Alex Shaw Author Interview
by Kathryn Bax
Alex Shaw spent the second half of the 1990s in Kyiv, Ukraine, teaching Drama and running his own business consultancy before being head-hunted for Siemens. The next few years saw him working across the former USSR, the Middle East, and Africa.
Alex is an active member of the ITW and the CWA. He is the author of the #1 International Kindle Bestselling 'Aidan Snow SAS thrillers' Cold Blood, Cold Black and Cold East. His writing has also been published in the thriller anthologies Death Toll, Death Toll 2 and Action Pulse Pounding Tales 2 alongside International Bestselling authors Stephen Leather and Matt Hilton.
He is commercially published in English by Endeavour Press and in German by Luzifer Verlag.
You divide your time between Worthing, on the southern coast of England, and Kyiv in Ukraine. How long do you stay in each country, per year? Do you write and research in both countries, or do you go to Kyiv just for research?
Before my two boys started school we used to spend more time in Kyiv as that’s where my wife is from. We try to get back whenever we can. I write and research in both places but I love to write ‘on location’ in Kyiv. The place really is my second home and has been so for twenty years.
How much of what you write has been influenced by your experiences of living in various countries around the world?
A lot. As a reader I love to travel without leaving my armchair and as an author I try to deliver this. I dislike reading anything that’s mostly based in the UK, I need some exotica but for me this can equally mean a little known Ukrainian village or downtown Dubai. Most of my writing is based on places I have lived and worked in or holidayed at. When I’m abroad I’m always thinking how I can use what I’m seeing, hearing and feeling in my work. Many of the scenes in Cold Black are based on my experiences in Saudi Arabia whilst on British Government Trade Missions.
Your Aidan Snow series are thrillers, with an ex-SAS trooper turned MI6 operative. How much research goes into writing about the SAS and MI6 and where did you start looking for such information to make your novels credible and believable? Do you have contacts in the SAS and MI6 whose knowledge you draw on that enables you to write so convincingly?
I read around any new subject I’m thinking of writing about but, to be honest, I research the location of my stories more than the military or intelligence aspects. I have a tame former MI6 officer who fact checks for me, contacts in Ukraine and a couple of ex-special forces guys I can ask if I’m stuck. However the more information an author includes in their work the more mistakes they are likely to make. The basis of convincing writing is character and emotion, and I try to make my characters sound and act like real people.
How much of Alex Shaw is in Aidan Snow? It didn’t escape me that the initials of the names are the same and you both worked in an international school in Kyiv. Were you also injured as a young man working for the SAS?
I think authors appear in all the characters they create, but funnily enough I’ve never been asked how much like one of the villains I am! Cold Blood is probably the most autobiographical of my novels, I was living where Aidan Snow was living when I wrote the book and doing the same job he was, but I wasn’t a former member of the SAS. Snow and I are from the same place, are the same height, have the same values, share the same political views on terrorism, justice and Russian aggression against Ukraine, Georgia and Syria, but I am not Aidan Snow ...
Several of your books have been translated into German despite the fact that many of the stories take place in Ukraine. Why did you decide to translate them into German rather than Ukrainian or Russian? Do you have any plans to translate your books into additional languages?
I chose Germany as I saw an opportunity there for my work, the legacy of the Eastern Block means that many Germans are interested in Ukraine. I have a great German publisher and am amazed by my success, I sell more there than anywhere else. Several of my books are available in other languages and I’d love to have them in Ukrainian and Russian but as yet I’ve yet to find the right publisher.
Is there anything about your books that you would change, if you could?
Jeffrey Archer re-wrote one of his first books twenty years after it was originally published because he was never happy with it, now I can understand why he would do that but for me that’s too extreme. My books are a reflection of who I was and where the world was at the time I wrote them. Perhaps I’d simplify the names and locations in my debut novel, Cold Blood, as I’ve been told, mostly by Americans, that they find the ‘European names’ confusing.
Your books cover some interesting genres. You move fluidly between crime fiction, young adult time travel, thrillers involving terrorism and espionage, to apocalyptic fiction involving vampires. What is next and in which genre do you feel the most comfortable?
I find writing thrillers the most comfortable and tend to bring this aspect into all of my writing. I’m working on several projects at the moment including a Nordic Noir set in Finland and Ukraine, a crime thriller set in 1990s small town America and a military thriller set in Afghanistan. Aidan Snow will also get another outing in 2018.
You went from looking for an agent to self-publishing and then back to searching for a publishing agent once again. You now have some of your titles published by Endeavour Press and Luzifer Verlag. What does this mean to you and do you hope to have all your titles picked up by a publisher or do you still enjoy the control self-publishing affords?
I self-published, initially, because in 2007 I wasted a year of my life trying to get a traditional publisher. I then discovered Amazon’s CreateSpace. For over five years I remained Indie. This experience really helped me develop and grow as a writer because when I submitted again I received offers from the first two publishers I approached. Getting a publisher made me feel validated, and opened doors for me, it also enabled me to join the ITW and the CWA. But I know many authors who are happy to remain Indie and do have huge sales. I’ll probably keep my short stories self-published but strive to have any new novels placed with a publisher.
You are an active member of the ITW (The International Thriller Writers organisation) and the CWA (the Crime Writers Association). What benefits do you get from being members of these groups and would you encourage other crime writers to join. My understanding is that these bodies only accept traditionally published authors. Why is this and could that change in the future?
The ITW accepts self-published authors if their sales are large enough, whilst the CWA only accepts ‘commercially published’ authors. In the past the CWA’s view has been that commercially published works are of a higher standard than self-published ones. Many would now argue that self-published works can and do exceed traditionally published works in terms of both quality and commercial appeal. There has been talk this past year within the CWA of perhaps admitting Indie authors but as yet nothing has changed. There are many benefits of membership of both organisations, including networking with other authors and being part of literary bodies which are committed to furthering their member’s careers and crime writing as a whole.
Finally, how important is networking for you as an author? Which functions do you always attend and how active are you in the author community?
Networking and social-networking are extremely important and I put my success down to Facebook, this is where I’ve met authors, publishers, readers and reviewers. I try to interact in online groups as much as I can. Offline I attend ITW UK meet-ups, CWA events and crime festivals. I’ve been at CrimeFest, The London Book Fair, Newcastle Noir and Bloody Brighton. I’ve been thrilled to meet some of the crime writing greats including Lee Child, Peter James, Ian Rankin, Stephen Leather, Gunnar Staalesen, Kati Hiekkapelto, Jørn Lier Horst and others. In addition to meeting your own readers, getting to know the people whose names are written on the books you love to read is one of the best perks of being an author!
Cold Blood (Aidan Snow SAS Thrillers Book 1)
SAS trooper Aidan Snow is in charge of training a new Polish unit when he is called to lead the barely-trained men into an operation to foil a bank robbery.
Disaster strikes when the criminals blow the convoy to hell, and Snow is left fighting for his life in a car’s wreckage.
A green-eyed soldier stands over him and watches what he believes are Snow’s last breaths; but he doesn’t pull the trigger.
Ten years on and Snow is teaching in Ukraine, keeping a low profile.
But events will force Snow into a life-or-death chase.
The green-eyed man, Taurus Pashinski – also known as the Bull – is employed by old military contacts to help smuggle arms and drugs over the border of Ukraine.
A young, vengeful ex-soldier is drawn into the Bull’s plot when he persuades him that two British investors are his older brother’s killers.
The murders will spark a manhunt in Britain and a series of dramatic events in Ukraine which will drag Snow and his friends into deeper and deeper trouble.
With crooked intelligence officers, ambitious businessmen and bloodthirsty ex-military, Ukraine rapidly becomes a killing zone.
Has Aidan Snow still got what it takes to come out of retirement and face the Bull?
What is the Bull really after, and what will he do to get it?
Will the ex-SAS soldier be able to defeat his old nemesis before he destroys everything Snow holds dear?
Cold Blood is the gripping prequel to Cold Black, an international and contemporary thriller.
Buy at Amazon
Cold Black (Aidan Snow SAS Thrillers Book 2)
In Britain, MI6 operative Aidan Snow witnesses a ruthless murder.
Paddy Fox, a jaded ex-SAS soldier, foils the kidnap of a member of the Saudi Royal Family.
Russia is making offers - and demands - to Ukraine that cannot be refused.
In Saudi Arabia an al-Qaeda terror cell prepares for a mission.
How are all these events connected?
And what is Cold Black?
Aidan Snow must fit the pieces of the puzzle together before it's too late...
Cold Black is a contemporary thriller, perfect for fans of David Baldacci, Chris Ryan and Tom Clancy.
Buy at Amazon
Cold East (Aidan Snow SAS Thrillers Book 3)
‘Meet Aidan Snow, an ice-cold operative in a red-hot adventure. You won't be disappointed.’ - Stephen Leather, Sunday Times bestselling author of the Spider Shepherd series.
In Ukraine, MI6 operative Aidan Snow rescues a British national held by Russian insurgents.
In the United States, a terrorist attack is thwarted by a man who does not exist.
In Russia, a notorious Chechen terrorist escapes from the nation’s most secure prison.
And in Afghanistan, a Red Army soldier long given up for dead delivers a chilling message: Al-Qaeda has an RA-115A, otherwise known as a ‘suitcase nuke’.
As the connection between these separate events begins to become clearer, MI6 and the CIA must attempt to prevent the world’s first act of nuclear terrorism.
But who has the weapon, and what is the target?
Stretching from London to Langley, Virginia, from Afghanistan to Chechnya and the Caucasus, Intelligence services the world over must work together to foil the terrorist threat that lurks in the shadows.
The clock is ticking.
And you never know who you can trust.
Aidan Snow faces his biggest challenge yet, and if he fails, thousands will be incinerated.
Cold East is an international contemporary thriller, perfect for fans of David Baldacci, Chris Ryan and Tom Clancy.
Buy at Amazon
JET: COLD SHADOW (Kindle Worlds)
***Featuring JET from New York Times Bestselling Author Russell Blake's hit action & adventure series and AIDAN SNOW from Alex Shaw’s bestselling espionage thriller series - two elite covert operatives must join forces to survive in an all action thriller***
Buy at Amazon
The Perseid Collapse Series: BLACKLINE (Kindle Worlds Novella) (Jack Tate Book 1)
While vacationing in Camden, Maine, former SAS trooper Jack Tate is accused of a high profile assassination. Hours later, after another shooting, the Camden PD reluctantly realise that Tate is the wrong man.
Buy at Amazon
Death Toll 2: Hard Targets
‘DEATH TOLL 2: Hard Targets’ is a powerful, pulse-pounding, crime thriller anthology that brings together nine exceptional authors: Stephen Leather, Matt Hilton, Alex Shaw, JH Bográn, Stephen Edger, Liam Saville, Harlan Wolff, Milton Gray and Scott Lewis.
Buy at Amazon
TWISTED TALES: 15 Literary Lies & Epic Yarns
A unique short story anthology curated by the readers and editorial team of READERS CIRCLE OF AVENUE PARK (#RCAP). It's a global effort, literally, with contributions from 15 authors across exhausting time zones that extend from Africa, Europe, America and Asia. This is the cryptic one-liner each author gave to describe their twisted tales...
Buy at Amazon