NAW Interview with Mark Chisnell


Mark Chisnell grew up in a small town on the east coast of England. The town was dominated by the rise of the oil industry and the decline of shipbuilding and fishing. Mark has been a professional sportsman and also won awards as a broadcaster and for his non-fiction accounts of maritime adventure. He’s written for some of the world’s leading magazines and newspapers, including Esquire and the Guardian. One of his greatest personal achievements was hitch-hiking to Mount Everest base-camp in Tibet. In Trainers.

Mark had thought he’d have a future as a marine engineer, that was until he picked up a copy of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The cover said it would change the way the reader felt about the world and it changed Mark’s perception about his life and where he wanted to go. He learned that books can change people’s lives and that he wanted to write one. He wanted to write many.

Mark began by writing about the sport in which he won three world championships, and subsequently won plaudits and recognition for his adrenaline-fuelled and suspenseful accounts of round-the-world racing. When he moved to fiction, he used his experiences as a sportsman and his background in broadcasting and journalism to weave chart-topping tales filled with intrigue, danger, romance and characters that take the reader on an incredible page turning journey.

Mark currently lives in Europe with his wife and son. Visit him here.

NAW- When did your literary journey begin? At what age did you discover that you wanted to write?

I think when I was about 12 – I remember starting a novel in the back of a school book. I still have it around here somewhere….!

NAW-  Tell us about your book ‘The Defector’. How did you get the idea for the book?

The Defector began as an idea from philosophy classes, the Prisoner’s Dilemma is a Games Theory concept that was dreamed up by the RAND corporation, the people who brought us the MAD theory (Mutually Assured Destruction) during the Cold War. I wanted to make it more personal than that, and I had in mind a game played for life and death stakes, involving a love triangle. The basic idea immediately makes it a genre book, a thriller, and I went for a classic chase story. The psychotic drug smuggler, Janac forces the hero, Martin Cormac to make a succession of escalating, nightmare choices in his struggle to get free.

NAW- What is your latest book about?

The Sniper is a short story, a prequel about the character from the Janac’s Games thrillers – the other novels are The Defector and The Wrecking Crew.

It’s set in an empty clearing in the Vietnamese jungle in 1969. Two men come to the clearing with a simple task in mind – to kill a man. It turns out to be anything but simple, and US Marine Corps sniper, Paul Robert Janac finds himself in a life-or-death duel. He has to look deep inside to survive a jungle manhunt that will change him forever.

NAW-  Please tell us about your other books?’

There are two series: the Janac’s Games books are action adventure thrillers about a brutal, but very intelligent drug baron called Janac. He just loves to play dangerous psychological games with his victims.

And I have just started the ‘Burn’ series with Powder Burn, these are also adventure thrillers, this time about a young wannabe investigative journalist, Sam Blackett.

There is also The Fulcrum Files – a stand-alone work of historical fiction, set in 1936 in a world on the brink of an apocalyptic war.

And finally, I’ve written several non-fiction books about sport and adventure.

NAW-How many books and collaborative works have you completed till now? Which one was the most fun?

I think it’s now 16 books – but I don’t know that any of them were actually fun!

NAW- Was it a conscious decision to write for the thriller genre? Were you apprehensive that there is limited readership for the genre?

No, not originally, the first book was more a work of literary fiction when I started it. It was pushed down the thriller route by my first editor at Random House Century, Oliver Johnson. I found I enjoyed writing for that genre – no surprise really as they were my favourite books to read! I didn’t really think about the number of people that would read the books at the time, and fortunately, thrillers are popular so there are plenty of people out there reading them.

NAW- What was your first writing assignment? Did you face any trouble while publishing your first book?

I was quite lucky in that both my first article was published – a travel story that was used by the New Zealand Herald – and my first novel also found a publisher quite quickly. I think it sold the third time out.

NAW- Writing is not looked upon as a full time vocation in many countries, were you aware that making a living solely out of writing is difficult when you first started out?

Yes! Definitely! I only ever thought it would be part-time. So I’ve been very lucky.

NAW- Where can readers buy your books?

They are available at all the main online book stores – like: Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Apple.

NAW- Please name your 5 favourite books.

I’d pick one by each of my five favourite writers. The first was Arthur Ransome, who wrote fantastic children’s books about messing around in boats – let’s pick Swallows and Amazons

The next two were Ian Fleming and Alistair MacLean. The latter is almost forgotten now, but he was a hugely successful thriller writer in the 1960s and 1970s, and I could inhale one of his books in an afternoon when I was a kid. So I’d pick On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Fleming, and HMS Ulysses, the debut novel by MacLean.

When I was a little older it was books with ideas that took more of a hold – George Orwell’s 1984 stopped me in my tracks for weeks, I couldn’t think about anything else. And then there was another largely forgotten book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig – that was the one that got me studying philosophy as well as physics, so it had a pretty big impact on my life.

NAW- What are your upcoming projects?

I’m working on the next book in the Burn series, called Chinese Burn. Sam Blackett has moved on from her adventures in the Himalayas, and moved on from her relationship with Pete. Fortunately, things are going a little better with her journalism, and she’s in Shanghai working on a commission for the Boston Globe.

If only she hadn’t treated herself to dinner at the five star Peninsula Hotel she might even have got it finished and published – but she did, and so Roger Ravert died in her arms. Now Sam is on the run from the Detroit police, the FBI, the CIA and China’s security service. And she has no idea why.

I’m hoping to finish it over the winter..

Thank you for having me.

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