Q & A with Alan Kiernan

Writing Section Alpha was something I just had to do. Having never written a book before, and coming from a screenwriting background, the writing dynamics were different.

Why did you decide to write your book?

Writing Section Alpha was something I just had to do. Having never written a book before, and coming from a screenwriting background, the writing dynamics were different. The task seemed like an interesting and attractive challenge to take up. It started to take shape but was put aside constantly while we had our last two children, but I kept coming back to it as the idea and structure of the storyline was something I couldn’t ignore. After a chance meeting with Matthew Reilly on a flight, I was encouraged to take the plunge and get it published. 

Now Section Alpha is becoming its own entity as I write the hard-hitting thrill ride sequel entitled Pendulum, or to put it more accurately, it’s writing itself as ideas evolve and the storyline constantly develops. The third book in the series will be called bombPROOF, and is currently in the drafting and development process.

Who/what inspired you to write?

It’s a passion, a longing to feel and see that written story on the page, a slow-moving freight train that can’t be stopped because it has gained so much momentum in your head, and you just have to deal with it, an itch you have to scratch. I’ve always liked art. From very young I’ve painted and drawn pictures of different things, only now I realise that writing is describing a picture rather than painting it, and that readers will form their own unique picture of your description in their mind, and every one will be different. I love art, and I still paint. It’s a balance of the two sides of the brain that compliments each other, writing and painting.

What was the most rewarding part of the process?

Holding that first printed copy in my hand, running the pages through my fingers, the smell of the printed book, the feel, then someone telling you how much they enjoyed the book. That’s what is spurring me on to keep writing, knowing that people are enjoying the story.

What are your top tips for writing a book?

Obviously have a storyline in your head to start with, then expand it and keep expanding it until it blossoms into a finished story, then put it away in the draw for a month or so. Take a mental break to clear your mind of the story, make sure you read a fiction book by your favourite author, one whose writing style you admire as it will rub off on you, but do not read a biography, it has to be fiction. After a month come back and do a rewrite before you get it edited, you’ll be amazed at the great changes you make to your final draft. Study books about writing by Syd Field, and if you haven’t yet, Story by Robert McKee.

Which books/authors have inspired you?

My grandfather gave me a copy of Biggles for my birthday when I was about ten. I used to sit up in bed late into the night, sometimes with a torch under the blankets because I couldn’t go to sleep, I just wanted to know what happened next. That started me liking books, from there I think I moved up to Robert Ludlum and have read every one. I liked the way Ludlum keeps you in suspense, and I try and do the same. Then I started on Van Lustbader and read all of his, among others. The irony is that after Ludlum’s death, Van Lustbader was given the go ahead by Ludlum’s family to finish the drafts Ludlum had done for the BOURNE series.

Why did you decide to self-publish?

When I had finished my book I wasn’t sure what to do with it, or if I should do anything with it at all, was it good enough? These are the things that will go through your head. It was a chance meeting with Matthew Reilly that changed my direction. We talked about writing, I told him I didn’t know whether I was a writer or not, I asked him if it was normal to wake up at 2am and start jotting down ideas on anything you could get your hands on, bar napkins, envelopes, toilet paper. He told me I was definitely a writer and was kind enough to explain how I should format in Microsft Word instead of the writing program I was using at the time. He liked what he read and advised me to self-publish my first book as he had done years before. I did my homework and published The Section through a company that claims to be Australia’s leading self-publishing company but falls short on editing and some other issues, and is costly. Then I found Palmer Higgs and all my problems were solved by the staff there, in particular Joy Childs. My book got a new name, new outstanding cover design, and at last some direction on where we wanted this book to go. A company with a positive outlook, instead of someone just taking your money and self-publishing a book.

What do you hope your readers will get out of your book?

I hope they enjoy the story, that it takes them away on an adventure, keeps them entertained. It’s fiction that could be happening right now. Things that are reported on the nightly news are not always the true story.

What are your favourite television programs and have they inspired you?

I like a varied list of television shows, all kinds of different genres, but intrigue is the one that gets me in, especially the spy thrillers, the gritty ones that are full of suspense like  Spooks, East West 101, and currently Homeland and Hunted

Are there any other books on the horizon?

Yes, the sequel to Section Alpha is almost finished and I like what I see. It follows on from the intelligence the team gathered in the first book as they uncover a nest of terrorists with operations of terror and death underway and being planned. The team must stop them before it’s too late, do they do it? You’ll have to wait for Pendulum

Will this series be ongoing?

Although this Section Alpha series is a trilogy, I am drafting two spin-off books. There will always be a topic to write about. Terrorism is triggered by ideology; in fact it clearly comes from two different sources, it’s either religious or political, or a mix of both. It doesn’t have to be a whole nation’s belief, it can be smaller groups within nations. Sadly, it seems there will always be some groups who feel that violence is the only recourse they have, and for writers like me, the range of storylines seems endless