Writers Write creates writing resources, shares writing tips, and interviews authors. In this post, we share our interview with Chris Ryan.
Chris Ryan is an English author, television presenter, security consultant and former Special Air Service sergeant.
During the Gulf War, he was the only member of an eight-man unit to escape from Iraq, where three colleagues were killed and four captured. He was awarded the Military Medal. He wrote about his experiences in the best-seller The One That Got Away, which was adapted for screen. Since then he has written three other works of non-fiction, fourteen best-selling novels and a series of childrens’ books.
The Writers Write Interview With Chris Ryan
Author: Chris Ryan
Date of Birth: 1961
Date of Interview: 24 March 2014
Place: Cape Grace Hotel, Cape Town
The Book: Extreme Most Wanted
1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
I don’t have one. My favourite hero is Ernest Shakleton, the great polar explorer. His leadership, vision and tenacity make him the ultimate hero.
2. What is your most treasured possession?
Some gold coins that I brought back from the Iraqi War. We were given these to use as bribes, if needs be.
3. Which living person do you most dislike?
Most politicians, especially those implicated in starting wars.
4. What is your greatest fear?
The unknown. I also panic at book signings, because I hate putting my head down and not being able to see what is going on in the crowd. I only feel safe if I am able to suss out the scene. I still haven’t shaken off the constant threat of danger.
5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
My wife, Janet, and my daughter, Sarah.
6. What is your greatest regret?
Not being able to save my mother from dying of cancer. The only book I ever wrote under a female pseudonym was based on a story I made up for her while she was lying in hospital. It was very difficult story for me to write because I didn’t know the subject matter backwards.
7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
John Bald, the anti-hero of my latest book, Extreme Most Wanted. Yes, I know I am not as bad ass as he is, but at least he is real. I have based him on a couple of guys I knew in the army. He is prepared to go to any ends for the greater good, even though his morality is questionable.
8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
The Complete Guide to Golf by Ben Hoagan – I read it every few weeks. I love golf because it takes my mind off things while I focus on the game.
9. What is your favourite journey?
The Haute Route, a skiing and mountaineering trip in the Alps.
10. What is your favourite quotation?
“Don’t worry. Everything’s in order.” This is what my commanding officer said to us before we went into a battle in Iraq – it turned out to be the complete opposite. My entire group was either shot, captured or died of hyperthermia. I was the only one to escape by walking 200 miles to Syria. I lost 35lb and was in very bad shape by the time I reached the British Embassy. It is the longest escape and evasion trek in modern military history and was the subject of my first book, The One That Got Away.
11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
Dogs. I have two Rottweilers.
12. What do you most value in a friend?
13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
Their moral compass. They are generally better in this department than men.
Chris is in South Africa to promote his latest novel, Extreme Most Wanted
14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
Greed and The Watch Man. They both have universal plots that can be used over and over again to tell different stories.
15. What are your favourite names?
John Porter, a character in one of my books. Two close friends of mine are John and Porter.
16. What do you do as a hobby?
Golf, skiing and mountaineering. I have given up all the other extreme sports I used to do in the army.
17. Which are your three favourite books?
- Generals and Rifles, by Mark Irvine
- All quiet on the Western Front, by Eric Maria Remarque, a German war vet.
- The Complete Golf Handbook, by Ben Hoagan
18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
My past. I was a sergeant in the British SAS and learnt a great deal about men, corruption and power. I write to get rid of my demons.
19. What is your Writing Routine?
I don’t have one. Some days I write for 24 hours, other days I don’t write at all. I have to be able to see the scene in my head and believe it before I start writing. I do all my writing in the winter in an Alpine village in France.
20. What are your Top Five Writing Tips?
- Know your subject inside out.
- Keep readers on the edge and keep stepping up the tension.
- Describe scenes in graphic, palpable language that is current.
- Allow readers to identify with the characters – make them believable.
- End your books in such a way that your readers keep on coming back for more.
Interviewer: Monica Graaff
Monica Graaff is a multi-award-winning magazine journalist. She has worked in the newspaper and magazine publishing industry both in management and editorial positions. She is a founding associate of Change Agent, a communications agency focusing on positive change. Monica facilitates creative and business writing courses for Writers Write.
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