was published by Killer Reads in April 2016. 
To read the review click on the title.

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