What I love about Paul Hardisty’s writing is that I know I am not only guaranteed entertainment, I will also learn something new about the world. His Claymore Straker series were high octane thrillers that also gave deep, authentic insights into global struggles drawn from the author’s own experience. Indeed Hardisty’s biography notes read like a character from the pages of a thriller. With Turbulent Wake he has changed the pace of his writing to something slower and more reflective but has lost none of that sense of authenticity and discernment.
The main theme of the novel is drawn from the relationship between a father and son and the ways that even well intended actions can create wounds. For me it also took on a wider perspective in terms of the father’s journal of stories being a final reckoning and reflection upon a life. To what extent can we seek to live a good life as opposed to just facing the events that life throws at us as best we can in the circumstances? Perhaps the best that we can do is to live an examined life and in doing so be honest with ourselves and those around us. Ultimately, we all make mistakes and cause pain, but as Turbulent Wake demonstrates healing can come through understanding.
I read a lot. Sometimes it is purely for entertainment, but for the most part I want to read books – even fiction – that make me think beyond closing the final cover, educating me or revealing a different perspective that I haven’t seen from my own experience. This is why I am such a fan of Paul’s writing and want it to reach as wide an audience as possible. It is also why I asked him to answer a few questions, to add further insight to his writing, and I am very grateful for his considered responses.
As a writer who also has a very active professional life outside being an author, how do you go about the writing process and balancing its demands with the other responsibilities that have to be maintained?
I work full time, and have my whole life. But the work I do has also been the biggest inspiration and source of ideas for my writing, and still is. As CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, I am leading a group of amazing people who are right on the front line of efforts to save coral reefs worldwide. It’s scary, inspirational stuff. One day, maybe, when I have a chance to put some distance to it, there might be a novel to come from it. But right now, it’s a struggle to write. The work is so all consuming, time is more precious than ever. Turbulent Wake was written during a six month break I took between finishing my previous job and starting this one. It was great, being able to get up each morning and just write. One day, when this job is finished, I am going to just hang it up and write full time.
I called my blog Live Many Lives because of the way books allow us to experience events and perspectives that we otherwise would not understand. Your author’s bio illustrates exactly how that can be the case with your rich variety of experience and I am always conscious when I read your novels that, although it’s fiction, I can learn from your knowledge and expertise of events I have played no part in. Is that an important part of writing for you?
For me, character and setting are intimately entwined. I believe we are viscerally shaped by the places we live in and travel through, particularly the landscapes. We were shaped that way, of course, through millions of years of evolution. We are made of these places, quite literally. Equally, for me, fiction is about truth, about realism and immediacy. I want my readers to see the country, smell the woodsmoke and cordite in the air, feel the desert sun and the grit on the back of their necks, the sting of sweat in that fresh cut. Sure it’s fiction, but it’s set in real places, based around real events. For me, fiction needs to educate, inform and challenge. It’s got to push you. I guess I am a demanding writer. I ask a lot of my readers. I want you to finish one of my books and feel like you’ve just gone three rounds with a UFC fighter and survived.
Claymore Straker is an all action lead character and that series of novels has a very fast paced, thriller sense of jeopardy to it. With Turbulent Wake though the pace is different, slower and more reflective, with the key elements being less political (although there is still an element of political values in there) and more personal, around what makes a good life. How did writing this novel differ for you as an author as it moved in to a different space to your previous work?
Turbulent Wake is very different from the Clay Straker novels, as you say. I really enjoyed writing Turbulent Wake. I love thrillers but my first love has always been literature. That being said, I have tried to make the thrillers quite literary also. So it was great to be able to ask those same questions about what makes a good life, about the choices we have to make and the consequences of those choices, but explore them in a different way, more paced, more accessible even, perhaps, because it’s more about normal people – families and fathers and sons – things we can all relate to.
It’s clear in your writing that you feel a tension between the developed world’s potential to help solve problems around the earth and its seemingly inherent exploitation of everyone and everything it comes into contact with. In light of the major global challenges that we face through climate change, is there a “big” global solution or is “big” simply incapable of selflessness and rather small, localised actions the answer?
Thanks for asking the question about the big ecological and environmental challenges we are facing on the planet right now – pollution, loss of wild places, climate change. Actually, they are human problems. We caused them. And we can solve them. To me, it’s that simple. We are causing them on all scales – in the decisions we make every day as individuals, as communities, in our companies and our governments. And we can solve them the same way – at every scale, every day. Small actions, big ones. We need it all. We just have to decide to fix it. And we can. We will. But we absolutely have to start now – I mean really commit to it. It’s going to be hard, its going to take sacrifice. Nothing worthwhile ever comes without sacrifice. That means we have to find courage. All of us. Face up to it. And start.
In Turbulent Wake there is an honesty of self-reflection in looking back at a life and trying to understand, or accept, why it played out how it did. Is there any such thing as a good or a bad life, or should we simply aim for an honestly examined one?
I absolutely believe that one can, and must strive to live a good life. I think there are a few key things to living a good life: 1. That you have tried your best to contribute to something that matters. There are lots of things that matter. You know what they are. 2. That you love something, someone. Truly. Without reservation, without hedging. All in, no matter what. 3. That you stand up for what is right, even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard. You know what is right. Have courage.
Thank you Paul for taking time out of your schedule to answer my questions and Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of Turbulent Wake. I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour, please do check out the other dates on the tour and most importantly of all read Paul’s books,
Ethan Schofield returns to the place of his birth to bury his father. Hidden in one of the upstairs rooms of the old man’s house he finds a strange manuscript, a collection of stories that seems to cover the whole of his father’s turbulent life.
As his own life starts to unravel, Ethan works his way through the manuscript, trying to find answers to the mysteries that have plagued him since he was a child. What happened to his little brother? Why was his mother taken from him? And why, in the end, when there was no one else left, did his own father push him away?
Swinging from the coral cays of the Caribbean to the dangerous deserts of Yemen and the wild rivers of Africa, Turbulent Wake is a bewitching, powerful and deeply moving story of love and loss … of the indelible damage we do to those closest to us and, ultimately, of the power of redemption in a time of change.
Canadian by birth, Paul has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has rough-necked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, and rehabilitated village water wells in the wilds of Africa. He survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a in 1993 and was one of the last westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war.
The Abrupt Physics of Dying, his first novel, received great critical acclaim, and was short-listed for the CWA Creasy New Blood Dagger award. The Evolution of Fear, his second novel, was released in March 2016. The third in the Claymore Striker series, Reconciliation for the Dead was published in ebook in March 2017 and in paperback in May 2017.
Paul is a University Professor and Director of Australia’s national water, land and ecosystems research program. He is a pilot, sailor, keen outdoorsman, and conservation volunteer. Paul lives in Western Australia.